Last November I wrote a post entitled “I Want To Save The Planet, Or Do I?” about getting rid of our failing washer/gas dryer stacked combo unit and not replacing it. My argument was that I wanted to start to break the chain of my dependence on fossil fuels, manufacturing, and resource mining (appliances are made mostly of metal, not a renewable resource). I received more comments on that post than on any post before or since. Based on the good advice of my readers we made a decision on how to manage our laundry, and it is not what I had originally planned to do.
My original plan, naive as it was, was to not replace our appliance with a new appliance, but instead to purchase hand washing laundry supplies. I imagine myself scrubbing clothes in a bin, rinsing, wringing, and hanging them out to dry. A few of my readers pointed out how ridiculous that was, considering the time each week I would spend with this new task (thank you Dave Atkinson). When I looked into the cost of hand washing laundry supplies I was shocked – they would cost me $700, the same as a replacement washer/dryer combo unit. And of course there is always my temperamental lower back – there is good chance my back would not tolerate the new responsibility.
One reader in particular, a good friend of ours, noted that the purchase of a high quality used Speed Queen washing machine, coupled with a good rack drying system, would save time, money, energy, laundry soap, water, dryer sheets, and effort. After a little snooping around I had to agree this seemed like the best alternative. As luck would have it this same friend found a used Speed Queen in Denver for $250. A used replacement model for our stacked unit was $750, so we saved $500 dollars on the unit itself.
The next step was to build a good rack drying system for drying our laundry. We already have an outdoor laundry line, but we needed something for cold weather so our clothes would dry rather than freeze. (Our new-to-us Speed Queen ends the cycle with our clothes dryer due to the force it spins with, making rack drying time significantly less. Because of this drying our clothes in the house, in the winter, doesn’t take four days).
For those of you that have been to our house, every square inch of space is accounted for. This is of course why we had a stacked unit – we are just so short on space. Enter a fabulous idea from Northwest Edible Life – The Wall Mounted Clothes Drying Rack. The panels shown in the photos costs us roughly $35 each and we used two. If you can, try to repurpose or reuse if possible. When we were building our rack we could not find any of these “baby jail” panels used or free, so we did end up buying new. Out total cost to build our new “dryer” was around $100. Considering our initial savings of $500 on the washing machine over the replacement stacked unit, if we subtract the cost to build the dryer our new savings is $400 total for the a washing machine and “dryer.”
But wait, there’s more. This new washing machine uses less water per load, less laundry soap per load, and of course no dryer sheets with our new rack dryer. Right off the bat we are saving money in all of those areas. We have always run our laundry on cold water, so there is no additional savings in our water heating bill. But, with this new high efficiency front loading washing machine we are running larger loads, meaning we run fewer loads per month. Fewer loads per month means even less of everything – less water, less soap, and less electricity. And here is the real kicker – the Speed Queen (God bless her) gets our clothes the cleanest we have ever seen.
One more unexpected perk to our new system is the amount of space we have gained. Our clothes drying rack lays flat on the wall when not in use, and when in use it never touches the floor to take up space anyway. The room above the Speed Queen is now open, and we are planning to install a cupboard above to hold laundry soap and such, items that are currently sitting on top of the Speed Queen.
The last item to speak to is the amount of time it takes to lay out our clothes to dry. This is an added chore, but it actually adds very little time to the total time to do laundry. Because our clothes are sorted and in some cases on hangers to dry, putting our clothes away is actually faster than it used to be. Total time gained is about five minutes per load, and that’s not too bad.
For those of you looking for ways to shave back your fossil fuel use, save some money, get your clothes the cleanest you have ever seen them, and free up some room in your house, I highly recommend this approach. It has been a full month since we brought home our new washing machine and built our drying rack, and we will never go back to a conventional dryer.
We could not be happier with our new Speed Queen washing machine, and as such we think she needs a name. If you have a submission to the “Name Our New Washing Machine Contest” please leave it in the comments section below this post. Sorry, but Betty, Bertha, and Fran have already been disqualified.