Don’t Let Automation Raise Your Home Energy Bills

January 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Economy, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow, Tips

An automated thermostat can save you money (and energy) by adjusting the level of heat or cooling to your day's activities. Photo: J Wasson

An automated thermostat can save you money (and energy) by adjusting the level of heat or cooling to your day’s activities. Photo: J Wasson

Automation has been rising in popularity with new and evolving technologies, and wireless communication can now be found in anything from lamps to washers and dryers.

The point of automation is less work for the user, but that’s not necessarily true for your energy company; some common uses of automation drain a lot more power than others.

Following are a few tips for saving money and energy at home with the wise use of automation.

Responsible Home Theaters

Home theaters are the most common areas to see energy-sucking automation. Some automation systems keep amplifiers on standby mode, or even worse, on but not producing sound. An amplifier can use up to 35 Watts of power if it stays on without playing music.

On the other hand, great strides have been taken with televisions. TVs with EnergyStar ratings are limited to a standby power of 1 Watt. That’s compared to older, tube TVs, which use up to 16 Watts.

If you’re looking to set up automation in your theater room, look for solutions that use computers with standby mode. And be sure that other components — like amplifiers, subwoofers, and touch screens — are completely turned off when not being used.


Automated lights can also trickle unnecessary energy. Most of these systems use a hidden computer to switch the light on or off. These computers range in size and power consumption. Look for one that enables standby mode after a short time.

Other lighting controls use a special base that connects directly to the light socket. These systems send wireless signals through a small circuit board in the base unit. The light socket will power the circuit board and the bulb. When purchasing any stand-alone lighting unit, ask how much energy the base unit uses, or measure it yourself. An inefficient base unit could counteract the efficient light bulb it controls.

Window Coverings

Most homes only have a few windows with direct sunlight at any given time. While home installations are generally not practical for window-covering automation, commercial space can be. Large rooms can be dimmed and brightened with the ease of a switch. There are plenty of large buildings which save thousands a year with optimized shades.

Heating and Cooling

The digital thermostat has revolutionized heating and cooling automation by allowing you to program your thermostat to match your schedule, and most automated thermostats are equipped to program settings for each day of the week. For maximum benefit, digital thermostats should be re-programmed each season. If you have lost the manual to your thermostat, check the manufacturer’s website, or contact them directly.

Also try using natural sunlight to heat rooms. Open your shades or other window coverings, or install a skylight to let more natural heat in.

One great product for heating the house is a thermostat-controlled space heater. The heater can activate when the room falls below a certain temperature. Space heaters can also be used in conjunction with your furnace to heat only the rooms you are using.

Calculating the Value

Automation in the home is designed to add convenience, and it does. But before installing any home automation system, calculate the amount of energy it uses — as well as the cost in dollars. Is the convenience truly worth the cost?

Mark Joseph

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

About the Author

Mark Joseph is the owner of, a website for environmentally responsible home repair. Mark has worked in residential and commercial construction for four years, and strives for a greener building initiative. He now crunches numbers and code in Columbus, OH working for a hospitality automation company.

Save Energy – and Money – with a Cool Roof

November 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, Green Building, Slideshow, Sustainability

Comments Off on Save Energy – and Money – with a Cool Roof

Energy-efficient roofing can save homeowners significant money in air-conditioning costs. Photo: Courtesy Dr. Energy Saver

Energy-efficient roofing can save homeowners significant money in air-conditioning costs. Photo: Courtesy Dr. Energy Saver

Whether you’re replacing an old roof or choosing roofing for a new house, make energy efficiency a priority

Discussions about improving home energy efficiency usually revolve around topics like insulation, air sealing, replacement windows and high-efficiency HVAC equipment. But roof shingles and other roofing materials also deserve attention in the energy-saving plan for a house or other building.

Cooler Roofing = Energy Savings

"Cool" roofs reflect far more of the sun's heat than traditional roofs do. Photo: Courtesy Dr. Energy Saver

“Cool” roofs reflect far more of the sun’s heat than traditional roofs do. Photo: Courtesy Dr. Energy Saver

On a bright summer day, the temperature of a dark asphalt shingle roof can easily reach 150 degrees. This heat moves into the attic and into a home’s living space, making rooms uncomfortably hot while also placing extreme demands on the air conditioning system.

New roofing materials that meet ENERGY STAR® requirements for energy efficiency are designed to reflect more of the sun’s heat than traditional roofing materials, staying 100 degrees cooler in some cases. A “cool” roof, as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy, reduces air conditioning requirements and can actually cut peak cooling demand by as much as 15%.  Who wouldn’t like to pay 15% less for air conditioning?

