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Clothes dryers can save you time, but a 45-minute cycle uses about 3.3 kilowatt-hours of electricity or 17,000 Btu (0.17 therm) of natural gas. With the average U.S. household doing 400 loads of laundry per year, this consumption quickly adds up. Here are a few tips to help lower your energy use, global warming pollution, and utility bills.
Give clothes some fresh air. A clothesline or drying rack uses no fossil fuels, lessens wear and tear on fabrics, and can be employed year-round (clothes actually freeze-dry if left outside in winter).
Dry smart. When you do use the dryer, do the following before you hit “start”:
- Get the water out. The more you can extract from clothes, the less drying time they’ll need. Most Energy Star-rated washers have high-speed spin cycles (or a second spin cycle option) to maximize water extraction. Or consider an energy-efficient portable spin dryer, which extracts enough water from clothes to reduce drying time by 30 minutes.
- Check the clock. At times of peak electricity use, utilities tap into the dirtiest energy sources to meet demand. Reduce your laundry’s emissions by running the dryer later at night or in the middle of the day. (This can also save you money if your utility uses peak-time pricing.)
- Clean the lint trap after every load. In addition to posing a fire hazard, lint buildup obstructs air flow, cutting efficiency up to 30 percent.
- Separate by weight. Items made from lightweight fabrics (e.g., t-shirts, sheets) dry faster—and use less energy—when separated from heavier items (e.g., towels, jeans).
- Dry back-to-back loads. The residual heat from the previous cycle gives you a head start on the next cycle, allowing you to use less energy overall.
- Use the cool-down setting. For the last cycle, let clothes finish drying with residual heat.
Buy smart. Today’s dryers all consume similar amounts of energy, so they are not rated by Energy Star and are not required to bear the yellow EnergyGuide label. But there are ways to save energy and money with your next dryer:
- Go with gas. Gas dryers heat more quickly, drying clothes faster. They also generate less global warming pollution: 2.60 pounds per cycle versus 5.94 pounds for an electric model (based on the national energy mix, almost half of which is coal). Over a dryer’s 18-year lifetime, that can add up to nearly 30,000 pounds of avoided emissions. Gas dryers cost more up front, but can be cheaper over their lifetime if electricity prices are higher than gas in your area and your home already has a gas line.
- Choose a moisture-sensing model. Many dryers can shut themselves off when clothes are actually dry (rather than when the timer ends). These models cost more up front, but will save you 10 to 15 percent on operating costs and emissions.