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Alex’s Cool Product of the Week: Lehigh and Stewi Clotheslines

This being Earth Day–in fact the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day!–I thought it made sense to profile a really simple, really green product: the clothesline. In digging into clotheslines, I came across a number of manufacturers, including the Lehigh Group in Pennsylvania and the Swiss manufacturer Stewi.

Americans spend a lot of energy drying clothes. The vast majority of Americans–79% in 2005, according to the DOE Energy Information Administration–use either gas-fired or electric dryers, though for household incomes of $75,000 or higher, about 92% use dryers. Electric models account for 77% of dryers, natural gas 22%, and propane 1%. According to the California Energy Commission, dryers are typically the second-largest consumer of electricity among home appliances–after refrigerators–costing about $85 per year to operate. EIA pegs the annual consumption at about 900 kWh per year (2001 data), with clothes dryers accounting for about 5.8% of total U.S. residential electricity use.

Because the energy performance of one dryer doesn’t differ much than any other, they aren’t part of the Energy Star program, though that is being reevaluated and we could see Energy-Star-listed dryers in the future.

But this isn’t about electric or gas dryers; it’s about drying clothes outdoors.
Lehigh is the largest North American manufacturer of cordage and outdoor clothesline systems, which are variously referred to as “outdoor clothes dryers,” “outdoor drying racks,” and “outdoor rotary dryers.” Lehigh offers a range of outdoor clothes dryers, retractable clothes lines, and cordage. While Lehigh offers vinyl-clad clothesline (cordage), I’d opt for the non-coated product, of which there are a variety of options.

An umbrella-style, folding-aluminum outdoor clothes dryer from Lehigh retails for about $40 in the Secureline brand, including the cordage. These are sold through Home Depot and other retail outlets. By Earth Day 2011, the Secureline brand will include a 100%-recycled-content clothesline, according to Lehigh.

Stewi makes both outdoor and indoor drying racks, including stylish hinge-down models that can be used indoors. There are premium products that carry significantly higher pricetags. The Stewi “First Lady” outdoor rotary dryer retails for about $225. These are distributed in North America by Stenic Products in Markham, Ontario, which also sells them online.

In addition to saving energy and the environmental impacts associated with dryer use, drying clothes outdoors significantly reduces wear and tear on clothes (the lint in a dryer is clear evidence of that wear-and-tear–though some fabrics may fade in bright sunlight), kills bacteria, leaves clothes smelling fresh, and gets you outside in the sun (the best source of vitamin D!).

For more information:

The Lehigh Group
Macungie, Pennsylvania
800-523-9382, 610-966-9702

Stenic Products
Markham, Ontario
888-763-5928, 905-763-5928

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Alex’s Cool Product of the Week: Lehigh and Stewi Clotheslines

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