Thursday, December 18, 2008

Powering down on drying clothes

The clothes dryer at my house seems to have broken. It's a typical american big-as-heck clothes dryer and I've measured its power use as being 750 watts. Last week it stopped getting hot and hence the clothes did not dry out and the dryer just spun and spun and spun for hours. I suppose there may be a simple thing busted inside it, like a heating element, or a fuse, or some such. Or it may mean replacing the whole thing. Since I don't own the house nor the clothes dryer there's a little bit of complication. And in any case I have the idea to use this as an opportunity to experiment with powering down.

"Power Down" is a phrase I learned through the Transition Towns initiative. Transition Towns is asking us to recognize twin crises facing us -- peak oil and climate change. Peak oil and the peaks of other resources says that our society is going to be facing a crunch in available resources very soon and that the wise thing to do is to find ways to decrease the required power and resource usage in order to maintain our lives. We americans use far more resources than do other countries and we could very well be more efficient about our resource utilization while still maintaining a high quality of life.

In any case .. drying clothes. Obviously our clothes will still get stinky and dirty and still need to be cleaned. Cleaning clothes means they get wet, and then have to be dried. Obviously in power down we'll still have to dry our clothes somehow, the question is "how".

The first step in my own experimenting was to buy a typical accordion style wooden drying rack from the local hardware store. I really knew better but talked myself into it anyway. Of course one of the wood pieces broke on the first time using it and I had to jury rig a way to keep it upright. But it did to the job of drying the clothes (overnight). I also draped some of the clothes over the space heaters and that worked rather well.

Here's a few resources I found...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothes_dryer - Goes over the types of clothes drying techniques commonly used. But most of the discussion is about the typical "modern" dryer with the spin cycle and all that stuff. The question seems to be what's the effective way to get moisture to evaporate quickly from the clothing.

http://www.urbanclotheslines.com/ - is a vendor selling a variety of low power clothes drying tools. Primarily they have several versions of the outdoors clothes line. They carry a fancy drying clothes rack that looks very tempting.

Clearly there is historical use of clothes lines and drying racks. An outdoors clothes line runs the risk of clothes being rained on etc. One curious result I've seen from air drying towels is they always come out stiff and scratchy, whereas machine drying towels they come out soft and fluffy.

http://wiki.diyfaq.org.uk/index.php?title=Clothes_Dryer -- A closet dryer consists of a dehumidifier in a large wardrobe, walk-in wardrobe or utility room. The implementation is a wardrobe, you put a dehumidifier in it, hang the clothes in the wardrobe, the dehumidifier automatically switches on and off with rising and falling humidity. This is more convenient than the extra step of putting clothes into a dryer and there is less wear on the clothes (tumble dryers are rough on clothes). They claim it's drastically less power use, on the order of 0.15 kilowatthours of electricity to operate the dehumidifier versus several KWH for a regular tumble dryer.

http://www.alternativeconsumer.com/2008/04/25/spin-dryer-saves-energy/ - A spin dryer uses centrifugal force to get the moisture out of clothes. They claim energy savings and I suppose this comes from not heating the clothes.

Real Goods carries a 'laundry airer' which they say is meant for compact living spaces and offers a lot of drying rack in a small place.

http://www.laundrylist.org/ - Project Laundry List is an activist organization aiming to demonstrate that personal choices can make a difference for the Earth and its people. Project Laundry List is making air-drying laundry acceptable and desirable as a simple and effective way to save energy. Air drying clothes is a form of using solar energy, has long historical precedent, etc. It seems that some places are outlawing the practice of hanging your clothes outside to let them air dry.. uh? This is what they're fighting for, the right to do this.

http://www.los-gatos.ca.us/davidbu/pedgen/washing_machine.html -- is an experiment by a guy who's going a lot with using pedal powered machines to generate electricity. Think "exercise bicycle" connected to an electrical generator. He tried to keep up with his normal washer/dryer using his pedal power generator, and was unable to keep up.

http://www.greeniacs.com/GreeniacsGuides/Dry-Your-Clothes-on-a-Clothesline.html -- A nice overview article about drying clothes by hanging them in the air. This is pretty simple stuff but to those of us who grew up with clothes drying machines perhaps we need a little bit of a reminder.

Wall Shelf Drying Rack The wooden Wall Shelf Drying Rack is easy to install on any wall surface. You can put the unit on your porch for solar drying, near back door for easy access or in laundry room for indoor drying. You can also use it as a drying rack for flowers, herbs and pasta. This drying rack is constructed using sturdy, unfinished Eastern White Pine with durable Birch hardwood dowels and four Shaker-style pegs.

Expandable Drying Rack *The expandable drying rack is a space saving must have. *Allows you to dry your clothes then store it a way when it is not needed. *Sets up in seconds. The expandable clothes drying rack is a space saving must have. This hassle free drying rack sets up in seconds and allows you to dry your clothes then store it a way when it is not needed. This unit folds down to just a few inches so it can be stored under the bed, sofa, or in a closet. The steel construction makes this laundry rack sturdy and stable. The shiny chrome finish makes it attractive. Great for dorm rooms.

http://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080409154707AA2Sv9k -- Someone asked about this problem on Yahoo!Answers and they described ways to diagnose the busted electric dryer. The consensus is it's probably cheap to fix and just call the repair guy already. I'd do that except I'm really interested in the alternatives.

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