Jeff D'Andrea wasn't happy when he checked on his clothes in the laundry room of his Glover Park building and found his empty hamper filled with someone else's wet garments.
Like many apartment-dwellers, D'Andrea decided long ago that he did not want to be one of those people who messes with the laundry of others, even those who don't collect their clothes immediately at the end of the laundry cycle. Unfortunately, he had no choice but to break his self-imposed rule and dump the clothes out of his plastic basket and onto the counter so he could cart his clothes back up to his third-floor apartment. It was a move that likely began a chain of frustration among his neighbors, many of whom chose Sunday night to do multiple loads of laundry.
Laundry room etiquette is not well-defined. Even more annoying than fellow residents asking for spare quarters is that feeling you get when you find your wet clothes piled somewhere because you were three minutes late.
For many people, the thought of someone who is practically a stranger touching their favorite shirts or their undergarments doesn't engender good vibes.
"I don't touch other people's clothes, and I don't want them touching mine," D'Andrea said. "I mean, what were the chances that those clothes belonged to my hamper? There are 10 machines. I don't believe people sometimes."
That D'Andrea tries his best to roll with the punches and give his neighbors a little extra time to pick up their clothes only makes it seem worse when they don't do the same for him.
Some people regard washing and drying clothes in a shared space as a competitive sport. They are in such a hurry to snag a free machine that they can't bother to wait for forgetful neighbors to check on their clothes. So they resort to taking matters, and strangers' clothes, into their own hands.
It makes sense for a group of residents or a landlord to institute a policy about laundry room etiquette. This may mean that everybody is required to allow a 10-minute grace period before taking neighbors' clothes out of the machines, or that everyone is required to follow a scheduled laundry time to avoid the chaotic Sunday rush.
It might even be as simple as reminding people not to throw their neighbors' clean clothes on the dirty laundry room floor. Cleaning the lint catcher when a load is done should also be common practice.
But who said apartment residents all share the same level of common sense?
A better laundry room experience would help everyone who doesn't have the luxury of an in-unit washer/dryer. Anyone with good laundry room ideas is welcome to send me suggestions. I will publish the best suggestions, in the hopes that we can finally define what constitutes neighborly laundry room behavior.
After I wrote about maintenance for broken or faulty air conditioners (June 12), some readers asked how to keep their electric bills down during the hot summer months.
According to the federal Energy Information Administration, electricity rates usually rise during the peak cooling months of July and August.
Using your air conditioner less, using more efficient air-conditioning systems and changing temperature settings are the most effective ways to lower a summer energy bill.
Below are tips from in-house experts at Consumer Reports, who put the suggestions together for a brochure, "5 Ways to Cut Cooling Costs." The suggestions are reprinted with permission.
* Raise temperatures a notch. Each one-degree increase on your thermostat can cut your energy bill by 3 percent or more.
* Use shades, vented awnings, blinds or curtains to keep out the sun, especially in the afternoon in rooms that face west. Keep exterior doors and windows closed when running your air conditioner during the day; at night, turn off the air conditioner and open the windows to draw in cooler air when humidity is low.
* Minimize heat from other sources. Turn off lamps, televisions and other heat-producing items when not in use and move them away from the air conditioner's thermostat. Use compact fluorescent lights, which create less heat than incandescent bulbs. And run dishwashers and other large appliances in the early morning or late evening when electricity use is lower and their heat has less effect on cooling.
* Maintain your air conditioner. Clean or replace the filter every other week or as needed during heaviest use. Keep leaves and other debris away from the exterior condenser. (When air flow is blocked, it puts a strain on the system and lowers efficiency.) Keep condenser coils clean.
* Consider fans. Use ceiling or portable fans to keep air moving. Run them only when you're in the room; otherwise, you're wasting energy.
Apartment residents in the market for a window air-conditioning unit can visit the Web site of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (www.aham.org/consumer/coolload.pdf) to find a detailed, number-driven worksheet that explains how many BTUs (British thermal units) are needed for a specific space. To figure out the equation, Web site users must have a tape measure and calculator and enter information about a room's size, exposure to the elements, windows and other appliances. If you're really on top of things, you can also enter your local electric utility rates to see an estimate of the annual energy cost of operating a unit of a particular size.
For information about local utility rates, look at your electric bills or contact your power company. Local company Pepco (www.pepco.com) has a less complicated energy-usage calculator under its "Use Energy Wisely" icon so people can estimate how much money they would spend to use appliances, including air conditioners. Dominion Power (www.dom.com/customer/efficiency) also has an appliance energy-cost calculator that uses only wattage and number of hours used for its computation.
Saving energy is a good practice because it benefits both the environment and the pocketbook.
Do you have questions, comments or ideas about apartment life? Contact Sara Gebhardt via e-mail at email@example.com or by mail, c/o Real Estate Editor, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071.