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We’re so used to thinking photovoltaics and high tech when we think of solar power we forget those humbler low tech appliances that also draw on the sun’s power. The clothes line, for example, is a super-low cost technology that makes it easy to use solar energy in your own backyard.

I grew up without a dryer. In fact, my parents still do not have a dryer. In the summer they hang their clothes outside. In the winter they hang them in the basement. When my partner and I bought the house we’re in now, it came with a dryer. Our compromise has been to use the dryer for sheets and pillowcases–to ensure any dust mites that have taken up residence in them are well cooked before they are returned to our bed.  The rest of our laundry we hang to dry.

In the winter we hang our clean clothes on a folding rack in the spare bedroom. They dry in about 24 hours and provide a source of humidity to our forced-air heated house. In the summer we hang our clothes outside, and in weather like we’ve been having lately, the laundry dries in under 2 hours. Sometimes the first load is dry by the time I come outside to hang up the second one.

Harnessing solar power to dry your laundry is an easy, inexpensive way to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. For the sake of simplification let’s say you could hang out your laundry for 6 months of the year (some years this is the case, other years the outdoor laundry season is a little shorter). If you had a dryer like ours that is rated by the energuide at 866 kWh/year, just by hanging out your laundry for half a year you would save 433 kWh. If you’re drawing from Ontario’s electricity grid, which most people in Ottawa are doing, then using Bullfrog Power’s algorithm your annual greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by approximately 0.3 tonnes. That’s one third of the way towards meeting the one tonne challenge just by hanging your clothes out on a $50 clothesline–a clothesline that will probably last at least 10 years, if not longer.  Really this is a solution that is too easy and too inexpensive to pass on.

P.S. the lovely woven laundry basket is fair-trade and completely compostable. It comes from Ten Thousand Villages.

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