Off-grid appliances: washing mashine

This is the first detailed post in the new series about appliances for off-grid living. Today I want to start with the washing mashines, as I think they are the most interesting. Not only you can change ordinary washing mashine to one suitable for renewable energy sources, but also you can buy one suitable for our special needs.

I thought about it for some time and have a couple of ideas I want to share with you.

Most important thing you need to remember when you search for a good washing mashine for your off-grid home is that it has to be as efficient as possible. Or, as efficient as you can afford, as the more efficient appliance the higher it’s price. And by efficient I mean both energy and water efficiency. Such washing mashine must use low amounts of energy and water for washing your clothes.

While in most cases getting enough clean water for washing is not difficult, supplying enough electricity for your washing mashine might require some work.

First of all, you need to know, that electricity in washing mashines is used for two purposes:

  • to heat the water to appropriate temperature,
  • to power all the electric motors and electronics, i.e. for the washing itself.

It’s very easy to reduce energy use for washing clothes by supplying already warm (or hot) water to the washing mashine. And making hot water is relatively easy and cheap, as it can be produced in a boiler, solar thermal collector as well as in a bucket held over a campfire.

The best washing mashine you can get can be supplied with both warm and cold water. Washing cycle gives best effects when you wash in warm water, with temperature set to match both the detergent and the fabrics washed, but cold water to rinse your clothes. So a smart washing mashine would take the water it would need at the moment. But it is also possible to supply cold and warm water to a washing mashine if it has only one connection to the water supply.

In such a case you only need to manually change the water temperature at the right time of the washing cycle. It would be preferred though to use such cycles that end before the used water is pumped out of the washing mashine, and before the rinsing starts. Because of that you would only need to adjust water temperature twice — at the beginning of the cycle, and when the washing mashine starts to rinse. It is not absolutely neccessary, but would make your life easier and more energy efficient, as it’s relatively easy to miss the right time to change the water temperature.

I’d also suggest using thermostatic valve that would output the water of desired temperature. The valve itself would mix the hot and cold water to the right temperature. We don’t want our clothes to shrink when they’re washed in 80°C / 176°F instead of 30°C / 86°F, right? That valve also takes care of the variations of water temperature which may occur when you use hot water stored in small tank.

It would also be a good idea to get the washing mashine that uses the least water at all. As water becomes more and more expensive, you can see that manufacturers try to supply the right washing mashines to meet this demand.

And of course you might want to reuse the waste water from the washing mashine, for example to flush your toilet. It’s called greywater (or graywater), I will explain it in more details in the near future. 😉





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