How to Build a Solar Clothes Dryer

May 8, 2012

Were you thinking I was going to tell you how to build something different? Like, say, an off-grid yet electricity-powered clothes dryer that runs off a bank of solar panels on the roof? Guess again. Clothes dryers use so much energy to dry your clothes that there isn’t even an Energy Star rating for them; they just guzzle enery. There is no way of getting around that when you use a dryer you plug into the wall or into a gas line you burn a ton of fossil fuel. However, you can build a solar clothes dryer that uses no energy and releases no carbon emissions; it’s called a clothesline.

How to Build a Solar Clothes Dryer

You can hang dry your clothes inside the house, hanging them from a ceiling fan or throwing them over the bathroom shower curtain rod. You can string a line across your kitchen or garage. You can buy a drying rack that folds up neatly and fits in the closet when not in use. Outdoors, you can hang your items from a tree, a railing, your balcony, or an actual clothesline. I use a clothesline, as you can see here:

When I lived in New Mexico, I used an edge of my yard fence, some old rope I found in the car, and a 6 foot downed tree limb I lugged home from the forest to make my clothesline. Here, I didn’t have to do that as someone a long time ago was smart enough to put up two poles and string some line between them. There is no excuse to not have a clothesline of some sort to dry your clothes on, unless you live in one of these communities trying to outlaw outdoor clotheslines. Why do this instead of using an energy-hogging dryer? Here are a few reasons from my list 10 reasons why you should line dry your clothes:

  • Reduces energy use
  • Saves money on your utility bill
  • Saves money by not forcing you to buy a dryer
  • Less wear and tear on clothing
  • No waiting around at the laundromat for the dryer to finish
  • Clothes smell better
  • The sun acts like bleach, making your whites brighter

A Challenge

So this weekend I have a project for you – Build yourself a solar clothes dryer that you can use all summer. If you are so inclined, once you are done send me a picture of it and I will publish it on the site to inspire others. What have you got to lose? A few hours and a few bucks? That’s a small price to pay for everything that you, and our planet, will gain by you going solar when you can. Good luck!

Filed in: solar

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (5)

  1. Robin says:

    For indoors, the way to go is a drying rack. These are space efficient, and are portable, allowing you to bring them into a room conducive to drying, and remove it again. Drying clothes on a rack or line indoors puts needed humidity into the air on dry winter days.

  2. Monala says:

    What do you suggest for someone who lives in a damp climate (Washington state), in a small apartment (so not a lot of space), with young kids (so a lot of dirty clothes), in a building surrounded by tall trees (so very little sunlight comes in through the windows)? Line drying doesn’t seem feasible in my situation.

    • David Quilty says:

      I would set up a dryer rack in the bathtub if you have one. Except for the few minutes a day it is in use, it’s mostly wasted space that could be better utilized. Just fold it up when you need to shower or take a bath!

  3. “an off-grid yet electricity-powered clothes dryer that runs off a bank of solar panels on the roof”

    Totally what I was thinking. ;)

    I wish we had a little more of that solar power here for outdoor drying! I have tried to dry more things indoors, but it takes so many days it gets tricky with messy little ones. Tips for a humid climate?

    • David Quilty says:

      Got ya. :)

      Humidity is hard, for sure. But if you have sunlight, you can counter the humidity. Sometimes when it’s really humid and takes a few days for things to dry fully we have to use the gas dryer, though. But if you have days to wait… ;)