Sunday, August 15, 2010

Solar Power

In many ways solar power for our homes is a nice idea, but out of most people's price range. There is one case, however, where this isn't as true. What would you say if I told you that you could buy a solar powered clothes dryer for less than $15 (or a high-end, top of the line model for under $50)? What if I told you that it would make your whites whiter and could dry your clothes in less than half the time of a normal dryer? Not only that, but it is easier on your clothes so that they will last longer. This amazing dryer doesn't heat up the house the way a conventional dryer does and can even leave your children with fond memories of it's use. Yet, despite all of it's wonderful attributes, this solar powered clothes dryer is anathema to most HOAs. Can you guess what I'm talking about? Yup, it's a clothesline...
They are generally frowned upon because they are considered "low class" or "trashy". (Which is really funny since Martha Stewart is one of the biggest proponents of line drying clothes.) The bottom line is that there are some times when a clothesline is much better than an electric dryer. In Arizona small things are frequently dry by the time you finish hanging up the rest of the load and your sheets don't get as wrinkled. Plus, there is nothing nicer than standing between two wet sheets hanging up laundry on a hot day. (Really, I'm not a masochist, we don't have that type of humidity so it is lovely and cool.) Having grown up with both I've been missing having access to a clothesline and finally decided that I don't care about the HOA and installed one that I can pull down when it's not in use. I spent less than $15 for everything I needed (including clothes pins) and only took a few minutes to install. If this one works half as well as I foresee we will be installing more eye bolts and making some extra removable lines with clips on each end so that we can hang even more of our laundry out. I am really looking forward to saving electricity and money. (Especially since the A/C won't have to work as hard to keep the house cool on laundry day.)

How about you? Have you ever used a clothesline? How did you like it? Would you consider trying it again (or even for the first time)? If you don't like a clothesline or agree with the HOA that they should be outlawed, why? I'd love to hear everyone's opinion on the subject so please share.


  1. I prefer a dryer, but occasionally hang things like rugs outside to dry. Clothes hung on a line are, in my experience, "cripsy" when you take them down. Dryers pre-fluff clothes, which tends to reduce the life of the clothes... but I prefer the comfort of slipping into a nice, fluffy pair of socks.

    Clothes hung on a line can, on a blustery day, blow off the line or get dirty on the line if a dust storm whips through while they're still wet. Not good for someone, such as I, who is highly allergic to pollen and dust...

    Time is also a constraint. Being that I do laundry a majority of the time in our house and that I also work full-time during the day, I'd be hanging clothes at night when it's not-so effective and exposes clothes to possible theft. It takes 30-mins to wash clothes in the washer, 5-minutes to transfer the clothes to the dryer and 45 minutes to dry a load of laundry in the dryer. In that time, I can clean one bathroom, vacuum the living room and/or stairs and watch 10-minutes of television (while folding already finished clothes). If I were to hang clothes?... UGH. I'd never get anything else done-- especially since I frequently wash sheets, towels and (occasionally-- yearly b/c of dust and allergies) wash curtains.

    So, conserve electricity if you like... just don't expect me to give up my dryer 'till the apocalypse. =)

  2. You are right, line dried clothes are very different from those dried in a dryer because they are stiffer, this can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the item. If you don't like the stiffness you can pull them down while they are still a touch damp and toss them in the dryer to finish which helps get some of the pollen off and fluff them, but it won't be quite the same and is more work. I honestly like the crispness for some things like pants and for t-shirts by the time you have them folded they are soft again. That said, I always at least finish my towels in the dryer because I too like fluffy towels (though some people prefer them stiff and scratchy), but sheets that have been blown in the breeze are crisp and smooth (and dry really fast). I've never had a problem with stuff blowing off the line (we used a clothesline a ton when I was a kid), we just use extra clothespins if it looked like it might be windy. This doesn't help if it rains or a dust storm blows through and there is always the chance that you might have to run out and pull everything off the line when the weather turns bad, but if the weather looks changeable you can just use the dryer in the first place.

