How To Keep An Unruly Dryer In Line

If necessity is the mother of invention, then inconvenience is its frustrating co-conspirator. Faced with a finicky dryer that would shut down mid-cycle with a barely audible beep if its load was uneven (leaving a soggy mass of laundry), [the0ry] decided to add the dryer to the Internet of Things so it could send them an email whenever it shut itself down.

After opening a thinger.io account, adding the soon-to-be device, and setting up the email notification process, [the0ry] combined the ESP8266 Development Board, a photosensitive resistor, and a 5V power supply on a mini breadboard. All that was left was to mount it on the dryer and direct the LDR (light-dependent resistor) to the machine’s door lock LED to trigger an email when it turned off — indicating the cycle had finished or terminated prematurely. A little tape ensured the LDR would only be tripped by the desired light source.

If you’re an apartment-dweller have WiFi in the wash area it would be awesome to see a battery-powered version you take with you. But in general this is a great hardware blueprint as many device have status LEDs that can be monitored in a similar way. If you want to keep the server in-house (literally in this case) check out the Minimal MQTT series [Elliot Williams] recently finished up. It uses a Raspberry Pi as the center server and an ESP8266 is one of the limitless examples of hardware that plays nicely with the protocol.

We love seeing hacks like this because not only does it conserve water and energy by reducing instances of rewashing, but it’s also a clever way to extend the life of an appliance and potentially save hundreds of dollars in replacing it. Add this to the bevvy of hacks that add convenience to one’s home — some of which produce delicious results.

29 thoughts on “How To Keep An Unruly Dryer In Line

  1. Um, Way to do exactly what you should NEVER do to correct a problem. That is: YOU DIDN’T CORRECT THE PROBLEM.
    See the dryer is shutting down for a reason… An unbalanced load, or perhaps some other issue, how about figuring out that problem and fixing it? You can start by not overloading the dryer, which is not saving energy, but wasting it by making the dryer work harder, to the point of shutting itself down. It probably starts with washing oversized laundry loads in the first place. You should not do that either… But if you insist on being dumb, at least give the clothes a double spin cycle to physically get rid of that excess water with centrifugal force. And then as you unload the washer, you should be shaking out each and every piece of clothing, instead of throwing a be wad of wet fabric ball into the dryer all at once. Shaking your clothes out relaxes the fabric and exposes more surface area to be dried. You’ll have less wrinkles and your clothes will dry faster too. Now you have really fixed the problem. And you’ll have a, with your hack, an alert when your clothes are actually dry.

    Band aid fixes that never actually address the root cause are stupid and waste billions of dollars the world over. Where I work I think they call it “job security”… But it’s dead wrong as a practice.

    1. Wow, I am so irked by this article I can’t even type! To me it’s like someone saying “Jim did a great job of fixing that pesky flat tire problem with his car. See, he flattened the rest of his tires with an ice pick and then took all the tires off their rims! now there is less rolling resistance too!, good job, Jim!”

    2. “We have had issues for a few years trying to balance it, level it, and trying different size loads, but we still have an issue.” and “What usually ends up happening is that a load finished fully, or it stops uneven, and we don’t hear the beeps leaving a really soggy pile of wet laundry.”

      From the article. Which, btw, doesn’t mention dryer at all.

    3. The first step in fixing a problem is being able to measure it. This hack provides missing feedback: an alert that the dryer is done. From there, he can learn: “if the dryer is done in 5 minutes after I put in a full load, I did something wrong.” Now he can learn without the expense of deeply wrinkled clothing that needs to be rewashed.

      That said, there’s no excuse for your hostile ad hominem attacks on him for creating this clever project. You yourself could use a few lessons in communicating with human beings. You’ll find people are much more pleasant to deal with if you don’t needlessly accuse them of things like “insisting on being dumb”.

      See? We’re learning to communicate here.

    4. Ok, forgetting about the issue of addressing the symptom and not the problem. It’s still a decent write-up for those that want ideas to make their washing machine communicate over longer ranges.

      I always forget I threw a load in, I have a similar device that sends a notification when the wash completes so that I can go transfer it to the dryer or fold.

      So it’s not a wasted idea to treat just the symptom, it has a valid use case for other people.

