Hung out to Dry: Energy, Clothes Dryers and Who's Really Modern
Sep 5, 2009
So maybe we all should hang up our clothes to dry, and stop using clothes dryers? Louis-Gilles Francoeur of Le Devoir had a good story not long ago on the movement to remove barriers to clothes lines and clothes racks. Regulations against them in some municipalities, housing developments and apartment complexes stand in the way of switching to low-tech methods of clothes drying. Such strictures should be abolished, say environmentalists.
Le Corbusier famously raged against the residents of his first high rises who hung their clothes to dry on balconies. Spoiled the whole look, he said, but of course he had not provided for any other way to dry clothes, a practical detail of great importance in ordinary life. The only place where his style of building has really succeeded—Singapore—residents hang their clothes on long poles out windows the way flags are flown in some places.
The amount of electricity or gas to run a dryer is not inconsiderable. One study of the energy balance of clothing by University of Cambridge researchers actually says that polyester is more environmentally friendly than cotton mainly because polyester dries so much faster. But how you dry your clothes is only a small part of our spriraling energy consumption.
“As one municipal spokesman said rather cynically,” Francoeur writes, ‘it’s not a dryer that is going to tip the energy balance in those big, unnecessarily overheated houses in spread-out neighborhoods that are far too often bought in order to show off how rich you are rather than because you need the space. It’s not a policy on clothes lines that’s needed but a way of progressively taxing consumption of electricity, gas and petroleum products.“ Needless to say the spokesman didn’t want to be identified,” Francoeur concludes.
Right on. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go hang up our wash in the backyard. Not that I'm being expressly ecolo (as they say around here.) It's just that when we bought this house eons ago it only had 60 ampères, far too low for an electric dryer. When we finally got around to boosting it--to 200 amps--two years ago the electrician laughed and accused me of being "not at all modern." I had no ready answer for him then, although I did admit to being too lazy to change. But now I see I was really ahead of the wave, rather than behind it.
Photo: Pulley clotheslines extending to a pole at the end of the garden are found all over the island of Montreal. Fine for summer, a little cold for winter,
Mary Soderstrom is a Montreal-based writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography, will be published by Oberon Press in November, … more
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A clothes dryer or tumble dryer is a household appliance that is used to remove moisture from a load of clothing and other textiles, generally shortly after they are cleaned in a washing machine.
Most dryers consist of a rotating drum called a tumbler through which heated air is circulated to evaporate the moisture from the load. The tumbler is rotated relatively slowly in order to maintain space between the articles in the load. In most cases, the tumbler is belt-driven by an induction motor.
Using these machines may cause clothes to shrink, become less soft (due to loss of short soft fibers/ lint) and fade. For these reasons, as well as environmental concerns, many people use open air methods such as a clothes line and clotheshorse.