Building An Earthship In Darfield, B.C.

We are a family of five living in Darfield, BC.
Our house is six hundred square feet in total and we are feeling cramped.

We have decided to build an earthship!

So starts the adventure ...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Washing and Drying Clothes in an Earthship

There's a standing joke in our house. What's the other name for ASKO (a Swedish appliance manufacturer)? Answer: POC (Piece of Crap).

Almost 10 years ago we bought an ASKO washer and dryer. We paid almost $3000. The property we had just purchased at the time had a water problem. Turns out the 475 foot drilled well had a recovery rate of about five gallons an hour. The well report when we purchased the property estimated 1/2 gallon per minute. Ha.

After suffering through trying to figure out why our taps would stop running and why the washing machine stopped filling 1/2 way through the beginning of the cycle, we realized what was going on. At the time we had two infants, both in cloth diapers. And no money to drill another well.

So we dithered between a BOSCH washer and dryer and an ASKO set. the ASKO set had a slightly bigger drum (front loading), used slightly less water per load (about 8 gallons max) and was slightly less expensive. Turns out we should have spent a bit of time reading consumer reports. Although we loved the set for most of the first two years, the romance cooled when the motor brushes cabbaged on us. The shop that sold it to us took it back (under warranty) and fixed it although we paid about $60 for labour. We picked it up late one afternoon in 2001 (when our third infant in cloth diapers was a newborn) and the next day the shop went bankrupt.

The next closest repair shop for ASKO was Kelowna, three hours away. The next eight years saw us repair the dryer belt twice (we took the unit apart to repair it), the bearings twice on each of the washer and dryer, bypassed some electrical switch on the dryer, replaced the struts and the water pump. Once we got internet we were aided greatly by searching, "I hate my ASKO washer and dryer, how do I fix it" (True). This was the era in my life when I learned all my new curses.

Once when the dryer kept over heating and we had the whole thing in pieces strewn down the hallway of the trailer we used to live in, I desperately searched the web for a solution. A lady in Wichita Kansas posted on a fix it site by saying she washed the lint filter with soap and water and the dryer stopped over heating. We put the unit back together and followed her advice. It worked.

For the last six months we have turned our back on the washing machine and dryer. Our latest repairs brought us to the cross over point of PITA and economics. The struts have never worked properly after we replaced them and after spinning, the washer drum is either tilted to the right or left. Where once I would hold Stephen in my arms and lean against the spinning drum to put him to sleep while Katie held on to it and hummed (all true), our washer now sounds like a jet engine taking off in our living room and it seems to have lost its ability to balance a load, throwing the drum against the outside of the unit. You could lose a limb if you get too close. The vibration slowly moves the dryer back until the legs slip off the washer and the dryer partially falls off the washer. The dryer lint trap has broken and hangs properly only in the closed position. Last night the temperature dial (which we never use) came out from the vibration. Last night was also the first time the program dial ended properly, instead of on a fault code (we turn off the power and reset the dial when this happens).

The best part? The washer power plugs into the dryer, so it is impossible to ditch only one appliance. Go figure.

I am SO ready to "buy, buy, buy". I have gone beyond frugal. I have crossed over and have declared that the POC has cheapened my life...I am ready for the adrenylin rush that can come only from dropping a thousand dollars plus on a nice pair of shiny stainless steel boxes. (After a bit of research of course).

There's a problem, though. Chris doesn't think we should buy a dryer. It will suck every bit of sun power out of our new home. He's right, of course, but only if I plan on using it regularly.

We've already committed to line drying in spring, summer and fall and we did this successfully last year. We have also committed to line drying in our utility room in the earthship in the winter. HOWEVER, I think that we should have a dryer for the odd time that we really need it (guests, unexpected nights with vomiting kids, etc.)

By unspoken, mutual consent we have set aside this disagreement until the ASKO tanks. After a particularly violent load of laundry finished last night, Chris, to my delight, declared, "I think that's it!" But, this morning, I started another load and not only did it work, but it was quieter than usual.

In the meantime, while we wait for it to expire, I am setting myself to researching new unit(s). We, of course, want something energy efficient. As we are using our bountiful well water (35 gallons per minute!) it's not as crucial in the water efficiency department. However, the water is going through our greywater system, so we do have to think about it to some degree.

I'll eventually post pictures of me, the sledgehammer and the ASKO appliances when they are good and dead. Until then, help me get started on finding good replacements!


Nicole said...

Hey Sandra,

my sympathies re: your washing would also like to find/create solutions that aren't energy hogs. The washing line is an obvious choice but I'd like to know if there is a manual model out there for a washing machine.....say paddles hooked up to a belt hooked up to a stationary bike system. It would be one way to stay in shape during those cold winter fact I'd like to have a stationary bike run a dvd player so I have to work for that entertainment (lol)
As for the hand crank ice cream maker....try costco. I've been researching the 'lifestyles' of the Amish/Hudderites too....we can swap info. looking forward to moving up to the interlakes area in June. I'll see you then.

Anonymous said...

Not only are you the coolest because you are canadian earthship builders, but you are absolutely charming and very humorous and i can't wait to see your book out on the shelves! No, really. There will be a book right? Please keep your earthship info coming....i'm hooked!