Is it possible to buy such a washing machine nowadays? So far as I can tell, all modern washing machines require something resembling mains water pressure to operate, whereas in the good ol' days you could have as little water pressure as you liked - the machine just took a long time to fill. See http://www.whitegoodshelp.co.uk/low-water-pressure-and-washing-machines/ for further details if interested.
In a determined bid to rely only on gravity to supply our new home with water, we are only going to have a couple of metres of head.
Does anyone know if a washing machine can still be purchased anywhere that will run on very low water pressure? Can you think of any other way around this, besides buying some kind of pump?
Have you ruled out portable washing machines for apartments and the like that are intended to be filled by the kitchen sink? There's a bunch of options on Amazon USA, but it looks like you might be elsewhere.
We have a very small Haier washing machine (it fit in the back of a GeoMetro when we bought it). You can fill it from the hose attachment, or you can fill it with a bucket, so if it doesn't work on low water pressure there is a way around that. I like it because I can run the wash water into the adjacent laundry sink and use that water to presoak the next load. I also capture the rinse water (after draining the presoak water) and use it by bucketing or siphoning it back to the machine to wash the next load. Our house water is entirely provided by a rainwater cistern so we don't want to waste any. Because it's rainwater our soap needs are very minimal - about a tablespoon of Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds per load.
In our prior home, we also had a rainwater system but it was gravity fed. We did our laundry by hand, with a toilet plunger, and a hand wringer (we still use the plunger as an assist for the washing machine and in the sink). We did have a small pump to fill the shower tank upstairs which was heated by solar or a loop through the wood stove. Now we have a very small pressure pump and tank. You don't need anything huge to run an energy/water conscious home. It's something you can add at a later date if the gravity system doesn't work out as planned.
My first thought was to look for a vintage wringer washer. Ebay brought up a bunch of them in good condition at $200-$400, but when I looked on ebay.co.uk there was nothing but toys and pictures. The real ones that showed up there were from the US.
To get higher water pressure you would obviously need some sort of pump, but it doesn't necessarily need to be electric. How much flow do you have at your 2m head? If there is spare capacity, you could rig a hydraulic ram which would pump continuously at a low rate to fill a high tank or pressure vessel.
http://www.allspeeds.co.uk/hydraulic-ram-pump/ "In order for a hydram to work you require two things, a steady source of running water (drive water) and a working fall. The minimum drive water required is 7 litres a minute, the minimum working fall is 1 meter." It will pump about 20% of the drive water flow to a reservoir (depending on height).
You would also still have the remainder of the water available, at about zero head.
Oops, I thought Norfolk Island was one of the Channel islands No idea what's available in Australia, let alone off in the South Pacific...
They're getting harder to find, but a twin tub washing machine would do the job admirably. It's what Mum used for years (decades, actually) while all five kids and a farmer husband produced obscene amounts of laundry, with the house plumbed into rain water tanks with low head.
You can do multiple loads with the one tub of water. Well, it's actually two - the left tub does the actual washing, the right tub spins the clothes, then the clothes are soaked in a separate laundry sink of clean water for a while to rinse them. (If Dad had been doing some especially greasy chores, or the laundry backlog was bigger than usual, Mum would have TWO laundry tubs on the go for rinsing.) Then the clothes are spun again and hung out to dry on the line.
Mum averaged five loads of washing, twice a week, through a single machine tub of water. Sometimes up to nine loads during school holidays. (Socks and jocks -> school uniforms -> cleanish clothes, tea towels etc -> sheets/towels -> Dad's work pants and shirts.) They all came out clean. Ours was usually emptied into the regular drain (ie septic tank) when the weather was good, but the water was just as often bucketed out of the tub and doled out in miserable dribbles to the trees and vegetables during drought. I imagine it would be a fairly simple job to hook one up to a greywater system, were one so inclined.
Of course there's a certain amount of babysitting involved that you don't have to bother about with a an automatic washer. You have to move the clothes from tub to spinner to tub to spinner to line, every fifteen minutes or so. You have to watch that you put the drain hose back in the correct place when spinning the clothes or you're likely to flood the laundry when either the tub or the sink overflows. But I seriously doubt you'll find a more suitable machine for low water pressure situations.
My Maytag is probably twenty years old, it came with the house!
The house pressure is low, flush a toilet and it's lower and I have feed the washer off of quarter inch lines.
Still it runs like a champ.
I have repaired it enough to wonder what the hell a washer would need much water pressure for?
Probably some new fangled thing...
My plan to use rain water includes a header tank with its bottom set at counter height.
Gravity will drain it to the washer and toilet.