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Clotheslines: the next big thing?

June 1, 2012
By Jeff Feldman , Blue Ridge Press

Imagine if you had access to a dirt-cheap solar technology that would allow you to fully eliminate one of the most costly uses of electricity in your home. Intrigued?

This wondrous device can save you roughly $150 on annual utility costs, cut about 2,400 pounds of CO2 from your yearly carbon footprint and is less destructive to garments than a conventional electric clothes dryer. Interested?

And what if I told you that this technology is already available now, in your own backyard? Itching to sign up?

I speak, of course, of the humble clothesline. With June and long summer days ahead, this is a technology you should try immediately!

For centuries, people sun-dried their clothes. It wasn't until the late 1930s that Hamilton Manufacturing of Wisconsin began marketing automatic clothes dryers. GE and Whirlpool led the dryer business through the 1940s and '50s, developing the modern clothes dryer we know today. By 2005, a whopping 92 percent of all U.S. single-family homes had one.

But times are changing yet again. Only two-thirds of Americans now view the clothes dryer as a household necessity, according to a 2009 Pew Research study. A struggling economy and a heightened interest in energy conservation are fast bringing clotheslines - from umbrella-style setups to the traditional line strung between trees - back into vogue.

And why not? They're inexpensive, easy to use, infuse your clothes with a "sun-rinsed" scent and are kinder to garments - the lint residue in your dryer is a dire indication of the steady deterioration of your favorite blouse or shirt.

Oh sure, some people have issues with drying clothes outdoors. Yes, laundry does sometimes come off the line a bit stiff, and I don't like scratchy underwear, either. But a very brief spin in the dryer on the "low energy air cycle" setting softens them right back up. Rain can be an issue, but how hard is it to keep an eye out for impending downpours?

If your excuse is that hanging clothes is a hassle, I say, "Get over it!" It's time well spent outdoors. Still resisting? Check out the Cord-O-Clip clothesline. That gizmo is reputed to increase laundry-hanging speed by 60 percent and take-down speed by 90 percent.

One of the surprising hurdles to widespread clothesline use is actually over-regulation. Amazingly, a majority of residential and homeowners associations (HOAs) restrict or ban clotheslines, says Project Laundry List, a line-drying advocacy group. HOA rules typically shun clotheslines, condemning them as eyesores that reduce property values.

In an age where it's cool to drive a Toyota Prius and hip to live in a straw-bale house, you'd think the clothesline would be a status symbol, something the Joneses themselves would want to keep up with. Apparently not. The problem has gotten so bad (or simply so ridiculous) that many states have now passed legislation prohibiting the prohibition of clotheslines. Talk about over-regulation of over-regulation!

A group called Right 2 Dry has even taken up the fight. They're praising line drying as an act of patriotism, intelligence and environmental good sense, rescuing it from being the symbol of poverty and despair it once represented.

Indeed. Maybe solar clothes drying isn't something only greenies and tightwads should do. Perhaps it's something "We the People" should do.

So take a stand! Be a patriot this summer. Let's make the humble clothesline a welcome feature of the American landscape again.

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Blue Ridge Press contributor Jeff Feldman runs GreenPath Consulting, a green building consulting firm. He and his wife live in a straw-bale home in Berkeley County, W.Va.

 
 

 

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