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 laundry out in the sun and fresh air. Unlike some other people, I don’t give a flip if somebody thinks I’m poor. But for those who have no idea the cost of drying their clothes: the annual average of running a dryer is a calculated $160 across a few websites, some of which might be linked in this post.

I installed my “clothesline elevator” when I first moved in, right at my back door, close to the laundry room. It is a device 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 shortened my deck in September, the 2×4 that I used to suspend the other end of the clothesline’s pulley came crashing down. 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 made for a shorter clothesline. So, loathe to cut the line without having considered all my options, I took the clothesline down for the winter.

But then I saw a good suggestion for hanging a clothesline indoors: a clever $5 clothesline that anyone, and I mean anyone, could put up in their apartment, so you could dry your clothes any time of year. I found I had the right kind and length of rope in my camping supplies.

Upon further research, though, I don’t need to install a temporary clothesline. My laundry room already has two shower rails to hang clothes from. I also have a clothes drying rack. And this past summer, we had a humid spell that was making my posters and photos curl in my basement, so I acquired an old dehumidifier. It turns out it is the perfect solution for drying clothes indoors on a cool autumn or cold Canadian winter day (it also produces a bit of heat). Here’s why:

Your clothes dryer is literally the biggest energy sucker in your home. After the cost of running baseboard heaters and the refrigerator, your clothes dryer is throwing money out the window when you run it in winter.

When you run a bathroom fan, kitchen fan, or the clothes dryer, you’re venting out hot air and depressurizing your home, which will suck in cold air through the cracks, seams, and openings to the outside. Rather than create a pressure differential and heat the air twice, it makes a lot more sense to use a dehumidifier in the laundry room. It will pull the water out of the clothes you’ve put out to dry. The heat of the unit will be welcome.

Already, electric heat is drying, so I don’t run the fan in the bathroom for showers –   I crack the bathroom door to vent the humidity to the house. (You could hang your wet clothes around for the same purpose… but if you do so, please do it neatly, like the $5 clothes line, above.)

I’ve already started using the dehumidifier in my laundry room. I’m impressed with the speed of fabric drying time, and the state of my slow-drying towels. They, and sheets too, don’t dry stiff.

My dryer is about 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.

I can use the distilled water in the reservoir for the clothes iron, my pets’ water bottles, or for watering the houseplants.

But if that doesn’t persuade you, and you don’t know the other options 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 my home to be – were found here in North America more often, we may have an easier time installing some of their technology into standard homes.

I’d love to get a thermographic scan of my house, and upgrade the insulation – particularly in my brown/green bedroom, where the outside wall is siding and not brick, and it has building wrap/insulation/vapour barrier 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. If it brings me closer to an energy efficiency that pays off, it’s a tool for my entrepreneurial wish to help other homeowners lower their environmental impact, too.

Hervé the white rabbit.

On the original version of this blog, I posted about my pets from time to time. I still have Hervé, you can sometimes see him in my photos and blog posts and social media shares, and he came to me, like all my pets, through a rescue route. 

Ringo’s Lost poster

I  want to show you 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 network for 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 girl bunnies in a positive way. I’ve a lot fewer “escapes” – visiting the neighbours, or hiding under the car – than before. They then get to stay outside for longer.

He’s really fearless, actually. 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. Naturally, he attacked a few houseplants this way.

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 way possible. After all, girls can be worse for humping, as it’s a dominance activity.


And now, I have some very sad news (as sad as losing Ringo). In the past 10 days, my “heart” rat Archie has wasted away from the effects of what I thought was a pituitary tumour, but it was pneumonia. I’ve nursed more than a half-dozen pituitary cases over the years, and I thought I knew the signs. I was wrong.

Archie has been my brave explorer and shoulder-rider over the past year, preferring my company at that height over the ground-level 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 believe 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 him to, then my job is to make it as comfortable as possible.

Archie exploring under the deck in the garden.