Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Month: November 2013

Conserving energy when doing the laundry

I’ve long used the clothesline to dry my clothes outside – unlike other people, I don’t give a flip if someone thinks I’m poor because I use the air to dry my clothes. (I have a draft of a blog post in which I expound on status anxiety and all the nonsense that drives people and our society in uninspiring ways. I might write and publish it this winter.) But for those who have no idea the cost, the annual average of running a dryer is a calculated $160 across a few websites, some of which are linked in this post.

I installed my “clothesline elevator” when I first moved in, right at my back door, near where the laundry room is. It is an apparatus that raises and lowers the pulley by about a meter, so that the laundry hangs overhead and not dragging on the ground. My back door is at a lower elevation than the rest of the backyard.

When I did some work on shortening my deck in September, though, the 2×4 that I used to suspend the other end of the clothesline’s pulley came crashing down – and the 4 screws that held it in place were leaving scrappy holes in the fencepost from all that tension. I decided to save the fence and find a new place to install the pulley’s 2×4. But the only other place I found requires that I have a shorter clothesline. So, loathe to cut the line without having considered all my options, I took the clothesline down for the winter. I’m leaving only a short 2m line up by the back door to suspend a bird feeder from, and unfortunately that means I can only watch the birds eat from it when I’m gazing up from the downstairs, through the back door.

Which is where, when I found a good suggestion for hanging a clothesline indoors, I thought I would install the clever $5 clothesline that anyone, and I mean anyone, could put up in their apartments so they could dry their clothes in the winter (and summer, too, if they have no access to hang clothes outdoors). I found I have the right kind of rope at the right length when I raided my camping supplies. [Don’t ask me how I got so many pieces of rope or what I plan to do with them, but I have a tonne of odds and ends that I’ve packed into my backpack or coiled up in the trunk of my car. Camping is the only place where I can consistently find a use for it.]

Upon doing further research, though, I found I don’t need to install a temporary clothesline. My laundry room already has two shower rails to hang clothes from, and I have a clothes drying rack, and these have been what I used in the past. They’ve now been improved upon. As this past summer we had a humid spell that was making my posters and photos curl in my basement, I acquired an old dehumidifier. It produces a bit of heat. It turns out it is the perfect solution for drying clothes indoors on a cold Canadian winter day. Here’s why:

While using the dryer is the most pleasant way to get your sheets and towels dry because they’re just awkward to hang and can have a crispy result, it’s the biggest energy sucker in your home after baseboard heaters and the refrigerator. And my dryer is probably 20 years old and brags that it uses 111 kWh per month. Hardly an EnergyStar. I don’t know the rating on the dehumidifier, but it’s surely lower than that by far.

That’s not the only cost of energy, though. When I had my house tested for the Energy Retrofit a few years ago (I intend to use the Rénoclimat program again this year; apartment-dwellers and low-income folks can use the Econologis program to test and fix their own dwelling’s energy efficiency), I found out that my house exchanges air with the outside a whopping 14 times per hour. My house is rated a 66, but the most efficient houses are rated in the 80’s. And when you run a bathroom fan (winter showers mean I crack the bathroom door rather than vent the steam outside), kitchen fan, or the clothes dryer, you’re venting out hot air and depressurizing your home, which sucks in cold air through the cracks, seams, and openings to the outside. So it makes a lot more sense to use a dehumidifier in the laundry room to help pull the water out of the clothes you’ve hung to dry. But if you’re not persuaded and you don’t know about the other options that are out there, check out this blog post on the Green Home Building Advisor website.

When I moved to Denmark, I was exposed to some of these options that I didn’t know existed for drying ones’ clothes. If passive houses, which is what I’d love to make my home at least approach, were more often built and found here in North America, we may have an easier time installing some of their movable technology into our standard homes. Still, a little digging while shopping might garner some results. If any of you would like to know more about energy-efficient options, products, and where to get them, I would be happy to know what you find, and help you find out more. (Please add your comments below, or start a conversation using the Twitter and G+ links on this page.)

So I’ve already started using the dehumidifier in my laundry room, and I am impressed with the speed of synthetic fabric drying time, and the state of my slow-drying towels. The distilled water in the reservoir can be used for the clothes iron, for my pets’ water bottles and fountain, and for watering the houseplants.

Now on to my next pressing energy efficiency problem: I want a thermographic scan done on my house, and the insulation upgraded – particularly in my brown/green bedroom, where the outside wall is siding rather than brick, and it has very apparent insulation issues. It’s way too hot in summer and too cold in winter, and the closet is the part that overhangs my front step, so it’s cold on 3 sides. I sense this could be an expensive one to fix, but if it brings me closer to my next-to-Passivhaus goal, it’s a tool in my box for my entrepreneurial desire to enable solutions for other homeowners that want to lower their environmental impact or boost their environmental give-back quotients.

Hervé the white rabbit.

I promised pics of the new rabbit that entered my life. It was a few weeks after I lost Ringo, and someone found a white rabbit a few blocks away on St. Antoine, near Georges-Vanier metro – right in the middle of the road, early in the morning. They contacted Quebec Rabbit Rescue – Secours Lapins Quebec, who can only facilitate rabbit rehoming, as they aren’t a shelter. QRR gave them my poster to identify if it was Ringo, but it wasn’t. They asked me to take him in anyway.
He is young, friendly, full of energy and curiosity, and he’s got a big appetite. It took a few weeks, but his name arrived: Hervé. One great thing about Hervé is that he actually likes being in the front yard, and his willingness to stay and graze influences the girls in a positive way. I have a lot fewer escapes to visit the neighbour’s (or hide under the car) than before, and the rabbits then get to stay out for longer. On Hallowe’en, he wanted out in the evening – no way! – and so was hanging around the front door as kids came by to trick-or-treat. He was also trying to get into the bowl of candy. He taught Elizabeth to go explore the bedrooms upstairs, looking for treats. He has attacked a few houseplants this way.
Avoiding the computer for a few months means I’ve had little thought for taking photos or sorting them when they upload. So here he is, the day he arrived:

He loves being pet. Here he’s assuming the position.

He also humps my girls. And they take it (most of the time) in the most unperturbed manner possible. Here he is, filling in his role as one-of-three.

Instead I’ll show you squirrels quite possibly humping.

And lastly, the sweet face of my “heart” rat Archie, who in the past 10 days has wasted away from the effects of what I thought was a pituitary tumour, but it’s pneumonia. I’ve nursed more than a half dozen pituitary cases over the years, and now I’m questioning if any others were pneumonia. Archie has been my brave explorer and shoulder-rider over the past year, preferring my company at that height over the hot pursuits and other predations of Dweezil, my resident terrorist. Now, I’m feeding and medicating Archie through a syringe, while he sleeps the day and night away. He still bruxes and stretches so I know he’s not comatose. It’s heartbreaking to see him this way, but we each have to face death, and if I can’t pull him back from the brink that I stupidly brought hime to, then my job is to make it as comfortable as possible.

Archie exploring under the deck in the garden.