Thursday, January 20, 2011


No, I'm not talking about overindulging in the Christmas spiked egg nog.  I'm speaking of laundry.

One of my goals for the month of January was to reduce our electric usage.  Part of this was financial, most was environmental.  One way to accomplish this was with reducing my dryer usage.  I normally use the dryer for all our laundry, especially in the winter.  My goal for the month of January is to reduce my dryer usage by 50%.  So far I've surpassed that goal and am feeling fairly proud.

I have a finished basement with a small unfinished area roughly 10' x 10' that houses the water heater, furnace, sump pump, freezer, and some storage shelves.  It is a quirk of our home that the basement is the warmest place in the winter.  Our first home, a split level, was warm on the highest floor, cool on the ground floor, and freezing in the lower level.   There was a good ten degree difference between upper and lower level.  In this house the upper level gets warm but so does the basement.  That's actually not a bad thing as the basement is our rumpus room holding the Wii, most of the kids' toys, t.v., and gym equipment. 

This small unfinished area is the warmest spot in the entire house.  The downside is that nobody's ever in there.  Who wants to curl up with a book on a cement floor next to a water softener?  I realized, though, that this would be the perfect place for my drying racks.  I have one wooden rack purchased from the Lehman's catalog and a tall rack purchased at Ikea.  Between the two of them I have room to hang roughly two loads of laundry.  And the space is so warm that most things dry in less than 24 hours.  Where my adjustment has been is in doing laundry every day.  If my goal is to hang the laundry I have to make sure there are enough clean clothes to last until the stuff actually dries.  I can't wash something now and have it be dry in an hour as I'm accustomed to. 

What has happened, much to my amazement, is that I haven't cut my dryer usage by 50%.  I've cut it by at least 80%!  For me that's a big accomplishment.  Some of the clothes are coming out extremely wrinkled and while I'm not the fussiest dresser in the world (my husband works from home, I'm home all day, and my kids could care less), I don't want to look like I slept in my clothes.  For the most wrinkled items, I let them get almost completely dry and then load them into the dryer and give them a 10 minute fluff.  This does not make them wrinkle-free.  It does, however, take the worst of the wrinkles out and get them to a level of smoothness that is acceptable to all concerned.

I haven't done the actual calculations to figure how much money an hour's worth of dryer usage costs, but based on some general estimates I've seen around, I figure each load not dried in the dryer saves about $.30 to $.40 in electricity costs.  While $10 a month in electricity savings alone doesn't seem like a big deal, I figure the environmental impact of the reduced electricity makes it totally worth it.  Plus, $10 is $10...

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