Basic competency in creative and green solutions (forms of making) are important for moving from our dysfunctional status quo to a future of thriving on one planet’s worth of resources (one planet thriving). Multiple solutions are necessary, including stirling engines, alcohol, rocket mass heaters, biofuel, and more. This project is not going to save the world, but it is kind of fun.
Ok, it doesn’t really do my laundry, but it does provide some of the water for it. But really, that’s the least it can do, right?! It’s such an energy hog it might as well do something useful with all that water it’s sucking out of the air! Most of us just send that water down the drain. Which drain? The one right next to our machine that uses water to get our clothes clean.
So, partly for amusement, partly because I was too lazy to connect my old dehumidifier to a hose to the floor drain, and partly because I was too lazy to take the bucket upstairs to water plants, I started to empty the dehumidifier bucket into other receptacles and then toss that water into my front-loading washing machine for each load — closing the waste loop (I did this with shaving too and thus have free shaving cream for life now).
This process started to bug me enough that I created a gravity feed system to do this little shenanigan more efficiently (see schematic to the right): the dehumidifier sits on top of a plastic storage bin (re-purposed as a water tank), which, in turn, sits on top of my washer. The dehumidifier hose drains into the tank, filling it with water on an ongoing basis. The outlet hose, which exits at the bottom of the tank, is normally stored by hanging it on the side of the storage tank (see photo; a coat hanger acts as a hook and is connected to the hose via a hose clamp). Whenever I start a new load of laundry, I take the hose from the side of the tank, point it into my washer, turn the nozzle, and partially fill the washer from the hose. If I get the amount of water right, the washing machine starts its cycle by adding just a little additional water, but be careful to not overfill the washer because modern machines typically work on timers to drain the water rather than sensing how much water is actually present. Ideally, you want the machine to add some water indicating you haven’t overfilled for that load of laundry. The whole system is completed with an overflow hose that exits high on the back of the bin in case too much time goes by between laundry loads (that never happens, right?!) and the tank gets overfull.
The video provides an overview of this ugly little beast as well as tips and instructions about building one of your very own. Enjoy!
Update (10/2016): We’ve been using this system for over two years now. It works really well. The only problem we sometimes have, despite the silver chain added to the water tank to prevent algae growth, etc. is the water can sometimes leave the laundry smelling like wet dog. The addition of a few caps of bleach seems to be enough to deal with that problem, but it would be great if someone out there has ideas about how to figure out the right amount of silver for a full bin of water and whether that would actually accomplish the task. On the other hand, without the math, there’s always more experimentation, right?!
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