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What are 'high-efficiency' dryers?

Energy Efficient Functions on Dryers

Currently, the only way for Americans to dry their clothes in an energy-efficient way is to string up a clothesline and use solar power. However, while line-drying saves energy, it adds some hassles, including extra time spent hanging clothes and waiting for them to dry. And of course, there's the unpredictability of the weather on laundry day to consider. Still, the "right-to-dry" movement, in which residents are fighting homeowners' associations for the right to hang clothes outside to dry, is gaining momentum across the country. Though you may not be willing to go that far, you can still save some energy when drying your clothes.

If you have an older dryer, it probably uses timed settings to dry a load of laundry. If you set the timer for 40 minutes and your clothes actually dry in 30 minutes, then you've used an extra 10 minutes of energy. Not only that, but you've over-dried your clothes. This translates to extra wear-and-tear on the clothes and generates that pesky static electricity that makes your skirt ride up your legs when you walk. Newer dryers attempt to solve the problem of over-drying in two ways:

  • Temperature sensor: Uses the temperature of the dryer exhaust air to estimate when clothes are dry and automatically shuts off the dryer
  • Moisture sensor: Shuts the dryer off when the humidity of exhaust air indicates that the clothes are dry

Either of these technologies will save energy, but the moisture sensor is more accurate, with energy savings of about 15 percent, compared to 10 percent for the temperature sensor [source: Flex Your Power].

Another way to help your dryer work more efficiently is by using a faster or extended spin cycle on the washer. Most of the newer washers have either faster spin speeds or several spin settings. Spinning the clothes faster or longer removes more water so that the dryer doesn't have to work as hard to dry them.

The choice of gas or electric will most likely depend on what kind of hook-up you have in your laundry room. In any case, gas dryers cost more up front than electric dryers, but cost less to operate over the years, so in the long run they may cost you less [source: California Energy Commission]. This handy calculator can help you estimate whether it's worth it to replace your old dryer, and whether it would benefit you to make the move to a gas-powered appliance.

Check out the links on the next page for more tips on dryers, laundry and energy efficiency.