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Dryers use the most energy of all home appliances (only air-conditioning or electric heat and your water heater uses more), so it’s worth finding an efficient model and using it judiciously. For this reason, even if you have a dryer, it’s worth air drying when you can. At 40 to 50 cents a load, depending on your electricity rates, you’ll save money, and your clothes will last longer too, because dryers are hard on fabrics. You can calculate exactly how much your current model, or one you are interested in buying, costs you by using this calculator.
There’s nothing more energy-efficient than air-drying, of course. Especially if you live in a place with abundant sunshine and warm temperatures, it can definitely be worth the financial savings, both in purchase and use costs, to avoid buying a dryer and to air dry clothes on a line or rack. However, not everyone has the space or the weather for air-drying.
We researched the market to find the most energy efficient electric dryers:
What to Consider When Shopping for an Energy Efficient Clothing Dryer
Look for dryers that have an Energy Star certification and that have moisture sensors, which should cut down on excess drying time by shutting off the machine automatically when closes are dry.
Be sure to measure the space where you’ll locate your dryer, including the space for the machine’s door to open. You should also measure any narrow hallways or doorways that might impede delivery.
If you wash and dry a lot, and need to dry larger items, look for a larger-capacity drum—the size will ensure that even in larger loads, clothes have enough room to tumble around, and smaller loads will dry very quickly. But if you only do a couple smaller loads a week, consider if a compact or even portable machine could meet your needs.
Vents and Plugs
If you have a vent already in place for your dryer, you will have more options if you keep it vented. If you don’t, there are ventless dryer options, which condense the moisture and then require that water to be removed, which is a simple process or can be sent to a drain.
You may need a special plug for electric dryers, but if there is a dryer in your laundry room or basement already, it’s likely that you can use the same plug that’s already there.
Which is greener–gas dryers or electric dryers?
Natural gas is a nice-sounding name for methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. If we want to prevent catastrophic climate change, we need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. So, that’s a big reason to pick an electric dryer over a gas-burning one.
We’ve only included electric dryers on this list because those are the majority of dryers sold. No major companies make a compact gas dryer, they are available in full-size only. Gas dryers do typically dry faster, but with new features and sensors on the latest generation of electric dryers, that gap is narrowing. A new compact, ventless electric dryer can now dry a load of towels in about 90 minutes.
How can I make my dryer more efficient?
You can always up your efficiency by choosing the right setting and heat level for the clothing you’re drying. Make sure your washer’s spin cycle is effective too—the more water in your clothes, the longer they will take to dry in the dryer. If you use a delicate cycle or hand wash, it may be worth it to do an extra spin cycle on your clothes (as long as they aren’t too fragile) to get more water out of them, or for very delicate pieces, roll them into a towel and squeeze to remove water.
You can cut electricity costs and resource use by pulling lightweight cottons and especially polyester clothes like leggings or other sport clothes out and hanging on a drying rack or wherever you have space. If you pull a third to half of your load for air drying while tumbling the rest of your thicker clothes, it will take them less time to dry, using less energy. Plus, you may be able to combine two washes into one load of drying if you remove some items to hang dry.
Lastly, if a few items in a dryer load are a bit damp when you take them out of the dryer, hang them up in your closet to dry rather than drying the whole load again; those couple of towels or sweatshirts are nearly there; they don’t need a full dry cycle to get finished. If you don’t want to take the time to hang them or need them right away, program your dryer for a short cycle and take the rest of the dry clothes out. This will help your clothes last longer, too. Tumble drying is hard on clothes (all that lint is your clothes and linens slowly degrading).
Are dryer sheets safe to use in an electric clothes dryer?
If you use a vented machine, keep in mind that everything you use in your dryer (like scented dryer sheets) will affect the outside air quality, whether that’s your own backyard or your shared neighborhood air.
Dryer sheets often contain volatile organic compounds, acetone, and artificial fragrances which are known to cause respiratory concerns and exacerbate asthma. The coating that dryer sheets leave behind can clog your dryer, especially the moisture sensors, making it less efficient. The polyester sheets left behind when you have used a dryer sheet aren’t recyclable, either, creating waste.
Consider using reusable lavender sachets or a few drops of essential oil on a reusable piece of fabric for a lower-waste and non-polluting option to scent laundry.
Why Trust Treehugger?
We researched many dryers to identify the most efficient options on the market. All the tumble dryers on this list are electric, have moisture sensors which should cut down on excess drying time, and are Energy Star certified, except where indicated (the portable and travel machines).
Author Starre Vartan has been an environmental and science journalist for more than 15 years. She founded an award-winning eco-website and has written a book on living green.