Closet uses solar heat collector to dry clothes without electricity

Engineering students in the US are to develop a new clothes-drying system that uses solar energy and warm air from houses.

The technology would harness solar thermal heat from a rooftop solar heat collector and heated air from an attic. The heated air would then be diverted to a closet, which could be concealed in a fireplace.

The team of students from the University of California, Riverside, has been awarded a $15,000 (£9,276) grant from the US Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to develop the system.

The heated air could also be directed through air ducts for space-heating applications in a house, to reduce electric and natural-gas heating costs during cooler months.

The $1,500 upfront cost of the solar thermal closet exceeds the $600 average upfront cost of a dryer, but the closet does not require maintenance and it does not use electricity.

Because of that, the students estimate a homeowner using the closet instead of a clothes dryer would save nearly $6,500 over 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 nearly $8,700 over a 20-year time frame.

The students — Jesse Lozano, Kenny Chau, Nhat Nguyen, Etinosa Agbonwaneten, Ariana Villanueva and Stephen Opot — won the grant in the built environment category of the EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability.