Monday, August 04, 2008

Power Lines: Indoor Clotheslines Cut Consumption

Jim and I heard an awesome segment on NPR about Juneau, Alaska's amazing power conservation efforts after an avalanche destroyed their connection to hydro-electric power. The resulting dependence on gas-powered generators caused their electricity rates to raise 400 to 500%.

In a month, the citizens of Juneau have made amazing personal and community conservation efforts and now use less than 70% of their prior consumption.

Since hearing their story we've been looking for more ways to cut our own power use.

One obvious point of energy waste in our house is the dryer. Dryers are innately inefficient (they're just big boxes of hot), especially in an air conditioned home; they are so equally inefficient that they aren't ever Energy Star certified. But our dryer is even worse than usual: When we experienced basement flooding after the tornado, one of our many solutions was to replace the cracked and tilted back patio in hopes of diverting water away from the foundation and basement walls. The new patio sits 14 inches higher than our previous one which comes right up to the bottom flapper of our dryer vent. Now our dryer vent door has a hard time opening consistently or fully. Laundry loads can take twice as long some days. This extended drying time is pretty annoying. It results in a lot of forgotten damp clothes and rewashing.

We're working on a better solution for the outside vent, but in the meantime Jim hung an indoor clothesline that is making our lives a lot simpler. If the clothes in the dryer are damp, they go right to the line and laundry progress marches on. This save us on dryer time and rewashing. Plus, it means far fewer trips up and down the Alpinist-designed stairs (more on stairs).

Now, most people would advocate an outdoor clothesline for the sunshine, but I'm allergic to most of Southern Indiana's greenery. Hanging my clothes out for the fresh air smell is a recipe for ongoing respiratory misery and seepage. The outdoor pollens on the clothes rapidly make me a weepy-eyed sneezer whenever I wear them.

We chose a retractable clothesline (so we can move it when we're working in the utility room) and used a couple of extra wallhooks to use its full 30' length.

The clothesline is great for dryer-unfriendly gear like swimsuits. As an added bonus, it lessens the amount of embarrassing laundry hanging to dry in household showers.

How do you cut power consumption in your home?


Mimi-n-Moe's Mom said...

We use the energy efficient bulbs. Also, during the day, we open the blinds and get light from the outdoors...Also, we only buy energy star appliances.

MJ said...

As a child of the 70s, I run around turning out lights behind people all the time. :-)

We left our 15-year-old washer and dryer behind when we moved across the country, and we just bought a new high-energy set. I was hesitant (I really thought those things were just for people with more credit than sense) but I have to say: this was a GREAT decision. The washer senses the level of clothes, and adjusts the water level accordingly. The dryer senses the dryness of the clothes; sometimes it starts out at 38 minutes, but only takes about 15. We haven't been here long enough to tell whether we're saving money, but I'm saving LOTS of time.

I used to use a clothesline, but in my new house I don't have a basement.

I play with the thermostat all the time, trying to adjust it so the AC isn't running constantly, but haven't hit on the right balance yet. Of course, it's been over 100 all week here, so that might be affecting it. :-)

Michael Phillips said...

I seldom bother with the dryer at all. If the humidity is decent and the temperature is high but not awful, a clothes line works as a great swamp cooler.(On a dry day, a full line of clothing will make a mid 80s or low 90s room comfortable. Not quite as good as a real swamp cooler which can hit within about 5 degrees of the wet bulb temperature, but still pretty good.)

One I should do is turn my computer off more often. Between us, Matt and I probably have a heavier draw from our computers than from every light bulb in the apartment combined. Edging that AC temperature up helps, as did acclimating myself to the temperatures as the summer progressed. (Actually that is a big one right there. My current comfort zone tops out a lot higher than it ever did before. Matt starts complaining about the heat while I'm still quite happy these days.)