Now You’re Washing with Gas

[Michiel] likes to wash his clothes in warm water. Like a lot of machines, his draws from the cold water line and  heats it electrically. Gas is much cheaper than electricity in the Netherlands, so he wanted to be able to heat the water with gas instead. Hot-fill machines already exist, but few models are available and they’re all too expensive.  [Michiel] rolled up his sleeves and hacked his brand new washer into a hot-fill machine.

He started out thinking that he’d just connect the hot water line instead, but that proved to be too hot. He found out it needs to be about 35°C (95°F), so he decided to mix input from the hot and cold lines. Since it’s a shiny new machine, [Michiel] wanted an externally mounted system to keep from voiding  the warranty. He got two solenoid valves from the electronic bay and used a PIC16F to make them dance. He wired up a light switch on a two-panel face and used the blank plate for power and status LEDs.

[Michiel]‘s design works like a charm. The machine used to draw 2000W to heat the water, and peak usage now is as low as 200W. He noticed that the washer drew a lot of power in standby mode so he added a solid state relay and a bit more code. Now the electricity to the machine is cut after two hours and [Michiel] saves about €97 per year.

Comments

  1. Rob says:

    I’ve yet to see a washing machine that doesn’t have hot & cold inputs with internal mixing depending on cycle selection (got my current one off Craigslist for $75, in fact…), they’re neither rare nor pricey. Am I missing something?

    • aleksclark says:

      must be an EU thing?

      • MikrySoft says:

        I have yet to see (in Poland) a washing machine that has any ability to take hot water at all. Mine (quite a new one) only has cold water intake.

      • Bill Stewart says:

        Maybe so. As an American, I’ve never seen a motorized washing machine that didn’t have separate hoses for hot and cold water (or if I did, the hoses were hidden behind it so I didn’t notice, and it was at some random hotel in Europe.) On the other hand, most home kitchen dishwashers here seem to take hot and cold water but then heat the hot water electrically to a higher temperature. Dryers might be electric or gas, depending on what you’ve got available, and gas is also much cheaper to operate.

        My grandmother had an old wringer washer (the type where you’re washing your clothes by hand on a washboard and then squeezing the water out with crank-powered rollers), and you could fill that with any temperature of water you had around, but that didn’t count, and by the time I saw it (1960s) I’m pretty sure she’d have had a washing machine for regular use and only kept the wringer around for washing random things.

        • Mike Szczys says:

          My dishwasher only takes hot water. Before you run it you’re supposed to do all the handwash-only dishes so that the hot water is as hot as it gets so there will be less of a need to use the electric heating element in the dishwasher.

          • kaidenshi says:

            We have one that we call a “roll up dishwasher” because instead of being permanently installed, you roll it up to the sink and hook it to the faucet using a spigot adapter, then roll it out of the way when done. It also is supposed to only accept hot water, and you are directed to get the water as hot as possible before connecting it.

            We rarely use it except as an extra drying rack for large pots and pans, because it’s such a hassle to operate. We do use it occasionally to sterilize the dog’s food and water bowls though.

    • jpnorair says:

      In most of the world, washing machines are front loading and combine dryer functionality as well. USA is spoiled — we built our plumbing & gas infrastructure almost entirely in the 20th century.

      • Bill Stewart says:

        I tried a front-loading washer the last time I needed to buy one (some German brand, I think Siemens.) It didn’t get the clothes wet enough to get them clean; I returned it for an American top-loader.

        • MikrySoft says:

          You got a broken washing machine then or didn’t read the instructions. Top-loaders are very rare in Europe – who would want to waste space on a washing machine you can’t put stuff on?

          • Dai Pole says:

            Nonsense. It’s a fact that modern washing machines don’t use enough water in either the wash or rinse cycles to clean or rinse properly. This is due to the eco friendly guidelines decreed via Brussels. I live in England, and have been through several washing machines (with hot & cold fill, and cold only), and so appalled by the quality of the wash from modern machines I’m thinking of getting an old twin tub.

        • jpnorair says:

          Many models from US-based companies are also front loading. They use less water, are more gentle on clothes, and get more water removed in the spin cycle.

  2. SparkyGSX says:

    I also live in the Netherlands, but I’ve never seen a hotfill machine here, which I have always found very strange.

    My own washing machine still uses cold water, but I do feed my dishwasher hot water at about 60C. It works in both the 55C and 65C programs.

