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UC Riverside grad students build innovative solar clothes dryer

April 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the 97 years since the invention of the electric tumble clothing dryer, not much has changed. But thanks to some enterprising students, a new solar drying system could do the trick while saving consumers thousands of dollars.

Jesse Lozano and a group of student inventors at the University of California, Riverside, have developed a solar thermal closet to dry clothes without the need for electricity. The graduate student team won a grant to develop the idea.

"Essentially here, we are harnessing the power of the sun," Lozano said.

A solar energy collector on the roof helps heat up air in the attic, which is then drawn through tubes into an outdoor closet that heats up to 150 degrees. The clothes dry in about an hour.

Lozano said the thermal closet costs about $2,300, where as a traditional dryer cost $600. The thermal closet could potentially save consumers $6,500 over a 20-year period.

Scott Taylor of Taylor's Appliances in Riverside says the industry has been trying to come up with an energy efficient dryer to match its counterpart, the washer.

"They've tried to introduce microwaves into dryers, so there has been some effort over the years to make something revolutionary, but we just haven't seen it yet," Taylor said.

Next week, Lozano and his team will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete for a $90,000 grant which could help bring solar closets to homes in the future.