During cold winter months, it can be beneficial to have a roofing material that absorbs solar heat to help cut the cost of keeping warm inside. But research has shown that the benefits of cutting summer cooling requirements far outweigh the benefits of solar gain through the roof in winter. This makes sense when you consider winter conditions: shorter daylight hours, more overcast weather, and the sun’s lower position in the sky.

Cool Roof Benefits Go Beyond Energy Savings

It’s important to understand that cool roofing shouldn’t be your only defense against high summertime air conditioning costs; you also need attic insulation, which provides energy savings during heating and cooling seasons. But having a cool roof installed on your house can work together with your attic insulation to save you hundreds of dollars every year.

There are other benefits, too. Through local and national programs, a new cool roof may qualify for rebates & other financial incentives. To find out what programs are available in your area, visit the Cool Roof Rating Council website. The CRRC manages a system for evaluating the properties that define energy-saving cool roofing materials.

Since energy efficiency is a major feature in any “green” house, a cool roof helps to reduce environmental impact and (thus) increase green value. Other benefits you can expect after installing energy-efficient roofing are longer life for the roofing material and lower summertime attic temperatures (which are less damaging to certain items stored in the attic).

Choosing Energy-Efficient Roofing

If you’re in the market for new roofing, it’s wise to stick with roofing materials that meet ENERGY STAR® requirements for energy-efficient performance. Many people are surprised to learn that asphalt shingles (used on about 75% of homes in the U.S.) that qualify as cool roofing don’t have to be white or light in color.

Darker brown and grey tones are also available, thanks to improvements in making and mixing the tiny granules that form the finished surface of an asphalt shingle. Major manufacturers like Owens Corning, GAF, and CertainTeed offer ENERGY STAR® asphalt shingles in a wide variety of styles and colors –good news for homeowners who want a new roof that helps cut cooling costs

Tim Snyder

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

A journalist specializing in sustainability, energy efficiency and home building topics, Tim Snyder writes frequently for Smart Care Exteriors and Dr. Energy Saver, a nationwide network of energy improvement contractors.  


Expiring Eco-Friendly Tax Credits Can Help with 2011 Taxes

January 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Eco-Friendly, Energy, Front Page, Slideshow, Tax Credits, Tips

U.S. homeowners can file for a 2011 tax credit if you've installed energy-saving improvements such as hot-water tubing to heat your basement floor. Photo: © Chlorophylle -

U.S. homeowners can file for a 2011 tax credit if you've installed energy-saving improvements such as hot-water tubing to heat your basement floor. Photo: © Chlorophylle -

The clock is ticking. If you haven’t filed your 2011 taxes yet, you still have time to take advantage of tax credits for home energy improvements you made last year.

According to the ENERGY STAR website, if you’ve made any of the following improvements to your primary residence during 2011, you’re eligible take advantage of the following credits on your federal tax returns:

Biomass Stoves: Stoves that use biomass fuels to heat your home and hot water are eligible for a $300 tax credit, as long as they carry a thermal efficiency rating of at least 75 percent.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC): Federal tax incentives include a variety of energy-efficient heating and cooling upgrades, such as these:

    • Advanced Main Air Circulating Fan: This fan is used to blow air through duct systems and qualifies for a $50 tax credit.
    • Air Source Heat Pumps: These pumps act as an alternative to furnaces and air conditioners in moderate climates. Since they move heat rather than generate it, they provide up to four times more energy than they use. They qualify for a $300 tax credit.
    • Central Air: Depending on the unit installed, you may be eligible to receive a $300 tax credit for the purchase of the equipment. Be sure to ask your contractor to verify that the unit qualifies and ask for a copy of the Manufacturers’ Certification Statement.
    • Gas, Propane or Oil Hot Water Boiler: These heating units circulate hot water through radiators, baseboard units, or in-floor tubing. The tax credit? $150 for qualifying boilers, including installation.
    • Natural Gas, Propane or Oil Furnace: In these furnaces, a combination of fuel and air is combusted to create heat. They qualify for a tax credit of $150.

Insulation: Adding or upgrading insulation can provide for a tax credit of 10 percent of the purchase cost up to $500. This includes standard bulk-style insulation and products that seal air, as long as they come with a Manufacturer’s Certification Statement.

Roofs: Roofs installed using qualified products can earn you a credit of 10 percent, up to $500 for the cost of the materials. This credit does not take into consideration installation costs.

Water Heaters (non-solar): Installation of a non-solar water heater that meets certain energy requirements will qualify for a $300 tax credit.

