To create heat from electricity you need a lot of electricity – if you try to generate it yourself it seems like a colossal amount. I analysed our electricity bill and a large portion was going to produce heat; about half our electricity consumption went on hot water heating and more goes on cooking, drying clothes and heating our home. To make better use of the Earth’s resources, finding better ways of obtaining the heat we need is a worthy goal.
There is one way of reducing our consumption of electricity that we use in the Piffle house that I’m sure is used by many and that is by air drying clothes. The sun is a massive nuclear fusion reactor showering us with energy which is just the thing for drying clothes. We have never owned an electric clothes dryer despite living in a cool climate. There are four people in our family and we usually do at least one load of washing in our 5kg front loading washing machine each day. We get our share of cold and damp weather and yet we have managed to get by. We use a few different methods.
During the warmer months of the year we use a rotary clothes line of the type that is common throughout Australia. It is simple and efficient. The biggest downside is that coloured clothes, particularly black ones fade in the sun. We usually turn them inside out. It doesn’t stop the fading but it does limit to the inside instead and sometimes the edges. We have to use the clothes line for sheets as they are too big to hang inside. In winter we have to check the weather forecast before washing the sheets to make sure they have a good chance of drying.
Our lounge room has a wood heater and a small bay window. A curtain rod runs across the bay window creating a convenient place to hang coat hangers. In cooler parts of the year when the wood heater is in use, clothes left hanging there dry overnight and we now use this when the weather is cloudy. We deliberately chose a heavy duty curtain rod for the purpose and I reinforced the fittings to take the extra weight because wet clothes do get quite heavy.
Our house has a sunroom and it gets quite warm inside. During sunny winter days the sun sits at a lower angle in the sky and shines directly in. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to rise to 28°C (82°F) by mid afternoon.
I contemplated making a portable timber clothes “horse” that I could hang coat hangers on, but in the end I decided to go with a more permanent fixture as it is often used daily. It consists of a couple of strong hooks screwed into the timber above the ceiling that was previously used to hold hanging pot plants. We simply suspended a timber rod using string salvaged from an old curtain rod.
On a cold frosty morning it is much nicer hanging them inside than out in the cold. Clothes that are hung in the morning are usually dry when I come home from work in the evening.
Other than fading that can occur when hanging clothes in the sun the clothes end up less fluffy. Tumble dryers seem to fluff up the clothes. Hanging them to dry in still air can result in them being a bit stiff. Some clothes are affected more than others and we don’t find it a big problem.
Wet clothes are heavy. If you are going to hang them on a curtain rod or from the ceiling make sure it can withstand the weight. If it is screwed into plasterboard it will probably rip out and “tumble” in a different sort of way.
Use coat hangers that are clean and made from plastic or are plastic coated – you don’t want to end up with rust stains or other marks on your clothes.