Green Drying

Appliance manufacturers have responded to the need (and the profit opportunity) for clothes dryers that can pose as a bit more green. High-end gas and electric models boast energy-efficient features such as sensors that shut off the machine when clothes are dry, and cool-down (or perma-press) cycles that finish up nearly-dry clothes with a tumble through unheated air. If you don't want to splurge on a top-dollar model, or you prefer to keep your older-but-perfectly-good appliances as long as possible, you can still take advantage of a few power-saving tips. Use an extended spin cycle, if your washer has one. It'll shake more water out of your clothes, requiring less heat to dry. Remove lint from your dryer's filter regularly, since clogged filters can make the dryer use up to 30 percent more electricity [source: Consumer Energy Center]. And save up a few loads of laundry to do on the same day -- if the dryer runs consecutive loads, it'll require less work to stay warm.

Electric Dryers and Energy Efficiency

The energy factor of electric dryers starts at 3.01, slightly higher than their gas counterparts, but the difference is such that each load of laundry will cost about twice as much as a gas dryer would cost. Electric dryer models cost a little less up front, though, and they're often easier and less expensive to install.

If you choose an electric dryer, you're spared the inconvenience of venting, which makes electric dryers a convenient choice in multi-family and small homes. (All compact and combination units, especially popular with apartment-dwellers, are electric.) Electric units most commonly remove moisture through condensation; that is, once the hot air collects moisture, it's cooled, and the resulting water vapor ends up in a tank or tray that must be emptied periodically.

However, this extra power use requires an upgrade in infrastructure. Electric dryers use a 240-volt outlet, twice the standard household current, so if you don't have one, you'll need to hire an electrician to hook you up.

Sound complicated? The simplest solution might not be an option for space-constrained urban dwellers, but if you've got some yard space to your name, put nature to work. Despite some drawbacks (like dependency on the season and weather, or the restrictions of finicky homeowners' associations) using a clothesline is the least expensive, most energy-efficient way to dry clothes. The sun and wind are extremely effective -- no 240-volt outlet or steam vents necessary. Your clothes will also stay in better condition.

Keep reading for more household tips and energy conservation pearls of wisdom.