HSU Bike powered washing machine

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HSU Bike powered washing machine
Description The house already operating with a grey water system will be able to conserve water by controlling how much water is used and where it drains to. The water source will be from the water catchment already in place as well. This washing machine won't demand any electricity.
Intended use development, water
Keywords bike powered washing machine, water catchment, reuse, upcycle
Project status Prototype
Project was made? Yes
Project was made independently? No
Main materials Recycled materials
SDG Sustainable Development Goal 11
Sustainable Development Goal 12
Documentation data
Language English
Manifest data
Language English
Updated 2020-06-04
Author Kathy Nativi
Author affiliation Appropedia
Author email info@appropedia.org

Bike Powered Washer Machine

HSU - FALL 2006 - ENGR 114 - Instructor Lonny Grafman

Amber Villalobos

Andrea Lactot

Jess Huyghebaert

Chris Fivecoat

Graham Felsenthal

This was a project started by students in the Whole Earth Engineering class at HSU. The main goal of the project was to fill a need using an appropiate technology. An Arcata house, already using several appropiate technologies was looking for a way to wash their clothes. Housemates had several bikes, bike parts, tools, and the know how and the idea for a bicycle powered washing machine was born.


At the very beginging.

We had two months to design and implement our appropiate technology. We spent hours and hours of time discussing and researching how we would build the actual washing machine part of the design. During this time, we scoured websites, newspapers, and books for ideas and materials. Once we came up with a concrete idea, the actual construction of the project took only a few days to complete.

After researching several designs (including building a washing machine consisting of a tumbler inside of a 55 gallon drum), we decided using an already broken front loading washing machine would be easiest. We were able to (legally) acquire a broken washing machine from Emerald City Laundromat (Shout out to those who helped us in this process). By reusing the washing machine that was broken we did not have to purchase or use new materials and saved a rather large article from being dumped into the waste stream. The idea was to open the back of the machine up, remove the motor and replace the "power" for the machine with a chain connected to a stationary bicycle.

Operating on a low budget we set out to complete the task. Lucky for us the money needed for the project turned out to be almost nothing. The washer was free, and all tools, bike parts and hardware was provided by the soon-to-be-owner of this washing machine. The only purchases were the pvc pipe used for exiting water, and a funnel for putting water in the washer machine.

Due to the creativity and work of the team, the project was a success in filling the need and being quite appropriate. Almost all materials were reused or recycled. The house already operating with a grey water system will be able to conserve water by controlling how much water is used and where it drains to. The water source will be from the water catchment already in place as well. This washing machine won't demand any electricity. The energy source is the person washing the clothes, allowing them to get some pedal time into their day, stay healthy in the body and mind, and also wear clean sweet smelling clothes!


Although the washing machine works, since it has been fabricated from old pieces that were never meant for this project, it will be a continual work in progress. There will be tinkering needed and new ideas will come about- but it's looking awfully good! In addition to the modifications made on the washing machine, we also modified the bike a bit... comfier seat, easy rider handle bars. Talk about approriate technology.

Building the Bike

Plumb it up

Just Another Day At The Laundromat

If only this were true. It seemed that all the work had been done on the construction of this washing machine, but as it has been stated this project was going to require some tinkering. If you look at one of the pictures that shows a rear view of the washing machine you can see that the original motor was attached to the tumbler. Our design has a power source that is not attached and this has been making it so that when you pedal it pulls the tumbler toward you. It seems that the amount of torque required to spin a load of clothes and water will pull the tumbler and make the chain jump. As of now it is extremely difficult to get the tumbler to spin without getting extremely frustrated. We are still working on a design that will fix this problem. If the tumbler is secured to the frame as well as the bike this should fix that problem because nothing will be able to move independently from each other. A problem that this could create is that the rotating of such a weight could make the whole thing shake and would create a lot of wear and tear on the machine itself. It seems that there was a reason the original design had shocks for the tumbler to move around. so, like I said, Just another day at the Laundromat.

Suggestion/Next steps

  • Maybe add flywheels to the washer and bike axles? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Rich3800 (talkcontribs) 21:37, 25 August 2009