Hacklet 102 – Laundry Projects

Ah laundry day. The washing machine, the dryer, the ironing, and the folding. No one is a fan of doing laundry, but we (I hope) are all fans of having clean clothing. Hackers, makers, and engineers are always looking for ways to make a tedious task a bit easier, and laundry definitely is one of those tedious tasks. This week we’re checking out some of the best laundry projects on Hackaday.io!

laundrifyWe start with [Professor Fartsparkles] and Laundrify. Anyone who’s shared a washer and dryer with house or apartment mates will tell you how frustrating it can be. You bring your dirty laundry downstairs only to find the machines are in use. Wait too long, and someone has jumped in front of you. Laundrify fixes all that. Using a current sensor, Laundrify can tell if a machine is running. An ESP8266 monitors the current sensor and sends data up to the cloud – or in this case a Raspberry Pi. Users access this laundry as a service system by opening up a webpage on the Pi. The page includes icons showing the current status of each machine. If everything is in use, the users can join a queue to be notified when a machine is free.


borgmachineNext up is [Jose Ignacio Romero] with Borg Washing Machine. [Jose] came upon a washer that mechanically was perfect. Electrically was a different story. The biggest issue was the failing mechanical timer, which kept leaving him with soapy wet clothing. Washing machine timers boil down to mechanically timed multipole switches. They’re also expensive to replace. [Jose] did something better – he built an electronic controller to revitalize his washer. The processor is a PIC16F887. Most of the mains level switching is handled by relays. [Jose] programmed the new system using LDmicro, which is a ladder logic implementation for microcontrollers. For the uninitiated, ladder logic is a programming language often used on industrial Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) systems. The newly dubbed borg machine is now up and running better than ever.



Next we have [Michiel Spithoven] with Hot fill washing machine. In North America, most washing machines connect to hot and cold water supplies. Hot water comes from the home’s water heater. This isn’t the case in The Netherlands, where machines are designed to use electricity to heat cold water. [Michiel] knew his home’s water heater was more efficient than the electric heater built into his machine. [Michiel]  hacked his machine green by building an automated mixing manifold using two solenoid valves and a bit of copper pipe. The valves are controlled by a PIC microprocessor which monitors the temperature of the water entering the machine. The PIC modulates the valves to keep the water at just the right temperature for [Michiel’s] selected cycle. [Michiel] has been tracking the efficiency of the new system, and already has saved him €97!


laundrespFinally we have [Mark Kuhlmann] with LaundrEsp. [Mark’s] washing machine has a nasty habit of going off-balance and shutting down. This leaves him with soggy clothing and lost time re-running the load. [Mark] wanted to fix the problem without directly modifying his machine, so he came up with LaundrEsp. When the machine is running normally, a “door locked” light is illuminated on the control panel. As soon as the washer shuts down – due to a normal cycle ending or a fault, the door unlocks and the light goes out. [Mark] taped a CdS light detecting resistor over the light and connected it to an ESP8266. A bit of programming with Thinger.io, and [Mark’s] machine now let’s him know when it needs attention.

If you want to see more laundry projects check out our brand new laundry project list! If I missed your project, don’t take me to the cleaners! Drop me a message on Hackaday.io, and I’ll have your project washed, folded, and added to the list in a jiffy. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

70 thoughts on “Hacklet 102 – Laundry Projects

  1. I don’t think any water heater is more efficient than electric (If you count from your meter onward), it’s just that electricity is more expenive than gas. Though Mr Spithoven mentions this on his project page, it’s just not really clear in the article.

    1. My gas water heater claims to be 86% efficient. It’s also three times faster than my old electric heater.
      The gas turbine power plant down the street from me claims 50% efficiency, and that’s only because they also use the waste heat for district heating. Actual gas>electricity is likely only 35-40% efficient (yes, it’s an old plant), less than half the efficiency of heating the water directly. So apples:apples, my gas water heater is more than double the efficiency of an electric one.

