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.