Skip to main content

Low Energy Washer Dryer through the Development of an Innovative Load Balancing & High Efficient Heat Recovery System

Final Report Summary - LOWASH (Low Energy Washer Dryer through the Development of an Innovative Load Balancing & High Efficient Heat Recovery System.)

Executive Summary:
Recent trends in European housing and demographics have had a significant effect on the European domestic appliances sector, in particular for laundry. A growth in single occupancy, an increase in multi-dwelling buildings (flats) and a fall in household floor space have all driven an increase in the purchase of combined washer-dryers, growing at 9% p.a.

However, washer-dryers are inefficient, using as much as 50% more energy to wash and dry a load than separate systems. This is a concern both for energy consumption and cost for the user – estimated 15 million washer-dryers consume 18 TWh of electricity worth €300m and indirectly emit 10,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.

As well as energy efficiency, washer-dryers also have practical limitations. Due to the small drum size of the machine compared to a dedicated tumble dryer, it is not possible to dry a full wash load in one go, adding to cost and significantly reducing convenience.

LoWash aimed to address these issues by creating a highly energy-efficient machine capable of drying a complete wash load without user intervention.
The concept combined an innovative load balancing drum with a unique passive/active heat pump drying chain to create a washer-dryer capable of washing and drying a complete 7kg load without removing any of it from the machine. It aims to do this using less than 50% of the energy required by current washer dryers.

Realising this vision would provide a €34m market opportunity to the LoWash consortium for washer-dryers. The technology can also be applied to standalone washing machines and tumble driers, which would more than double the market potential. In the process, LoWash will save 16 GWh of electricity over 5 years.

LoWash was a two year industry driven Research and Development project funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The project lasted for two years from 1st September 2012 to 31st August 2014 and involved partners from five EU countries.

Project Context and Objectives:
The project responded to three clear changes in European housing demographics and the effect this is having on the laundry appliances market:

1) There has been an increase in single occupancy households in Europe – an estimated 25% of all households in Europe are single-occupancy, doubling in the last 20 years. This has reduced available time for domestic chores (no partner at home or to share the workload with), driving a demand for convenience in all aspects of household management, including laundry. Single households also consume 55% more electricity and 61% more gas per capita than four-person households.
2) There has been an increase in people living in flats – Around 47% of all Europe’s population live in flats, with a steady increase in the proportion of flats being built as land availability diminishes. This reduces the opportunity for natural air drying of clothes, driving an increase in electrical clothes dryers.
3) The average floor space per occupant is shrinking – The UK has some of the fastest-shrinking houses in Europe. The average UK home - including older and new-build properties is 85m2. In comparison the average new home in the UK is 76m2. This means less space for drying technology, such as tumble-dryers.

These three factors are fuelling an increase in the purchase of washer-dryers (combined washing machines and tumble driers), with average annual sales increasing 9% p.a. However, washer-dryers are inefficient, consuming significantly more energy than standalone washing and drying systems, using as much as 50% more energy to wash and dry a load than separate systems. This is due to the ageing design of washer dryers, which has not fundamentally changed in 30 years. The trends above are still driving combined washer-dryer sales however, as there is no energy-efficient alternative suitable for small dwellings.

Energy efficiency is a major issue in for domestic laundry. Around 18% of household energy consumption goes on washing and drying clothes. The average washer-dryer will use over 6kWh worth €1 to completely wash and dry a 7kg load. Across Europe’s estimated 15 million washer-dryers, handling 200 loads per year, this equates to 18TWh and 100,000 tonnes of CO2. The Swiss Topten initiative is actively discussing new A+ and A++ scale additions to the Energy Efficient labelling scheme. This means heat pump derived condensing dryers are the only technology to meet the current A class rating, and with the potential to meet the A+ scale. It is questionable whether these current systems are able to achieve A++.

As well as energy efficiency, washer-dryers also have practical limitations. Due to the small drum size of the machine compared to a dedicated tumble dryer, it is not possible to dry a full wash load. This means removing part of the load before starting the drying cycle and running two drying cycles, adding to cost and significantly reducing convenience.

LoWash aimed to address these issues by creating a highly energy-efficient machine capable of drying a complete wash load without user intervention.
The concept combined an innovative load balancing drum with a unique passive/active heat pump drying chain to create a washer-dryer capable of washing and drying a complete 7kg load without removing any of it from the machine. It aims to do this using less than 50% of the energy required by current washer-dryers.

Realising this vision will provide a €34m market opportunity to the LoWash consortium for washer-dryers. The technology can also be applied to standalone washing machines and tumble dryers, which would more than double the market potential. In the process, LoWash will save 16 GWh of electricity over 5 years.

