Sun worship

It’s difficult, as an American homeowner, not to take your clothes dryer for granted. Once you begin to cohabitate with this magical timesaver that seems to capture, magnify, and make available in a box the sun’s drying power, it’s easy to forget the hassles of dorm life laundry rooms, or the laundromat visits that come with apartment dwelling.

Photo by bsabarnowl. Some rights reserved

But what about that other clothes-drying alternative? According to a recent article in The Boston Globe, China is a nation of actual sun harvesters, where most Chinese households skip the middle man and hang clothes to dry in sunrooms or from balconies. The article claims that in China’s Best Buy department stores, dryers and washing machines with dryer functions make up only 10 percent of all washing machine sales.

How much energy are Chinese households saving? Or, more embarrassingly, how much energy and money are American households spending to dry their clothes? According to the California Energy Commission, dryers – typically the second biggest electricity-using appliance in the home after refrigerators – cost about $85 annually to operate. In terms of energy use, it amounts to 65.9 billion kWh expended annually by U.S. households, or about 5.8% of total residential electricity consumption. (See 2001 U.S. Energy Information Administration data here.)

Would simply tossing the clothes dryer solve all our energy problems? Afraid not. At least, not if you’re not planning on making other changes to your consumption practices. According to a study from Columbia University, Ohio State University and Carnegie Mellon University published by earlier this summer, public perception of energy saving strategies are often way off the mark. One of the most interesting takeaways was that “participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true).”

Don’t let that dissuade you from sun worshipping – just throw in some water worship while you’re at it.

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