The Energy Crisis and HOA’s

I was thinking the other day about the energy problems we are facing in this country. It seems like the government and people who write about this are always looking for big ways we can save energy. While I am not opposed to alternative energy and more efficient products, what has always intrigued me is that they often overlook simple, cheap, and effective ways to save energy.

The first thing that came to mind were back yard chickens. In most cities, people are banned from keeping chickens in their yard, even though chickens are quiet (if you don’t have a rooster), good for the soil, and can provide fresh eggs for your family. If you think about how most of us get our eggs, they are laid in a location two to five hours from where we live, put on a truck and then driven hundreds of miles to our local grocery store. Once at the store, they sit on refrigerated shelves until we drive to the store and purchase them. To me, that seems like a huge waste of energy.

Back yard chickens would fertilize the soil and provide you with fresh eggs. In order to get the eggs you walk to your back yard and collect them. No trucks, no refrigeration, less energy.

The other thing that immediately came to mind was the clothes line. Fifty years ago everyone had a clothes line, that was how you dried your clothes. Then came “community developments” and the rise of the HOA’s and clotheslines were banned in many neighborhoods. It ruins the view to look at your neighbor’s underwear hanging in the backyard. I did some simple math and realized that if the approximately 100 million households were to hang dry two loads of laundry a week, it would save 650 million dollars in energy costs. I realize in the big scheme of things 650 million dollars is not a lot, but it’s a start.

I have always wondered why we ban the simple ways to save energy and spend millions of dollars figuring out costly ways to save energy. It seems logical to allow people to find their own ways to save energy. The incentive would be a lower electric or gas bill every month. Instead we make it more difficult for people to hang their clothes out to dry, keep chickens, or use alternative sources.

A few years ago I stumbled across this Path to Freedom website. I have always been intrigued by this family who has been working towards self sufficiency on 1/10 of an acre! It is amazing all the small, inexpensive things this family does to save energy and money! They even sell their extra energy back to the power company and make a profit! It is possible to make small changes that have a big impact, it just requires a change from the typical big solution type thinking we see today.

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  1. so very true. we get all this information about turning of lights and not running the water when you brush your teeth, but there’s just so much more.

  2. I love my clotheseline! I grew up hanging clothes out to dry much more than we ever used a drier. As for chickens, I’d love to have a few but I thought you had to have a rooster in order for the hens to lay eggs? I’m a country girl, but we didnt raise chickens. 🙂 I’ve gotten to where I turn the radio down anytime an electric company ad comes on. Always about using flourescent lights.. I refuse to use them because of the mercury. I have a child with autism/adhd and this community has no way of recycling them. All that neurotoxic stuff is going into the landfill!

  3. We are currently in the process of trying to qualify for a house through a USDA rural development program. That would put is in an area that I know allows chickens, and I am so excited for that. I have done a lot of thinking about clotheslines as well, I should ask about HOA’s in the area and see if we might run up against any problems.

    And, double thanks for the link to the Path to Freedom website. I think it will be great to see some ways we can start our new home off as an energy saving home from the beginning.

  4. Thanks so much for this post. I personally use my clothes line every day. When I run out of room on my clothes line I hang stuff on my porch. There are simple things that people can do if they don’t have the room or aren’t aloud to have a clothes line. They can hang line across their garage or porch or get those indoor hanging racks and use those as the line outside. In cold weather hang dry the stuff on the shower rods.
    I live in the country. I just got a chicken house and I am looking to get the chickens now. Do you have any recommendations? I want laying chickens that can handle the harsh temps of OH.
    Also thanks for link to the other blog. I can’t wait to sit down and read it.

  5. TheHappyHousewife says:

    I think you need a Rooster to get chicks, but you will get eggs with hens…

  6. Very interesting article. We’ve just had an issue with our management company/HOA. They sent us a certified letter over a property line dispute. They finally admitted they had no jurisdiction over it. That made me realize just how much of our money they waste. It’s a business for the management companies. That’s why they make it so difficult. They want to send letters over every little infraction they can think of.

    I’ve been on an HOA board, so I’ve seen it from both sides. Have your governing documents accessible so that you can refer to them. If you find that you’ve been accused of something that isn’t covered in the documents, (as we did), bring it up to the HOA. I did just tha, on the day we received the letter. Unfortunately, the management company didn’t want to respond to my e-mails until we paid an attorney to send them a letter. That’s when they backed off.

    With talk of roofs being painted white to save energy, I wonder what HOA’s will do should that become the norm. Having white roofs is definitely something that will save energy. The sun’s heat won’t be absorbed as it is with dark-colored roofs. HOA governing documents may need to be ratified to allow for such a thing.

    Thanks for a great article!!

  7. TheHappyHousewife says:

    Great points Andrea! We cannot have a clothes line, but I hang stuff on my drying rack and on a rod in my laundry room.
    I’ll check into chicken resources, many of my friends have them so I’ll see what I can find out.


  8. Well, since government is typically driven by big business and oil, electric and gas are FOR profit organizations, it makes sense to me why the government doesn’t change anything. Also, it seems everyone wants to make our lives easier and the easier thing for most people is to throw clothes in the dryer and pick up eggs while they are at the store. With today’s transient society as well as the propensity for travel people don’t want to be tied down with animals.