    Electricity is about four times as expensive as gas per unit of energy, so it really is an easy way to save on the energy bill. Besides that, it is of course more efficient to heat water directly, as opposed to converting it to steam, driving a turbine, which drives a generator, going through a series of transformers and power lines, and then just dumping it in a big resistor to heat some water. Quite ridiculous, if you think about it.

  3. Darren says:

    Why not hook the hot and cold water outlets together and adjust the temperature using the supply valve?

  4. Jorge says:

    To Rob: I’m from Spain, and may be this is only in Europe, but I’ve never seen a washing machine providing hot/cold inputs (at least mine has only one! :))

    Any way… cheaper/safer/quicker solution:

    http://popular.ebay.com/thermostatic-mixing-valve

  5. GuruBuckaroo says:

    Sorry to be a little off-topic here, but is there some reason I can *never* see the main article image on this site until I reload? Everything else shows up first load, but the main article image always is a broken image icon until I refresh. Thought for a while it might have been a way to discourage Adblock, but I’ve had that off on this site for a long time now, and it’s still happening. I think it started with the last big redesign.

    Oh, and yeah, American here, never have I seen a washing machine without hot and cold inputs. Dishwashers, on the other hand, only have a hot water input.

  6. fartface says:

    You guys really dont have LG appliances there in europe? every single LG washing machine has an inlet hose for hot and cold, and you can select wash temperature.

    • fartface says:

      Well what do you know, it seems that having hot water in homes is uncommon in the EU therefore its uncommon to have both to the washer. how wierd. Is this because most of your homes there are 1000 years old or older?

      • emdee says:

        > it seems that having hot water in homes is uncommon in the EU

        not true, I live in Germany and i have never once seen any house that didn’t have hot water. (running in pipes, i’m not talking about kettle and bonfire ;) )

    • perroloco says:

      We do have LG and many others and of course you can select washing temperature in all of them…either you can choose between 2 different temperatures (hot/cold program) or you can directly set your desired temp. But is not very common to see hot/cold water inlet hoses.

  7. Chris says:

    Ok, all fine, but the last part of washing clothes ie. the rinsing/flushing HAS to be done in a COLD water, otherwise you’re left with a skin-irritating particles of leftover washing powder embedded on your stuff (if you’re from the “washing is done by washing machine, by hand, dafuq?” generation – ask your mother/grandmother etc.). And yes, even those fancy hot/cold connected machines do this last rinsing cycle in cold water. I don’t see any non warranty-voiding method to do it properly without hacking into the “brains” of the machine itself to sense when to stop pouring the 35C into it. IMO: fail, not win, unless you like developing skin allergies and rashes over time.

    • dcm684 says:

      He have it switch to cold water only after a set time. Measuring the time from start to rinse should not be that difficult.

      Or if he wanted to add some flow sensing he could count the number of times that water was requested by the washer and after so many requests switch to cold.

      If the washer is equipped with an LED telling him what part of the cycle the washer is in, he could use a light sensor that to trigger the hot water to turn off.

      • Michiel says:

        Same here. I have programmed the PIC to allow hot water for a fixed amount of time when filling. After filling ( lets say 30 min ) only cold water is supplied so when its time to rinse ( after like 30 min ), it does it without warm water.

        0 min – Activate by switch
        0 min – Supply power and start mixing water
        30 min – Supply only cold water
        60 min – Rinsing starts ( +/- 20 min)\
        120 min – Cut power, and close both valves ( overwrite can be done by switch )

        • Mike Szczys says:

          I love the non-invasive nature of your hack. For one thing it doesn’t require you to crack open the machine. The added benefit of this is that if you move its super easy to take it with you and set it up again.

    • Mike Lu says:

      Please explain how cold water would be more effective at removing the left over soap. Hot water dissolves stuff faster.

      • The soap is already dissolved at this point of the wash so that’s not particularly relevant. It would actually be better if the soap precipitated, then you could get it all out instead of just continuously diluting the concentration. But probably the greatest effect is the sudsing, the bouyant soap bubbles which remain floating on the surface no matter how much water pours through the pipes. Lower temperatures result in less suds, meaning the soap will wash out instead of floating on the surface.

    • Chris C. says:

      I live in the US. I buy only older appliances because they’re more durable/repairable. And every washing machine I, my mother, and grandmother have ever owned had hot water rinses, if that’s what the temperature switch is set to. When repairs were necessary, on the schematics I found a single contactor in the timer responsible for controlling power to the temperature selector switch, which in turn powers one or both solenoids according to its setting; so it’s quite impossible for them to select different temperatures for different cycles.

