Saturday, January 26, 2013

Living Without a Clothes Dryer

As mentioned in the Hills Rotary Clothesline post, we dry our clothes outside as often as we can. When we can't hang the clothes outside, due to the weather, we hang them up inside to dry. While it can sometimes be an inconvenience, it is a big energy saver.

We haven't used a clothes dryer since we moved into the trailer in October 2007. We had a dryer at the time, but it was apparently damaged during the move. Rather than buy the parts to fix it we decided to donate the dryer to the ReStore and switch completely to line drying.

An electric clothes dryer is one of the highest power consumers in the home. Since we don't have a dryer I can't take actual measurements, but most estimates I've seen indicate that many dryers use 4kw of electricity. If a cycle takes 45 minutes that means a cycle could require 3kwh. As a comparison, during the spring or fall, when we are not using the heat or air conditioner, our average daily electricity use is 13kwh. Drying three loads of laundry per week could increase our electricity use by as much as 10%.

Many people do not consider the amount of electricity used, but, instead, view it in terms of cost. For a household doing 3 loads of laundry per week, the cost would be around $4, assuming electricity costs of $0.10, which is the case in this area. Many people may view the benefits of using a clothes dryer as being well worth the added cost. If cost is the only factor being considered, then I can easily see how one could reach this conclusion. Of course costs would be higher for most families, since most do more than 3 loads of laundry per week.

For us, however, the cost of using a clothes dryer is not the deciding factor. As we plan for eventually moving to a renewable energy source, once we build a house, we continue to dry to reduce our energy use. The higher the energy needs of a household, the more expensive a renewable energy system will cost, especially a completely off-grid system. Line drying clothes instead of using an electric dryer is one very effective method of lowering household energy needs.

There are benefits to line drying beyond energy savings. One benefit is that clothes last longer, as the heat and tumbling of a clothes dryer can cause premature wear. Another benefit is the reduced use of chemicals. While it isn't necessary, many people use dryer sheets, which obviously aren't needed when line drying. Lastly, line drying outside has the benefit of exposing the clothes to sunlight, which can help revitalize some items, such as towels that have started to smell a bit sour.

There are a few situations in which having a dryer would be nice. Usually this is when we need something dried very quickly. With a bit of planning, however, these situations can be minimized or avoided completely. I'll also admit that there are times, especially during the winter, when it can be nice to slip on a pair of jeans fresh from the dryer. As nice as this might feel, though, it isn't worth having a clothes dryer.

After more than five years without a clothes dryer we are convinced that we'll never go back. In fact, we're so certain of this that we no longer have a place to put a dryer, or a fuse in the fuse box to support one.

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