      The price difference is even more substantial: Daytime electricity here in the Great White North (well, Ontario) is $0.30/kWh after all the fees. Gas, delivered, is $0.26/m^3 = $7.03/GJ. After that 86% heater efficiency, it’s equivalent to $0.029/kWh, or less than a tenth the cost of electricity to heat my water. Nighttime rates save you about a third of that cost.

      (yeah, we get reamed for electricity here, and don’t get me started on water cost — let’s just say the Flint, Michigan’s water, one of the most expensive in the USA and the subject of a congressional hearing, is cheaper than ours)

      1. If gas is so cheap there, wouldn’t it make sense to get off the electric grid and use a generator that runs from gas? A typical engine is around 25% efficient, even better considering that up north, the “waste” heat isn’t really wasted.

        1. Absolutely would make sense, until you run the numbers. I’ve been looking for house-scale co-generation systems for years. Grid-tied or not, they make no economic sense. Capital and maintenance costs kill you. They stink and make noise and take up space. I could engineer my own but, frankly, I have better uses for my time, and that still doesn’t solve the maintenance and liveability issues. Consider, for example, the fairly well-regarded and reliable Onan generators: they require an oil change every 150 hours (!). Want to run it part time and run on batteries? Nope. Batteries cost about $0.50 per kWh over their lifetime. You just can’t make small-scale co-gen pay back, ever.

          1. Paul, I was thinking of local co-generation as well, though I could not find enough details to run the numbers.
            How about a small scale, say a company with a few thousand people?

        1. The COP is greater than 1 so when talking to the average person it is appropriate to explain it that way, as more than 100% efficient. That is the nature of communications, effective does not mean entirely accurate. Most people can’t handle the entirely accurate explanation, which is why you probably notice some people’s eyes doing that zoning out thing when you are talking to them.

          But when talking to you I would not say it that simplified way, in fact it would be redundant to even mention it to you because you already know how things work therefore if I do mention it I am only talking to those people that need the simple explanation and therefore your response is also redundant.

          There is that comprehensive and rigidly logical enough for you?

          1. This is Hackaday, why are you talking like a heatpump sales person? If you do know the subject then the claim is an insult to our intelligence, if you don’t then any corrections you get are richly deserved.

          2. Your “correction” was unwarranted and useless because you did not actually explain the concept better than my initial brief comment. Get back to me when you are an adult.

          3. You put your foot in your mouth and then you lashed out out at everyone who pointed it out – I don’t think I’m the one who needs some maturity, and I suspect I’m not alone in that opinion. However I’m not in the mood for this so take your petulant little fart of a reply and then drop dead – I won’t engage any further with you.

          4. Your self-censorship is welcomed. In future please refrain from elitist comments suggesting that HaD is not on the open web and not welcoming of readers of all levels of knowledge.

          5. It is best to use proper terminology up front, and do the proper research BEFORE commenting. Otherwise, the intelligent readers with appropriate background will simply point out your stupidity.

          6. What intelligent readers? If you were intelligent you would know that I am correct, relative to resistive heating which is 100% efficient a heat pump is more efficient, the question is at what? Moving heat! That is what the COP indicates when it is above 1.0 So if you lecture me on this without demonstrating that you even understand the point above you will not look intelligent, you will actually look like a moronic troll. Do you even own a reverse cycle air conditioner? Do you know how they work? No? Well that is why I gave you kids the simple explanation, a heat pump is more than 100% efficient. I stand by that, because I do know what I am talking about.

          7. LOL, I studied this stuff over 15 years ago as part of a renewable energy course. I’ve even designed passive cooling and heating systems that are driven by convection and controlled by a form of air flow logic. :-) It is you guys that have some learning to do, as usual. I’ve never seen so many unjustifiably fat egos in one place out side of places like facebook.

          8. Although the output power (as heat) can be higher than the electrical power put into the system, the overall electrical efficiency of the system can be as high as 65% under perfect climate conditions and with proper earth heat exchanger design.