      A little Googling reveals cold water rinses are a feature of newer washers, forced on consumers to save energy. Leaving some wondering why their new washers leave their clothes poorly rinsed. And shopping around for one of the few high-end washers that still allow you to select rinse temperature, or going back to old washers, or manually repeating a wash cycle (on hot) without detergent to work around the problem with the existing washer.

      So although you’re wrong, I’m glad to have learned yet another reason why my old appliances are better.

    • Michiel says:

      “I don’t see any non warranty-voiding method to do it properly without hacking into the “brains” of the machine itself to sense when to stop pouring the 35C into it”

      I do. : )
      I first thought of measuring the current drawn by the machine. This must contain some sort of ‘fingerprint’ which can be identified by the microcontroller.

  8. Tim says:

    Plus, you’re all set up to have a water leak sensor (wired or wireless maybe z-wave) shut off both solenoids in the event of a burst hose or other leak.

  9. Ryan says:

    I swear EVERY SINGLE project posted on here that uses a SSR does not use a heatsink. Every time a post the same link: http://www.moorepage.net/hottub/SSR-fire2.jpg

    D*** it guys, the back of the SSR is metal for a reason! Put a dang heatsink on it!

    • Trui says:

      For low current applications, there’s no need to mount a heat sink.

      • matt says:

        Um… it is switching 200 watts of power, and is in a enclosed case which will raise the temperature of the SSR possibly requiring it needs to be derated. That also assumes there is never a fault in the machine which could cause a increased current draw. I tried looking for a datasheet for this SSR but couldnt find one.

    • matt says:

      Not that I’m disagreeing with your point, but in the picture you linked you can clearly see a small heat sink attached to the SSR.

    • Jelle says:

      Perhaps, could it be, that you are wrong? Like perhaps that metal back is heatsink enough on its own, or the massive case itself can shed enough heat?

      And if you were right, could you tell me how much heat it has to dissipate and where/how it originates?

      • rj says:

        The TRIAC inside the SSR has a when-on main-terminal voltage of somewhere around 1V. In the EU, 200W is less than an amp, so there’s less than 1W of heat dissipated in the TRIAC.

  10. Galane says:

    Europe, where American efficiency “gurus” keep claiming is so ahead of us on appliance efficiency, has mostly highly inefficient clothes washers with built in water heating instead of simply using already heated water from the main water heater…

    Some combo washer/dryers are sold here but most of them don’t use heated air, they just tumble the clothes for a long time and blow ambient temperature air through. If you like to keep your house at 60F in the winter, one of those will take a very long time to dry clothes.

    I’ve yet to see a dishwasher with anything but a single hot water connection.

  11. Laszlo says:

    Can’t find the source for the project…. Am I missing something?

  12. Old'un says:

    All the talk of not having hot-feed washers in Europe is very strange – I bought my washer/dryer over 15 years ago, and it has both cold & hot feeds. It wasn’t even an expensive model. In fact, it was one of the cheaper ones.

    American washing machines are not ahead of the EU, they’re behind – top loaders are long extinct in the UK, in the same way that gas guzzlers are.

    • Selami says:

      Today, having a washing machine with hot&cold inputs in Europe puts it in another class, which mandates extra eco friendly rules. That is why this feature almost just disappeared overnight in 2008.

      • Greenaum says:

        Leaving us with electrically-heated washing water, instead of from gas. What a brilliant move that was for the environment!

        This is a bug that needs solving, I’d write to my MEP if I had any idea who he was.

    • Greenaum says:

      Yeah, every washer I saw in the UK, where I live, had hot / cold feeds, up until a few years ago. Now they’re gone. Any idea why?

      • Septillion says:

        Maybe it has something to do with the fact they use electric boilers in great parts of Germany and France. In France it’s even quite common to use a electric heaters instead of gas. But I live in the Netherlands as well and I would like to see more hot/cold washers in Europe.

  13. Jason says:

    Wouldn’t a thermostatic mixing valve be ideal for this application? Obviously a TMV would not handle the uC controlled power-down mode though.

  14. robomonkey says:

    What’s next, a washer with a rock and washboard? Cold water only?? The more advanced we get the closer we come to where we started.

  15. h3ll0_w0rld says:

    Did anyone else see the title and think it meant that they were washing clothes with some sort of liquid gas..? Would have been cooler than the actual article :p

    • Chris C. says:

      LOL, yes I did, briefly. Supercritical CO2 maybe? ;)

    • Rob says:

      I read it the same way, and my mind instantly went to what our friends on the other side of the pond would call petrol. I really had my doubts about the efficiency of this… glad I read the article! (Note: petrol works great for cleaning grease off of metal, but I don’t think it would fare well with fabrics once you put them in the dryer!)

