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Ditch Your Dryer

Save money with free solar energy

The March 14 Green Speaker Series discussion at the township municipal building gave me great ideas for lowering my energy bill and valuable information about solar power options for New Jersey residents.

While I mull over what's financially feasible for me, there's a solar option available now to everyone that's easy, affordable and guaranteed to shave dollars off your PSE&G bill.

Ditch your dryer. If you don't currently hang your clothes on a line or a rack, try it for at least some of your laundry. It's a nice way to put solar power to work and reap the reward of sun-fresh clothes. 

I credit my laundry-hanging lifestyle to a combination of cheapness and laziness. I started hanging laundry on racks when I lived in an apartment building and wanted to save the extra quarters (cheapness) and trips up and down to the basement (laziness). Once I discovered how quickly clothes dried on my tiny but sunny balcony, I was hooked.

Sun-dried laundry smells wonderful. You've probably heard that sunlight disinfects. The science behind it is that the ultraviolet portion of sunshine kills bacteria. If you've seen toothbrush sanitizers that emit blue light, it's the same principle.

Sun-drying laundry also extends the life of clothing and prevents shrinkage. All that lint? That's your clothes slowly being picked to pieces by the dryer's heat and agitation.

As a two-person family with no children, I know my three weekly loads pale in laughable comparison to homes with kids and daily loads. My experience is that kids like the simple job of hanging socks on the rack and helping with clothes pins. Consider hanging one load a week or just for delicate items.

Here's the math and a simple calculator to figure out your dryer use costs. Unlike other home appliances where energy efficiency can vary a lot, most electric and gas dryers use about the same amount of energy. That's why the Department of Energy doesn't issue Energy Star ratings for dryers.

Even with my platy three loads a week, at roughly $0.11 per kilowatt hour (from my PSE&G bill), running the dryer for 45 minutes each time, I can save $57 dollars a year, or about $5 a month.

My savings are small but they add up to real energy conservation when multiplied by millions of other families. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that dryers rank third for typical home appliance energy consumption, after the refrigerator and washing machine. 

Some homeowner association covenants and municipal ordinances around the country restrict residents from hanging laundry outside. In the nearby borough of Franklin Lakes, a municipal ordinance bans outside clotheslines or clothes-hanging facilities.

I can appreciate not wanting to see my neighbor's personal items, but this kind of ban strikes me as overboard concern for appearances. A group called Project Laundry List offers information and advocacy for outside laundry drying as an environmental and economic issue.

If you are ready to buy, basic racks and clothes line essentials are available for purchase in West Orange at Kmart, Schneider Hardware at 276 Main St. and Main Street Hardware at 56 Main St.

For everything under the sun about air drying clothes, this article includes detailed information about where to buy both middle-of-the-road and higher-quality racks and solutions.

A good quality rack or laundry line set-up is a modest investment today that  saves time and energy for years to come.

Anita Uotinen March 15, 2011 at 07:07 PM
A nice idea, especially as the days are getting warmer and longer! And a nice follow up to the speakers last evening at town hall, who provided valuable information for reducing energy bills.
Sumi March 16, 2011 at 01:58 AM
I have been hanging all my clothes, sheets, towels, etc outside for year. The clothesline is up and my clothing and bedding already smell better. The sun also removes stains and your whites will never be whiter. Less ironing as well. I love it!
Jennifer Larsen March 16, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Claire, What a great column! Interesting and informative. I'm going to try it! Jennifer

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