Hanging out my laundry this today, it suddenly hit me: I may never get around to fixing that clothes dryer.
For me, this is a big deal. I’m totally a guy when it comes to taking care of clothes, and my teenage son is even worse. He thinks nothing of announcing he’s out of clean laundry jut before going to bed on a schoolnight, which used to mean many of my days would end with a frantic laundry run. Finding his clothes still wet in a cold, broken dryer one morning last autumn was an unpleasant surprise.
It’s not as if clothes dryers are complicated machines. I knew the problem was a burned-out thermostat or heating element, both user-replaceable items if you have the right tools. But I’m the guy who writes about reducing your environmental footprint, so I decided to untangle my clothesline and give outdoor drying a shot.
The humble clothesline
We take appliances for granted. Your parents — and certainly your grandparents — got along just fine without a thousand dollar washer-dryer combo. I’m in no hurry to learn the lost art of washing clothes by hand, but drying is another matter. All you need is a piece of line and a handful of clothespins.
Rather than buying dryer parts, I decided to invest that money in an aluminum-framed, parallel clothesline. These are handy, offering plenty of room to hang one or two washer loads in a very small footprint. They can be folded down or taken indoors for storage when not in use, a necessary feature here on the hurricane coast. Mine cost about $50, plus another $10 for the gravel and quickcrete required to properly anchor its base.
An extra clothes basket, a sunny day, and you’re ready to go.
Your clothes dryer is an energy hog
Take a look at this estimate of residential energy use, compiled in 2001 by the U.S. Department of Energy:
In terms of energy use, clothes dryers are a big-ticket item (this chart does not apply to gas-fired models, which are cheaper to operate). Electric dryers are one of the home’s hungriest energy centers, ranking immediately behind refrigerators, climate control, hot water heaters, and lighting.
The best estimate for my personal use is around $6 on my monthly power bill. Yours could be higher or lower, but the message is clear: A commercially produced clothesline and all the little conveniences to go with it will pay for themselves in their first year. I’ll be well ahead if I repair and sell my old dryer.
There’s something great about line drying
Which brings me back to my laundry day epiphany: I’ve come to genuinely prefer line drying. There’s something worthwhile about cooperating with nature. Every morning I hang laundry, I get to feel the sun and wind which will do the former job of machinery in just a few hours time. It takes about ten minutes to get things properly hung, and perhaps another ten to check on things during the day.
And then I fold and gather the clothes. Time well spent, I think. Since our local power grid is largely dependent on coal, I’ve kept the air a little cleaner than if I’d simply thrust everything into the dryer.
Tomorrow morning’s breeze will be all the fresher.
This article originally appeared on Chris Baskind dot com.