          9. Actually that is not entirely relevant as there are smaller thermal gradients available to work across which enhances the COP. I already mentioned one obvious one, why did you ignore that?

          1. No confusion at all, see my other, comprehensive, response.

            The point I made is valid and worth noting. Heat pumps rule, and machines that use them always come out more efficient than any other system, particularly if they both heat the water and dry the clothes with them.

          2. I agree, heat pumps are great, but most people don’t own enough land to install one. And they are not suitable for all locations and climates. My heat pump system requires supplemental heat in the winter when it is below 15 degrees F.

          3. One of my machines has the heat pumps built in, it is a front loading combined washer dryer and it didn’t really cost that much extra. With a family as large as mine the costs of the hardware, averaged over all of the loads of washing it does in it’s life, is actually trivial. The consumables and energy end up costing more than the machine.

          4. “Heat pump” as in a device that moves thermal energy from point a to b such that the power used the drive the device is less than than the total power transferred.

            The ideal system pulls heat out of your waste water stream to heat a tank, then heated water is used to wash the clothes and when you are drying the clothes the heat is pulled out of the condenser to add to the hot water tank. Consumer units are generally not fully integrated like that and just pull heat out of the air for the hot water, then dump heat back into the air for the drying cycle. It is like a compact reverse cycle air-conditioner in many ways.

          5. COP > 1 means that if a resistive heater is 100% efficient then it is effectively >100% efficient for the purpose of a simple comparison.

            However if anyone wishes to split enough hairs to knit themselves a wool shirt go ahead, all they will demonstrate is that they have a personality disorder. However they would get respect for hacking together a machine to knit said shirt for them, and the automated hair splitting would demonstrate a level of AI coding skills worthy of it’s own HaD article.

          6. A “heat pump” is what it sounds like. It uses energy to “pump” heat in the opposite direction to that which it naturally flows. IE from a colder thing to a hotter thing. It’s a lot like a fridge, but used for heating. In fact exactly the same, really. It’s why the back of your fridge is above room temperature, and the inside is colder.

            Some heating systems use them. To heat the house, you suck up heat from outdoors, and exhaust it indoors. Even if it’s freezing outdoors, it’s still 270K above zero, so there’s still lots of heat out there. The heat can either be drawn from the outside air, in a smaller system, or from pipes buried in the ground, in a larger one.

            You end up getting out more watts, in heat, than you put in, in electricity. An electric heater has a maximum efficiency of 1W heat for every 1W electricity. A heat pump can provide, say, 2 or 3W heat per 1W electricity. In those terms it’s more than 100% efficient.

            If you consider the whole Earth as a system, of course it’s not that efficient. But for most people the ambient heat outside their house is a free and infinite resource, so from an owner’s view, it’s more than 100%. The ratio compared to “energy I give a shit about” is called COP but may as well be efficiency to any normal person.

            In regard to the heat exchanger question above, it’s actually the opposite. A heat exchanger lets heat flow between two fluids (usually), without the fluids coming into contact. It works in the hot -> cold direction. Heat pumps work in the cold -> hot direction.

            I’ve gone to special lengths to pedant-proof this post. If I have missed some obvious exception, just assume it’s there.

            It’s amazing and very unpleasant, the propensity some people have to say “Nyah! You got it wrong!” over a silly little point, as if some small amount of information is a valuable card to play in life. If you know better than someone, explain why. “No, no it is not, one should not assert that, nyer! nyer! Oh my god I’m having an orgasm and an asthma attack at the same time, hhuuucch hhuuucchh” is not a polite or reasonable response.

            Everybody knew what was meant. If we have to spend time including intellectual disclaimers and arse-covering in everything we say, we’re no better than compensation lawyers. Cut a guy a fucking break, man.

      1. Wow.

        Then why don’t they power themselves?

        When you use your own working definitions it is helpful to define them upfront so that there is no confusion.

        The enOcean people have batteryless transmitters, switches, etc, but they still are not greater than 100% efficient.

