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Unplugged: Clothes Dryers Need Labels, Too

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View Jonathan Wiener's blog posts
11 March 2013, 12:48 PM
Your dryer is burning holes in your pockets
The average dryer costs more than $1,500 to run over its lifetime.  (DOE)

Few household appliances use as much energy or get replaced as rarely as clothes dryers. And unlike with most other household appliances, you won’t learn this when you are shopping for a new model.

The typical dryer uses more energy than the typical refrigerator, clothes washer, or dishwasher. But unlike all three of those products, dryers do not have to display yellow-and-black Energy Guide labels disclosing their energy costs.

Earthjustice is pushing to change this. Last week, we filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission calling for labels on clothes dryers.

FTC does not require labels for dryers because it decided years ago that most models tended to use roughly the same amount of energy. But that is no longer the case. An electric dryer costs more than twice as much to run as a gas dryer, enough to quickly wipe out the difference in purchase price. Even just among electric dryers, features like an automatic shut-off that accurately senses when the clothes are dry can lead to meaningful efficiency differences. And that’s before we consider the “heat-pump” models headed to the U.S. market.

Of course, even if all dryers did use the same amount of energy, that is no small amount of energy. The average dryer costs more than $1,500 to run over its lifetime, according to the California Energy Commission, about what the average California household spends on energy for an entire year.

Letting consumers know about the cost of that energy would help them decide whether or not to buy a dryer in the first place and how much to spend. It also might encourage people to look for ways to save energy when drying clothes, such as, for example, using the sun.

Here are a few other tips, again from the California Energy Commission:

  • Locate your dryer in a heated space.
  • Make sure your dryer is vented properly. If you vent the exhaust outside, use the straightest and shortest metal duct available.
  • Check the outside dryer exhaust vent periodically to make sure it closes tightly.
  • Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load, and regularly clean the lint from vent hoods and the back of the dryer.
  • Dry only full loads.
  • Dry similar types of clothes, especially quick-drying clothes like lightweight synthetics, together.
  • Dry two or more loads in a row, taking advantage of the dryer's retained heat.
  • Use the cool-down cycle (a.k.a. perma-press) to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.

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