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20+ low energy laundry drying alternatives

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From October 2023, using a tumble dryer for a full drying load will cost somewhere around £1.20-£1.50 per cycle for a full load based on a range of figures I've seen online.

It is still around half the above cost if you have one of the more expensive 'heat pump' tumble dryers.

Here are some creative, lower cost alternatives to tumble dryers and alternatives to conventional line drying if the weather doesn't allow it.


Ideas for drying outside and keeping the rain off

For any outside drying I highly recommend the Metcheck website which can give you the outside laundry drying forecast for wherever you are.

Just enter your town or postcode in on this link and hit GO. It tells you how long different types of item will take to dry at different times over the next few days. Thanks to Lyn Brown from Liverpool for making me aware of this site.

Idea 1 - a pop-up greenhouse

If you have a garden, but nowhere covered outside to hang washing, why not use a cheap, pop-up greenhouse instead of a tumble dryer? I have seen comments from people online saying that this is exactly what they do and ere is a newspaper story of someone using this method successfully.

If you have a north facing garden then it will be very slow, but if you get any sun at all on one of these it will obviously work much better.

Stand a drying rack like this one inside, cut several decent sized holes in the greenhouse walls to give it some ventilation (essential for drying), and you can dry outdoors in any weather. You can dry your clothes for free for years to come.

The greenhouse shown here is from Argos and costs around £30, but you can get them in different shapes and sizes, and there are lots on eBay for under £20.

There are also specifically designed products like this such as these.

If you do get one, make sure it's pegged down, if you are in a windy or exposed location.

A garden shed might even work, especially if it gets some sun on it, though it will only work if you provide a decent amount of ventilation.

I have also seen comments on social media by people who use a conventional glass greenhouse successfully.

Idea 2

A simple one here, using a cheap garden gazebo to cover a rotary clothes-line.

Or another here. Just a gazebo frame even...

Idea 3

Hang washing under a garden umbrella, such as in this story.

Idea 4

You can buy a cover for a rotary clothes-line, like this. It's called a Laundry Mac and you can find online here. You could also make your own out of a polythene sheet or tarpaulin cut to suit (although you ideally want something breathable).

An example here of a DIY version of the same thing. This was from a user on the "energy saving tips" Facebook group.

Idea 5

Drying under a garden sail. One version here:

Idea 6

A handy fence panel

Idea 7

Pop up tent - an indoor drying rack could fit inside this and it would at least be drizzle proof.


Indoor solutions

In ALL indoor solutions where you are not using a dehumidifier ventilation is essential.

The amount of water absorbed into a wash load will vary between 700ml up to staggering 3 litres. That is an awful lot of water that has to go somewhere.

Dehumidifier laundry water
Water from a dehumidifier from someone on the "energy saving tips" Facebook group

Without ventilation all that volume of water simply goes into moisture in the air in the home.

This moist air will then land on cold surfaces, often as condensation on windows but easily causing damp issues that might not be very obvious.

This can lead to mould. It also then mean your heating will then have to work harder to dry away that damp.

Cool damp air in a home also doesn't feel comfortable for most people, and is more likely to make you want to put your heating on or turn the heating up.

Idea 8 - drying indoors on a simple rack

The Energy Savings Trust recommendation is to do this in a room with doors closed, and opening the window a crack, even just 3/4 of an inch is enough.

Drying this was IS slow. I timed it at around 20 hours in a 20C room the other day, but there was no condensation on the windows (although this might have been some if the weather had been colder outside).

I even measured the humidity level in the room and it didn't rise significantly when the clothes were drying.


Super speedy drying in a conservatory

Here are some ideas if you have a conservatory that you don't use much in winter. You may already use a conservatory for drying laundry, but even if you do, these ideas may speed up drying times significantly.

You don't need to heat your conservatory for these ideas to work. If you have a fan, put the washing nearby and it will do the rest. Fans are very cheap to run because they only use 50 Watts of energy on maximum speed: that's just 4p for 3 hours.

Remember that having good ventilation is essential so that you don't trap moisture: open a couple of windows a crack (ideally on opposite sides) and moisture should find its way out pretty easily.

Idea 9

If you can, rig up a washing line in your conservatory and run the ceiling fan. Using the fan in 'suck up' mode rather than 'blow down' mode is likely to be the best.

