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washing machine in an off-grid photovoltaic powered home

 
Posts: 196
Location: Harghita County, Transylvania, Romania
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Hello Permies !

I'm trying to plan the capacity of our off-grid photovoltaic system.  My starting point is the estimated electricity consumption of the various household appliances, but also my budget.  Based on the latter, I'm probably looking at a system with an output of 3kW / day.

In terms of consumption, my wife and I have quite modest needs, but we do want to ensure that the system can support a decent level of comfort.  

So we have listed all the household appliances that we deem necessary.  We have tried to exclude all appliances that have an electric heating element / electrical resistor - and were hoping to be able to include a washing machine which doesn't heat water, i.e., a hot-fill machine, i.e., one that is fed directly from the hot-water pipe.  That's because we will have solar-heated water and - in the cold season - plenty of hot water from our wood-burning boiler.

However, it seems that this type of machine is difficult to find.

Besides, some people believe that hot-fill only looks good on paper, because in reality either you don't get warm enough water for the type of wash you need (because of the length of pipe with room-temperature water inside), or you get water that is too hot and can ruin your clothes. My thinking is that I can put up with the colder-than-ideal water (we often wash our clothes using short cycles at lowest possible temperature allowed by our current "conventional" machine).  As for the too hot, I could install a mixing valve to mitigate the excessive temperature.

Does anyone have relevant experience? With washing machines in an off-grid setting? And specifically with hot-fill machines?

I'd be grateful for any information you can share !
Levente
 
master pollinator
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This may not be as high tech or as difficult as you think.

I would think just having a hot and cold water faucet near the washing machine would be sufficient. If you converted the agitator on an old washing machine, up to a pedal bike (which are quite common in off-grid situations), you could dump in the mixture of hot and cold water you felt was appropriate via bucket, then pedal away for twenty minutes to wash your clothes. Then drain out the soapy water, add in the rinse water and pedal away some more. In this way you could avoid an electrical load altogether.

If the idea of pedaling away for the wash and rinse cycles is not to your liking, you could simply dump the water in by hand to the temperature you like, and run the washer via electricity. You would have to be there again for the hand filling of the rinse cycle, but it would work.

Here the Amish sort of do this, but since they are death on electricity, they convert their washing machines into ones powered by tiny 3 hp engines outside. A shaft runs inside the home to power the washing machine. That may be a easier, but non-electrical way to wash your clothes.

Alternitively, you could also turn the agitator by windmill/micro-hydro wheel via shaft into the home.

As for reducing hot water to luke warm water, a ton of options exist for that because it is required when using boilers for hydronic (in slab radiant heat) since you cannot go over 170 degree water, should not go above 140 degree water, and don't want your floors over 85 degrees for surface temperature. A moderating valve is commonly used, though my system uses a different mode, but is powered via electricity. (I won't get into that).
 
Travis Johnson
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This is our 1901 washing machine, which is fully functional and does work. For 2 people it may work in an off-grid situation, but not for a family of six who has a sheep farm!

DSCN3015.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSCN3015.JPG]
 
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Location: New Zealand
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Until now I didn't know what some washing machines heat their own water, we never even hook up the hot water pipe for our washing machine its all done cold wash. We also both work on sheep and cattle farms and I frequently get grease and oil on my clothes when dealing with machinery.
 
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Friends of mine who have a off grid solar set up and very little sunlight at this time of year have a washing machine that is powered by direct drive off a bicycle.  The bike uses two different gears for different RPM speeds for the washing and rinsing.  It has a piece of rod coming off the drive cogs of the rear wheel and this directly connects to the spinning function on the back of the washer.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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oh.  And these folks don't have hot water at this time either.  
 
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Location: Los Angeles for now, Maybe Idaho soon...
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The efficiency of appliances as gotten better every year.  I'd suggest a FRONT LOADing machine... simply because they use a fraction of the water, clean the clothes better, and the spin cycle is so darn fast, the clothes come out almost dry anyway.

I have an older maytag front loader, it uses very little power, very little water, and gets the clothes clean every time.  

It also does NOT have an electric heating element.