    BTW, I line dry my clothing indoors and the only thing holding me back from getting chickens is my daughter’s egg allergy. I can’t cook with them and worry that we don’t eat enough eggs to warrant chickens.

  9. Andrea – check out Mother Earth News or Hobby Farms magazines – they have some wonderful chicken articles, sometimes even entire editions, devoted to chickens. I am in OH and there are enough breeds out there that I don’t worry about finding one that would work.

  10. Great post… there are a few things that EVERY person CAN DO, that MAY take a little extra “woman power”, but is well worth it in the end. I have chickens and several other types of animals, chickens are a GREAT animals that most people CAN have on their property, and eggs are healthy (especially being free-ranged in yards) and FULL of vitamins and antioxidants that those store bought eggs just don’t have. Check out the Eat Wild website (, and you can see JUST how many more nutrients you can get from pastured chicken eggs! It is truly amazing!

    Another thing we have done is a clothes line. Last year we figured up that we saved over $200 in a summer line drying our clothes! That is our home in Indiana, used only in warm months. If you live in warmer climates, you could save even more! And with a SMALL clothes rack in my basement now, I plan on saving MORE by line drying some heavier items there instead of in the dryer this winter.

    Small things ARE what the average American CAN do. I love thinking back to what my grandmother did when she was a child… She hung laundry on the line for her mother, she helped can food, they worked by the day light and didn’t use hardly ANY electric, they had chickens, cows for milk and meat, among other animals for meat. Everything that they had served a purpose and had a job. I think if we all moved a little more in that direction, we could be more “green” than anyone!

  11. One thing I love about our new neighborhood is NO HOA! All the neighborhood covents have expired so you can do whatever you want. One of our neighbors has chickens.
    (and there’s nothing better than a freshly-laid egg!) And we have a zip line which would be great for drying clothes on if I wanted.

  12. I would love to live in a place where “simple” is “in”. Unfortunately, the house we’re building is in a subdivision w/ an HOA – so no chickens for me. :/ Maybe someday…

  13. Great post and thoughts! Personally, I would much rather see undies hanging on a line than hanging out of teenagers’ pants… Just saying. 😉

  14. This post hits so close to home. I have a horrid HOA. I’m not allowed to have a clothesline….but I do. And I’m not allowed to have chickens. I have four. And until they threaten to kick us out, that’s just the way it’s going to be. Preach on!!

    Stephanie 🙂

  15. We deliberately avoided buying a house in a neighborhood with a restrictive HOA. I dry clothes on my front porch if I feel like it. We lived overseas (with mega-expensive electricity) and learned to appreciate clotheslines.

    A local shed manufacturer is now marketing sheds with rooftop gardens. What a cool idea – perfect for herbs and lettuce, since bunnies can’t climb and deer can’t reach!

  16. TheHappyHousewife says:

    I LOVE that idea for a shed, how clever. I’m hoping the next place we live will allow clothes lines, until then- I’ll keep using my rack and my garage!

  17. We recently moved out of a house we were renting that cared more about the color of our grass that how much water was wasted. Maybe the simple way of living may come back in style.

  18. how true. I love my clothesline.

  19. Hmm, Nancy you must have lived in CO, right? We lived there and that was the way it was – esp. in the HOA neighborhoods.

  20. Actually, when there is no rooster in a group of chickens, one or more of the chickens will change sexes to become a rooster. This is to keep the species going. I grew up with neighbors who had chickens and grew very tired of hearing the crowing every morning at 5 am. They also would frequently escape from the coup and hide in our garage.

    As for what the government is focusing on the save energy- it seems like they are focusing on what they CAN change (investing in alternative energy.) The government can’t regulate that people begin using clothes lines or raise chickens to save a trip to the grocery store (although I have NEVER made a trip to the grocery store just for eggs. I always buy them when I do my regular grocery shopping, so I’m not sure how I am wasting gas.)

  21. So very true. In our subdivision last year they changed the bylaws so we can finally have a clothesline. We put it up this year and I was so happy!
    I would love to have backyard chickens!!! They don’t actually take up as much room as you would think. My husband and I looked into it before the city vetoed it.

  22. Why is it that the more money a person has then( it seems to me) that the less likely being green actually themselves matters. Is this the most spoiled yet neediest generation? Think about it. Everyone needs the magic pill to lose weight? Exercise? That calls for equipment. When I was a kid everyone hung their laundry, there were no robotic vacuums, diets and more diets did not make the cover of every magazine. Fat children were few and far between. The majority of people were not depressed. Playing did not mean go sit watch any one of the 399 channels or play video games inside because going outside might be too dangerous. If you wanted to lose weight? Everyone knew stop eating, start moving, think of the money you could save! Do it yourself! Get out doors! We can learn to be frugal, but if we keep spoiling our own kids, how will they fair? They are so fat and sassy that even getting free lunch at school just isn’t yummy enough to eat. Everyone has catered to this spoiled generation. You just can’t teach them.

  23. I use my clothesline all the time. For years it was an “illegal” one because our neighbourhood actually had deed restrictions prohibiting them. However, a few years ago, our province passed a law making it illegal to ban clotheslines!

  24. Maybe times are a changin’. We just got word that the HOAs in Maryland can’t prohibit clotheslines after Oct 1. The HOAs can establish guidelines (which is what the notice was about) so we will see how well this goes.

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