Clothes dryers are an incredibly inefficient use of electricity. The typical dryer uses in the neighborhood of 5 kWhs of electricity, even energy efficient dryers use at best around 2 kWhs during their dry cycle. (To put that in some perspective, that’s the same amount of energy as a 100 watt incandescent bulb uses in 20 hours – or in the case of my 9 watt LED light bulbs, 220 hours!) In fact, running a clothes dryer uses more energy than any other appliance in a typical American household. That’s a lot of energy just to spin some hot air around.
These days, what with cloth diapering Cheeks McGee, I’m doing a load of laundry about every other day – 4 loads a week, we’ll say. And living in an apartment, we pay $1.50 for each cycle. Which means that if we were drying all of those loads, it would tack an additional $24 onto our expenses each month. That’s $312 a year.
So in the interest of saving energy and money, we hang dry our clothes. As I’ve written about before, in the summer heat and sun, our laundry is dry within a few hours. Now that the winter has firmly decided it’s here, we continue to hang dry our laundry, but now we hang it indoors. The shared basement laundry room in our apartment complex already had clothes lines, but in the past we’ve used a folding drying rack, the backs of chairs, the shower curtain rod, and basically anywhere else we could possibly hang a piece of clothing. It does take more than 3 hours for our laundry to be dry, but never longer than 24 hours. I bet aside from sweatshirts, most of it would be dry by morning if they hung over night. And running your clothing through the spin cycle can be really hard on it, so by hang drying we get more life out of our clothing as well.
Yes, we have to think ahead more than 2 hours if we want to wear something that is currently dirty. But right now, with the frequency we are doing laundry, that hasn’t been an issue. And in a clothing emergency, the dryer is still right there.
Much like it often happens in the fall, it seems like we went from comfortable-with-a-sweatshirt weather to need-all-the-layers weather overnight. And to top it all off, we have a layer of snow on the ground. Oh, November, you’re full of surprises.
With the change in weather, you might be thinking that it’s time to put the compost pile to rest. However, with a cold weather adjustment or two you can continue to build that pile all winter long. First, let’s look at what might be happening in that pile.
Small Winter Compost Piles (less than 1 cubic meter)
If you have just a small pile, the soil making microbes might take a break during the cold weather. But the cold weather will also freeze – or at least preserve – the pile and anything you add to it, helping to keep the pile from developing an odor. When the pile thaws out in the spring be sure to add a good amount of “brown” carbon-rich materials to prevent odors while the microbes move back in. Since you’ve been feeding the pile all winter, those soil friendly microbes and earthworms will quickly move back in to your pile since it will be providing a bountiful feast for the little guys.
Larger Winter Compost Piles (greater than 1 cubic meter)
One of the great things about larger compost piles is that they generate enough heat in the center of the pile to keep those microbes alive and working. This means that you can feed and even turn the pile throughout the winter, and come spring you will be a bit further ahead in having some finished compost to add to your garden beds.
Winterizing your compost pile
Since the winter tends to be a leaner season for all those backyard and neighborhood critters, they tend to be on the lookout for any easy sources of food. If you don’t want your backyard to become the compost pile buffet, you may have to get creative with locking up your pile. Our current pile is contained in a bin with a twist-locking lid. The bin has ventilation built in, but the locking lid keeps birds, squirrels, coons, and neighborhood cats out. If you have an pallet bin, you may want to make a screen lid for it that can either be locked down or weighted down. If you have a loose pile, consider covering the pile with a tarp for the winter – just give yourself a point of easy access before the snow comes down if you want to keep feeding the pile during the winter.
Interested in catching up on other compost topics? Check out these posts:
On Apartment Composting
Can I Compost That?