Get Rid of Dryer, Save $6,500

Money will allow former students help commercialize a system that can save homeowners nearly $6,500 over 20 years

Solar dryer team holds awards

A group of former UC Riverside enginnering students at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. after winning a $90,000 grant

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( —  A team of former students from the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside learned Monday (April 24) they will receive a $90,000 grant to continue work on a system they designed that eliminates the need for a clothes dryer and could save a homeowner nearly $6,500 over 20 years.

The system consists of a solar-powered attic fan diverting solar thermal heat from a rooftop solar heat collector, and hot air from the attic, to a retrofitted closet that serves as a clothes dryer.

The students have been in Washington, D.C. since late last week taking part in the National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall. At an awards ceremony Monday they found out they were one of the recipients of a $90,000 grant from the.EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Student Design Competition for Sustainability.

A year ago, the same team of students were one of 45 teams from across the nation that were awarded phase one awards of $15,000  during the same competition. Since 2005, seven UC Riverside teams have won phase one awards, but none of them had won the phase two award.

With the $90,000, the former students – Jesse S. Lozano, Etinosa J. Agbonwaneten, Ariana E. Villanueva, Stephen R. Opot and Kenny Chau – and students in the UC Riverside Engineers Without Borders chapter will further refine the system, upgrade their data monitoring equipment and install the systems at four homes in the Victory Gardens Moreno Valley community.

Kawai Tam, a lecturer at the Bourns College of Engineering, and Mark Matsumoto, a professor of environmental and chemical engineering, will continue to advise them.

From left, Stephen R. Opot, Ariana E. Villanueva, Kenny Chau and Jesse S. Lozano, all UC Riverside graduates, stand in front of the solar thermal closet they designed and built.

The students’ system saves two important things: money and energy.

The $2,821 upfront cost of the solar collector, closet, ducting and piping 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.

The students estimate a homeowner using the closet and not a clothes dryer would save $6,484 in a 20-year period. The bulk of that, more than $5,000, is for electricity. (Energy consumption from heating units, such as clothes dryers and space heaters, make up about 16 percent of energy demands in the residential sector.)

The students estimate it would take just over five years to recover the upfront money to install the solar thermal system.

In addition to the savings from not having a dryer, 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.

Since receiving the $15,000 phase one grant, the students have built a new solar collector, which is made of aluminum sheets and aluminum ducting used for conventional dryers.

They installed the collector on the roof and connected it to the closet via insulated ducts at one of the homes at Victory Gardens Moreno Valley, a cutting-edge, 30-home redevelopment, urban agriculture focused community that has twin goals of becoming zero-net energy and zero-net food.

They conducted tests in February and early March and found the system produced temperatures up to 137 degree, which equated to drying times of about 60 minutes for light clothing, such as T-shirts, and up to 90 minutes for heavy clothing, such as jeans and sweaters. They believe those drying times could be reduced to 45 minutes to an hour during the warmer months.


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