  16. Tim says:

    Back in the day we used gasoline to clean just about everything. Nowadays it is so expensive you’d never consider it.

  17. HenningA says:

    In modern detergent are enzymes (protease) that solves the albumin in the the clothes, Those enzymes are destroyed at higher temperatures, so don’t fill in hotter water than 55°C

    • NewCommentor1283 says:

      modern detergent?
      you mean EUROPEAN cold water only stuff
      very advanced!
      NOT!

      seriously, cold water for washing clothes?
      what planet did you grow up on?
      ive washed fabric before by hand, in a sink,
      using NORMAL (hotwater) CLOTHES SOAP.
      YOU ABSOLOUTELY HAVE TO RINSE WITH HOT WATER.
      or you will be re-rinseing several times and STILL slimy with soap.
      what kind of crack is being fed to your engineers/politicians?

      what next a law saying all cars have to be driven in reverse?

      the only time ive used a cold water only machine with cold water only detergent was while visiting europe.
      I HAD TO BUY NEW CLOTHES, THEY WERE RUINED, AND STILL DIRTY.

      • NewCommentor1283 says:

        the only other time i had ruined clothes was back in warmwash country.
        when i accidentally hit the temp sw. and washed cold.
        ENTIRE LOAD RUINED.

        cold water puts reeeally gross looking white stains all over.
        the funny kind … impossible-sized … had a good laugh.
        it looked cleaner going in.

        and again,
        extra wash cycles without soap did NOT fix the soap+coldwater stains problem.

    • NewCommentor1283 says:

      enzymes … yeh, thats what it looked like.
      freakin human enzymes, reproductive enzymes

      isnt that why we wash em in the first place??? TO GET RID OF ENZYMES???

  18. JB says:
  19. cappie says:

    It could be just me, but why not use a standardized hot&cold mixer thing that we’ve been using for nearly 20 years to (automatically temperature controlled through the miracle of bi-metals) fill our bathtubs and take showers with?

    I’ve been using a mixer like that on my washing machine (which stands directly behind the wall of my bathroom shower (hence the access to cold & hot water pipes) for over 8 years now.. thats nothing new.. sure, it’s not exacly 35 degrees celcius, but what do I care.. I never wash colder than 40 degrees anyway.

  20. Dan in Ireland says:

    First I would like to explain how the hot inlet works on many machines (that have them). The machine normally expects the hot inlet to be around 60 Celcius (very hot). Thus for washes below 60 Celcius it does not take any water from the hot tap at all, so unless you are using a very hot wash, no water is used from the hot tap.

    Another problem can happen with the hot inlet is that when it is being used, it can take 10 or 20 litres of water before any hot water arrives, if the source of hot water is a long way away from the washing machine. In these cases the machine is already filled at this stage, and so hot water moves towards the machine, but only cool water fills the machine. The hot water that moved towards the machine is wasted, as it sits in the pipes and cools down. This is also true for combi (combination) gas boiler systems. These do not use a reserve hot water tank, instead instantly heat the cold water from cold to hot, in response to a hot tap being turned on. These take a small amount of time to deliver hot water,

    As already said, machines take in water, and then heat it up to a higher temperature if needed. I have never seen a two inlet machine that mixes hot and cold to get a medium temperature. If they have two inlets they use the cold inlet only for washes below 60 Celcius. However generally later on in the cycle they rinse the clothes with cold water only. Adding warm water at this stage is a waste of energy, and as others have said, may not wash away the suds and give a bad result.

    Used valves are easy to get from old washing machines. They are generally mounted exactly where the water inlet is connected and use AC to turn on. On front loading machines they are generally at the very top and easy to access.

    So as others suggested, it would be simplist to use a thermostatic mixer tap, but also to switch over to cold water after a short time to allow rinsing with cold water at the end. If you do not pay for water quantity a way of “running the tap” down a drain until the water gets hot, before starting the machine would ensure the machine only gets hot water from the start. All this could be mounted in an external unit, along with leak detection for an ideal energy saving unit.

    This is a great hack, I often thought about a similar unit, but this guy delivered! I am not sure if the costs savings would be reasonable for a commercial unit, and if the market would be big enough, but the technology would be fairly basic and an ideal DIY install, and could be sold online or in stores.

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