Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

Summary: While most of us spend time worrying about whether the water in our washer is hot or cold, a new study suggests we should focus more on how we dry our clothes when they are clean.

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TOPICS: Big Data
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I recently returned from a family vacation to Ireland, where the bed and breakfast I stayed used washers in the cottages but not dryers. Line dry only. My mother-in-law, who still hangs most of her wash out to air dry, would have been impressed.

Turns out that both my Irish hosts and my mom-in-law know way more than I do about the most energy-efficient way to do laundry. A new study conducted by environmental and energy research firm Cadmus Group (called "Do the Savings Come Out in the Wash? A Large Scale Study of In-Situ Residential Laundry Systems") found that while many homeowners obsess about how much energy they can save by laundering their clothes in cold water versus hot water, they should actually be worrying way more about how much energy is going into drying.

Said David Korn, a Cadmus principal:

"Contrary to convention wisdom, the energy use of the washer is not an issue. Hot water used in washing clothes is moderately important, but we found that households only use hot water about 13 percent of the time. The majority of the energy consumed and potential savings arise in reduced operation of the clothes dryer -- not the washer."

Cadmus based its research on data collected by Onset HOBO energy monitoring systems that were connected to washers and dryers in about 115 different households. The locations used different tiers of technologies. Some were Energy Star-rated. Some were not. The capacities of the machines was also different from household to household. A veritable hodge-podge of test systems.

Here are some of the key findings that are detailed in the study:

  • Washers that conform to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) Tier 1 and Tier 2 standard save "substantial" amounts of water; Tier 3 machines don't save as much but Cadmus figures that's because they are usually running larger loads. CEE Tier 1 standards for energy efficiency are roughly the equivalent of Energy Star criteria. (Tier 2 and Tier 3 offer tougher standards.)
  • Consumers should expect the most efficient clothes dryers to use about 12 gallons of water per load.
  • The average amount of energy used by washers in the study was 0.20 kilowatt-hours per cycle; the average electricity used by a CEE Tier 1 efficiency dryer is 2.63 kilowatt-hours. The study found that approximately 82 percent of the energy used per load of laundry came from the clothes dryer versus 13 percent for heating the water and 6 percent for running the washer.
  • Spin settings make a difference for energy efficiency results. More efficient washers will spin at faster rates than previous technologies. HOWEVER, a Tier 1 washer will use less energy on the slow spin setting than a Tier 3 washer set on the medium setting. Go figure. So knowledge of spin cycles would be useful.
  • Automatic sensors can help make sure that dryers don't run longer than necessary, which will have a big impact on energy consumption.
  • Many advanced (aka "smart") clothes washers will use a small amount of energy during the standby mode that will add up over time. That's the downside to the automation and awareness they bring to the clothes laundering process.

    Topic: Big Data

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    13 comments
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    • RE: Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

      We are lucky here in Australia. Most of the year we can line dry and even when we can't we air dry inside! Dryer only for emergencies.

      Ben.
      Twitter:eintel1
      Ben.stewart@...
    • RE: Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

      Because somehow, electricity is evil.

      I'd rather we work on switching to greener power plants.

      With our culture of two people working, it's difficult to convince people to give up conveniences like dryers. Good luck with that.

      Aren't there Energy Star dryers out there? Get one of those.

      Also, winter can be an issue for line drying.
      CobraA1
      • RE: Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

        @CobraA1 ... "Also, winter can be an issue for line drying. " An issue, yes ... Impossible, no ... believe it or not, they still dry (even after freezing), they just take a while longer ... and I'd let the skivvies warm up before putting them on ...

        Ludo
        Ludovit
    • RE: Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

      These are important statistics "but we found that households only use hot water about 13 percent of the time."
      <a href="http://www.kecioyun.com/" rel="muse" title="oyun">oyun</a>
      denomav
    • RE: Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

      "Consumers should expect the most efficient clothes dryers to use about 12 gallons of water per load"

      I don't know about anyone else, but my dryer doesn't use any water.
      djlong
      • RE: Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

        @djlong Lol ... beat me to it ... :)
        Ludovit
    • Hawaiian Style

      My cousins in Hawai'i all line dry clothes because, they say, electricity is so expensive there. Muggy as it may seem in Hawai'i, the clothes dry just fine.
      tomogden
    • RE: Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

      Line drying is a great idea. But, what is your option when you live in a marxist home owners association that doesn't allow line drying?
      mjollnir
      • RE: Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

        @mjollnir Just dry some of your clothes in your house. Drying racks do not take up that much space. It is not an all or nothing thing. Baby steps....
        tgschmidt
    • stupid idea

      Line drying is a stupid idea. My mom did it out of necessity when I was a kid, but like most "green ideas" it'll crash on the rocks of reality. Bugs in your nice clean clothes, bird poop, having to drop what you are doing to pull in partially dry clothes before the rain starts, not being able to dry your your clothes at all during a rainy week, etc.

      Our time is worth far more than the cost of the electricity to run the dryer so we can always have clean dry clothes on our schedule, not "Mother Nature's".
      wkulecz
      • RE: Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

        @wkulecz Not to mention pollen, dust, squirrels, etc. Yes, I could dry inside, but I run the washer (and dryer) only when they are full to be as efficient as possible, and I have no space to hang up that many clothes.
        aep528
    • We hang our clothes to dry

      In our laundry room. They dry in about 24 hours. We have 3 teens in our house & we both work, so don't tell me it cant be done. I am proof it can. We occasionally use the dryer to "fluff" clothes on the lowest heat setting for about 10 minutes. My Dryer is 8 years old & looks like it is brand new. It is a Kenmore Gas dryer.

      We find our clothes last much longer too. Our towels last for many years and are still thick & fluffy. I have jeans that are 6 years old & still look great and I wear them daily.

      Even if you can only hang dry 1 or 2 loads per week it will help. Give it a try, it really is not that hard.
      tgschmidt
    • RE: Ditch the dryer if you want to embrace green laundry habits

      In my apartment, with a "no-lines" rule, I indoor "almost-dry" overnight using chairs and tables as racks, then run them through the dryer for fifteen minutes for that "fluffiness" factor.
      JFrostOZ