Will Clotheslines Turn Dryers Into Relics?

29 07 2008

That’s the question that Sheila Simon asks.

Hang out with me.

In my most rich environmentalist fantasies I am off the grid, self-sufficiently solar. In real life I’m still on the grid because I’m not rich.

But even in real life with a budget, my family and I have scored big with one simple lifestyle change—we hang dry all of our laundry. It has reduced our power bill, and turned us, like converts to a new faith, into proselytizers.

We had long ago taken steps to reduce our electricity use. We replaced all of our light bulbs with fluorescents, use less air conditioning in the summer and turn the heat down in the winter when we’re all out of the house. But nothing made such a dent in our power bill as abandoning the dryer. That simple change dropped our average monthly bill by more than $100.

The savings is not a shock to those who keep track of power use. Dryers use nine times the energy of a washing machine. And a heat-generating appliance is obviously the wrong direction to turn on a hot summer day.

Why haven’t we heard more about this? Because no organized interest profits from line drying. There is no clothespin cartel—the investment is small and lasts a lifetime or more. (My favorite clothespins used to belong to my Grandma Ruth.) And power companies are not likely to slip us a note on how we can reduce the use of their product.




2 responses

30 07 2008
Boyd Livingstone

I can synmpathize with the idea expressed as not being wealthy enough to detach from the grid. When was has been accustomed to a life of modernity, it can be difficult indeed to shift into more agrarian tendencies. The sheer cost of land is a significant barrier.

Having recently installed a new clothesline on our property, I can appreciate the simple pleasure produced from utilizing the searing heat of the sun for something other than producing sweat and sunburn.

That said, perhaps the true agrarian needs to probe a little deeper into the area of conservation. Modern convenience allows us to splurge at many levels. With most electric dryers requiring 30 to 40 cents of electricty a load, a savings of $100 a month would suggest 8 loads of laundry a day.

Having once experienced with a ringer washer, I can assure you that the agrarians of old must have handled the clothing issue differently than we. Perhaps if we could adapt in such a way as to get by with just a few changes of clothing per person, we could realize some significant chang in our lifestyle.

30 07 2008

That’s a good point, Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

Its funny how all the “labor-saving” devices end up being more work to operate and maintain than we ever imagined. We get clothes dryers, but instead of having more leisure time, we work more, buy more clothes, and then spend as much or more time on doing laundry than we did before!

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