"We figured we could take advantage of what is normally a problem hot air in the attic and turn it into an asset," Ribeiro said.
The developer has asked that in this case the closet be designed to resemble a fireplace and chimney, but the closet also could be configured into an existing two-car garage, the students said.
The heated air can also be directed through air ducts for space heating applications in the house as needed to reduce electric and natural gas heating costs during cooler months.
The students' system saves two important things: money and energy.
Energy consumption from clothes dryers make up about 16 percent of energy demands in the residential sector.
The $1,500 upfront cost of the solar thermal closet exceeds the $600 average upfront cost of a dryer, but the closet doesn't require the maintenance a dryer needs and its use doesn't drive up an electricity bill. Because of that, the students estimate a homeowner using the closet and not a clothes dryer would save nearly $6,500 in a 20-year period.
In addition, the heated humid air from the solar thermal closet can be used as a substitute for a space heater and humidifier. Taking this into account, the students calculate a homeowner could save another nearly $8,700 over 20 years.
Few alternatives to clothes dryers exist. The most common is line drying clothing. But, it has limitations. Optimal weather conditions ample sun, limited rain and relatively low humidity are needed. Also, residents governed by a homeowner's association are typically not allowed to use a clothes drying line.
|Contact: Sean Nealon|
University of California - Riverside