Idea 10

Here is a solution if you don't have a ceiling fan, but can still rig up a washing line of some sort.

Here is a short video of someone doing pretty much the same thing.

Idea 11

Here is what you can do if you have a ceiling fan but aren't able to rig up a washing line.

Idea 12

Try this if you don't have a ceiling fan and aren't able to rig up a washing line.


Other indoor ideas

Drying indoors is obviously 'free' in summer, but if you are drying indoors in winter, your heating will actually have to work slightly harder. The cost is small though, so drying inside when you have the heating on will only be maybe 20-30p or so in additional gas use.

BUT...BUT....if you dry your clothes indoors, turning your heating up to dry clothes more quickly, a study in Scotland showed that this roughly doubled the costs of heating on a mid winters day.

Idea 13

If you don't have a conservatory, you can still pinch some of the same ideas from above.

Using a simple pedestal or desk fan like this in any room like the picture below will definitely speed up drying and I've seen lots of comments online from people that support this tip.

Like most indoor drying methods, keeping the door of the room with the laundry closed and having enough ventilation is really important.

Idea 14

Make a DIY drying rack over the stairs. This will dry stuff pretty quickly, as there will always be a slow movement of warmer air from downstairs to upstairs. Leaving an upstairs window open a crack will let the moist air escape really quickly this way. This idea was featured in The Sun.

Another idea for above a stairs

And yet another

To be really geeky for a moment, any 'above the stairs' ideas work REALLY well because of the natural air flow in a home with heat rising from downstairs to upstairs. This is called the stack effect.

Drying over the stairs is likely to be one of the quickest and lowest cost ways to dry laundry indoors.

Idea 15

These extendable wall-mounted clothes racks can go on any wall including above a stairs.

Idea 16

Ye Olde ceiling mounted drying rail.

Idea 17

Door racks. This one is from Wilko apparently

And another...doors are popular it seems

Another variation....and a fantastic one if there is some sun coming in

Idea 18

Using a home-made tent by a central heating radiator

This idea isn't brand new. It works really well, really quickly! BUT, again, do make sure there is good ventilation as fast drying methods like this mean LOTS of moisture in the air really quickly. This video is from an story in the Daily Mail in early 2022.

This isn't a FREE solution, even if the radiator is already hot, as it will still need mean the heating has to work a little harder, costing up to 30-40p depending on how much laundry there is and how damp it is. As mentioned above, turning your heating UP to do this is very costly as is putting the heating on just to dry laundry.

Idea 19

A heated drying rack. For my more extensive article on heated drying racks see here

I have deliberately kept these next solutions last as they are the most energy hungry ones. Heated drying racks come in many shapes and sizes.

Heated drying racks don't actually heat the clothes directly but create warm air currents that will warm the room up and circulate and pull air up through the laundry from underneath.

The more powerful heated drying racks are the more quickly they will dry the laundry and the sooner they can be turned off.

For every 100 Watts of power, they use less than 3p of electricity an hour.

They range in power from around 200 Watts to 300 Watts, so and so cost between 5p and 8p an hour to run. So, using one for 8 hours works out at between 43p and 65p per wash load.

If you use them in the smallest room (with the door shut) you can they will dry the clothes more quickly and you can turn them off more sooner.

Here is a variation of a heated rack with a cover. These will dry laundry a little more quickly as they concentrate the heat, but this will make it even more important to have good ventilation.

I have seen one product like this that consumes 1300 Watts which means it costs 35p an hour to run though it will obviously dry washing very quickly.

Idea 20 - Dehumidifiers

These CAN help clothes dry pretty quickly, but can also be expensive to run.

They suck the moisture out of the air as the clothes dry, and by drying out the air the laundry nearby dries out more quickly. This means you don't need to open a window or ventilate the room.

Having the right size of dehumidifier is important though as if you have one is too small drying will still take a long time and you may still have damp or condensation issues.

It is easy to see how it could cost £1 or more to use a dehumidifier drying if it isn't used in the best ways.

I recently spent ten days testing a dehumidifier out at home, so that I could learn some tips and tricks that would help people reduce drying times and costs.

This article is now published here.

The above all assume the energy tariffs from Oct 1st 2023 of 27p for electricity and 7p for gas.


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Mark Thompson

Get Energy Savvy - simple practical home energy efficiency information

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