BTW, any machine that had that, it would be fairly easy to simply get inside the machine, and "unplug" the heater element so it doesn't come on.  

Older machines with less computers are also the way to go.  
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I'd suggest a FRONT LOADing machine... simply because they use a fraction of the water, clean the clothes better, and the spin cycle is so darn fast, the clothes come out almost dry anyway.  

The bike powered machine that I mentioned is a modern front loader.  Since there is no electricity going to the machine, there was no need to disconnect the heater.  A clothes line is used in the summer.  In the winter, the clothes are dried on a rack which is pulleyed up in the stair area above the woodstove, or in the case of sheets are draped over the catwalk rail between the two lofts, or off the rails of the loft.  
 
Travis Johnson
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Eddie Conna wrote:Older machines with less computers are also the way to go.  



Maytag now makes a washing machine with solid state controls...no circuit boards; and yes that is my next washing machine.

As for drying, when we were kids my father had a wood burning furnace and off the plenum he extended a stovepipe to the back of the dryer. When the wood furnace was running it pumped warm air into the dryer so that the heating element never came on. It still used power to tumble, but a fraction of what it cost to run the dryer traditionally. A guy came to do a energy audit, saw that and said, "I have no idea why I am here, your house is more energy efficient then even my own."
 
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Staber, made in the U.S., works well in off-grid systems.  We had one for many years, acquired used.  Currently we have a very small Haier. We recycle the rinse water from each load to be the wash water for the next.  We are off-grid and have a rain water cistern so water consumption was as important as power consumption for us. We have used the plunger and wringer option in the past, and continue to use the plunger as an assist to the Haier to get clothes thoroughly clean. Drying is accomplished with a clothesline, even in Minnesota in the winter.
 
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The main consumer will likely be the well pump. The stick is the washer starting surge and well pump together can be a bit much for a small inverter battery combo. You will need to know how much water and how many watt hours per load and how many loads, how often.
 
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Location: Piedmont, NC
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While I can't claim any direct knowledge, I was just reading in my Backwoods Home magazine that Jackie Clay Atkinson uses a ringer washer, and turns on the generator just for the startup.

Sherri
 
frank li
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Location: Michigan
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Sherri Lynn wrote:While I can't claim any direct knowledge, I was just reading in my Backwoods Home magazine that Jackie Clay Atkinson uses a ringer washer, and turns on the generator just for the startup.

Sherri



Backwoods Home Magazine is a treasure!

But only smaller systems would have issues with running a washing machine. "issues" for some are a non-issue to others. Some 2 person homes operate well on 2 loads of laundry per week on schedule and some have erratic and critical laundry needs. This wouldnt allow the usual tactic of doing laundry during daylight hours and some locations have long strings of cloudy days , some systems have no generator.

http://m.homedepot.com/p/P3-International-Kill-A-Watt-EZ-Meter-P4460/202196388

I would plug any washer i was considering into this meter. If you have a 120v well pump, i would plug it into the meter seperately and run one cycle to meter the pump and one cycle to meter the washer. Unless someone has run the same or a reasonably close monitoring of the washer pump/depth/plumbing/washing machine/load size combo, the numbers will not matter except for general reference.

Home power magazine is a source to search archives for watt hours per load for an array of washing machines.

This was interesting.

http://www.rpc.com.au/information/faq/power-consumption/washing-machines.html
 
pollinator
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From personal experience some front loading washers will not like some generators and won't engage the spin cycle.  We enjoy our frigid aire front loader.  It does not have a heat element.  Even if you machine does turn the selector to hot wash, it will fill with hot water then switch it to warm wash cold rinse when it's full; no heat element.  Smaller and cheaper we used to have a side by side Danby type washer with the centrifuge wringer separate from the tub.  Primitive but no pedals.  Avoid modified sine inverters at all costs.  Some cheap full sine will also be a problem.
Best regards, David Baillie
 
pollinator
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Here is a decent video on modern washer in an off grid home. While not comprehensive, it does give some good info on what to look for. Like no phantom load, low water use, low energy use.

 
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