I'm a green queen, but I've always been surprisingly complacent about the cost and environmental impact of my laundry. After learning how harmful the chemicals in detergents and softeners are, I examined my laundry habits and was pleased as punch to find that I could be much greener and save a bunch of money in the process. Yay me!
The average household does approximately 400 loads of washing a year. Using a warm wash followed by a dryer cycle, each load will cost $1.52 for a conservative total of $608 a year. Of course this will vary depending on your machine, the cost of your electricity and how many loads you do.
If you are going to the laundromat, you are paying around $3.12 a load and that would hike your costs up to $1248 a year. I was one of those laundromat chumps, sitting for hours in the stench of sweaty socks waiting for my laundry be done. To add insult to injury, I would usually have to fork out additional money for detergent and fabric softener because I always forgot mine at home.
Having just moved into my first home, I decided to investigate the most energy-efficient way to do my laundry that had a positive impact on the environment. Here's what I discovered:
- 90 per cent of the energy you use in a normal wash goes to heating your water, so switching to a cold wash drops the price to2 .78 from the 3.12 I was spending at the laundromat.
- I also opted for an energy-efficient Energy Star washing machine, which I only operated during off-peak hours to drop my costs to 2.64 per load.
- I gave up my regular detergent for a cheaper, eco-friendly one that I made myself. You can get the recipe here.
- For a fabric softener, I combine six cups vinegar with one cup baking soda. If you want something that smells great, add 15 drops essential oil. Mix ingredients in a sealable container and wait for the fizzing to stop before you put the lid on, then use as necessary. If you are still a fan of the dryer sheets, make your own environmentally-friendly ones using the tutorial here.
- Making my own laundry products dropped my detergent cost from 50 cents per load to just 10 cents. It also protects my family and the environment from harmful chemicals.
- I ditched my dryer and invested in a Frost Drying Rack from IKEA which took another 0.43 off each load. I chose the clothes rack instead of a clothes line because I can use it all year, rather than just in the summer.
There are other tips and tricks which I can't quantify, but also save money on each laundry load.
- "Vampire loads" account for 10-15 per cent of your energy use. Appliances draw energy while they are on "standby" mode. I have gotten into the habit of turning off my appliances when not in use. I use a power bar with a switch so I can just flip one switch to turn off all my appliances. This took some getting used to, but it works!
- If you need to use the dryer, clean the lint filter and add a towel to every load to reduce drying time.
- If you are using a dryer, opt for dryer balls rather than dryer sheets. These are kinder on the environment and healthier for your family. Make your own dryer balls with old socks using the tutorial here.
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This type of thermostat, also called a "learning" thermostat, can be programmed to raise and lower the temperature your home automatically. This way, you're not heating or cooling the home when you don't need to. Dave Walton, director of home ideas at Direct Energy says you can save up to four per cent on your heating bill by programming your thermostat to a lower temperature at night, and after you leave for work.
Air leaks are often caused by old and cracked caulking around windows and doors in your home. Caulking around existing openings can help save you money on your next energy bill.
Here's a bright idea: change up your light bulbs. Energy-saving light bulbs (LED or fluorescent, for example), can last up to 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb, and use up to 75 cent less energy. "A single 20 to 25 watt energy-saving bulb provides as much light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb while also emitting less heat," Walton says.
If you have lights in your backyard patio space or in front of your house, check your settings and timers. With longer (and brighter) days ahead, adjusting your timers will help you save energy.
In the summer, the blades of the ceiling fan should operate in a counter-clockwise direction to move the air downwards and maximize air circulation. In turn, the air conditioner cooling your home doesn't have to work as hard. During winter, the blades should operate in a clockwise direction, helping to push the warm air from the ceiling down into the room.
During hot summer months, the air conditioner gets a lot of use. Make sure you have a qualified professional perform an annual maintenance check on your system before it starts to get hot. As part of the inspection (and on top of making sure the system is operating to manufacturer specifications), the inspector would be able to check for leaks, and that the right amount of refrigerant is in the system.
Take a look around your house: how many outlets are you using? Things like phone chargers, toasters, hair dryers and other "zombie" electronics do not need to be plugged in if they are not in use.
As soon as the weather gets warmer, take advantage of cooking outside. Barbecuing outdoors in the summer is much more efficient than using a conventional stove — which often warms the house and causes us to crank up the air conditioner.
Don't lose money cooling rooms that are not in use. Close the vents and shut the doors.
If you're in dire need of new windows, consider choosing something with low-e coatings, argon gas filled and insulated spacers to avoid air leaks.
Your central air conditioner relies on your furnace to push cold air throughout your home, Walton says. "A clean filter means dust and allergens are less likely to be distributed throughout your home and, the furnace motor will operate more efficiently with a clean filter."
If you're shopping for new appliances, look for the Energy Star sticker. These products approved by the government of Canada to be more energy efficient and help reduce your energy costs.
Defrost your freezer regularly. When ice builds up, your freezer uses more electricity. Walton says you should also keep your freezer at least three-quarters full for maximum efficiency. To clean things up around the house, consider getting rid of that old fridge in your garage or basement if it’s only keeping a few beverages cold.
Consider upgrading your old furnace to a new energy-efficient unit. "An older conventional burning furnace operates at 60 per cent efficiency meaning 40 cents of every dollar you spend on heating your home is going right up the chimney," Walton says. On the flip side, a new high-efficiency furnace operates at over 90 per cent; wasting less than 10 cents on every dollar you spend heating your home.
Energy audits will help you conserve more energy in and around your home. This can include identifying where energy and money is lost through leaks, and also a pulse check to see if your appliances need replacing.
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