Laundry: The Unexpected High Costs
Dryers Lag Behind Major Appliances in Efficiency Upgrades, New Technology Could Cut Energy Use by 40%
“Updating our home dryers to the level of the most efficient ones sold overseas could save Americans $4 billion a year on their utility bills,” said senior scientist Noah Horowitz, director of NRDC’s Center for Energy Efficiency Standards. “It’s time to bring U.S. clothes dryers into the modern era and achieve some of the massive efficiency gains all the other major home appliances have seen..”
In fact, the energy used by America’s 89 million home dryers has remained essentially the same while other home appliances have enjoyed energy-saving improvements of as much as 50 percent thanks to utility incentives, labeling programs and federal standards. However, according to NRDC’s analysis, incorporating existing technology used abroad and adopting recommended technical and policy changes could slash U.S. dryers’ $9 billion annual electricity bills by 40 percent and prevent roughly 16 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to taking three coal-fired power plants offline.
A key reason for the energy wastes is that U.S. dryers continue to use decades-old technology that bakes water out of clothing with brute force, wasting a lot of energy and blowing hot-air exhaust to the outdoors. Once new, redesigned energy-saving dryers are available in stores, the U.S. Department of Energy will be better positioned to dramatically increase the stringency of its energy efficiency standards for new dryers when they are updated in 2017. DOE also can improve its test method to better reflect real world laundry loads and dryer energy use.
More than 150 million dryers have been sold in America in the 27 years since the federal government began regulating them, but without an effective means of differentiating efficient from inefficient models. Fortunately, the government recently issued an ENERGY STAR™ voluntary specification that manufacturers can use to label dryers using roughly 20% less energy than current DOE standards require.
“U.S. consumers can save billions of dollars on their energy costs if manufacturers take steps to incorporate energy-saving technology into their new dryers,” Horowitz said. “Government incentives and utility rebates can, and should, help make that happen.”
NRDC’s report recommends steps consumers can take in the interim to cut laundry-related energy use and utility bills, including using the washer’s maximum spin speed to lessen the amount of water remaining in the clothing before reaching the dryer (using cold water in the washer will also save up to 50 cents per load in energy costs); selecting dryer cycles like delicate that reduce energy use (but increase drying time); and not overfilling the drum, giving clothes more room to tumble dry more quickly.