Windows and Doors: The addition of ENERGY STAR windows and doors will qualify for a tax credit of 10 percent of the purchase cost. The credit for doors is capped at $500, while the credit for windows is capped at $200.

It’s Not Too Late

Even if your time has run out for the 2011 tax credits, you’re not out of luck. There are still several incentives to go green in 2012. In fact, several tax credits are available through 2016; however, most incur a higher up-front cost and significant renovations to existing structures. In addition, these improvements can be made on both primary and secondary homes, but not on rental properties.

The following improvements qualify for a tax credit equal to 30 percent of cost, including installation, with no cap:

Solar Energy Systems: Both solar water heaters and solar panels, which are used to convert the sun’s energy into electricity, qualify. All ENERGY STAR water heaters qualify; however, the units must be used to heat water in the home, not to heat swimming pools or hot tubs.

Residential Wind Turbines: These small-scale wind turbines convert wind to electricity. In order to qualify, the turbine cannot exceed a nameplate of capacity of 100 kilowatts.

Geothermal Heat Pumps: These heat pumps use ground temperatures to provide heating, cooling and hot water needs to homes. They are recognized as the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies currently available.

Residential Fuel Cells: Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to form water vapor, heat, and electricity. The residential version qualifies for a tax credit equal to 30 percent of the cost up to $500 per .5 kilowatts of power capacity. In addition, microturbine systems qualify for the same tax credit, but are not yet considered a viable option for single-family dwellings.

While the above-mentioned tax credits are offered by the federal government, many states have also followed suit and created their own tax credits for similar upgrades. To see if you qualify for any of your state’s incentives, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

Although some of these credits expired at the end of last year, it’s possible that the federal government will extend any number of these programs. Besides, improving your energy efficiency will not only provide financial benefits in energy savings, it will also lessen the environmental impact of living in your home. And isn’t that the most important factor anyway?

Brenda Ankney

Guest Contributor

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Brenda Ankney is an avid blogger who writes for a variety of publications, including Heating Oil Shopper, a leading provider of information on numerous home heating oil topics including heating oil prices in Massachusetts.

Energy-Wise Landscape Design – This Book Will Save You Money

Homeowners can keep cool in the summer with plantings that shade the house and the ground. Photo: © jnatkin_iStockPhoto

In the depths of winter, it’s always good to remember that spring is just around the corner. After the holiday rush ends, it will be a great time to start planning and dreaming about your yard. And if you’re planning to build or renovate this coming year, you’ll want to be sure you incorporate landscaping ideas that not only look pretty, but that are also energy efficient.

Careful landscaping can be much more effective at saving energy than many of the other efforts we make each day, like turning off lights and turning down the heat. Having the right plantings outside your home will not only save you money, it will also help you live more comfortably in an esthetically pleasing environment.
That’s the essence of the message embedded in every page of Energy-Wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for your Home and Garden by Sue Reed.

Conserving Two Kinds of Energy

Author Sue Reed provides a wealth of information that will help any homeowner, landscaper, or gardener take full advantage of nature to save energy and money.

From the very beginning, readers can see that this is a serious book about finding all possible ways to conserve with landscaping:

This book presents ideas for conserving two kinds of energy. First it shows how to reduce operating energy — the energy used in our regular day-to-day functioning — that includes fuel for mowers and machinery, electricity for outdoor lights and watering systems and even the gasoline for our cars. Second, implementing the advice in this book will also reduce embedded energy — the energy used to manufacture and transport equipment and materials — that we consume in our landscapes without even realizing it.

The author doesn’t use a prescriptive approach, but instead offers readers “a guide to achieve any landscape design goal in a way that saves energy.”

What’s more, Reed does it in easy-to-understand language, simplifying complex ideas and technical information. She offers easy-to-implement tips and instructions that make this a practical, as well as a theoretical, guide.

Based on Science

Scientific principles form the foundation for Reed’s landscape designs. Did you know, for example, about the “Venturi Effect”?

Reed explains it this way:

When a river narrows to pass between canyon walls, its speed picks up; so too with air… [W]hen air or any fluid flows through a constricted space, its velocity must increase.

We can intensify the power of wind in summer by designing the landscape to make the most of this effect, by arranging things so they create funnels or leave small spaces for wind to squeeze through. In winter we can arrange windbreaks and other barriers to prevent this effect, so they don’t accidentally increase wind speed.

The book is chock full of photos, diagrams, and explanations of other scientific principles that are helpful for even the lay gardener to understand. While you can certainly figure some things out by observation (where an existing tree’s shadow falls in the summer, for example), formulas and diagrams are indispensable for determining how a tree or a windbreak might affect your home 20 years from now. For example, below a diagram of a SW windbreak of evergreens, the author writes:

Evergreens southwest or southeast of the house, or a house northeast or northwest of tall evergreens, should be spaced apart a distance at least three and a half times the trees’ mature height.

