CO2 Emissions

Published on June 14th, 2014 | by Derek Markham


Efficient Clothes Dryers Could Save US $4 Billion A Year In Household Energy Savings

June 14th, 2014 by  

clothes dryers nrdc

Editor’s Note: Where I’m living now, it’s the norm to simply line dry your clothes. It took me some getting used to, but it’s really a fine (and super efficient) clothes drying option, even in a small apartment. That said, I know that not everyone is going to go that route. For those who are going to use a dryer, however, there’s no reason why that dryer shouldn’t be very energy efficient (relative to dryers of the past 10 or 20 years). The NRDC recently made a strong case along these lines, and Derek has the summary:

More Efficient Clothes Dryers Could Save $4 Billion in Energy Each Year (via Ecopreneurist)

One incredibly common household appliance, the electric clothes dryer, is responsible for a whopping 2% of electricity consumption in the US, often consuming as much as the refrigerator, washing machine, and dishwasher combined. And while many other…

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

  • ga

    Use nat gas or condensing units. The former saves about half the energy of converting nat gas into electricity in a power plant and transporting it to your house just to be used for heating. In the winter, recycle heat from the dryer into the house.

  • Burnerjack

    When I was a kid (say, for the sake of argument….45-50 yrs ago…) My mother used solar energy to dry the clothes. Everybody did. Except it wasn’t called solar energy back then. Back then they called it a clothes line.

    • Offgridmanpolktn

      And when I was a kid (for the sake of argument let’s say forty years ago) the same was also true, but only during the summer as during the upstate NY winters with 1-3 feet of snow in the backyard she drew the line and used the dryer. And even now it is my primary method except during the coldest months when using the wood stove and wanting to keep the air from getting to dry in the house, it gets hung inside. But I am a stay at home father with the time to do this, the majority of families now need both parents to be working just to keep a roof over the heads and food on the table. Or else as noted above live in urban or suburban areas where solar powered drying is no longer allowed.
      It is necessary to deal with the reality that a large percentage of our population needs to use clothes dryers and we need to find a way that they aren’t such energy hogs.

      • Burnerjack

        All true. When I think how some HOAs don’t allow them, I can’t help but be reminded how the Chinese outlawed bicycles in Beijing (?) because they thought they made them look ‘backwards’ in the eyes of others. But yeah, there is a need for more efficient machines. I also think returning to the clothesline when possible wouldn’t hurt either. Don’t get me wrong, I concur with your response completely.

  • Offgridmanpolktn

    One of the simplest and most cost effective ways to improve dryer efficiency is to increase the airflow and improve the venting. Have seen this done in commercial scale laundries in hotels where improving the blowers on a scale of approximately four to one and adding intake venting for outside air got the loads dried in about a quarter of the time and resulted in about a one third drop in total energy usage. This was still true even in Florida where heatpump dehumidifiers had to be included to pre dry the intake air.
    Applying this in residential situations is much more difficult due to restricted or over long runs of the output venting. And unless intake venting is provided you end up with negative inside air pressure which causes a whole range of other problems in the home.
    The ongoing efforts towards more energy efficient homes with more natural ventilation will hopefully include this factor in new homes and renovation of older ones.

  • Rick Kargaard

    It is nice to see some attention paid to another huge energy guzzler and pollution producer. Now, how about gasoline powered lawn mowers and tractors, garden tillers, BBQs, patio warmers, backyard fires, mosquito traps, etc. I should have hit almost everyone there. Can you think of more, or is your sense of entitlement kicking in. If I don,t have everyone mad at me by now, I am not trying hard enough.

    • No way

      Don’t look at me. My lawn mover is electric, automatic and all quiet. It’s a joy watching it while having a cold drink 😛 It’s named Dolly (like a grass eating sheep). 😉

  • loebner

    Dehydrate the air by cooling. Use the waste heat from the cooling process to reheat the air. (My dryer vents water, so no problem with the precipitated water)

  • No way

    I’m wondering what kind of driers the US customers buy and have avaliable. And what amount of energy do the big sellers use?
    I mean, how much more efficient than a A+++ heat pump condenser dryer which does about 0,8 kWh for a full load (about 8 kg) are we talking about?
    Or is it just a matter of you not having the energy efficient models avaliable?

