When it comes to saving energy around the home, we tend to focus on heating, cooling, and lighting. Household appliances also account for a significant portion of energy usage. The big-ticket items include refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and electronics. However, from an energy usage perspective, clothes dryers reign supreme among appliances. There are a number of consumer buying guides available when it comes to selecting brands, models and features. Examining clothes dryers from an energy perspective is also important.
Clothes Dryer Basics
Some consumers use a clothesline and harness old-fashioned solar drying. For the rest of us, our mechanical dryers operate essentially the same way. Clothes tumble in a meta drum. Heated air circulates through the drum removes moisture. This process is essentially unchanged throughout the history of indoor clothes drying. The primary difference between dryers is the fuel used to generate heat.
Electric dryers rely on heating coils while gas dryers use a gas burner to heat the air. When choosing a clothes dryer, you should consider the purchase price of the dryer as well as the cost of operation. Operating costs vary significantly depending on the gas and electricity rates in your area.
Electric Clothes Dryers
Electric dryers are the most common and versatile type of clothes dryer. There are both vented and unvented models, which gives them an advantage over gas dryers when it comes to installation. A 240-volt outlet is required for power although some compact models can operate from 120-volt service. The disadvantages of electric clothes dryers include efficiency and cost to operate. Electric dryers tend to heat up more slowly, which means longer drying times and higher energy consumption. In addition, the cost of electricity is often higher than the equivalent cost of natural gas.
Gas Clothes Dryers
Gas dryers have several advantages over electric dryers. First, they heat up faster than electric models. This translates into shorter drying cycles and less energy consumed. Second, gas is usually cheaper than electricity on an energy equivalent basis. The only down side is that gas dryers cost a little more ($50 to $150) to purchase than their electric counterparts are. The energy savings from using gas, however, can quickly make up for this extra initial expense. Over the life of the unit, which typically exceeds 10 years, gas dryers offer considerable cost savings.
Energy Smart Drying Choices
Many homes with natural gas service also provide a 240-volt outlet. This leaves the choice of dryer to the consumer. Regardless of which type of dryer you prefer, there are two things you should pay attention to when shopping for a clothes dryer. First, look for the Combined Energy Factor (CEF). Higher numbers mean greater energy efficiency. As of 2015, standard capacity vented electric dryers must have a CEF of 3.73 pounds/kWh or higher. The minimum CEF for gas dryers is 3.30 pounds/kWh. Notice that the gas dryer CEF uses electrical units to allow easy comparison between models. These efficiency ratings are much higher than the 1994 minimums of 3.01 and 2.67 pounds/kWh, respectively.
Second, the absolute best dryer feature from an energy conservation standpoint is sensor drying. Timed drying is wasteful. Look for a dryer model that offers moisture sensor drying to avoid wasting energy by drying clothes beyond what is necessary. When you use your dryer, be sure to activate this option to minimize usage and lower your energy bill.