Are People Who Use Clotheslines Poor…or Frugal?

Late 19th century advertisement for laundry st...
Sorry, we don’t look like this when hanging clothes — in fact, my husband hangs clothes in the morning for me! Image via Wikipedia

Do your neighbors think you’re nuts, poor, or just plain old frugal if you hang your clothes out to dry?

When we moved to our Fairfield neighborhood nineteen years ago, I often snickered at the people down the road who hung their laundry outside. I called them the “Ozzie & Harriet” couple. How quaint (ie: ridiculous) to have a clothesline, I thought. And I used to snicker with another neighbor about how hilarious it was to see the family’s underwear on the line. Well…the joke’s on me, because we’ve now had a clothesline in our backyard for about two or three years, and we love it. That’s why we were so happy to see that The Connecticut Post ran an article, “Green Households Giving the Clothesline a Second Look.”

Homeowners pay lip service to saving energy…

In a nutshell, the article says that only 5 percent of American households today hang laundry (in other countries, over 50 percent of people air-dry laundry), that some people don’t even know what a clothesline looks like, and that most people don’t know how to find a clotheseline and pulley system or how to set it up. Well, my husband easily found a clothesline–pulleys and all– in Home Depot and set it up rather quickly–one post, one tree, a clothesline system, hammer, screws, and there you go–it’s up and running.

(As an aside, it’s pretty funny to find a Febreze oil scent product that offers “the wonderful scent of linens and towels right off the clothesline.”)

What makes me crazy is that people associate clotheslines with poor people here in the United States. (Same thing with coupons, though study after study proves that people with incomes over $70,000 regularly use coupons and people with incomes under $30,000 rarely use coupons.) In fact, clotheslines are considered a “nuisance” and are banned in certain neighborhoods and homeowner assocations. Greenwich, CT, for example, inevitably banned clotheslines in senior housing apartments because they posed a “threat” to people running through the yard who become tangled in garments. However there are a few areas around Connecticut that do restrict clotheslines–mostly in multi-unit housing complexes.

The $64,000 question….how much  money do we save by using a clothesline?

But, as the reporter grappled with–it’s tough to put a dollar amount on the money you save by air-drying clothes versus using the dryer. The article says it costs about .30 to .40 cents to run one dryer load and that based on that, it would save a family about $100 a year. My husband and I were discussing the fact that we seem to save a heck of a lot more than $100 a year by hanging laundry. We notice the increase in our U.I. bill in the winter when we use our dryer more. But we aren’t quite sure of the exact amount of money we are saving, but it’s enough to keep us hanging clothes without thinking twice.

And, by the way, for those out there who will say “I don’t have time to hang clothes…” it takes ten minutes to hang a full line of laundry in the morning, and about five minutes to pull the clothes off at the end of the day. Plus, it’s good excercise for the arms!

~Marilyn, TFF

Part 2–Ten Important Tips For Your Free Energy Audit

As promised in our earlier post today, Is a Free Energy Audit Worth It?, here is a checklist of things you want to make sure you do and ask for during your free energy audit:

  1. Make it clear to whomever is scheduling your audit that you expect expert and seasoned auditors to conduct your free audit. Make sure that two auditors will attend your audit, or, one auditor and a quality-control representative from U.I.
  2. Before your audit, make sure that your attic and basement spaces are somewhat clear enough for the auditors to get into (they don’t tell you this on the phone!).
  3. Important: You are not allowed to go in and out of your house during the audit or else the door blower test will be inaccurate or they will be unable to do it. All interior doors need to be opened during the test, as well, so if your child is napping, or pets need to stay behind doors, the auditors need to know.
  4. When the auditors arrive, ask them to give you a step-by-step rundown of the process or else you won’t know what is going on as they move through your home.
  5. Ask them to fully explain why they are doing the door blower test, and what they hope to find. (They conduct two blower tests…ask them why…)
  6. Ask them if you can follow them as they are doing their audit (however, if there are two auditors, this will be tricky).
  7. Discuss your electric bill with them right away. Tell them you are concerned that it is higher. (No doubt they will tell you to talk to U.I., but you may glean some insights from confiding in them that your bill may have spiked in Dec./Jan.)
  8. Make sure you find out what they are offering you for free. They should offer you CFL light bulbs, faucet aerators, rebates (this is tricky, however—the rebates are really only if you plan to hire a contractor to install high-tech insulation with high R-values), weather-stripping, foam insulation, and a handheld power meter. Ask about low-flow shower heads, although we were not offered any from Gulick.
  9. At the end of the audit, they will sit down with you to go over their findings. This is tricky because you want to understand what they found, but they will probably feel rushed and need to go off to another audit. BUT, insist that they fully explain things to you. Especially have them explain the CPM Pre, CPM Post, and CPM Reduction which impacts your electricity bill (one of us was told that the CPM results showed that our bill will be reduced by $12 a month due to the services they provided during the audit).
  10. If you did not get a handheld power meter because they are out of stock, call the audit company and make sure you are on the list to get one. It could take a couple of months to get it. The power meter is a device that helps you know the energy output of your various appliances. We didn’t see one, so we don’t know what it looks like. One of our auditors didn’t even tell us about it, but we knew we were supposed to get one from the grapevine.

We hope you have a great experience!

Is a Free Energy Audit Worth It?

blower test tool illustration
During an energy audit, you will have a blower test done on your house to determine how airtight your home really is. Photo: U.S. Department of Energy


Two Frugal Fairfielders have had their free energy audits, compliments of U.I. Was it worth it? We want to hear from you about your audit experiences, too. 

We think it was worth it because it was free. If we had to pay for the audit, we would have wanted a lot more time and information from the auditors. 

The bottom line: The experience is subjective based on your auditors and the information they offer. There are a number of companies doing these audits in Fairfield, we happened to have had auditors from Gulick. We know that there were a couple of articles in local papers, and through the phone number1-877-WISE-USE (877-947-3873), you could evidently find other auditors. 

Some of the information and insights from our auditors were obvious (use CFLs, low-flow shower heads, etc.). But, the main issue the auditors address is the decompression of your house, which allows them to find serious air leaks. 

The good news: the Gulick auditors give you some nice items, such as faucet aerators (some residents like them, so do not). To read more about faucet aerators, click here. They also replace some bulbs with CFLs if you don’t have them already. They add weather-stripping, foam insulation (bits of it, not whole walls) in holes, and caulking (but one of us can’t find where they actually caulked although they assured us they did “lots” of caulking). 

The best news: Decompression, or, the blower test. To read more on blower tests, click here. The simplest explanation is that they suck out air flow from your house so they can find leaks and determine how airtight your home really is. In one of our homes, they found major leaks coming from the two pull-down attic doors. (This explained why the master bedroom feels like a meat locker in winter even when the heat is turned on. Note: Without the blower test, we could not feel the whoosh of cold air, but with the blower test, it was painfully obvious.) The auditors added weather seal tape (looks like packing tape to us) to the door to seal off the whoosh of freezing cold air on the unused pull-down door. 

If you are going to have an audit, or want to schedule one, we will post a Part II with tips later today. You will definitely want to know these tips before your auditors come by.