  2. This is where a old dumb timer dryer might be the best solution. I find these dumb appliances the easiest to add automation to whether it is a DIY smart moisture sensor shutoff which plugs in inline to power, or a shake sensor to shutoff and alert to an unbalanced load overstressing the system. Another case is a remote control via Internet air conditioning controller you can control the appliance by switching the power at an external box rather than having a stupid-smart appliance which requires both power and reprogramming or turning on with a remote control once mains power is supplied. If you can sneak the hacks in without rewiring you can enjoy warranty protection while also getting the exact appliance you actually want but don’t want to pay a huge premium to get.

    1. Wow, looking at the picture its obvious now that you’re right. This is a washer and not a dryer. Still, there is a root cause here and simply monitoring the problem is not FIXING anything…

  3. I had a drier that worked great for 5 years and then began getting finicky about out of balance issues. Really frustrating to have babysit the drier to get it to dry your clothes. I decided to pop the top cover off and immediately found the problem…a broken tub support spring. $13 dollars fixed the problem.

  4. For the love of God, I can’t think of a higher ESD environment besides a test bench.

    You put that thing in an enclosure right now and TVS those wires immediately, mister!

    1. Ha! I got a good chuckle out of that ;)

      I think he needs to fix his machine first, rather than just monitoring the problem from afar. But some transorbs probably couldn’t hurt!

      1. Well it looks good. But you know someone will complain about it not being waterproof. Great job IMO.

        I’ve wanted to rig up something to automatically restart my washer a few years ago. The stupid thing died and I went back to using one from the 90’s. I have my own well, so I’m not concerned about the amount of water used.

        Keep it up, don’t let anyone discourage you. :)

        1. Definitely not discouraged :) This was my first project where I went from idea to implementation and it works exactly as intended, couldn’t be happier.

          Good point on the waterproof aspect, looks like I have another revision to make haha

    1. The buzzers get your attention, the newer dryers/washers tend to play a song. My LG stove also does this. It’s way easier to not hear the melody over a TV show (or in another room) versus a “what the holy f ..” buzzer.

  5. There are now washer-dryers. One device start to finish. No vent. Water in dry mode is condensed on cold water cooled thing and is drained away. The down side they take a long time.
    Since I use a high efficiency washer but no dryer, I know well about shaking out each item before “the dryer” cycle.

    1. The error code for the washer is ‘unbalanced load’ I would imagine.
      Not much to be done except keep readjusting the wash. I had a fancy new washer and it was terrible; grabbed an oldie for $20.

  6. Modern washing machines have new limits imposed on them, Noise limits being one, energy being another. It’s with this in mind that you will see a lot of these new changes+features, I’ve consulted for a machine manufacturer before and seen these limits(regulations?) alter function and form. Onto the load issue, machines often use tricks to ‘even’ out the load around the drum therefore improving the vibration based noise, cheap systems use peizo based feedback, industrial use sensor IC’s (MEMS?), these require calibration and the settings can drift. most machines also use barometer based sensors for water levels , newer ones provide more details information but are also influenced more by failure of surrounding parts & the environment. The influence of the environment is often over looked, that is why I was consulting, harsh environments like africa, not just hot places but the environment overall have produced effects unexpected to the manufacturer,even a machine being on the ground floor compare to 5th floor is a massive environmental change that some machine can refuse to function until the water level sensors are re-calibrated.
    So chances are his machine is misbehaving and this little hack is the perfect tool in the “cannon ball swat fly” situation. It might even be worth him checking the internet for a service manual, he may be able to reset the load sensor sensitivity. That reminds me of a particular brand that had a very clear statement in it’s installation manual “This unit must be installed level”, I cant remember what the tilt value was but we discovered thanks to a uneven floor that the machine would switch off totally if tilted past a certain point,a deck of cards fixed that but we did observe uneven loads pushing the machine just past the tilt trigger point that had we not discovered the tilt sensor(multiple output mercury based) we would not have put the required 2 and 2 for four together and discovered why the machine would shutdown totally without error. The machine I recently worked on have ARM cpu’s, CAN bus between major parts(motor, safety lockouts, control panel,door) LCD’s, MEMS sensors as well as the usual array of temp+water sensors.

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