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An electrician advised Scott against moving our electric Maytag dryer controls, but we really didn't want to purchase a brand new dryer, just so we could stack it onto our washing machine (and save space in the utility room). Read about how Scott sorted the spaghetti and modified our dryer.
Utility Room Remodel
Moving Dryer Controls so the Dryer Can Stack onto the Washer
Our utility room is pretty small and not well utilized. One of our ideas for gaining space, was to stack the dryer onto the washer. Unfortunately, our older-model dryer isn't a match to our newer, front-load washer. Not only is the dryer is a different make, model and year, but the controls are at the top and back. If we stacked it - as is - you'd need a ladder to dial in a setting and turn it on!
What to do? Plunk down $400-$500 (or more) for a comparable stacking dryer? Our dryer, a higher-end model that came with the house, has an "intelli-dry" sensor that shuts off the unit when the clothes are dry. It works great! Seems wasteful and expensive to purchase a new one, just to stack it.
Instead, we thought Scott could find a way to move the control panel to a lower position. This would enable us to stack our old (working) dryer on top of our newer, front-load washer, for a lot less money.
Our neighbor, Charlie, a retired electrician, thought this would be a tough job. "Do you know how many wires you'll have to extend and move?" he asked, "There's about 30 or so wires back there."
This is one of those cases where ignorance is bliss. Undaunted by Charlie's warning, Scott pushed forward and - last weekend when Rachel was off with Alex in Vancouver and he had the house to himself - he tackled moving the dryer controls.
For a low-down on putting the dryer high up and learning how Scott managed to move the dryer controls ... carry on ...
The Spaghetti Factory
The first thing that Scott did, even before tackling the project, was to purchase 40 feet of electrical wiring, in anticipation of needing it. (We live rurally, so a drive to the hardware store is about an hour commitment. There's nothing worse than being embroiled in the middle of a project and find you're short parts. Better to have a bit too much of what you need, rather than not enough).
The first step was to disconnect the power and open up the dryer and see what was what. The control panel came off easily enough - as one unit - and Charlie was right - there were wires EVERYWHERE! Fortunately, it appeared that they were all bundled together and headed down into the interior of the dryer, to the bottom. (Maybe only a few needed extending?)
Pulling off the dryer door and front panel confirmed that most of the wires seemed to extend from the front and bottom, to the top and back! Bonus!
At this point, Scott took a bunch of digital photos of the wires attached to the back of the controls. Taking a shot from 90-degree angles, with a high-resolution camera, was an insurance policy. He then disconnected the wires from the controls, by pulling on the connection tabs. The photos would insure that once he moved the controls, he could reconnect the wires to the correct tabs. (This step was crucial, with the morass of wires and connection tabs involved!)
Originally, Scott thought he'd move the control bar as one solid entity, perhaps mounting it to the front of the dryer or maybe on a piece of plywood that he'd fit onto a table he was planning on putting over the dryer (we weren't going to just plunk the dryer onto the washer, thinking an elevated platform - over the washer - would be better. This way, one could pull the washer out, independent of the dryer, or visa-versa).
However, after pulling off the front panel, it appeared there was enough room in the dryer to accept the controls, provided they were split into two and stacked on top of each other. It took a bit of planning about how to achieve this and still have the controls look "professional".
In the end, it worked out pretty well. Two of the power wires had to be extended from the power connections at the top and back of the dryer. The most difficult part of this task was to unbundle the bundled wires so that those needing extended, wouldn't be pulled into the dryer. Eventually, the wires were unbundled and pulled to the front, around the heater, motor, belt and springs. The extended wires were rebundled and taped or clamped into position so they wouldn't interfere with any moving parts. The extra lengths were coiled and neatly laid in the floor of the dryer. All that remained to do was move the controls.
Moving the Controls
The control panel consisted of a thin, painted aluminum faceplate (which came off with ease) and a PVC shell into which the control components were snapped. Using tin snips, Scott cut the aluminum faceplate, separating the controls into two halves. He rounded the corners by marking a baby-food jar at each corner and cutting carefully with the tin snips.
How to finish the edge?
He filed the edges a bit with a fine metal file, but they still looked a tad rough - and sharp - from the tin-snip cuts. Grabbing a bit of white electrical tape, he applied the tape to the edge, overlapping the tape onto both the front and back, giving the edge a "white trim" appearance. It was difficult to keep the width the same, all the way around, but it was better than nothing.
Next, using a hacksaw, he cut the PVC control shell into two "flattish" pieces, making sure that they were (at least) as big as the aluminum control pieces he'd cut out. These would be screwed to the inside of the front panel, with screws that went through the aluminum face plate controls, the front panel of the dryer and then into the PVC controls.
Using the aluminum faceplate as a guide, Scott marked out - on the front dryer panel - where the controls would need to poke through. He made these holes as small as necessary, to keep the integrity of the front panel as solid as possible. Using an electric drill, he cut a hole near the center of each of the marked areas. Then, using a jig-saw, fitted with a 32-teeth metal cutting blade, he then cut the marked areas out of the front panel. It was noisy work, but didn't take too long. The rough edges were filed a bit and the holes weren't very good looking, but it didn't matter much - they'd be hidden by the aluminum faceplate.
To put it all together, Scott roughed up the front of the dryer panel and back of the aluminum faceplate - scoring it with the edges of the file - so that contact cement could be used to bond the two together. Then it was a matter of lining up the PVC controls in the back, drilling 4 holes in the corners and screwing the - now stuck - aluminum face plate to the front dryer panel and - using clamps - to the PVC controls in the back.
Once this was done, it was a matter of referring to the digital photos, to reconnect the wires. Then - crossing fingers - Scott tested the controls, by plugging in the dryer and giving it a spin. YAY! Worked a treat!
He did have problems lining up the PVC controls with the aluminum faceplate. After everything was screwed into place, the controls bound up a tad against one side of the face plate. He had to fiddle with expanding the aluminum face plate holes a bit, before the buttons worked without "sticking". Once he got them working to his satisfaction, it was just a matter of putting the dryer back together again.
When Rachel returned home, she was suitably impressed by how professional the "new" dryer looked, though she's not to impressed by how she has to touch her toes now, when doing laundry - as Scott's not yet gotten around to moving the plumbing, building the platform and actually STACKING the dryer onto anything!
Still, Scott's here to report that such a project was possible - though it may have just been a lucky break with our particular make/model of dryer (which, if you're interested, is an electric Maytag dryer - Model Number MDE 7600 AZW ... not sure what the "AZW" means).