02 February 2011

Drying Clothes

This is a work in progress. I am going to try the approach that a blog is a kind of notebook. Rather than present fully baked ideas, perhaps the evidence of thinking is an appropriate approach.

I have been doing a weekly guest post on Annie Coggan's blog, www.chairsandbuildings.wordpress.com. I have long been interested in how we use energy in our culture. I have been trying to find a merge between my drawings, which have been primarily about form, and my political interests, tied up with climate change. I have started to keep more complete notes on the background facts. This one is about drying clothes.

Clothes drying
In 2001 average annual household electrical consumption for dryer use was 1079 kWh, representing 5.8% of household electricity consumption overall. That’s an average annual expense of $162. This does not include the cost of heating the hot water. Average US carbon emissions per kWh are 1.3 pounds of CO2. Thus 1402 lbs for electric drying. [this seems low]

Natural gas use for dryers is harder to determine. The DOE does not have specific appliance energy data for anything but electricity, so one has to extrapolate. Total natural gas consumption for appliances was .43 quads, or 43,000,000,000,000 btus. This is probably a combination of cooking and dryer operation. This represents 111 million households. Therefore natural gas use is about 387,000 btus per household. I cannot make a clear educated guess of the dryer’s use, but let’s say half, or 190,000 btu. LP use is fairly small by comparison – 5 trillion btu, 45,000 btu/household, perhaps 22,000 btu for clothes drying.

This website has actually looked deeply at this issue.

Am I a luddite? No. No I’m not. The modern clothes dryer is a useful appliance. It takes an hour to complete a job that previously would take a day. It saves the time and labor required to hang clothing and take it down. The more sophisticated units remove wrinkles and have moisture and temperature sensors to avoid over-drying. Why would I want to hang clothes? This convenience comes at a cost, as do all of our modern conveniences. This cost is typically paid for with fossil fuels. All of us Americans have our own personal slaves in fossil fuels that make these machines work. But it is clear that our addiction to this equipment is costing us. This labor saving seems somehow to further cement the loss of jobs in our economy, and the flight of dollars overseas to support oil addiction. It is not just about the convenience of the dryer, it is about all of our "conveniences," such as the automobile. I find this chart quite fascinating. While 79% of US households have a dryer, the highest rate in the EU is about 61%, and Italy has a mere 2%. Clearly this is a cultural issue rather than economic.

There are devices out there that make drying easier that do not rely upon large quantities of energy to achieve, and that make the task easier.

This thing is a spin dryer. It spins most of the water out of clothes prior to line drying.

This is a basic clothes drying rack (this one on ecohousekeeping.com).

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