Of course, one of the cheapest means of drying clothes uses no appliance what-so-ever. The simple clothes line and clothes pins cost hardly anything. Using the heat of the sun and drying power of breezes, clothes lines are making a come back in many backyards. Some homeowners' associations and cities, however, have local CC&Rs that restrict the use of clothes lines in planned communities. So, check the convenants, codes and restrictions covering your property before putting up a clothes line.
Unlike most other types of appliances, clothes dryers don't vary much in the amount of energy used from model to model. That's why clothes dryers are not required to display EnergyGuide labels. They're also not listed in the ENERGY STAR®'s database.
But that doesn't mean that the amount of energy used by clothes dryers isn't important. A dryer is typically the second-biggest electricity-using appliance after the refrigerator, costing about $85 to operate annually.
Over its expected lifetime of 18 years, the average clothes dryer will cost you approximately $1,530 to operate.
Right now, all dryers on the market work the same - they tumble clothes through heated air to remove moisture. Engineers are working to develop dryers that use microwaves to dry clothes, but they're not yet being sold. (One problem still to be overcome is metal rivets and metal zippers, which don't microwave well.)
Electric vs Gas
All dryers use a small electric motor to turn a large drum that tumbles the clothes placed inside it. All of them have an electric fan, which distributes heated air. There are however, two ways to create the heat needed to efficiently dry clothes - using either gas or electricity.
Electric dryers use heating coils to supply heat. Most electric dryers operate on 240-volt current, twice the strength of ordinary household current. If your laundry area is not equipped with a 240-volt outlet, you must have one installed.
Gas dryers use a gas burner to create heat, but otherwise they operate the same as an electric dryer. Your laundry room must have a gas hookup, with proper connections and safe venting of the gas's exhaust, in addition to an electrical outlet.
The connections you have in your laundry room will probably dictate which style you use. If you have both gas and 240-volt connections, consider that gas dryers cost more to begin with - approximately $50 more than the comparable electric model. But in most areas gas dryers will cost less to run over their lifetime. Generally speaking, the cost of electricity needed to dry a typical load of laundry is 30 to 40 cents, compared to 15 to 20 cents if you use gas.
The energy efficiency of a clothes dryer is measured by a term called the energy factor. It's a rating somewhat similar to miles per gallon for a car - but in this case, the measure is pounds of clothing per kilowatt-hour of electricity. The minimum energy factor for a standard capacity electric dryer is 3.01. For gas dryers, the minimum energy factor is 2.67, and, yes, the rating for gas dryers is provided in kilowatt-hours, even though the primary source of fuel is natural gas.
Combination washer-dryers have been on the market for decades. They are used extensively in Europe and Asia and are practical for places where separate washers and dryers can not be placed.
Also known as "combos," these appliances wash and dry all in the same machine. You don't have to move laundry from a washer into a separate dryer.
All-in-one combo units are manufactured by many makers and usually require less energy and water, often eliminate the need for venting, and create more space in your home than regular washers and dryers.
Consider these tips if you're looking to buy an efficient clothes dryer:
- Check for the highest energy factor number when comparing different models. Remember that there are two costs to an appliance - the initial purchase price, and the cost of operating that appliance over the many years you own it.
- Know whether your laundry room has gas or electricity hookups. If you need to add a gas line and a vent to operate a gas dryer, you may spend more on adding the hookup than you'll save with the cheaper operating cost of gas.
- Look for a clothes dryer with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry. Not only does this save energy; it reduces wear and tear on clothes caused by over-drying.
The best dryers have moisture sensors in the drum for sensing dryness, while most only estimate dryness by sensing the temperature of the exhaust air. Compared with timed drying, you can save about 10 percent with a temperature sensing control, and 15 percent with a moisture sensing control.
- Look for a dryer with a cycle that includes a cool-down period, sometimes known as a "perma-press" cycle. In the last few minutes of the cycle, cool air, rather than heated air, is blown through the tumbling clothes to complete the drying process.
It's Your Money
Here are ways to cut the amount of energy and money you spend drying clothes:
- Locate your dryer in a heated space. Putting it in a cold or damp basement or an unheated garage will make the dryer work harder and less efficiently.
- Make sure your dryer is vented properly. If you vent the exhaust outside, use the straightest and shortest metal duct available. Flexible vinyl duct isn't recommended because it restricts the airflow, can be crushed, and may not withstand high temperatures from the dryer.
- Check the outside dryer exhaust vent periodically. If it doesn't close tightly, replace it with one that does to keep the outside air from leaking in. This will reduce heating and cooling bills.
- Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation. Regularly clean the lint from vent hoods.
- Dry only full loads, as small loads are less economical; but do not overload the dryer.
- When drying, separate your clothes and dry similar types of clothes together. Lightweight synthetics, for example, dry much more quickly than bath towels and natural fiber clothes.
- Dry two or more loads in a row, taking advantage of the dryer's retained heat.
- Use the cool-down cycle (perma-press cycle) to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.
And here's the ultimate money saving tip for drying clothes:
- Use a clothesline! Let the heat of the sun dry your clothes, and don't use the clothes dryer at all.
Clothes Dryer Consumer Tips
Fill your dryer, but do not pack it like luggage bound for Europe.
A dirty lint screen can cause your dryer to use up to 30 percent more energy-and it can be a fire hazard. Clean the lint screen after each load. Lowly lint has little use, and maybe you'll find that missing sock!
Keep your dryer's outside exhaust clean. A clogged exhaust lengthens drying time and increases energy use.
If your dryer has an automatic dry cycle, use it rather than a timed cycle. Or, use the moisture sensor option on your dryer, which automatically shuts off the machine when the clothes are dry.
If your clothes washer has spin options, choose a high spin speed or extended spin option to reduce the amount of remaining moisture, thus starting the drying process before you put your clothes in the dryer.
Since lightweight items take less drying time, separate loads into heavy and light items. Underwear and rugs do better if kept apart!
Install a solar clothes dryer (a clothesline)! It will give your clothes a "fresh outdoors" smell.