    On the time front, I think it comes down to how you look at it. Yes, it is more hands on time doing laundry. However, if you have a large umbrella style clothes line you can hang up to 4 loads of laundry at a time. If the wash takes 30 minutes and the dryer takes 45, you always spend 15 minutes waiting on the dryer before you can run the next load of laundry (if you are washing everything in one day). However, with a clothesline, you don't have to wait because the next load can be started washing as soon as the last one finishes. You can run 4 loads of wash through the washing machine in 2 hours and have them all hanging on the line. Then, when you are out hanging up one load you can check the stuff that is already there and pull it down and fold it directly off the line before you head back inside. On a hot Saturday in AZ, you should be able to get those 4 loads of laundry washed, dried, folded and put away 2.5-3 hours after you started, how long does it take when you use the dryer? No you can't watch TV, but we don't watch TV much anyway (other than a couple of video games and an exercise video the other day our TV hasn't been on since the Olympics finished) so this isn't an issue for us. My mom also works full time and was in the AF reserve when I was a kid too. She seemed to prefer the clothesline because it was faster. If it isn't for you, it isn't and that's fine. I just want people to think about what their status quo is and if it is really the best for them. If you've thought about it and what you are doing is the best for you then that's great. But if you are doing something a certain way just because that is the way it has always been done then it might be worth considering the alternatives. So many people grew up with dryers that they don't even realize that a clothesline can be a viable option. My hope is to get them to at least think about it. Whatever conclusion you or anyone else comes to is fine, as long as you've honestly thought about it and aren't just making excuses to avoid change.

    As for the allergies, all I can suggest is eating local honey (the more local the better) regularly. For me it worked better than allergy shots and my sister no longer needs her daily Claritin.

  3. Also, an indoor drying rack can be helpful for those of us without yards, or those who don't want to hang stuff outside. I picked up an awesome one at IKEA that will hold two loads of laundry (including sheets and towels, I told you it was awesome) and then folds up to fit in a closet behind my ironing board. My laundry doesn't hang out in the pollen and dust and I don't have to feed quarters to a dryer after every load of laundry. I think it's pretty sweet.

    I would argue strongly for giving it a try at least for anything with lacy-bits or elastic/spandex (this includes most jeans and underthings, even if you happen to prefer granny-panties) as it keeps them from going out of shape or shredding themselves. I don't know about you, but I've got better things to spend my money on than replacing clothes before their time.

    Also, one trick that I use is hanging shirts/dresses on huggable hangers (a bit pricey, but worth every penny to me; they take up less space and the shoulders don't go wonky) when I pull them out of the washer and hang them on a rack or on the shower rod. They dry beautifully and there is no further effort for folding/hanging etc.

    Also, I can vouch for drying at night in AZ. By the time you are done with breakfast, your clothes are totally dry. It also makes a nice wake-up activity if you are useless in the morning like I happen to be. It's entirely physical, doesn't involve any real decisions, and lets you be productive when you would otherwise be watching the coffee brew (shockingly enough, it brews just fine without me coaching it).

    Give the standing between wet sheets thing a try. It really is the greatest feeling in the world.

  4. I had to hang-dry clothes growing up and also in college-- we had a washer, but no dryer in my college duplex. I hated it. I went to the laundromat instead. I could wash, dry and fold 8 loads of clothes in 2.5 hours there.

    Doing laundry load-by-load at home I can do 4 loads, clean the bathroom, vacuum the stairs and/or living room and have the clothes folded and put away in just shy of 4 hours. I don't have to wait for the dryer to finish either because I usually start the next load 15-minutes after I start the dryer-- which is about how long it takes to fold the fresh batch of clothes from the dryer! (The bathroom gets cleaned while the first load is washing/drying.) The time I can spend hammering out other chores instead of hanging and taking down clothes from a line is valuable enough to me to justify the electric expense... and throwing clothes into the dryer for a little bit after taking them off the line seems defeatist to me-- why not just toss 'em in the dryer to begin with?

    Sorry, but the extra tasks I can complete while clothes are drying in the dryer are worth the exchange in alleged benefits for hang drying to me... and that's why I'm always going to disagree with you. I just don't have the time to "waste" hanging clothes. Plus, I LOVE the feeling of sheets fresh out of the dryer, pulling clothes and sheets right out of the dryer and not having to iron... and the fact that I don't have to worry about monsoon storms and theft (Did I mention there are derelicts in my neighborhood and my backyard faces a major street? No? Well, that might be why theft is a concern for me.) I also love the fact that I can wash undergarments, pop 'em in the dryer and jet off somewhere... and fold the laundry 2-3 days later when I finally have time.

    Sorry, but you can't convince me hang-drying clothes is fantastic. It's not for everyone... and I can certainly say that hang-drying isn't for me. I appreciate your candor, but on this point we'll never agree on both the efficiency and benefits of hang-drying clothes. You'll just have to accept the fact that I like warm, snuggly clothes fresh from the dryer... and my cats like 'em too.