Bicycle Powered Washing Machine

Bicycle Powered Washing Machine

What is it about?

  Although electricity is widely available, the ability to effectively utilize human power is invaluable. Pedal powered washing machines do make sense if the actual mechanical power required to drive it is well within the capability of a human to produce. It makes sense as long as one do not try to heat the water with pedal power or waste energy by converting kinetic energy into electricity and back using the existing electric motor/heater.

 Types of washing machine
- The type of washing machine, common in Europe, has the drum that is supported front and back and does not shake when rotating. The device is top loaded with a hatch in the drum. Using these machines as a starting point it is much easier to achieve direct drive.
- In the USA they also mostly use top loaded washing machines but with a vertical axis of rotation. These can also be successfully converted to pedal powered machines.

Advantages of bicycle powered washing machine

The main advantage is that it doesn’t need electricity and running water to work. Also, hand washing clothes can take a significant amount of time and water. A bicycle-powered washing machine can make the whole process quicker, easier and more water efficient, without any additional wires or pipes.
There are also health benefits, as riding a bicycle is a sport that helps people to stay fit and in good shape.

How to build it?

Parts needed
Washing machine - is easy to obtain. It is not uncommon to see them dumped outside blocks of flats and you can always get them from recycle. It is important the bearing to be good and the drum and door seals do not leak.

Large drive belt and pulley (car) wheel - The important thing here is that the pulley wheel has to be fixed to an axle which passes through bearings of some kind. This is one of the hardest parts to sort out.

The Bike & Stand - It could be a broken bike, perhaps with bent front forks etc. It doesn’t need brakes, front wheel or back tire but it will need working gears and adjustable seat height. Ideally it will be a racer type bike with 27 inch wheel. A women’s frame would be good as it is obviously easier for people to get on and off.
The bike stand could be metal or timber.

To provide power using the bicycle, two v-belts salvaged from old belt-driven equipment are to be used. The tire and tube of the bicycle should be removed to give the v-belt an area to grab. The rim has to be removed in order to place the v-belt. One v-belt attaches from the rear rim to a pulley on the custom flywheel. Another v-belt runs from a pulley on the flywheel to the pulley on the washing machine.

Strip down the washing machine. Remove the wiring loom and all electronics, the solenoids and detergent drawer, drive motor and belt, waste pump and pipes etc. What should left is the structure itself, the inner and outer drum, concrete weight, springs and suspension arms plus the rubber inlet and outlet pipes.

The drainage system has to be replaced using an elbow pipe, a PVC ball valve, a section of PE pipe, a garden hose and four hose clamps. A short section of PE pipe to be connected to the original drainage pipe and elbow pipe. The connections are sealed with hose clamps. Another section of PE pipe connects the elbow pipe and ball valve and the connections are sealed with hose clamps. The garden hose is connected to the opposite end of the ball valve and runs to an area where the water can be discharged. To empty the washing machine of water, simply open the ball valve.

The next thing is to make the stand which will hold the back wheel off the ground, position the smaller pulley and attach the whole thing to the washing machine. The stand that the bicycle rests on is made of rebar. There bar was cut to appropriate lengths (dependent on the size of the bicycle) and then welded together. Connections to the bicycle were made at the front fork and chain stays.

Washing procedure

One should avoid using too much detergent to ensure that the limited amount of rinse water will be enough to remove the residues.

The user now fetches the wash water which may have been preheated somewhere else, perhaps on a wood fired boiler. Before adding the water the user must ensure that the valve used for letting out waste water is firmly closed. The user can now add the water and the detergent.

As the water drains into the drum the user starts pedaling. The bike should have been left in a low gear. The user continues to pedal after all the water has entered the tank. It may be a good idea to occasionally stop, pause, then restart so that the clothes are better agitated and separated.

If we imagine a full wash cycle to be about 20 minutes then the user should pedal at a fairly leisurely pace for about 10 minutes and then dismount to open the drain valve. This is a good opportunity to take a break. There is little to be gained by continuing to pedal while the water drains.

When the water has drained the user can get back on and get the drum spinning fast for a short while to drive out the last of the dirty soapy water. Now the user closes the waste valve fully and lets in the rinse water. Again, the user remounts and starts pedaling again just like with the wash cycle.

After about 5 minutes the user dismounts and opens the drain valve but this time takes no break. Cycling should continue to complete the rinse and the pace should increase massively when the drum is fully emptied. This sprint stage will force out the remaining water and should be done as fast as possible. The user will step up through the gears until the drum is operating at the fastest possible revolutions. The longer this can be maintained, the drier the clothes will be when removed from the machine.

Before dismounting the user should return the bike to a low gear. The drain valve should also be closed before taking the clothes to hang up.

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