Dry cleaner with an electric clothes dryer

Drying your clothes shouldn't risk your health or the environment. Switching to an electric clothes dryer is a clean, healthy alternative.

fstop123 | iStock.com
Jordan Hamrick
Jordan Hamrick

Former Utility Watchdog Campaigner, Illinois PIRG

I definitely appreciate the convenience of my clothes dryer, but I do not want that convenience to contribute to air pollution or add extra costs to my gas bill. Gas-powered dryers still use electricity to spin the drum and power the controls. Gas is only used to heat the air. This means that your dryer is releasing pollutants that cause asthma and cancer. 

Dryers powered solely by electricity are a cleaner, healthier, more energy efficient alternative. Electric dryers come in a variety of types to fit the needs of your home.

Types of electric dryers

Conventional vented electric dryers

Conventional vented electric dryers work similarly to gas-powered dryers. The blower draws in air from outside the dryer, the air is heated, and then pushed into the drum to dry the clothes. However, rather than the air being heated through gas combustion, air is pushed through an electric heating element. The moist air is released through the vent leading outside and new air is drawn in and heated. 

Vented electric dryers typically cost less upfront and are easier to maintain than gas dryers. You can do your own basic upkeep for an electrical dryer when it is recommended that gas dryers are serviced by experienced professionals.

Condenser or ventless electric dryers

If you do not already have an external vent or want an easy installation, consider a condenser or ventless electric dryer. Condenser dryers heat air with a heating element and push it into the drum to dry your clothes. The moist air cycles through a condenser to extract the water then the heating element reheats it rather than releasing moist air through a vent.

Because already warmed air is being reheated, condenser dryers are more energy efficient than vented dryers which have to continually heat new air. They are also gentler on your fabrics because they operate at a cooler temperature. However, a cooler temperature does mean a drying cycle will take slightly longer compared to vented dryers.

Heat pump dryers

Heat pump dryers, like condenser dryers, are ventless and recycle air through a closed loop. The heat pump draws in surrounding air and heats it to absorb moisture from your clothes. Rather than releasing the warm moist air like a vented dryer or continually reheating new air like a ventless dryer, heat pump dryers push moist air through an evaporator to condense the water then reuse the already warm air. The evaporator works similarly to a dehumidifier

The key difference between a heat pump dryer and a conventional condenser dryer is the heat source. Conventional condenser dryers use a heating element which requires more energy than a closed-loop heat exchange system. Therefore, heat pump dryers are the most energy efficient type of dryer and can reduce your dryer’s energy consumption by 28 percent. Heat pump dryers also use a lower temperature than most dryers making it gentler on your clothes and reducing its energy use. 

Installing an electric clothes dryer

An electric dryer needs to be plugged into its own 240-volt outlet rather than a regular 110-120 volt household outlet. If you are switching from gas to electric, you may need additional electrical work to upgrade the outlet. Vented electric dryers need to be connected to an external vent to release the used moist air outside. If you do not already have an external vent, having one installed will be an additional cost.

One of the benefits of a heat pump or ventless dryer is that they do not connect to an external vent so you can install it anywhere in your home as long as it can draw in surrounding air. However, since heat pump and ventless dryers collect condensed water, you will either need to empty the collection tank after every load or connect a drain hose to a nearby sink or the drain for your washing machine.

Consider air-drying your clothes

Michael Puengel | Pixabay.com

The most cost and energy efficient way to dryer your clothes is to not use a dryer at all. Clothesline or drying racks are much cheaper than an electric appliance and do not release any pollutants. Ending or reducing your dryer use will also protect your clothes from heat damage that will fade colors and break down fabric. While air drying your clothing does take longer than an electric dryer, you usually do not need to wear your clothes right after they are washed. If you put out your clothes to dry before you go to sleep, most fabrics will be dry by morning.

Ways to save

The way to save the most is to skip the drying cycle entirely and simply air or line dry your clothes. However, when you do need to use your dryer, choosing a low heat setting or using a moisture sensor will prevent you from using unnecessary energy when your clothes are already dry. High heat can also cause fabric to wear down faster and fade in color so limiting heat exposure will protect your clothes and save energy. Cleaning the lint screen before each load and periodically inspecting the dryer vent will ensure that your dryer is operating at its highest efficiency. 

There are rebates available through ENERGY STAR for energy efficient electric dryers. Electric dryers with the ENERGY STAR label use 20 percent less energy than conventional models and ENERGY STAR certified heat pump dryers save 20-60 percent more energy than conventional clothes dryers. ComEd offers a $40 rebate and Ameren offers a $50 rebate to customers who purchase an ENERGY STAR certified electric dryer.

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Jordan Hamrick

Former Utility Watchdog Campaigner, Illinois PIRG

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