Researchers have developed a device to make washing machines lighter that could significantly reduce carbon emissions and the back pain of people having to install them.
Washing machines typically contain one or more large concrete blocks, which can weigh more than 25kg (4st), in order to prevent them from moving during spin cycles.
But the production and transportation of concrete creates carbon emissions and makes washing machines very heavy to transport, increasing fuel costs.
To combat this, a team at Nottingham Trent University, including Dylan Knight, a 22-year-old undergraduate, developed a hollow plastic container that is filled with water once the machine is in place to stop it shaking violently or shuffling across the floor.
Knight, who is studying product design, tested the lightweight device, which weighs less than 3kg when unfilled, and found it was equally effective as concrete blocks when filled with water.
“The hollow container is left unfilled until the appliance is installed. We found it worked as good as a concrete counterweight, stopping the spinning drum from heavily vibrating the machine,” he said.
“Concrete is actually quite bad for the environment due to the CO2 released when it is produced. The use of concrete is also the reason why washing machines are normally very heavy to move.”
The design cuts the weight of a typical machine by one-third, which in turn lowers the cost of fuel for transportation.
About 3.5m washing machines are sold a year in the UK, and the team said that if each were fitted with the device, the carbon savings would equate to about 44,625 tonnes of carbon dioxide, in addition to the reduced fuel consumption.
The idea for the project came from Tochi Tech, a design company working with researchers and students at the university to find innovative and sustainable solutions to appliance manufacturing.
Prof Amin Al-Habaibeh, an expert in intelligent engineering systems, and Knight, who is from south-east London, designed the device in collaboration with Tochi Tech.
Al-Habaibeh said: “This sustainable solution not only reduces cost and energy needed for transportation, but also provides ergonomic and health and safety benefits to those physically handling washing machines.
“This is a great example of how we integrate our teaching and learning processes, and research with industry, to solve real problems and support job creation.”
Reducing the weight of washing machines in a lorry by 100kg could save approximately 8.5g of carbon dioxide emissions and 0.35 litres of fuel per 100km travelled.
The research was provided through the Enabling Innovation programme at Nottingham Trent University. This is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, which “aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union”.