          1. No “Larry: it is just that you are an opinionated fool who comments on the contents of your imagination rather than the actual text on the screen in front of you. I believe the term for that is “deluded”, assuming you are not just a garden variety liar or troll.

          2. Or, perhaps, you have done some Google work and are attempting to cover your ignorance after making a ridiculous comment. There is no increase in energy.

        1. It isn’t a closed system, there is a thermal gradient and an insulated space, you just push more watts across the boundary than you use to drive the pump. It is only more than 100% for heating because the waste heat from conventional inefficiencies (what you are thinking about) also contributes to the rise in temperature. The pump in not a 100% efficient pump, the complete arrangement that utilises the pump is, so TO PUT IT SIMPLY, it is a more than 100% efficient use of the input power in terms of the heat gained. The gain really is greater than 100%. That actual efficiency of the pump is the same as a resistive heater, because that is all it is being used for, heating, but the additional gain depends on the size of the thermal gradient and the design of the pump, if they are well matched the COP is larger. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coefficient_of_performance#Example Note the seasonal issue, that is the change in the thermal gradient mentioned above.

          To avoid further psychological abuse from trolls and fools I’ll put it this way, your heating dollar value, when using a heat pump, is greater than 100 cents. See where the greater than 100% efficient comes from now? Also note I actually claimed “An electricity driven heat pump is more then 100% efficient.” I did not say “energy efficient” did I. Oh what fools some of you people are, so “smart” and yet so very stupid.

          1. Did you author that Wikipedia entry?

            What is the COP of a Relay? Its coil consumes 500mW, but it can transfer 500Watts. What if it was turning on a resistive heater?

            COP seems to only apply in a very specific case, to provide a basis of comparison between one heat pump system to another, or one cooling system to another. For example a system that was poorly insulated would have a lower COP than a system that was properly insulated.

          2. Did I write the Wikipedia entry? No and so what if I did, it is common terminology and there is nothing controversial about it.

            Do you even understand the concept? It is an energy transport system, it moves more heat than the same amount of input power could be used to make heat. There is no breaking of the laws of physics.

            If we have the following environment/Rooms [C[A][B]] the heat pump will raise [B] by lowering [A] but overall [C] does not change, other than the gain from the waste heat from the pump. No magic required.

            If you buy $100 of electrical power and use it to heat [B] using a resister (heating element) and you have a heat gain in [B] of X, then you run the experiment again using a heat pump and the same budget your gain in [B] will be Y, and Y>X is true, often to the extent that if X = 1 then Y >=3

          3. Actually I am talking about idiots. There are two idiots each with the same heating budget, but the second one uses their budget more efficiently by utilising a heat pump. If you don’t get that you are the first guy. There is a third guy who just washes in solar heated water and hangs his clothes to dry in a sun space, he clearly is not an idiot.

  2. I have never known of a washer with only one hose connection. This must have been a local plumbing code or something saving pipe runs to make special washers that have to use high amperage as part of the cycle. Given that we will pay peak rates, the storage of hot water in a well insulated tank is like a big battery ready for use anytime. Never get or put up with a t(h)ankless water heater. You will thank me when it goes on and off while showering. The water heater is the first thing to be killed when peak (smart) metering and control happens, then the electric dryer is disabled.

      1. It’s interesting to read the different washing requirements around the globe. In Aus as far as I have noticed all our washing machines have hot and cold inlets but the majority of people use cold water only for washing.
        Dishwashers on the other hand have hot and cold water inlets And have built in water heaters.

        While I use solely solar for water heating the run from the heater to the dishwasher is so long the dishwasher fills with water before the hotwater reaches the machine. So we just use cold water in and heat the few litres it requires.

        1. What I wonder is if these instu heaters elevate the water temp higher than what could be safely delivered from a domestic central tank, because that might mean an increase in performance that would not otherwise be realized from a two inlet setup.

      1. British washing machines, as far as I’ve been paying attention, used to have hot water inlets up until 10 or 20 years ago. Now they’re cold-only, for some pretty stupid and environment-hating reasons. Bit odd since all white goods have to have energy efficiency ratings on them, in an effort to lower energy use.

