One Man’s Quest To Spend Less TIme In The Basement

[Lars] has a second floor apartment, and the washing machines and clothes dryers are in the basement. This means [Lars] has spent too much time walking down to the basement to collect his laundry, only to find out there is 15 minutes left in on the cycle. There are a few solutions to this: leave your load in the washer like an inconsiderate animal, buy a new, fancy washer and dryer with proprietary Internet of Things™ software, or hack together a washer and dryer monitoring solution. We all know what option [Lars] chose.

Connecting a Pi to the Internet and serving up a few bits of data is a solved problem. The hard part is deciding which bits to serve. Washers and dryers all have a few things in common: they both use power, they both move and shake, they make noise, and their interfaces change during the wash cycle. [Lars] wanted a device that could be used with washers and dryers, and could be used with other machines in the future. He first experimented with a microphone, capturing the low rumble of a washer sloshing about and a dryer tumbling a load of laundry. It turns out an accelerometer works just as well, and with a sensor securely fastened to a washer or dryer, [Lars] can get a pretty good idea if it’s running or not.

With a reliable way to tell if a washer or dryer is still running, [Lars] only had to put this information on his smartphone. He ended up using PushBullet, and quickly had an app on his phone that told him if his laundry was done.


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45 thoughts on “One Man’s Quest To Spend Less TIme In The Basement

  1. As far as I know these things have timers in them. If a dryer uses a moisture depletion based cycle, just use the timed mode. Or use linear array air drying, it’s the green thing to do anyway. Add 10% and and set phone timer. If you just simply bugged the laundry room, you’d know when someone not welcome was helping themselves to free clothes, as well as hearing that a load was done.

    1. Timers on modern (front load) washing machines are ‘interesting’. The timer assumes a perfect first attempt at load balancing for spins; repeated attempts to balance the load places the timer on hold, which can add up to a fair bit of time. With our current and previous machine, ten minutes overall waiting for load balance attempts was fairly routine.

      1. Mine does the same thing. I will set a timer for the time the LCD claims it will take and when the timer expires I’ll come down and there will be 10 minutes left. I’m playing with a light sensor pointed to an area of the screen…

        1. I’m doing the same. Monitor the leds on the front panel.. I’m done with the hardware part for months now. just cant find time to sit and complete the code of find the best push notification system. maybe ill try pushbullet. but i’m using esp8266 so i will need to reverse engineer the push calls and do it in straight tcp.

  2. Every washer and dryer I have seen has a buzzer to notify you when it’s done. Could you possibly splice into the wires to the buzzer to detect when it was activated, thereby triggering the “all done” notification?

    1. Interesting you should say that. Except for mid-range modern units, and very high-end older units, I don’t see washing machines with end-of-cycle buzzers (or any buzzer at all, for anything). The dryers have them so that you’ll know to pull the laundry so it won’t wrinkle. But why the manufacturers didn’t add them as standard equipment to all but the most low-end washers, I don’t get.

      If I don’t hear the spin cycle end, I’ll sometimes forget there’s a load in the washer for several hours (or a day). Typically it’s when I’m extremely focused, writing software or doing CAD work.

    2. I have never had a washing machine with a buzzer. :o(
      My current washing machine runs on a timer. As it goes through the wash cycle the timing knob slowly rotates back to the start.
      You could glue a small strip of tinfoil on the knob and when it rotates to off the tinfoil strip could make contact with two wires.

      When the wires make contact, it could turn on a relay that turns on a light upstairs.

    1. Interestingly we decided against each others approaches. I found that attaching something to the machines themself would end up falling of at some point due to the hard vibrations. And screwing isn’t really an option usually.

          1. yes i will have to post back after some long term trials with my magnetic mount\alignment testing. Seems to hold my sensors in place so far. but its a new washing machine not a lot of shaking going on.

    1. This appears to be Europe, where usually everyone has their own washing machine on their own power hookup in a communal area in the basement.

      We have our own washer, but a communal dryer.