The explanation alone is helpful, but the diagram makes it even more clear. And providing the formula ensures that the homeowner won’t plant the windbreak too close to the house or too far away to be beneficial — a costly mistake in either case.

Practical Advice

The book is divided into seven sections, each of which deals with a general topic about ways to save energy. I am impressed by the breadth of topics as well as the depth of discussion and abundance of practical tips. Here’s a list of the section titles, with just a single sample quoted from the abundance of tips you can find in each:

Section I: Arranging the Landscape to Help Cool a House in Summer

[C]elebrate and accentuate any slopes on your landscape instead of leveling or removing them. If possible, position outdoor gathering places midway on a slope, so you’ll feel rising breezes in the morning and sinking breezes in the evening.

Section II: Arranging the Landscape to Help Heat a House in Winter

The power of wind increases with the cube (or third power) of its speed. this means that when wind speeds double, their force is eight times stronger…. Solid fences should be built with extra cross pieces and, ideally, with the nailed side of boards facing the prevailing wind direction, so that in strong wind those boards are pushed in toward their supporting structure and are hence less likely to be ripped off.

Section III: Designing the Realm of Plants

No matter what kind of landscape you have,… consider a drastic new approach to gardening: don’t add anything…. It’s not a recommendation for laissez-faire gardening. Rather, it’s simply a suggestion to let everything new be added by nature itself … and then to remove anything you don’t want.

Section IV: Designing the Whole Property

Driveways must be designed to allow for a turning radius of at least 15 feet. Tighter curves will simply be driven over. And note: the point where a driveway’s curve begins must be well outside the garage (or parking space), by at least half a car length, so a tuning car doesn’t bump into walls (or other parked cars).

Section V: Construction and Care

One of the best ways to repair soil — actually, it’s the same method that nature uses — is to just let fallen leaves, twigs and dead wood remain on the ground and break down gradually in place. You can rake all this material up and chop or grind it into smaller bits, or you can compost and spread it later in a different place, but the most energy-efficient choice is just to leave this precious resource on the ground, right where it falls.

Section VI: Generating Energy in Your Landscape

The fluid inside a geothermal loop can be ordinary water in warm climates where the ground doesn’t freeze. Otherwise, it should be either an antifreeze solution or a mixture of water and antifreeze, with a freeze point at least 10″ below the lowest projected temperature in that area.

Section VII: Lights in the Landscape

[A]s a rule of thumb, when selecting bulbs, choose the size that will give:

  • for low light: 10 to 20 lumens per square foot of area being lit
  • for ordinary tasks: 30 to 50 lumns per square foot of area being lit
  • for reading or fine work: 50 to 100 lumens per square foot of area being lit

Helpful Appendices

If you rarely give much thought to the appendices of a reference book, you might want to rethink that for Energy-Wise Landscape Design. If you’re just enough of a nerd to enjoy reading a simple explanation of such things as how to find a shadow’s direction, but not enough of a nerd to know the calculations by heart, you’ll find Appendix A an interesting read.

Subtitled “Details and Calculations,” Appendix A provides explanations of the following:

  • Finding true north
  • Knowing your latitude
  • Figuring out the height of a tree
  • Calculating shadow lengths
  • Finding the direction a shadow will fall
  • Reading a solar path diagram
  • Determining slope

I have to admit that I don’t remember enough geometry to have figured these things out on my own. I’m grateful for any resource that does the math for me.

Appendix B provides help of another kind. While describing landscaping techniques, the author frequently refers to various trees and shrubs by name as well as mentioning “smaller deciduous trees” and “tall shrubs,” etc. In the back of the book, she provides helpful tables that include the common name and botanical name, growing conditions, and appearance/comments about several common trees and shrubs:

  • Deciduous Trees Taller than 50 Feet
  • Deciduous Trees 35-50 Feet Tall
  • Deciduous Trees 20-35 Feet Tall
  • Evergreen Trees Taller than 40 Feet
  • Deciduous Shrubs 60 to 20 Feet Tall
  • Deciduous Shrubs 3 to 6 Feet Tall
  • Broadleaf Evergreen Shrubs


A registered landscape architect, Sue Reed “has helped hundreds of homeowners create comfortable, livable and beautiful landscapes that save energy. She is also an experienced writer and teacher whose work focuses specifically on environmentally sound, energy efficient and sustainable landscape design.”