        1. I’m in the US, and our dishwashers only have one water connection, and electrical heating is done internally.
          I don’t see any reason you couldn’t just connect that one water connection on the washing machine (or dishwasher) to the hot water line in the home, although you may need to do some household plumbing if you don’t have a hot water connection near the washing machine.

          1. The pipes under the sink have connectors for hot and cold, to be connected to a washing machine. Most British houses have. It’s only the last few years washing machines have dropped the hot intake.

            I could connect hot water to the inlet, but I’d need to make sure the water was never hotter than 40C, and the boiler’s control isn’t actually marked in C. I’d only need to run a hot bath, forget once, and I’d ruin a load of clothes.

            Manufacturers should put them back on again. I’ve no idea why they removed the hot intake. Surely not just to save on a bit of piping and a solenoid valve?

          2. http://www.whitegoodshelp.co.uk/i-want-a-washing-machine-with-a-hot-water-valve/

            Ah… Apparently, since nobody washes above 40C much nowadays, and it takes a while for the hot water to come through, and hot is usually at lower pressure, it basically isn’t worth the bother. Machines use little water for the wash, and it doesn’t need much energy to warm it to 40C.

            So it says there. Makes some sense I suppose. I still want a hot intake though.

          1. I wonder if you’d need a check valve. My hot water’s from a gas-fired instant heat thing on the kitchen wall. There’s no tank feeding it. So it’s pressure is always going to be lower than the mains it comes from. Quite a bit less, from observation.

            I suppose legally I don’t wanna give everyone Legionella, but I can’t see hot -> cold flow actually happenning. Even if I reduced the flow rate of cold water with some restricting thing, the pressure would still be the same, higher. If the water was cut off, there’d be no pressure for hot either. I suppose there’s the possibility of a few feet of pipe’s worth draining into good people’s drinking water, but probably only mine.

            Even with a tank, hot water is never, in my experience, at higher pressure than the mains.

            While looking up pesky European-style washing machines, I saw mention of a German device that performs the purpose of the Y-pipe above, except thermostatically controlled. Presumably it’s passive and works on the thermal expansion of something. Intended for people who want to feed hot water to washing machines, for example if they have solar heating and are bloody-minded.

            More that I learned from that site, is that enzymes in biological washing powder are inactivated (said “killed”, but no) above 40C. And also that some dumb washing machines use the time it takes to reach 40C as part of the timing of their cycle, so they dump the wash water not long after it reaches that temperature. I can imagine, through back-compatibility of controller system designs, that perhaps even computerised washers are still pretty stupid.

            Also apparently starting off cold and heating up gradually is optimal for those same enzymes. They’ve tested it, I’m told.

            On a related issue, my grandmother lives in a block of flats for retired people, and she hasn’t switched the heating on since she moved in. The hot water pipes keep it toasty. The hot water itself is hot enough to easily cause dangerous burns, it’s vicious! Since old people can lose their sense of touch somewhat, and might perhaps fall into a bath full of hot water and die, I’m really not happy about that. My Nana’s okay now, but one day might not be, and accidents happen. Apparently there’s some legal obligation to do with Legionella that requires the scalding near-steam her taps put out. Smells like bullshit to me though.

            She also has, new bathroom, those useless air-mixing taps to save water. Bubbly water that doesn’t get your hands wet, so you have to run it twice as long.

          2. Yes, you need check valves. Otherwise when you turn on the cold water somewhere else in the house, hot water will flow into the cold water line at that “Y” or “T” due to the pressure difference.

          3. But if someone turns a cold tap on somewhere else, mains pressure falls everywhere in the house. Including the intake for the instant water heater. So it’s still never going to have higher pressure than the cold mains, never going to be able to push water from your home system back into the mains pipe, even a bit.

            I realise there are plumbing regulations, just debating the physics of it, for the sake of argument. I’m interested in all sorts of different stuff. For the sake of enlightenment, intellectual exercise.

