Sustainability: Use sun power to dry your clothes and conserve energy


With summer in full swing, this is the time to take advantage of the immense amount of solar energy that reaches the earth every day. Taking advantage of this renewable and sustainable resource will save energy and money and reduce your carbon footprint.

This resource is so large that the amount of solar energy absorbed by the earth in an hour is equivalent to all the energy used in the world during one year.

The easiest change you can make is to hang your laundry out to dry on a clothes line. This was a very common practice until recently and if you look at historic pictures of the city, you can tell what day of the week a picture was taken if there was laundry hanging out to dry because Mondays were washing day.

With the invention of dryers though, this tradition has gone by the wayside. While some communities and home-owner associations have prohibited individuals from drying their clothes outdoors, Pittsburgh doesn’t have any ordinances banning the practice, so we should all take advantage.

The clothes dryer is the second most consumptive appliance in your house (next to the water heater). Each load of laundry that is hung out to dry saves between 2,000 to 5,000 watts of energy or about 6 percent of household energy.

If everyone in Pittsburgh hung their clothes out to dry, that 6 percent savings would run all the households in the North Shore, Allegheny West, Allegheny Center, Deutschtown, Central Northside, Fineview, California-Kirkbride and Brighton Heights.

Since most appliances get their electricity from utilities that run on fossil fuels, any reduction in dryer use in turn reduces the region’s carbon footprint and helps to meet the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan to reduce its greenhouse emissions 20 percent by 2023.

Additional savings come from the reduced wear and tear on the clothes, allowing them to last longer. The final clincher: No dryer sheet will give you the fresh scent of laundry hung out to dry (but it will give you all of the chemicals needed to produce these sheets).

And if it rains and you need to get something dry, you can still do a few things to let the dryer run more efficiently. Clean the lint filter, dry clothing of equal weights together (jeans with jeans, lightweight cotton with lightweight cotton, etc.) and making sure your dryer vent is unblocked.

Joseph Reznik teaches sustainability at the Community College of Allegheny County’s main campus. You can reach him at

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