Drying your clothes on a clothes line instead of using an electric dryer



In this document, I will be writing for the advocacy of drying wet clothes outside with a clothesline as opposed to using an electric dryer. Not only is using the proposed method more energy efficient because air-drying cloths requires no energy usage, but it is also not as much of a time commitment as people generally think. Another important factor to consider is; other than the cost of a drying rack, there are no recurring costs like an electric dryer (for example, electricity bills and maintenance). In this document I will prove my argument by determining the amount of energy the standard dryer requires to run, estimate how many cycles a year the average American family runs, and find out how many electric dryers there are in the country. This will help give a rough estimate of how much energy in a year we consume through drying clothes. In consideration of time, I will also find out how long it takes to hang up the clothes outside and determine how much of a time commitment it is. I will also compare this time and the savings to an hourly wage and determine if it is worth it. As a final point I would compare the annual energy consumption of electric dryer to the entire U.S energy usage to see if it is substantial.

From my research, I found that the amount of energy that a dryer will use is roughly between 1800 and 5000 watts. For my calculations I will use what is considered the average wattage of a dryer, which is 3000 watts or 3kwh. According to energy.gov, the U.S average utility rate is $0.12/kwh. So assuming that a typical American family runs their dryer about 5 times a week therefore:

\[3 kwh \times 5 loads \times 52 weeks =780kwh \ year\]

To calculate the cost

\[3kwh \times \$ 0.12 \times 5 loads\times 52days = \$93.60 \]

The next step is determining how many dryers there are in the U.S. There are about 71.8 million households that have a dryer that strictly runs on electricity and not natural gas, propane or other energy sources. To see how much energy all these dryers use, I will multiply the number of dryers by the amount of energy one uses in a year.

\[71800000\times 780kwh = 56004000000kwh \]

in standard form it is \[ = 5.6004 \times 10^{10}\]

Now I intend on comparing my results to the entire energy usage of a person in a year. According to U.S energy information administration, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S residential utility was 10,812 kwh

\[\frac{780kwh}{10812kwh} \times 100 \approx 7.21 % \]

As seen from the calculation above, about 7.21% of an average residential utility’s annual energy usage goes to drying clothes.

Now determining how long it would take for clothes to dry is more complicated. It depends on the thickness of the clothes, the weather outside and the amount of wind that is received. All of this varies greatly and some other discrepancies in this task include the fact that not everyone in the country has a yard or a sufficient amount of space to hang up a clothesline. So assuming everyone could get a fairly large adjustable knock down drying rack that usually costs about $25 (that can also be set up indoors). This is a lot cheaper than the cost of a standard drying machine that can cost anywhere from $400 upwards. This is also excluding the cost of delivery, installation and any maintenance that might be needed if there are any issues with the machine. Already this is an enormous amount of financial saving.

Now I want to check how much time drying your clothes outside on a clothesline or drying rack takes and compare that to the amount of time spent using a drying machine.

So from earlier assumptions, it takes about an hour to complete one electric dryer cycle.

According to tammysrecipies.com, drying clothes on a line can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours depending on the conditions. For example if the weather is warm it tends to take a shorter amount of time than if it is cooler. Also thinner clothes would dry a lot faster than thicker clothes. So for the calculation I would take middle value of the range given on this website and state that it takes approximately 5 hours to dry clothes on a line. Now going back to the earlier calculations, it was assumed that the typical person does their laundry about 5 times week.

\[25 hours \times 52 weeks = 1300 hours /year \]

From the calculation above, a family would spend about 1300 hours per year waiting for their clothes to dry if it they are hung outside on a clothesline. If they had an electric dryer, they would only spend 260 hours a year waiting. This is much less time than if they didn’t use the machine. So there is some evidence going against using a clothesline. Although because it takes more time does not make it any less efficient or effective. This huge time gap can be treated if clothes were hung up overnight. And although this may take more time due to a lack of sun, assuming night time is considered when the sun goes down, there are 12 hours at night which is more than enough time to fully dry some clothes. Also additional benefits of drying your clothes include saving of extra costs like dryer sheets and there would be less wrinkles in the clothes.

But one of the driving factors for purchasing an electric dryer is for convenience and time saving so the next step would be to see if the time spent hanging the clothes up is worth it. This can be done by comparing how long it takes to hang up the clothes it to minimum hourly wage in the U.S. Assuming it takes about 30 minutes to dry and the average family does 5 loads a week then:

\[30 mins \times 5 loads \times  52 weeks = 130 {hours /year}\]

Next the national minimum wage an hour is $7.25. Therefore a person who works the same amount of time in a week as someone who spends that hanging cloths is $18.12

\[\$18.12 \times 52 weeks = \$ 942.24 \]

The financial cost is about $942.25 a week. If a person working minimum wage had a salary, it would be $21,112 a year. This is amount lost is only 4.5% of their annual salary lost and this is only considering a person working minimum wage. Also another thing to consider again as stated earlier is that hanging clothes could be done later in the day so less productivity is lost.

Finally to compare the collective energy usage of electric dryers to the overall energy usage of the country as well as the cost, this would give a better idea of the energy cost savings if people stopped using electric dryers and switched back to the old method of hanging clothes to dry outside.

To do so I would look at the earlier calculation which yielded 56004000000 kwh per year for energy driers consume and compare that to the total U.S energy consumption in kwh. So since the average residential utility customer uses 10812 kWh per year, I will find how much the entire population consumes.

\[10812 kWh \times 323,100,000 people = 3,493,357,200,000 \]

Or \[3.4933572 \times 10^{12}\]


This result shows that dryers take up about 1.6% energy consumed in a year. This may appear to be a small amount but it is substantial to our overall goal of lowering our collective carbon emissions. Switching from electric dryers to clotheslines is a simple and cheaper alternative and can be a progressive step towards wasting less energy,


“U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” – FAQ – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

Hamm, Trent. “How Much Do You Really Save By Air-Drying Your Clothes?” The Simple Dollar, 10 Dec. 2013, www.thesimpledollar.com/how-much-do-you-really-save-by-air-drying-your-clothes/.

Pittsburgh, PA Renee in. “How Long Does It Take to Dry Clothes Outside?” Care.com, Care.com, 19 June 2017, www.care.com/c/questions/24040/how-long-does-it-take-to-dry-clothes-outside/.

Electricity Usage of a Clothes Dryer – Energy Use Calculator, energyusecalculator.com/electricity_clothesdryer.htm.

“Estimating Appliance and Home Electronic Energy Use.” Department of Energy, energy.gov/energysaver/estimating-appliance-and-home-electronic-energy-use.

All products require an annual contract.    Prices do not include sales tax    (New York residents only). “U.S. Households with Clothes Dryer, by Energy Source | Statistics.”Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/220466/household-penetration-of-clothes-dryers-by-energy-source-in-the-us/.

“Line Drying Clothes.” Line Drying Clothes | Tammy’s Recipes, www.tammysrecipes.com/clothesline_drying_laundry.

“U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” How Much Electricity Does an American Home Use? – FAQ – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=97&t=3.




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