Hanging Out

by Loralee Leavitt

Warm Seattle sunlight beckoned outside, but I was stuck inside with a pile of laundry as high as my waist. As my children chased each other around the kitchen, I gazed out the window, longing to go out in the sunshine. Then it hit me. Why use electricity drying clothes inside when there was free solar power outside?

So I put up a clothesline. Luckily, the roof over my deck was studded with convenient nails. I sent the kids out to play and started hanging up my clothes. The gentle, quiet exercise and warm sunshine significantly lowered my stress level. It also lowered my electricity usage.

It turns out my dryer is an energy hog. An electric dryer consumes more electricity than any household appliance except the refrigerator. In fact, the dryer uses about 10% of the average household's electricity. So drying laundry outside makes a significant difference in my power consumption. Hanging one load of laundry saves about 5000 watts of electricity, enough to power a 100-watt bulb for 50 hours.

Hanging laundry saves money, too. The average dryer uses about 40 cents' worth of electricity to dry one load. Eight loads a week can cost a family $3.20 or $166.40 per year. Therefore, drying laundry outside will reduce my electric bill.

If the weather turns damp or the clothes aren't dry by the end of the day, I still use the dryer. Most dryers turn off when the laundry is dry, so clothes that are mostly dry take less time in the dryer. I also dry small things like washcloths and baby socks inside, because they fall off my clothesline. This lets me convert two loads of laundry to half a load in the dryer.

Line drying also saves wear and tear on clothing. All that tumbling at hot temperatures rubs clothes together and breaks down the fibers (creating dryer lint). Line drying preserves the fabric, and it makes the clothes smell great.

While I love conserving electricity and preserving my clothes, the best part is doing my housework outside. Hanging my laundry gets me out in the fresh air. Sometimes the kids help, too. Mine can't reach the clothesline, so they drape wet laundry over the patio furniture. I can even fold the clothes outside while my kids play.

Though I'm not ready to unplug my dryer, I'll be hanging up a lot of laundry as the days get warmer. It's one more way to enjoy summer and save.

Take the Next Step: Want to conserve electricity, preserve your clothing and enjoy the great outdoors at the same time? Maybe it's time to unplug your dryer or at least cut down on its use. If you don't already have an outside clothesline, start thinking today where you plan on putting it up this spring.

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