            Any ideas on why the company who run my Nana’s flats keeps the hot water so scalding hot?

            It’s actually a nice place to live apart from that. A big block, 30-odd flats, all tenants over 55. Some of the flats have bedrooms, my Nana doesn’t. She has her own small kitchen and bathroom, all in the flat like normal. But no bedroom, so she’s cordoned off part of the living room with some big sets of shelves, to make somewhere to keep the bed. Works very well. My distaff line are pretty good with decorating ideas. Anyway…

            There’s 30-odd flats, on 3 floors, with a lift and also stairs. Then downstairs there’s a communal sitting room, very big, with a snooker table, TV, stuff to make tea, board games etc. There’s usually a few residents down there. And they put events on to entertain each other. There’s also communal washers and dryers in a room on the ground floor. There’s emergency pull-cords around the place, in each flat and the corridors, in case you have a fall and need help. Outside there’s lovely gardens, the back garden is fenced off from the neighbours, very private, with sun loungers and the like. Some of the residents do the gardening as a hobby, lovely flowers and plants, and a few veg.

            So you’ve got a nice flat, all your own like normal, but then if you fancy some company, you can find some. The flats are like any other flat, privately rented. It’s not a “home” or anything. There’s one staff member on-site for landlordish enquiries, no carers or anything, they’re all capable of looking after themselves. The purpose is really, I think, to give retired people neighbours they can get on with, and company, which can be very important, a lot of old people get very isolated and alone when their partner dies. Leads to all sorts of misfortune.

            Whole place is lovely, actually, can’t wait til I’m 55, I’ll get my name down early.

            Not a hack, but a clever way of dealing with housing, for a group who have unique needs, and I think it’s the best possible way to do things. Except for the hot water, of course.

    1. Pretty much the norm in Europe. First we have good 230v grid, then our dishwasher and washing machine are really modern when compared with US ones.
      I remember seeing a few years ago a top loading machine with vertical axle in the US. These things were last seen in the 70’s of last century here!
      But you can still modify some machines if you want to run them from hot water supply (mainly dishwashers).

  3. The project by Professor Fartsparkles ( something about that name appeals to the pedantic child in me) would certainly work for him in the rooming house in which he lives, but good luck trying to get the landlord of an apartment building interested in installing that hardware in the laundry room. The potential liability issues if something went wrong would be enough to frighten even the hardiest of landlords.

    Still, it’s a great idea. Just not very feasible for most of us, unfortunately.

    1. Professor Fartsparkles’ device has been available commercially for many years. These devices are indeed marketed to landlords of apartment buildings. A friend of mine designed and patented it many years ago; he sold the business to fund his current career as an artist.

  4. Never expected my project would get featured here! :D I must say it fell victim of “good enough is the enemy of perfect” As soon as the controller could complete washing cycles correctly i just kept using it in it’s unfinished state until i moved out to the US. I had planned to add peristaltic pumps to dose out detergent and fabric softener automatically, plus a couple other neat things, but i needed clean clothes, and was working a full time job, so i decided to stop messing with it and ended up moving and leaving it behind anyway.

  5. In Northern Australia just about everyone uses solar hot water. Even on an overcast day the water the from the solar water system is enough to cause 2nd deg burns. All the washing machines have hot and cold inlets but the dish washers only have a cold water inlet and heat the water.

  6. I will be on the lookout for a conspiracy to put electric water heaters in appliances in the USA. These appliances will be disabled when peak (smart metering) rates apply. This will happen because the heater is inside. Those with H&C washers will use a stored source of hot water which can ride the “brownout” and will be happy. Dishwashers have had a heater in them for years. It’s for the sani-rinse at 180F. That’s hotter than germs can take. It can also with a blower be used to dry as well. 40 years ago our Kitchen Aid had those button options, with the reminder of savings without their use unless needed.
    Back then those options were labeled “economy” or “mizer” or some term that rang with those who came thru the Depression.
    Green is the new economy!

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