Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Laundry room makeover, Part 2

In this previous post, I described how we maximized space on the east side of our 45-square-foot laundry room.  Now for a description of the west side, but the explanation of that design first needs an amusing preface. 

I grew up in very modest and conservative circumstances.  My family could not afford a clothes dryer.
Most families obtain one of each, but we only had the washer part.  We hung our clothing to air dry. 
I was almost nineteen years old before I ever put a single article of clothing into a clothes dryer.  That only happened when I moved into residence in my freshman year of university.

(Now, you may be wondering... if we had no money for a clothes dryer (!), how on earth did I get to university?  Answer:  Tens of thousands of dollars of debt.  Best money I ever spent, hands down.  And then after establishing a strong performance in undergraduate, my private-school graduate degree and living expenses were 100% funded by scholarships, so my whole educational ride was very do-able.)

When I got to university, I figured I had hit the Big Time.  Woo-hoo!!  I finally had access to a clothes dryer, just like everyone else!!

My elation quickly turned to despair as I discovered that clothes dryers are very hard on clothes.  They shrank things.  They warped things.  They created annoying fabric pills.  The friction wore stuff out prematurely and my clothing all began looking ragged before its time.  Sometimes an arm of a shirt would get tangled around the leg of a pant, and the stuff would be damaged beyond repair.

The Eternal Clothesline of the Spotless Mind.

Screengrabbed from a page titled "Building plan for a wall clothes rack". 
I felt so violated.  All those years of my tender, innocent childhood, people had been touting the benefits and conveniences of clothes dryers.  And it was all a deception.  I hadn't hit the Big Time - I had been suckered by the Big Lie.  I had to go into psychotherapy to cope with my grief and disorientation. 

Not.  But I did resume air drying my clothing once again.  And a few years ago when we were scoping this house, I designed a special place to do just that, which is what I'm going to talk about next. 

At this point, you may find yourself wanting to say, "Waitaminute - this is Houston, Home of World's Highest Humidity.  Even with the a/c running, you can't air dry clothing here in any practical way."

Oh yes you can, assuming that you exhaust a twenty-two-ton freezer into your semi-confined drying space.

Well, it's not actually a twenty-two-ton freezer.  More like a twenty-two-cubic-foot freezer.  It's that enormous black thing at photo right, with the two magnetic hanger bars on it for my yoga clothing, which is the very last stuff I'd ever throw into the mauling jaws of a deceptive dryer. 

This space is so small that I cannot back far enough away to get everything into the photo frame, but you get the idea.  Freezer on the right.  Drying racks on the left. 
Incidentally, I didn't want a trendy stainless steel upright freezer because I fully intended to refer to it as The Monolith, like in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I wanted to be able to run around annoying people by exclaiming,  "MY GOD - IT'S FULL OF FOOD!" And for that, I needed a black one.  Which was also a hell of a lot cheaper than stainless steel, by the way. 

Monolith image screengrabbed from this site.  And here's that famous movie line, in case you would like to review it:

Enough of my manic asides.  Let's examine that photo once again:
I had our builder install an electrical outlet on this wall of the laundry room, because the house plan did not specify one in that location.  As I explained in the Part 1 post, we also ordered this room without any shelving, so that there's be room for the freezer. I then installed four linear feet of hanging shelving in this double-layer config to the left of it.  The right side of the dryer is close to the opposite wall of the laundry room.  That means that the heat exhausted from the freezer has basically no choice but to mostly exit around these drying racks to the left. 

And you'd be amazed at how quickly a set-up like this will air dry clothing.  The Monolith exhausts a lot of heat energy.  Do you see the digital thermometer on the upper part of it?  It reads 2 degrees F in this picture.  It takes a lot of energy to drop the internal temperature by that much, and that differential gets exhausted as heat.  With more delicate pieces of clothing, drying in this way is almost as fast as the clothes dryer itself.  But it's a much kinder, gentler heat that does no damage to the clothing. 

Use common sense with this kind of thing, people.  Don't develop the type of space that is so confining that you create a fire hazard.  In our set-up, the heat can also exhaust into the two-foot freeboard above the freezer, but we are very careful not to constrict this drying area with too much clothing.  We don't stuff it full and we are careful not to let anything fall behind The Monolith.  Air has to be able to move freely among the pieces of clothing to dry them - they have to be spaced apart.  Space Odyssey'd apart. 

My teenager was exasperated with me for doing this.  "We don't have to hang our clothes to dry any more, Mom," she sighed in amused annoyance.  "This is the 21st century - we have technology for that."

Ah, but guess what??  She does her own laundry, and sometimes I catch her in the act:
Mmm hmm.  The teenager's wet clothing, voluntarily assembled by her own guilty hand, because she doesn't like the wear and tear that the clothes dryer inflicts upon her stuff.  Notice how it's all spaced neatly so that the warm air can circulate among the items. 

Another benefit to this approach: Greater handling efficiency.  If one simply hangs up wet clothes, it economizes the number of times they need to be handled.  And they don't sit in a crumpled mass at the bottom of the dryer getting wrinkled after the cycle has finished.  They get efficiently shifted from this area directly to the closet once they are dry.  We replenish the stock of empty hangers every time we drag dirty laundry to the room. 
Let me re-iterate about the safety part:  Don't screw an idea like this up and create a fire hazard for yourself.  I'm not an engineer, but my common sense tells me that you cannot safely block heat coming from a major appliance.  But if you're careful and creative, you might be able to make use of that heat.  You did, after all, pay handsomely for the energy that it represents.  In my case, I've chosen to use that energy twice over, first to preserve our food and then to dry my clothing.   

More on The Monolith in a later post, because it figures prominently in our lives.  In the meantime, happy (and safe) drying. 

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