        1. It’s kind of an attitude in Germany (and I assume other places in Europe), some rental places have your own kitchen too (your own stove, cupboards, sink, water heater, etc). This way, if you’ve got some desires you’re not dependent on begging your landlord to change that old clunker fridge from 1970, you can choose your own side-by-side stainless fridge with an ice dispenser. It’s the same with washing machines, and then also you don’t have to wash your expensive clothes where I just bleached my shitty underpants ;)

          An example of a rental without a kitchen like this is … bring your own everything. The sink goes in the far corner, where the pipes are kind of sticking out

          1. That is very interesting. I was showing my wife this picture and we mused how apparent the role a store like ikea must have in Europe is to us now. Whereas people here in America install their cabinets in a purchased home and then wonder why they don’t last like the 50 year old hand built cabinets they just took out had. The stuff is made for byo-everything rental flats.

  3. or you could just set a timer on your phone to ring after 1h or however long the cycle takes, you can even decrease it by 2 minutes of walking time so it’s done as you arrive. cheaper, easier and accessible for everyone.

  4. Unless you have a disability, walking up and down the stairs is very, very good for you.
    There are very few of us who can’t benefit from the activity.
    Beyond that, I like the simplicity of a timer. Now the cool hack for the timer is making the alarm sound more pleasant. Heck, that applies to just about anything that uses a nasty sounding piezo alert.

  5. Our washing machines/dryers at my old uni accomodation had something similar; Never tended to work properly, though, and was a pain to use, so I tended just to do my washing at about 1AM, and keep track of the time remaining on a stopwatch. Unfortunately, the system that let you know when the washes were done also handled payment; You had to pay for the wash using a card which you had to top up from time to time, and to top it up, you had to buy the credits using online using paypal, then take the card to a machine (in a room next to where the mail was kept, not anywhere near the laundry room, and which locked after 11pm), and enter a pin supplied on the website to transfer the credits onto your card. If you failed to do this within about an hour, the whole process fell through.

  6. Mechanical hack: On my grandfather’s ancient Maytag washer he replaced the controller with one that had a few extra rows of cams. He reset one connected to a buzzer that rang at the end of each cycle then continuously at the end of the load. If it’s apart anytime soon I should take photos — would make a great HAD article!

  7. He did it the hard way. ESP8266 and a vibration sensor or a 3 axis accelerometer in a plastic box with a magnet.

    Go to the machine, slap the box on it and flip the on switch, start your load. when motion stops the ESP sends your message.

    Less than 3 minutes of soldering and coding. will run for a long time off of 2 AA batteries.

  8. Many years ago I had the idea of making a small ball full of electronics that you’d throw in with the laundry. It would sense when motion had stopped for a while and send a signal to some sort of receiver that would indicate the cycle was done (This was long before IoT, smartphones, etc.). I never bothered because I figured it would be unlikely to survive the wash and dry environment, and unlikely to be able to transmit a signal from inside a washer or dryer.

  9. While all the people are doing good DIY work, we should take a step back and really appreciate how terrible things are. Stateful garage door openers don’t exist and “smart” garage door openers are *just* coming on the market. I didn’t even know IoT washers and driers were even on the market. A whole new platform war of Thread and HomeKit is going to be on us soon, too.

    The internet itself is a prime example of how the world was changed by making public, open interconnection standards, or at least the protocols themselves were visible to everyone.

    1. I was thinking that one could use the same principle as a Vernier caliper to measure how far open the garage door is.

      I.e. Have a wire with a number of reed switches in parallel, with distinct resistor values, spaced down the length of the garage doors range of motion.

      Then have evenly spaced magnets on each door panel, that trigger the reed switches. By carefully calculating the spacing of the reed switches, you can make it that the magnets trigger each off them in a defined sequence, which can be read back using an AD input, and depending on the resistance, you will know which switch had been triggered, and at what point in the sequence it is.

  10. I went the easy route when i made mine. I found that the control panel on the dryer and the washer was a simple shift in and shift out setup. I put an Arduino in the middle using a few interrupts. Instead of shifting into the main display to light the Led’s they shift into the Arduino (with an Ethernet shield). The Arduino then sends the same output out another pin. I do the same thing for the buttons shifting out of the control panel down to the main boards. (Man in the middle style)

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