Project Results:
The LoWash work programme developed two major technology combinations to give a more efficient washer-dryer with a significantly lower power need. The first stage developed new scientific knowledge (WP1) to model off-centre load detection and balancing of the drum, and a high efficiency heat pump and multiple moisture condensing units as a complete system. The second stage (WP2-WP5) developed a series of component technologies based on the findings from WP1. This included:

• The load balancing system and polymeric drum (WP2)
• The control system for the drying stage (WP3)
• The heat pump drying chain, covering a cloud tunnel, heat exchangers and compressor (WP4)
• Passive water removal, pre-post-cloud tunnel, as well as a variable speed drying cycle (WP5)

The third stage of development integrated all the components into a working prototype and involved intensive testing for performances evaluation (WP6) together with design improvements and simplifications towards large scale production of a conventional size product (WP7).

The main scientific and technical achievements delivered by the project are listed below:
• Development of theoretical models of an active water-balanced centrifugal drum and passive auto-balancer concept
• Development of a theoretical model of the drying system taking into account pressure, temperature and airspeed
• Development of a theoretical model of a polymer drum providing better insulation and protection of delicate fabrics
• Design and manufacture of an innovative polymeric drum insulation providing reduced thermal losses and better protection of delicate fabrics
• Design, manufacture and testing of a passive drum auto-balancing system enabling high speed spinning
• Design, manufacture and integration of a variable speed airflow control system to maximise air saturation and minimize energy consumption
• Development of a heat pump system to dry air
• Development of a cloud tunnel condenser to maximise precipitation of vapour
• Development of a passive cooling system to reduce energy cost of vapour precipitation
• Development of a precipitation removal system to remove suspended water droplets from air stream
• Manufacture of the LoWash technology components and integration of a fully functional prototype
• LoWash technology demonstrated through intensive testing
• Design improvements of the main prototype components for large production and with the aim to improve reliability and reduce the manufacturing and whole life operating costs.
• Production of a space utilisation plan demonstrating the applicability of the technology to be integrated into a conventional washer-dryer cabinet.
• Novelty of the main components of the LoWash technology confirmed from in-depth patent searches and analyses

Potential Impact:
The expected results of LoWash are threefold: a) Significantly reduced energy consumption ->50% reduction compared to conventional washer-dryers, equating to >2.5kWh per load, b) Reduced electricity bills arising from the reduced energy consumption – savings of approximately €0.5 per load or €130 per year, c) Able to wash and dry a 7kg load without having to manually intervene.

A number of dissemination activities have been undertaken in order to publicise the LoWash project.
• Website: The LoWash project has a dedicated website, which can be located at www.lowash.eu. The website includes a “news and events” page to inform the public of the main technological achievements and dissemination events at which LoWash has been represented. The website has been regularly updated.
• Project Video: A video presenting the context, main objectives and achievements of the project has been prepared by the consortium members and posted on youtube. To access the video, please follow the link: http://youtu.be/qNn17yJ7PNM
• Congresses and Conferences: The LoWash project team attended a number of conferences and congresses (Msc Nastran users, International CAE congress, AVE/ASTELAB Congress “Analyse vibratoire experimentale”, 4th Annual International Conference on Managing Intellectual Property) at which the LoWash system has been introduced and discussed.
• Scientific publications and Press Releases: An article on the development of the load balancing technology has been published in October 2014 in the French “360˚ R&D-Innovations et Technologies pour l’Industrie” magazine. Furthermore, a publication has been submitted to the International Journal of Mechanics and industry (EDP Science-Distributed by Cambridge University Press) for their March 2015 edition. Finally, a further press release is being prepared to be sent out to all Kitchen trade journals and consumer home interest publications.
• Newsletter: The project has been disseminated to the technical and commercial communities through articles published in partner’s newsletters or posted on the “news” page of the partner’s websites.
• Social media dissemination: Project news have been disseminated through the partner’s profiles in Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn.

In term of the IPR protection and exploitation of the project results, in-depth patent searches and careful analyses of the related claims have demonstrated the novelty of the main components of the LoWash technology. The commercial potential of these innovations has been analysed. Patent applications are currently being discussed by the LoWash consortium. Furthermore, the supply chain for the manufacture and commercialisation of the final product has also been defined and market searches conducted to evaluate the sales potential of the LoWash washer-dryer.


List of Websites:
Website address: www.lowash.eu

Contact details:

Mr Ian Kershaw
Project Coordinator
The CDA Group
Harby Road
Langar
Notthinghamshire NG13 9HY
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)1949 862 000
Email: ian.kershaw@cda.eu