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High Up Low Down

High Up Low Down

December 19th, 2008  · stk

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).


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Updated: 20-Dec-2008
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1.flag John Comment
Scott.. Canada's answer to McGyver.
Smart thinking 99!
2.flag Dad Comment
Good job! It looks great. Pictures of the original wiring were a great idea. I can't wait to see the final installation.
Maybe before you raise the dryer on top the the washer, you should make sure the dryer door drops down (170-180 degrees) so that door isn't poking you in the chest when you are loading and unloading.
3.flag Dad Comment
Oh,oh! My mistake. It looks like the hinges are on the side of the door, thus, no problem.
4.flag stk Comment
John - Thanks! Isn't there a saying? "Necessity is the maternal parental unit of baby interventions" - something like that! :p

Dad - Yeah, the pics were a life-saver! The door IS right-hinged, but R's asked for me to install a door handle, b/c the current way of opening is by grabbing the top lip of the door (tad hard to do when it's 6-ft up).
5.flag Gran Pilley Comment
Looks great Scott. I know Rachel is thrilled. We'll give you a call when we need a dryer service! Syd reckons it beats the heck out a new one particularly as you would probably have only got $50 trade in - if that! Syd reckons it will last longer than a new one which as a life expectancy of 7 years!

6.flag stk Comment
Gran - Yeah, but it still needs to be hoisted. I'll have to wait till sub-freezing weather is over, so I can safely turn off the water to the house, without fear that the lines will freeze (still need to move the water and drain, for the washer).
7.flag Gary Comment
I am impressed :) That's a mighty fine piece of workmanship there Scott, I hope it scored a few brownie points with Rachel ;) I bet she will let you sit down and watch a movie whilst she passes you a beer and ya slippers !

8.flag Cindy Comment
Very cool. I am wanting to do this very thing so that I can get our fairly new washer and dryer stacked in our kitchen instead of down in the basement. I thought it should be fairly easy to do for someone with a little electrical knowledge but it's nice to see that someone else has made it work, and looks good too!
9.flag stk Comment
Cindy - Thanks! When are you modifying yours? (Send pics!)

The good news is that we've been using the modified dryer for three+ months now, without any problems, but the bad news is that it's not yet stacked on top of the washer (b/c I still need to move the service lines, drain, plugs and vents).
10.flag Cindy Comment
I'll modify mine as soon as I can convince my dad to help me do it. Of course the space I want to put it in will need to be plumbed and vented but it does already have dedicated power since the stove currently occupies the space. But then I'll have to move the stove! I'm also wondering exactly how to aesthetically build a platform for the dryer to sit on. Might have to call on a different expert for that. Of course I could do what you did and leave the modified dryer on the basement floor for a few more months. ;)
11.flag stk Comment
Cindy - Sounds like your projects move about as fast as mine. We're still using the modified dryer, but it's STILL standing by itself. (Seems there's summer painting, vacation, school stuff, oil changes, fire calls, company coming ... etc, etc ... )

One of these day!! :p
12.flag Marlene Comment
The control modification idea on your Maytag Dryer is excellent...
I purchased a used 1999 Maytag Washer MAH4000AWW and so far it is a great machine... And I think it goes with your Maytag Dryer MDE7600AZW... So, now I am looking for a 1999 Maytag Dryer similar to the one that you had the controls modified... I am hoping to find it soon, but due that it is 10 years old, it may take time... If you have a photo of your Maytag Dryer stock on top of each other, I would love to see it... Blessings.
Good idea until it's time to service any component under the top panel of the washer. For instance, you're showing a 1998 MAH3000AWW. Prone to wax motor and dispenser failures, not to mention water valve, off-balance switches, tub removal, etc., you will have to unload the dryer every time you need repair in most cases.
Since this machine is at least 14 years old, it won't be long until the tub bearings fail, making repairs too astronomical to consider. So, in the long run, it's a nice waste of time for you...
14.flag stk Comment
Jim -

First, moving the controls has no impact on removing the top panel. If anything, it makes this task easier.

Second, our dryer has been operating trouble-free for the five years since I've made the modification.

Third, telling me that I've "wasted my time" isn't a very positive, nor very encouraging.

For these reasons, I don't think highly of your customer service skills and wouldn't seek you out as a repair technician. BUT ... I do thank you for posting a link to the Make-a-Wish foundation - a worthy cause indeed! ;)
15.flag Jim F In Omaha Comment
great job. considering that a dryer is nothing more then an encased toaster with a giant drum, I could never understand their price.
I refuse to pay that much just so my set matches. I am doing exactly what you did here.
Thanks for all the tips.
16.flag Patrick Perry Comment
Yep, it won't be long before those Chinese ball bearings go, then what's the point...I mean just because you're industrious enough to relocate the controls doesn't mean you can replace a set of bearings, right? But wasted time is relevant, you could repair it and be out some opportunity cost plus fun, or just chunk it in the landfill for the next generation of trained repairmen to consider.

As far as the other repairable parts, I'd say if you can remount the controls, you can also make it even more customized by cutting some access panels and doors, just like on other custom engineered equipment.
17.flag stk Comment
Patrick - The dryer has been working fine for 7+ years since we made the repair. The plan was to buy a stacking pair when either or both units went. (Was mainly meant as a stop gap measure to achieve stack-ability without having to buy new).

Makes financial sense to me. ;)
18.flag Patrick Perry Comment
Oh I definately agree with you...was being sarcastic. I had the same idea just haven't modified ours yet. I will probably figure out a way to relocate the lint screen. Since they already have a spinning drum, what they need is spinning filter disk instead of a stationary pullout. As the filter spins the lint is caught as usual, but excessive buildup is removed by a spring tensioned scraper that wipes the surface. The lint could then drop by gravity into a substantially size cleanout drawer along the lower chasis corner. An optional 2 ton compaction press and mold could likewise be purchased that would make tiny poodle effigies from the pressed lint.
19.flag stk Comment
Patrick - LOL @ your self-cleaning lint trap compressed pooper ejector.

To be entirely honest, I missed the <sarcasm> tag (and had to refrain from some snarky reply). :p

20.flag Mayank Comment
You are inspirational!!
I've been toying with the issue of relocating the controls of our washer for quite some time - to make them stackable.
Thanks for sharing. Rgds