Turning challenges into opportunities

The phrase 'necessity is the mother of invention' certainly speaks volumes to us at Orange Sky HQ. Some of the best things we have discovered and added to our operations seem to come from areas which cause us the most pain and challenges - forcing us to reflect and improve for the better. In this case, the Waru Dryer is certainly no different!

After taking a good hard look through our vehicles and operations, it was clear that the reliability and energy consumption of our dryers was a common cause of delays, cancelled shifts, and unfortunately took up 90% of the energy required to conduct a 2 hour shift (~4 loads of washing).

So, we investigated, we reflected, we ideated, and we finally came up with the idea of the 'Waru Dryer'. The Waru Dryer runs on a diesel heater which is supported by solar power and now requires 90% less electrical energy to run and maintain - so now we are able to deliver more shifts, more often and for longer periods of time, without the stress of refuelling or frequent maintenance.

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What does Waru mean?
Waru translates to mean ‘fire’ in Pitjantjatjara language. This is in reference to the land where the artwork was created and where the idea of this dryer was first thought of. In many cultures fire is the main meeting place where people come together to connect – much like the mission of Orange Sky. Fire also represents one of the first inventions by humans, of which this innovation paved the way for many more to be possible.

What does the artwork mean?
Painted by artist Rhoda Tjitayi, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) woman, the artwork references “The Piltarti Tjukurpa;”  an important cultural site in the Western APY Lands near Nyapori Community. Rhoda paints her grandmother’s story, the ancestral creation story of Piltati Tjukurpa. Two sisters, Wanyinta and Alartjatjarra, along with their husbands, travelled the lands looking for food.

How does it work?
The clothes are still dried like a normal tumble dryer, however the hot air that removes the moisture from the clothes is heated by a fuel powered air heater, rather than a typical electrical heating element.

What are the main benefits?
The Waru Dryer uses 90% less electrical energy which means it can be run from a battery and charged by solar energy from the sun. The dryer also has a pre-heating function, which means the dryer is already hot before you put the clothes in.

Do the clothes dry in the same amount of time?
The Waru Dryer has a drying time of 40 minutes, which is consistent with other appliances of the same size. Drying times will vary depending on the size and variety of the load.

How does burning fuel/diesel to produce hot air make it environmentally friendly?
Previously our vans operated completely from a diesel generator, which consumed approximately 5L of diesel per hour for all equipment onboard. When we looked into this, we found that the dryer took up around 90% of this energy (mainly from the heat) and it would be difficult to transfer entirely to solar power.

In order to become as ‘solar powered & sustainable’ as possible and keep the dryers operational, we decided to install batteries and solar panels to power most of the vehicle (mainly the washers, internal pumps and the dryer’s electrical/mechanical components) and use a diesel heater for the dryer’s heat, which now only requires 1L per hour for both dryers. We have moved from 5L of diesel per hour down to 1L, and now rely significantly more on solar to reduce our consumption and impact on the environment.

We of course would love to become entirely solar powered, but dryers can be quite energy-hungry and we want to reduce as much down time as possible to ensure we can support those who need us most!

Where are your dryers currently operating?
As of October 2021, Waru Dryers are currently operating at Palm Island, Cairns, Maningrida, Wadeye, Brisbane and the Kimberly Region!

What’s the long term vision for the dryer?
Drying clothes is an important part of our laundry service and our mission, so we will keep exploring where and how we can best expand the positive effects of the Waru Dryer.

Got a question about the dryer, or an idea?
We would love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out to Nic at nicholas@orangesky.org.au.


"Designing, constructing and implementing the Waru dryer has been an amazing experience.

The project represents a big step towards reducing Orange Sky's environmental impact, but most importantly, it will allow us to help more people in need, so I take great pride in leading its development. I'm excited to see what else the team has in store."

Ben Battaglia

Delta Project Engineer

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