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Tips & technology cut your laundry drying costs

Posted by Tony Mauro

Last month, we focused on getting your clothes clean the most energy efficient way. So it only makes sense to follow with with a look at how to dry your clothes.

After the refrigerator, an electric clothes dryer typically uses the most electricity of any appliance in the home.

The challenge is that there’s no ENERGY STAR category for dryers, so you’ll need to consult the EnerGuide label to get a sense of how efficient a unit is.

In this post, we’ll concentrate on techniques you can use to get your clothes dry while lowering the energy it takes to do it.

Hang it up, year-round if you like

One of the easiest ways to save energy when drying your clothes is to hang dry.  Most people think of this in the nice summer weather, but it can be done with drying racks all times of the year.

Not only does hanging laundry save energy -  it also extends the life of clothing.  If you normally do eight loads of drying per week, and half of that is hung to dry you’ll save about $45 per year!

Tips for using your electric dryer

Here are a few simple things that can help a lot:

  • Make sure your dryer is  full, but not overloaded;
  • Try to dry clothes and other laundry of a similar material together;
  • Don’t put in wet items part way through a drying cycle;
  • Clean your lint trap.

Use EnerGuide to compare dryers

Even though there isn’t an ENERGY STAR qualified program for dryers, there is still one sticker you can look at for new dryers, the EnerGuide label.

As with other appliances, this label indicates what the average energy usage annually would be for a particular product. When comparing dryers, look for the EnerGuide label with the lowest kWh/year number.

Saving via dryer innovation

New technologies can be fun. Just remember that technology shouldn’t be considered the only solution to energy usage concerns.

The big dryer  innovation these days is the moisture sensor, designed to ensure you only dry laundry for the amount of time really required.  This works great so long as you don’t add extra wet clothes part way in a cycle, or try to dry towels with shirts.

Samsumg has taken a slight spin on the heating element in a dryer, putting in two heating elements so that a lower amount of heat can be used if needed.  Most dryers have one large element that is cycled on and off.

When you start looking into the more advanced (and thus expensive) technologies, you start seeing things like condensing dryers and heat pump dryers.

The condensing dryer emerges

The typical dryer uses hot air to dry clothes. The warm air absorbs the moisture, is vented out, and replaced by new, warmed air.

A condensing dryer functions by recirculating the air but taking the moisture out directly by running the hot air across a coil, causing the moisture to condense on it.  This moisture is then removed through a drain and the cycle repeats.

This saves energy because the air isn’t continuously reheated. Also, there’s no longer a need for a vent to the outside of the home, which actually cuts down on some of your home heating.

Condensing dryers aren’t that common yet, but may in a few years be a good solution for energy saving.

Could heat pump dryers be the answer?

Similar to a condensing dryer, the heat pump dryer is a sealed unit that doesn’t vent the heated air to the outside.  A heat pump dryer uses a dehumidifying technique with a compressor, rather than condensing the water on coils.

This technology is a bit more complex, but has the promise of great energy savings.  One sestimate is up to a 65% reduction in energy requirements compared to a traditional dryer.

Change actions first

It’s a good idea to look at your habits first. To get help with those habits, join Team Power Smart and learn from people like Global TV meteorologist Mark Madryga, a Team Power Smart leader.

In the last issue of BC Hydro’s Connected e.newsletter, Madryga talked about extreme weather and what he does to try to stay cool without wasting power in the summer months.

For details on how to save energy drying laundry, see bchydro.com’s Shrink Your Dryer’s Energy Use tip.

If you plan to replace your dryer and at the same time your clothes washer, remember the Power Smart Appliance Rebate Program will give you $75 if you select from the most efficient products.

Tony Mauro is a Power Smart engineer and regular contributor to Unplug This Blog! and Future Shop's Tech Brand Talk blog.