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Electric vs. Gas Dryers

Calculate your Cost Per Load


Electric
Gas
Loads per week
loads per week

Energy rate

/ccf or therm
Time per load

Cost per load



Cost per year


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The above are SAMPLE costs! Your own cost will be different depending on your local rate for electricity and gas.  (It will also depend on how well your washer extracts water from your clothes, how long you run your dryer, and what model of dryer you use, but choosing the correct fuel rates will get you close enough.)  See more on the cost of electricity, the cost of gas, and how to misquote this site.  And see the deluxe laundry calculator to figure the cost of both the washer and the dryer.

Assumptions: 45 minutes per load, Electric model uses 3.3 kwh, Gas model uses 0.22 therm + 0.21 kWh.  Gas model asumes rate in the Electric column to spin the drum.  See sources.

Clothes dryer energy use


A clothes dryer accounts for a whopping 12% of electricity use in a typical household. (source)  And clothes drying is one of the easiest places to save energy, because you can erase 100% of the cost by simply hanging your clothes up to dry.  At a sample rate of $0.15/kWh and 7.5 loads per week, we're talking a savings of $196 per year by line-drying instead of using an electric dryer.  That's hefty.

How to save energy and cut your costs

If you're determined to use a dryer, there are still other ways to cut your energy use.  Let's go over them now.  But let's start with the most effective: not using a dryer at all.

(1) Don't use a dryer in the first place

Dryers simply aren't necessary.  You can easily hang your clothes up to dry instead.  The Japanese are way ahead of us on that one -- they use most of the modern conveniences we do, but clothes dryers aren't among them.  Even in the luxury apartments, you'll see the residents hanging their laundry out on their balconies.  I asked my Japanese friend what they do when it rains for a solid week, and she said, "We just hang the laundry up inside."

Fortunately, this idea is getting more popular even in the U.S.  Fewer people believe that clothes dryers are a necessity vs. a few years ago. (Pew Research, 2009)  Drying outside (vs. inside) is better if possible, since clothes dry faster and the sun has a sanitizing effect.  Tip the Planet has an excellent article about air-drying clothes, covering every possible angle, including clever things like retractable clothes lines.

      


(2) Get a gas dryer, IF gas is cheaper than electricity in your area, and IF you already have gas service.

If you don't already have gas service, it's usually not worth getting it just to run a gas dryer vs. electric, unless you gas is way cheaper than electricity in your area, and/or you have a very large household.  That's because you'll likely pay $10+/mo. just for the privilege of being a customer of the gas company. And if you don't have gas lines, installing them will be very expensive.

If you do already have gas service, your next step is to see if going with gas would actually net you any real savings.  Gas is often cheaper than electricity, but not always.  You can find your cost for gas and electricity (from your utility bills), enter them into the calculator above, and then see how much it costs to run an electric dryer vs. a gas dryer.  And to really see how much your laundry is costing you, see my deluxe laundry calculator, which includes the cost of both the washer and the dryer.

Whether or not you save any money by going with gas, it will save some energy, if conservation is your goal.  (Though if conservation is really your goal, you're probably line-drying your clothes anyway.)  Power plants are only about 37-44% efficient at turning coal into electricity, so it's more efficient to use the fossil fuel directly rather than inefficiently converting it into electricity first.  (Gas dryers themselves are a little less efficient than electric dryers, but the penalty for getting the electricity from coal in the first place is far higher.)

(3) When replacing a dryer, get one with a moisture sensor

A moisture sensor shuts off the dryer automatically when your clothes are dry.   So you'll never run the dryer longer than you have to.  Moisture sensors cut energy use by about 15%.  (Ca. Energy Com.)  Make sure to clean the sensor occasionally, too, so that the waxy buildup from dryer softening sheets doesn't impede its ability to sense moisture.  A temperature sensor is almost as good as a moisture sensor, and will cut energy use by 10%.

spin dryer

(4)Get a front-load washer

Front-loading washers tend to leave about 7% less water in your clothes than top-load washers, which means 7% less drying time. (source)  (Front-leaders use a lot less water, too.)

(5) Use a spin dryer

A spin dryer is a little machine that spins your clothes around really fast to remove excess water (and detergents bonded to the water). After a couple of minutes in the spin dryer, you put your clothes in a regular clothes dryer, where they dry 30 minutes faster than usual. Sample savings are $113/yr. for electric and $67 for gas.  (Based on 7.5 loads a week, 0:20 drying time instead of 0:50, 15˘/kWh & 1.23/therm, and $3 to run the spin dryer: 1 washer load = 3 spin dryer loads (Amazon), 3 mins./load, so 9 mins total, at 300 watts.)

(6)Tips on using your dryer

Clean the lint filter after every load.  Your dryer takes longer to dry when it's trying to push air through lint.  A dirty lint screen can mean 30% more energy use. (CA Energy Com.)

If you use fabric softener sheets, clean your lint screen with a toothbrush and water occasionally.  Dryer sheets can cause an invisibly waxy buildup on the lint screen which makes it harder for the dryer to push air through it. (Snopes).

