Your Place: Setting up a laundry room for wash-and-dry efficiency

Posted: February 17, 2012

I was going to write about Raise, a stain remover, but the suggestions for designing an efficient laundry room were so good that I thought I'd share some of them with you.

I haven't thought about this for a few years, because our laundry-room setup works well, and the front-loading washer and dryer that we bought in 2006 to replace the 22-year-old models we inherited have given us little trouble.

Even when I had considered replacing the clunky old sink into which the washer drains with one of those white plastic tubs, the plumbing changes would have been pricey and the drainage is all that we ask it to do anyway.

So here are some tips:

Choose a smart layout. Don't position washers, dryers, ironing boards, and other things behind doors or in awkward corners.

If you purchase front-loading washers and dryers, consider pedestals to raise them up and make access easier.

When choosing flooring, avoid wood or ceramic tile and go for something durable like porcelain tile (unglazed to prevent slipping when wet).

Evaluate how much washing you're doing these days. If you're not using the most efficient machines for your needs, new ones may actually save you money.

When buying new machines, always investigate how much electricity they will use in a year. Other design features that help save energy include water-level controls, moisture sensors, and spin-cycle adjustments.

If you can afford it, built-in cabinets and shelves are smart (and can even add to a home's value), but there are plenty of inexpensive free-standing or between-the-washer-and-dryer caddies, cabinets, organizers and bins.

Consider a foldout or hideaway ironing board. Having an ironing board set up all the time takes up a lot of space. There are a lot of models that are meant to hide behind the door or fold up on the wall when not in use.

Designate baskets for darks, lights, and dry-cleaning so everyone can help sort clothes. Have canvas-lined baskets embroidered, or label them with a fabric marker. Discount and specialty stores sell rolling carts with divided bins. Use adhesive felt letters to label each one, so everyone knows what goes where.

Question: I have a high-efficiency gas furnace in the basement with one exhaust pipe to the outside to vent the steam/exhaust gases.

To fire the gas, it draws air from the air surrounding the furnace, not through a second pipe to the outside as is done today. The air required to fire the furnace is enough so that there is a noticeable draw of air into the basement. If the basement door is ajar, it will close from the draft created when the furnace is on.

I have finally realized that this draw of interior air to combust the furnace gas creates a "negative" pressure in the house. It's why, in the winter, I have points of cold air wafting in from around exterior doors.

Can this furnace be retrofitted to have a second pipe to draw air from the outside, thereby not creating the negative air pressure that draws in cold air from the outside?

Answer: I've not seen your furnace, but if it is high-efficiency, then it is similar to mine, which does have the second PVC pipe through the exterior basement wall drawing air for combustion from the outside.

I think it is possible to retrofit the furnace, but that's something you'll need to have looked at by a professional. From my reading, there are more dangers to using air from the interior than the door shutting.

Indoor air can contain small amounts of bleach and ammonia. These and other chemicals have been known to significantly erode the heat exchangers in these mid- to high- efficiency units.

Another issue is whether the location of the furnace is too close to the laundry equipment. Laundry detergents also are known to degrade heat exchangers.

Also, the lint from the clothes dryer can enter the furnace and cause damage and in some cases become a fire hazard.

Again, it would be better for you and the furnace if it can be retrofitted as you want.


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).

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