Five Minute Finances is a series of tips on how you can save significant money or reorganize your financial life in just five minutes. These tips appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on The Simple Dollar.
An average clothes dryer is a real energy hog; it uses 5,000 watts. Let’s say it takes 50 minutes of use for you to do a load of laundry, and you do an average of eight loads a week (quite reasonable for a small family). This adds up to about 150 kilowatt hours, or $15 a month, or $180 a year. That’s a lot of cash, and it isn’t hard to trim some of it down with a piece of long nylon rope and some clothespins.
That’s right, I’m recommending doing what my parents used to do and I often do: hang up your clothes to dry. A few hours out on the line on a breezy day can dry a load of clothes and often leave them smelling fresher than in the dryer (especially if you live in a fairly rural area). It doesn’t take long, either; just about five minutes to hang up a load of laundry and maybe a minute or two to take them down, which isn’t all that much longer than it takes to load and unload the dryer, plus the folding is quicker if you fold them straight off of the line (they’re already ready to fold, no unraveling).
All you need is a big pile of clothespins, a long nylon rope, and a place to hang it up. You can even do it indoors if you have a place that catches a bit of a breeze and the climate is such that you can leave a window open for a while. Tying them up is easy, just use two half hitches on each end (make a loop around a pole, put the end of the rope through the loop, pull it tight, and repeat once.
How much does it save? Every load of clothes takes about 4.2 kWh in an average dryer. With electric prices averaging about $0.09 nationwide right now, you’ll save about $0.40 per load for every one you hang out, plus the laundry smells substantially better. It only takes an extra few minutes to handle a load – and not even that much if you have access to a proper clothesline. If you live in an apartment and only have access to a coin-based machine, your savings from using a clothesline can be quite tremendous. Want another reason? This is definitely the environmentally friendly way to dry your clothes.
Seems like too much effort. It’s really not, especially if you work it into your schedule. Toss a load in the washing machine first thing in the morning, then hang up a load before you leave for work. In the evening, you have a wonderful, fresh smelling, clean load of laundry to fold up, you saved some money, and you did something environmentally sound.