Wash & Dry very early in the morning, or at night.  If your utility imposes a demand charge, then do your laundry in off-peak hours.

Feed your dryer warm air.  The colder the incoming air, the more energy your dryer will have to use to heat it up.  A cold basement is the worst place for a dryer.  The warmer the place you can put the dryer, the better.  (But of course, don't heat the area the dryer is in just to feed the dryer warmer air.  That will use way more energy than having the dryer in a cold area.)

Add a wet towel to remove wrinkles. According to one website (no longer around), if you leave your clothes in the dryer too long and they become wrinkled, you can easily cure this by throwing a wet towel in the dryer and drying again. This saves you from having to either iron all your clothes, or wash them and dry them all over again.

(7)Run around the house naked

Then you'll have less clothes to wash. (But not if it's so cold that you'd compensate by turning up the heat, which would more than negate your savings. On the other hand, if it's summer and this lets you run the AC less, then you'll save even more.)


Below are questions I've received and answered about how saving on the use of clothes dryers.

Ask Mr. Electricity about saving on dryer costs

 

Our dryer just quit working today.  My husband says if he puts up a clothesline and irons the clothes to remove the wrinkles that it will be much cheaper than using the dryer.  But will the iron use negate the savings of the dryer?  I have been researching this all day on the net and could not find anything even remotely close until i found your site.  Very informative, glad it is there. Wendy M.

You can estimate the difference yourself like this:
(Dryer wattage) x (Time used) = (Total Dryer Energy)

(Iron wattage) x (Time used) = (Total Iron Energy)

You can find the wattage of each appliance by looking at the label, but this is not so effective for dryers since the rating on the label is the maximum the dryer will ever use, and it typically uses a bit less than that.  To find the electrical consumption of your dryer more accurately, see the table above that I just added.

Anyway, when you do the calculations you'll find that using the iron is cheaper.  The iron uses less electricity than the dryer per minute of use, and you probably won't run it for nearly as long as you'd run the dryer anyway.

There's another factor to consider: You're also saving the cost of a new dryer if you don't replace it.  So using a clothesline and an iron instead of replacing and using a new dryer will definitely save you money.

You're wrong that putting the dryer in a warmer room is more efficient, because cooler air holds less moisture, so putting the dryer in a cooler room like a basement means the incoming air will be drier, so the dryer can more easily extract moisture from the clothes. — gunbo oy

You're confusing relative humidity and absolute humidity.  The amount of moisture in a room doesn't change just because the temperature is higher or lower.  That is, moisture doesn't simply disappear just because you raise the temperature.  So a cool basement doesn't automatically mean drier air than a warm garage.  Quite the opposite, basements are actually moisture magnets.(source)

Your dryer works by heating the incoming air, increasing its ability to hold moisture.  The warmer the air you feed it, the less it has to heat that air up.  If you want to prove me wrong, run your dryer in both the living area and the basement, recording the room temperature and absolute humidity, and measure how much energy is used in each situation.  (Me, I don't have a basement.)

Everyone says to run appliances like washing machines and dishwashers at night to save money. Is electricity cheaper at night? — Melissa, Appomattox, VA

Not usually, but it depends on how your utility company charges you for energy.  Some utilities charge less for evening use, and you can check your electric bill or call your utility company to find out for sure.  It could also pay to run appliances in the evening when the air conditioning is off if your utility company has a demand charge. See the next answer about that.

By the way, one reader asked about a dryer running up the AC bill by adding heat to your home.  The answer is that the impact of dryers on your cooling bill is nearly non-existent, since almost all the heat is vented to outside the house.  (If all the heat were contained inside for some reason, it would take you about 1.75 kWh for your AC to remove it, which at 16˘/kWh would cost you 28˘ per load.)  (Showing my work: One dryer load = 15k Btus as per laundry sources.  One ton of AC is 12k Btus/hr as per my cooling page, so 2.5 tons = 30k Btus/hr, so it takes 30k Btus/hr ÷ 15k Btus per load = 1/2 hour of AC.  A 2.5-ton AC uses 3500w from my cooling page, so 3.5kW x 0.5 hours = 1.75kwH, x 16˘ = 28˘.)

Does it raise your electric bill to run two appliances at the same time rather than one after the other?  Like, say, the washer and the dryer or the oven and the dryer?  We have an all electric house and were trying to save money on our electric bill.   —Christie

It depends on whether your utility company has a separate demand charge in addition to the consumption charge. The demand charge based on the maximum amount of electricity you draw at any one time. The  chart at right from Wisconsin Electric illustrates the concept. (source, PDF)  The shaded area is how much electricity you used, and you know you get charged for that. But the black bar on top is the demand, how much energy you "demanded" at any given point throughout the day. If your utility company has a demand charge (ask them), then you can save money by spreading out your electrical use throughout the day. Running appliances one after the other rather than at the same time would reduce your demand. And better yet, running them when you're not using much electricity for other purposes (such as at night when the air conditioner is off) will reduce your demand even more.

Last update: February 2013

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All advice is given in good faith. We're not responsible for any errors or omissions. Electricity can kill you; if you're not competent to work on your electrical wiring then hire a professional to do it.
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