Breeze Dryer – Eco-Friendly Solutions for Drying Your Laundry
“Why do you care about drying clothes outside?” Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Gary Sutterlin, President and CEO of Breeze Dryer. “Do you have a passion for this, or is it just a business?
“For us, it goes beyond that,” Sutterlin said. “It really was a life lesson for our children. I’m a pharmacist by training, my wife’s a Ph.D. by training. I was doing very well in the pharmaceutical industry as an executive and pretty much walked away overnight. Our passion was to make a difference in this world. We found that medium through clotheslines.”
The clotheslines that Sutterlin and his wife, Gayle, sell are made by Hills, an Australian manufacturer known for quality and reliability. We interviewed Sutterlin by phone from his home in Pennsylvania. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
SUTTERLIN: Hills clotheslines are simple to use, and the return on investment is quite high for consumers. Obviously, it enables consumers to save money, energy, and ultimately the environment. There’s a multifaceted message there.
If it were just a business, I’m sure we could just sit and sell clotheslines, but we travel the country espousing the benefits of line-drying your laundry. It goes beyond the business aspect but more along the message. Here in the United States, people have lost sight of that from the standpoint that a majority of households utilize an electric dryer, which comes at a price.
BPGL: Explain what you mean by an electric dryer coming “at a price.”
SUTTERLIN: It’s the second-largest consumer of electricity, only second to the refrigerator, which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, through the use of a clothesline and drying racks during the winter, households can save quite a bit of money. Especially as the utility caps are coming off and rates are rising, I think we’ll start to see an influx of people line drying. And, we already are, as people are looking for ways and means to go about doing their part in terms of saving the environment.
So that’s really how we got into it, and we continue to travel the country and get out and meet and talk with the folks in terms of what they do. If they’re not buying our product, so be it, just so long as they’re line drying. It could be as simple as a single line from a tree to a tree.
BPGL: Are you showing your products at trade shows around the country?
SUTTERLIN: We’ve been doing a variety of shows. We first started at World Ag Expo in Tulare, California. We’ve since done a number of green shows, and a number of energy shows, like the Pennsylvania Renewable Energy Festival. This spring, we were at the Green Festival show in Chicago, which has a very large draw, including international folks.
And, then, we’ve been to the standard National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. I tried to convince some of the stores and smaller hardware chains that the Hills Hoist is a product that they should be carrying, although a lot of the larger chains are looking for products with short life cycles and repeat buyers, which is not something we offer.
BPGL: You say Breeze Dryer doesn’t offer products with short life cycles. How long does a Hills Hoist clothesline or drying rack last?
SUTTERLIN: You know, it’s funny, because we get calls from people with 20-, 30-, 40-year-old models, and we can still get the parts for them. My wife and I have one that’s 18 years old and as nice as the day we bought it. My sister, on the other hand, living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has left hers outside 24 x 7, 365 days a year for the last 20 years. She’s just replaced the line on her clothesline — not because it broke, but because the coating cracked.
BPGL: So you bought a Hills Hoist clothesline 18 years ago?
SUTTERLIN: That’s correct. We picked it up from a Plow and Hearth store. They were selling it at their outlet store, and it was missing parts. I wrote the company, and they sent everything free of charge. I said, “Look, no American company would do that.”
And the level of service, the quality, durability, and workmanship are far above pretty much what anyone would expect of a clothesline. And that’s the reason they last so long. The company started in 1945, and some of the original models are still in use throughout Australia and New Zealand.
BPGL: That is a different business mindset than what we so often see here in the U.S. You were obviously impressed with the Hills Hoist. When did you start selling them?
SUTTERLIN: We officially kicked off sales in March of 2008, although there was a lot of preparation leading up to that point. I had been in talks with them for a number of years. Everything finally came to fruition in March of 2008.
BPGL: Are you the only distributor — the main point of contact — in the U.S.?
SUTTERLIN: Yes. We started out with the U.S., and then in July of 2009, we became the distributors for all of North America.
BPGL: Can people buy Hills products in retail outlets right now or is it just through the Breeze Dryer website?
SUTTERLIN: Consumers can buy Hills clotheslines through a number of different websites as well as through the Breeze Dryer website. And there are a limited number of retailers carrying our products, including some pilot stores that we’re working through, such as Do It Best and True Value.
BPGL: How much money can people save with the line of natural drying products sold by Breeze Dryer?
SUTTERLIN: The main message is that, on average, 15% of your total energy costs are dedicated and relegated to the dryer. And that’s significant. It’s a large amount of money every year, year in and year out.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 90% of American homes have an electric-powered clothes dryer, with an average family usage of 400 times per year. The average electric dryer is used at least once per day, accounting for 15 to 20% of household utility costs. During its lifespan, a household dryer consumes approximately 1,079 kilowatt hours of energy and emits into the environment 2,224 pounds of carbon dioxide.