Energy-Wise Landscape Design is published by New Society Publishers. Suggested retail price is $29.95, though you can find it for a bit less on

This is an outstanding reference for anyone who is serious about natural landscaping. The ideas, tips, and resources included will save you money while helping you create a peaceful, pleasant environment you will enjoy all year ’round. I recommend it.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

The Small Print

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Blue Planet Green Living has an affiliate relationship with If you purchase this book or any other products through Amazon by clicking on our affiliate link, Blue Planet Green Living will receive a small financial compensation from Amazon, which we use to sustain this website.

Breeze Dryer – Eco-Friendly Solutions for Drying Your Laundry

Gayle and Gary Sutterlin, the North American distributors of Hills products, stand in front of the largest rotary design, the Hills Hoist 6. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

“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.

The Portable 120 drying rack is easy to move indoors and out. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

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?

The Hills Supa Fold 70 is the perfect size for small spaces. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

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.

The Hills Supa Fold 120 goes up and down with a simple click. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

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.

The Supa Fold Mono has a large capacity perfect for a family's laundry. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

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.?

The Hills Portable 170 has several clotheslines, yet takes little space. Photo: Courtesy Breeze Dryer

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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My 5: Gary Sutterlin, Breeze Dryer, CEO

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

DIY: Hang a Clothesline in 10 Minutes

Joe hangs a load of laundry on the line he installed. Photo: Julia Wasson

There are lots of reasons to hang your clothes outside to dry, including saving energy by not running your dryer. If you’ve been putting off setting up a clothesline because you thought it would be too much trouble, put it off no more. We found a simple, do-it-yourself (DIY) clothesline that took less than 10 minutes to set up and get started.

Drill two starter holes for the screws, then slide the reel over the screws to lock it in place. The braking device is below the reelPhoto: Julia Wasson

We had been talking about hanging a clothesline for a long time — years, actually. When we finally got around to it, it was a snap. (Easy for me to say, because Joe hung it. But he swears it’s true.) We bought a Sunline retractable clothesline at our local hardware store for $13.78 plus tax. The only tools needed were a power drill, an extension cord, a hammer, and a starter nail.

Using the power drill, Joe drilled two screws into one end wall of the deck on the back of our house. The plastic, round reel, which holds all the clothes line, just fit over those screws and slid down over them, locking into place. Then Joe tightened both screws with the drill.

On the other end of the deck, about 16 feet away from the reel, he tapped a starter hole in the wall with the hammer and nail. Then he hand-screwed the 2- inch hook into the wall opposite the reel.

Next, he grabbed the starter cord from the reel and pulled it across the deck. At that point, it was a simple matter of hanging the built-in loop on the end of the starter cord over the hook. The line was up, but it wasn’t yet ready for us to hang laundry.

Hanging the end of the line is a simple matter of pulling the loop over the hook. Photo: Julia Wasson

There was still one important step left. Standing at the clothesline reel, Joe pulled out a few more inches of clothesline so that the entire line was loose. Then he wrapped the line around a small braking device, which keeps the clothesline taut. Done! And in less than 10 minutes.

We’ve hung several loads of laundry on our new line, and so far, it hasn’t sagged or gone slack. It’s a good thing, too, because Joe loves to do the laundry. This is one device that’s going to get a real workout.

But what if we want to use our deck for entertaining or just to read a book? All we have to do is unhook the line, remove the excess cord from the braking device, and tug on the line to retract it.

We keep the cord retracted when we’re not actually hanging laundry on it, to protect it from sunlight and weather. What’s the environmental payoff? Hard to say just yet, as we don’t know for sure how long this device will last. It’s made largely of plastic, which is a negative, but it helps us avoid using electricity produced by coal, which is a positive.

A typical load of laundry, drying on our new Sunline retractable clothesline. Photo: Julia Wasson

As to whether it’s cost-effective, that’s another question we don’t have the answer for just yet. One estimate I read says that an electric dryer costs about 57 cents per 40-minute load. Our dryer always takes about an hour for a full load of towels, such as the ones on this line, so it’s bound to be closer to 75 cents per load. (I’m purely estimating here, and you’ll have to figure this out for yourself using your own calculations.)

To be on the safe side, let’s assume it’s only 60 cents per load. With a device that cost us roughly $14, that’s about 23 loads to reach full return on our investment. Since we easily do 3 loads a week, we’ll have the cost of the Sunline retractable clothesline paid back in about 8 weeks. And the rest of the summer and fall, we’ll be drying our laundry for free.

There are lots of other choices for air-drying laundry besides the one we used. A quick trip to the hardware store, and you’ll have an air-drying solution for your home laundry in no time at all.

The Small Print

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Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)