*Washing Clothes With Alt-Power*
By: 2manytoyz
21 July 2008

One of the recent discussions on the Alt-Energy board was how to wash clothes during an outage. I'm in hurricane prone FL, so no doubt I will need to be concerned about this same topic. Three of my coworkers have been without power for 3 weeks in 2004. A few days isn't an issue obviously, but with potential weeks without power, clothes will have to be washed one way or another.

It's very possible to wash clothes by hand in a 5 gallon bucket. Done this sort of thing years ago while camping. But I have other options, and during an outage, the house may need repair, trees may need to be cleared, etc. My efforts will likely be needed on other more important tasks.

I could simply run it from my Yamaha EF2400iS generator. I've tested this generator quite a bit, and no doubt could run the washing machine. But what about my new inverter and battery bank? Looks fine on paper. But as we've talked about on the Rubicon many times, if you haven't tested it, it doesn't work. Theories are great, but nothing beats actual experience. Here's my FNV with my hardware.

Battery Voltage before the test.

Fairly basic washing machine. Made by GE, it is Energy Star rated for what that may be worth. It's a king size capacity model. I'm using a heavy duty extension cord (fat yellow cable on the right) plugged into my inverter. A Kill-A-Watt meter is between the washing machine and the power cord. No power from the wall!

On the other wall of the garage is my Alt-Power setup. Presently using 6 golf cart batteries (678 AH, or 8136 WH), and a Prosine 1800 Watt inverter.

A laundry basket full of heavy terry cloth towels.

Pretty close to 60 Hz from the inverter. My calibrated o-scope actually does show 60.0 Hz.

A full 120 VAC at the business end of the extension cord.

I set the level to "Super" (lotsa water), and the wash cycle to "Extra Heavy". Worst case scenario.

Flipped the switch, pulled 5 Watts filling the barrel.

During the normal wash cycle, it pulled about 42 Amps at measured at the inverter with a DC clamp-on meter.

The inverter's remote display showed about the same.

Kill-A-Watt showing 443 Watts during the wash cycle. This number varied a bit.

During the spin cycle, the pump ran along with the spin motor. This figure jumped up much higher than I expected.

I did capture a picture showing 850 Watts (briefly) during the spin cycle. I did see it peak at almost 1000 Watts.

The washer was stuff full of towels at the beginning. This machine spins the laundry so hard that it's only damp when done. Part of the Energy Star rating is due to how dry the clothes are, reducing the amount of drying needed. This machine is 2 years old, and still pleased with its performance.

Total time for a super sized, heavy duty wash cycle, was almost an hour.

Total power consumed was 0.25 KWH, or 250 WH. After my 130 Watt solar panel arrives next week, my combined 270 Watt array will be able to replenish this energy in about an hour. So I "could" do 16 loads of wash before my battery bank reaches 50%.

Next to the washer/dryer is a nylon cord connected from the garage door frame (not shown) to a closet cabinet. Towels will dry in my garage in a day (done many times). Less if I use the fan attached to the ceiling. The nice part is both BOVs fit in the garage, even with items hanging on this line.

The battery bank was allowed to rest for a few minutes before this picture was taken. Battery bank still happy.

Conclusion: My Alt-Power setup worked as expected. I was surprised that my washing machine did pull almost 1000 Watts a few times during the spin cycle with the pump motor pulsing. This is about double what I've read about other washers. Overall, the washing cycle even for the largest load, most intense wash cycle, still didn't consume much power. Washing clothes during an extended outage won't be an issue. Better yet, even my small solar array will be able to replenish the power necessary in about as long as the washing cycle takes.

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