  • patb2009

    it’s fairly trivial to design a low energy clothes dryer but it will take some grant money. I have a concept that should work, but, it requires some testing

  • No way

    The EU energy label is brilliant. You have it on cloths/dish washers, dryers, refridgerators, freezers etc.
    It’s a label that is very easy to understand and I guarantee you that no one wants to buy a thing where the rating on it is a B or a C when you can get an A. It’s all about awareness and a simple way to get it.
    And here it has even become a way to “brag” about your newly bought machine. It’s like “oh, does it have an A rating? mine got an A rating”…. “oh… only A. nah, it’s an A+”.
    So when making it a spec. it becomes a part of the macho-culture to have the best one 😉

    • JamesWimberley

      It’s a good scheme – apart from the design flaw in getting the order of the letters wrong. Continuous improvement means that you can now buy fridges in Europe rated A+, which will be followed by A++, etc. They should have left A as the legal minimum, wih B, C better and the whole alphabet for improvements.

      • No way

        Well, that is an effect of the system being too effective. It became a sales argument for the manufacturers to have very efficient products bringing the energy usage much further down than expected.
        So once the rating A+++ is starting to get used frequently the base level should be changed so that the best product out there gets a simple A instead.
        I do not agree with reversing the system since everyone knows that an A is always better than a B or a C.

        The label most in need of a change is the one for heat pumps. The COP have been so rapidly improved that the whole rating system is useless right now.

  • Has there ever been a study on the efficiency of drying clothes with the dryer in the basement versus the dryer on a floor above ground.

    The reason I ask. My dryer is in the basement. The air in my basement, like most peoples, is cooler and I’m assuming has a higher relative humidity than upstairs. The dryer may have to “work” harder with basement air compared to upstairs air. I’m sure if I did the calcs it would be inconsequential. However, clothes drying on the line in the basement take a lot longer to air dry than when brought upstairs to dry.

    I need to reset the pole for the clothesline in my backyard – making this musing of mine moot. At least during the summer.

  • JamesWimberley

    Non-Americans find the restrictions on on clotheslines enforced by many suburban communities in the USA perfectly grotesque. I suggest ostentatious campaigns of civil disobedience, with lacy knickers and the Stars and Stripes drying out front. Prosecutions would collapse in ridicule.

    • Yes! This is actually a thing. Your comment should become a national campaign. Suburban, now exurban American has some of the weirdest and wasteful social mores.

  • Shiggity

    Nice article. Solid state refrigeration is also an area where the gains can be huge.

  • Omega Centauri

    Technically, dryers use resistance heat to evaporate water. It takes a fixed amount of heat to evaporate a fixed amount of water, so it is hard to see where savings would come from, except in reducing the amount of waste heat. Big improvements would be possible by two methods however:
    (1) Add a (very) high speed spin cycle to the washer to squeeze outas much of the water possible so there is much less to dry.
    (2) Use a heat pump to supply the heat.
    Both these methods promise factors of two to three (and they could be chained), but neither would come cheap.
    So without doing either of these methods, what sort of gain is possible? Is it ten percent or more like fifty percent?

    • Ronald Brakels

      Use a desicant to absorb water to do the bulk of the drying and then let the ambiant temperature slowly dry the dessicant out. Perhaps not so useful for a commercial dryer, but it might save a home dryer a lot of electricity use.

      • Omega Centauri

        Interesting idea. Though how many back to back loads could it handle, consumers can be picky and may poorly plan their usage.

        • Ronald Brakels

          It would have to act as a normal, energy guzzling, drier once the desiccant was saturated. Not an ideal situation, but oh well.

    • bussdriver78

      Change the air pressure and the water goes quicker! (hint: water boiling temp changes by pressure too)

      • eject

        The phase change needs the same energy though.

    • timbuck93

      Yeah old comment but why not have the washer squeeze the clothes for ten minutes as well?

  • Kompani

    In the EU we have an ‘Energy Label’ system that works very well to give an easy, quick indication of the energy usage differences between various appliances.
    If the US adopted this system it would save ‘reinventing the wheel’, so to say, and bring common standards a little closer.

    • saurdigger

      They already have it. The mandatory one in the US is called the “EnergyGuide”, see and also the more stringent (optional) “Energy Star” one.

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