Big Little Green Idea

I believe we can make a very large impact on our environmental footprint by simply adopting some low cost, common sense changes to our lifestyle. Here's one of those ideas courtesy of my wife's pestering.

Clothes dryers use a lot of energy. A recent article in the New York Times suggested that "clothes dryers use at least 6 percent of all household electricity consumption." Dryers also reduce the life and quality of your clothes. All that lint? That is your clothes dissolving away. It's much better to hang them out to dry, but that is not always practical given weather and the suitability of yards for a clothesline. Some even complain that outdoor lines are an eyesore. An alternative is to hang your clothes on racks inside, but that can be messy and the clothes can take a while to dry completely.

At our old house, we have a built-in solution. Our washer and dryer are in a storage room along with the forced air heating unit and the hot water heater. Because the furnace and the hot water heater produce a lot of excess heat in the winter, my wife got the idea of hanging clothes in our storage room on racks. The outcome? It works like a charm. The clothes actually dry faster in there than they do during the summer on our outdoor clothesline. That got me thinking.

What if home designers added a 'dry room' to their plans -- a place where the furnace, water heater (or tankless water heater) and washer/dryer could live together along with built-in lines or racks for drying? All that excess heat that is normally vented and wasted could be used to dry the family laundry, particularly in the winter when outdoor line drying is not always possible.

It's a simple idea, but an idea that could make a major impact if every architect and homebuilder integrated this into future home building designs.