Let Your Clothes Dryer Help Heat Your House
It has been a cold winter here in East Cackalacky. Everyone is wondering how to keep his house tolerably warm without bankrupting himself on utilities. The insulation contractors are working overtime, thermostats are set lower, people are putting on sweaters, space heaters are being kept in the rooms most used.
Those all are ways that can help trim your heating cost. You get a fringe benefit from your ability to brag about how virtuous you are in going green to save energy and the planet, but most people really just want to save some money and keep their houses comfortable, and who can blame them?
If you have a clothes dryer, you have an intermittent source of heat that is probably being wasted now. The typical setup of one exhausts the hot air coming from the machine through a vent in a wall to the outside. If you have an electric dryer, it would be good to keep that warmth in the house, allowing your furnace to run a bit less (if your dryer is fired by gas, then let that exhaust continue to vent outdoors so its combustion gases will stay out of the house, and thanks to my friend Kevin for that important piece of information). That hot air is furthermore laden with the moisture it is pulling from your washed clothes, and in the dry winter air it would be nice to keep that in the house as well. A little humidity in the wintertime can go a long way to making you feel more comfortable.
Since most dryers are exhausted through flexible hoses or thin steel pipe, there is an easy way to accomplish both. Just let that dryer air exhaust into the house instead of outdoors.
You have two details to take care of when you do that. First, lint coming off the clothes has to be trapped somehow so it will neither make your house dusty nor present a fire hazard, and, second, the warm air has to be taken out of the laundry room and spread around. Where your dryer is located, and how you heat your house, will determine how you do those things, but it is rare for it to be a difficult problem.
In my house, the dryer is in a small utilities room off the kitchen, as are the forced air furnace and air handler. The dryer's ventilation is through a flexible metallic hose reinforced with wire to keep it open.
I went to a store and got a package of three vacuum cleaner filter bags for less than a dollar. I cut the dryer's exhaust hose in a convenient place with a knife, clipping the wire with a wire cutter, and cut open one of the filter bags at one end. Slipping it over the dryer end of the cut hose and securing it there with a rubber band provided all the lint catching capability anyone could need. I covered the other cut end of the hose, the one leading to the outside vent, with some plastic, also kept on with a rubber band, just to keep cold air from getting into the room. Had I a rigid steel vent pipe instead of that flexible hose, I would merely have separated two sections of it at a joint and proceeded exactly the same from that point.
Whenever I run the dryer, I turn the forced air heating system's circulator fan to continuous. That draws out the warm, moist air, distributing it throughout the house through the heating registers. If you lack that arrangement, then just put a fan in the laundry room to blow the hot air out into the rest of the house.
I feel a difference. The furnace runs less, and the house feels warmer. When the filter bag is so full of lint it puts out noticeably less air through itself when the dryer runs, I just throw it and its contents away and put on one of the spares. Come spring and warm weather, I will merely remove the bag and the plastic, put the two ends of the hose back together, and wrap the cut joint with duct tape.
This is such a quick and simple way to save energy and money in the wintertime while making your house a little cozier that I kick myself for not having done it long ago. Better late than never, though. I sure will not turn down the savings or the comfort now.