How to Choose a Clothes Washer for Your Off Grid Home

August 11, 2015 · 2 comments

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We just purchased a new MAYTAG MAXIMA X Front Loader 4.7 cubic foot unit that is rated to consume 108 kWhs of electricity per year assuming you do eight (8) loads of laundry a week (Canadian Energuide Rating) and use the “NORMAL” setting. Our own testing shows it consumes 140 watt hours per load at the “NORMAL” setting which is the default when you turn it on.

The best washing machines for the off the grid homesteadThe 108 kWhs per year is supposed to include the consumption of the hot water heater as the default setting uses warm water to wash your clothing.

Our math indicates that 8 loads a week is 416 loads per year. If you divide 108 kWhs by 416 loads the result is .260 kWhs per load. If you only use cold water you can get that down to .140 kWhs or 140 watt hours (according to our actual measured results). If you ONLY USE COLD WATER, your annual power consumption should be as low as 58 kilowatt hours per year (assuming you do 8 loads per week). That is very impressive for such a large washer.


CAUTION: It is assumed you will be using a sine wave inverter for your off the grid washing machine. Anything other than a pure sine wave inverter will either be damaging, cause your clothes washer to operate improperly or simply not work.

DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO USE A SQUARE OR MODIFIED SINE WAVE INVERTER WITH YOUR NEW CLOTHES WASHING MACHINE!


How To Find The Most Efficient Washing Machine for Your Home:

1. Decide how large of a washer you need.

If you have a family of two there is no need to have anything larger than maybe a 1.5 cubic foot to a 2.0 cubic foot model. Having a large model and using it half empty all the time uses more water, hot water and electricity than necessary.

On the other side of the coin, if you have a large family do not buy a small washer just because the kWh rating is lower than a larger model. You will just end up doing more loads and wasting energy (and precious time you could be spending with your loved ones) than you would if you purchased a larger model to begin with.

2. Try to find a model with a mechanical timer and manual buttons instead of a digital timer and digital buttons.

Washing machines with manual buttons are usually not phantom loads.Washing machines that are mechanical completely turn off when the load of clothing is done and do not act as a phantom load. If your washing machine uses digital controls, it will use electricity 24 hours per day whether you use it or not. It will be a phantom load. If you already have a washer that is a phantom load go here to learn how to make your clothes washer more efficient.

Don't rely on Energy Star to help you pick the most efficient washing machine.

3. Don’t rely on the Energy Star ratings that are put out by your government.

An Energy Star Rating is not worth the paper it is written on. Almost all washing machines are far more efficient than they were 20 years ago and getting an Energy Star Rating is almost a given for just about any new unit.

4. Look carefully at the Energy Rating that is standard now in most countries.

This is different than the Energy Star Rating. The Energy Rating is supposed to be an accurate measurement of your washing machine’s power consumption annually. The problem with the Energy Ratings is there is no standard between countries.

Most countries now have energy ratings for appliancesSome countries assume you will do eight loads a week, others six loads and others nine. There is no rhyme nor reason how they come up with their ratings.

Energy Ratings samples for USA, Canada and Japan Ignore the dollar (or energy cost) amounts they show on the energy ratings as the price you pay per kWh varies between country, state/province and even city/town. If we are off grid we only care how much energy we will need to produce.

5. Do not purchase a washer that uses steam to wash your clothing.

These models consume huge amounts of electricity to boil the water into steam. Expect to use about three times the amount of electricity compared to a “normal” washing machine. If you just have to have the steam option make sure you can turn it off when not needed and you could then only use it when your batteries are full and the sun is shining.

6. Do not purchase a washing machine that heats the water internally using an electric element.

These types of washing machines do not belong in a home that is trying to conserve energy. The electric element can more than double the electricity consumption of your washer. If you have a huge solar array or wind turbine and regularly use a dump load then you might want to consider a model that includes an electric heating element.

 7. Try to find a washer that has a high speed spin option and use it.

While spinning your clothes faster will not make the washer use less power, it will take more of the water out of your laundry putting less of a strain on your dryer or reducing drying time on a clothes rack or clothes line.

8. Generally speaking a front load washer will use less electricity, water and detergent than a top loader.

The Staber top loading horizantal axis clothes washerThis is not always the case as there is at least one excellent top loading washer that uses very little water, detergent or electricity. One example is the STABER washing machine. It loads from the top but is actually a horizontal axis washing machine just like a front loader. They have a rating of 180 kWh per year in USA. They are made in Ohio, US. The down side is they are not available at your local Home Depot or Sears. You must order them from a specialty shop like a solar store and pay $1200-$1800 USD depending on the model and where you are located. When something goes wrong you will either have to fix it yourself or ship it back to the manufacturer.

Here is a link to some other off grid homesteader’s perspective on the Staber Washing Machine.

We used to  recommend the Staber a lot 15 years ago when they were the most efficient model around (150 watt  hours per load) and solar modules were ten times more money than they are now.

We highly recommend buying the most efficient “off the shelf” model as you can always get better service, if needed, and your local appliance repair shop will stock parts for the standard brand names. Always use HE (high efficiency) laundry detergent with your front loader.

9. If you already have a washing machine that is a phantom load you can save a lot of electricity by using a few simple tricks instead of spending money on a new machine.

If your clothes washer uses electricity 24 hours per day just sitting there looking pretty, you can either put it on a light switch or a timer. You can confirm your washer’s power consumption with a Kill-a-Watt meter discussed in the next section. Here are the easiest three ways to make your washer a non phantom load:

  1. Options to eliminate your washer as a phantom loadAdd a switched outlet for your washer.
  2. Add a switch on the wall to control your washer’s power outlet
  3. Add a timer to control your washer’s outlet.

Learn how to do all of these power saving methods here.

10. Get a Kill-a-Watt Meter

Use a Kill-a-Watt meter to measure the real power consumption of your washing machine.The Kill-a-Watt Meter is the only true way to find out how much electricity an appliance is using. You simply plug the meter into the wall and plug your appliance into the meter.

You will be able to read instantaneous power consumption as well as cumulative as long as the appliance is plugged into the meter.

If possible, go to a friend’s house with a front loader washer and measure theirs. Find someone with the same machine you would like to buy and plug the Kill-a-Watt meter in for a week or so to get the real life power consumption. Be sure to ask them how many loads they did during your week or two of monitoring.

If anyone has any other ideas on buying the best washing machine for the off grid homesteader please comment below or contact us.

We would love to hear from you…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

daniel tittmann April 4, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Caution:
For people using modified sine-wave (cheaper) inverters many front loading or digitaly controlled washing machines will not work! Be ware of the power tolerances of the washing machine to be sure that it will work on your inverter system.
CTO
Greenwired

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Jody Graham April 5, 2016 at 9:59 am

Hi Daniel,

That is a good point worth mentioning. Hopefully most off grid homes have gotten away from anything but sine wave inverters but I will make a note on the page to remind folks that modern washers will NOT work with modified sine wave or square wave inverters. Thanks for bringing this up and I wish you the best with your website and business…Jody

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