It’s apparently a revolutionary idea.
The linear solar drying device.
The Ontario government caught on to the concept a few days ago when Energy Minister Gerry Phillips announced the province would end most prohibitions on its use.
The device is a technology for drying laundry. Here’s how it works: String a line outside; attach clothes to it with specially designed wooden or plastic pins; let the sun and breeze remove moisture; bring clothes back inside.
Indoor models are also available. Call them “linear ambient-air drying devices.” For some ideas, see this Yahoo site.
Okay, it’s just a clothesline. My mother used one way back in the 1960s: I helped to load and unload it from time to time. These days at home, challenged for space to string lines, we’ve come up with artfully crafted inner-city adaptations: the shower curtain rod, door knobs and, for small items, the drawer pulls on the dresser.
It’s an environmentally friendly, pollution-free technology. (Peter Ormond, of Hamilton, also points out how ludicrous it is, in winter, to shoot warm, moist air from a dryer into the great outdoors while a furnace burns energy to warm and moisten incoming air.)
Even so, judging by the shrieks of horror from many builders and suburbanites, you’d think it was the Devil’s work. Unsightly. Death to property values. Too much work. Such an evil blight that it’s banned in many housing developments. Underwear? Ugh!
So, the fact it’s making a comeback could be seen as revolutionary.
It's also as much message as solution. We’ve come to rely on gadgets to reduce our environmental footprint. Often there are simpler, cheaper options. The clothesline requires more time and effort than tossing laundry into a dryer. Most of the alternatives, though, simply demand a bit of thoughfulness.
Which brings us to this week’s Green Life challenge.
Challenge: Reduce the energy consumed by the four major appliances in almost every home — refrigerator, stove, washer and dryer, either by purchasing new energy-efficient models or taking low- or no-cost steps to make better use of what you have.
Motivation: As always, cut your energy consumption, and bills.
Process: The fast way to the biggest savings is to simply buy new, energy-efficient versions of these appliances. Fridges and washers come in Energy Star versions. Stoves and dryers don’t — there isn’t a big enough difference among the various models to justify the labelling — but modern ones are more efficient than older vintages.
But this is a big-ticket item. It costs at least $3,500 to replace all four. The savings are expected to be substantial if you compare the new appliances to those from a decade or more ago. The actual payback period will depend on what happens to electricity and natural gas prices. An Energy Star label, by the way, doesn’t mean an appliance is the most efficient, period. It simply means it’s better than others of the same size and with similar features. For buying tips see my post Buying Tips. Check Energy Star Canada for a list of appliance ratings, Look here to see how appliances have imprroved over the years.
The list of energy-saving tips is long. You can find a good one at Eartheasy or see my tips post. Remember that these apply to Energy Star models as well. In fact, it’s important to beware the common tendancy to use ssomething more simply because it’s more efficient. When you do that, the environmental and economic benefits fly out the window.
Whether you have new or old appliances, the challenge is to try these steps:
- Check the seal by closing the door on a $5 or $10 bill. If you can pull the bill out with the door closed, you need to replace the rubber gasket. While you're at it, make sure the fridge temperature is between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer is at 0 and 5 Fahrenheit. If there's no temperature readout, put a thermometer in a jar of water and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, the temperature should read 35 to 38 degrees F. (1 to 3 C.) If it doesn't, adjust the setting.
- If there's empty space in the freezer section, fill empty milk jugs, or other plastic containers with water. Place them outside until they freeze, then put them in your freezer. This will fill the empty space and reduce the area to be kept cold.
- Always use the burner that’s the closest match to your pot size, and use lids on pots and pans so you can cook at lower settings. Avoid using pots and pans with warped bottoms -- they require 30 per cent more energy.
- Use a separate oven thermometer to ensure your oven control is accurate, and make sure the door seal is tight.
- Match the water level to the size of your load. Don’t fill the whole tub for a few items. Use warm or cold water for the wash cycle and cold for the rinse.
- Check how much detergent you're using. Oversudsing makes your machine work harder and use more energy.
- Dry multiple loads back to back, since the dryer will already be heated, and clean the lint screen after each use. Lint build-up greatly reduces efficiency.
- Buy and use an indoor drying rack and commit to an outdoor line for summer. Energy Minister Gerry Phillips says people could save $30 a year if they hung just a quarter of their laundry on a line.
Cost: Apart from the minimal cost of a clothesline, the energy-saving tips are free. Energy Star appliances tend to cost at least $800 each, and the best are hundreds more.
Savings: The clothesline saving is already cited — $30 a year for a quarter of your wash, or $120 for the whole thing. The says you’ll save $71 a year, and about 275 kilograms worth of carbon dioxide emissions if you use warm water rather than hot to wash your clothes and cold water to rinse them. That’s if you have a natural gas water heater. The savings doubles with an electric heater. Savings from the rest of the tips are hard to predict, but since the steps cost nothing, anything is a gain.
As for new appliances, the savings and payback period will depend on the cost of the new item, the age and efficiency of the one it’s replacing, and the cost of energy where you are, now and in future. Carbon Busters estimates, for example, that a reasonably priced new Energy Star fridge will pay for itself in energy savings in just five or six years if it’s replacing an early ’70s model, but up to 30 years if you already have a recent conventional version.
Let us know if you have any other ideas, and how you do with this challenge.