BPGL: Do you offer options for drying clothes indoors in winter?
SUTTERLIN: We offer a number of different types of drying racks. We have a large number of drying solutions that move indoors and outdoors with the change of seasons, which we think is pretty unique.
In terms of the benefits, obviously, it adds moisture to the home in the winter when the humidity is so low that it’s bone dry, and wood starts to crack. Drying clothes indoors moisturizes the air, including the nasal passages. That prevents bloody noses and keeps your skin from cracking.
Indoors, in the winter, you can hang the laundry the night before and, typically, in the morning when you get up, your laundry is dry.
BPGL: Is it easy to move a Hills drying rack or clothesline from wherever you’ve mounted it outdoors, and then remount it indoors? Or do most customers generally have a second unit that they install in their basement?
SUTTERLIN: I initially thought customers would buy a second one, but that’s not what usually happens. With our retractable clothesline, just two screws hold the unit on the wall. So it’s a simple matter to take it off the wall and move it indoors into the basement.
We also sell accessory plates. You mount a plate outside, and then mount another plate on the basement wall. Then you can quickly move the drying solution with the change of seasons.
The other thing we have is folding-frame clotheslines. They have a total of four bolts.
BPGL: Does the folding-frame clothesline mount on a wall, or is it free standing?
SUTTERLIN: It can be both. It comes ready to mount on the wall, a shed, a pool cabana, a sturdy fence, or the basement wall. It hangs down the wall. When you need it, you lift it up in just one click. You hang the laundry. Then, when the laundry’s dry, you take it down. Push on it, one click, and it folds flat back against the wall.
BPGL: It only needs one wall mounting to support heavy laundry. That’s quite a space saver.
SUTTERLIN: We have a really small one called a Supa Fold 70 that we see a lot of people mounting over the washer and dryer in the laundry room. We also have different sizes that are bigger, and that are readily customizable with a hacksaw. You cut it to fit your needs.
That’s the message that we’re trying to say. We offer quite a number of drying solutions for those who want to line dry, whether it be indoors or outdoors. It more or less tidies the house up in terms of how you line dry. We’ve all seen people hanging their laundry on the fences, and that really sets neighbors off at times.
BPGL: I hadn’t even thought about this, but on your site, you talk about the effects of clothes dryers on your clothing. Tell me about that.
SUTTERLIN: We had a test family of five, and they collected the lint from their dryer for the entire month. It ended up being two large, gallon-sized Ziploc bags. When we travel to the shows, we leave that on the table, and people come up and ask about it. We explain that, essentially, what the dryer does is beat the clothes and wear them out. That lint is actually fibers from the clothes.
People tend to not understand that the dryer shortens the life cycle of your clothing. We’re all aware that the dryer sometimes shrinks laundry, but at the same time, it’s wearing the laundry out.
BPGL: Is there a choice of colors, or are is every Hills model offered by Breeze Dryer the same color?
SUTTERLIN: Our product is a mature product segment in Australia and New Zealand. So it does come in various sizes and colors, depending on the model.
Hills is known for the rotary hoist, which more or less takes the laundry up over the individual’s head. It hoists the laundry high and spins in the breeze.
Then we have the retractable clotheslines, the folding-frame clotheslines, and the portable clotheslines that bridge the gap between the indoors and outdoors. Then there are the various drying racks as well, that for the most part are unique here in America and are doing very well.
BPGL: How do your drying racks compare to the small drying racks for sale in the big box stores here in the U.S.?
SUTTERLIN: We get a lot of very positive customer feedback saying, “I’ve been looking for this for 10, 15 years, and I’ve finally found it.” Or, “I’ve seen this throughout Europe, but nobody here in the United States carries these types of products in terms of the quality.”
We get a lot of feedback on Amazon and elsewhere that people are enthusiastic about the opportunity to buy a product that’s known for quality and durability. Given the fact that what’s out there is going to be low end and cheap, you ultimately get what you pay for.
That’s the unique aspect that seems to be coming through in the messages and phone calls that we get from customers.
BPGL: Do you have a brick-and-mortar store? Could somebody stop in and see your products in Pennsylvania?
SUTTERLIN: We have a farm that we work with called Manoff Market Gardens in Solebury, Pennsylvania, along the Delaware River. It really does draw people. We’ve had people from Illinois and New England drive to the farm, because they want to see our product. They want to touch it and feel it. We’ve heard from the retailers we work with that that’s the case, too. It draws people from surrounding states.
BPGL: What do you most want consumers to know about Breeze Dryer?
SUTTERLIN: The message in terms of Breeze Dryer is all about offering clothes-drying solutions and creating a more energy-efficient home as well as a cleaner environment. That’s ultimately the message at the end of the day.
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