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  • Today's typical electric clothes dryer sometimes consumes as much energy per year as a new energy efficient refrigerator, clothes washer, and dishwasher combined.
  • If all of America's electric clothes dryers were updated to the most efficient models sold overseas, Americans would save about $4 billion worth of energy per year and about 16 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
  • A strong federal energy efficiency standard is particularly important for long-term energy savings. Consumers, utilities, manufacturers, and the federal government must work together to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness and user acceptance of advanced dryer technologies.

While major appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, and even clothes washers have undergone significant energy efficiency improvements during the past 20 years, the amount of energy wasted by clothes dryers in the United States has received little attention, and energy efficiency standards for them remain essentially unchanged. In fact, today's typical electric clothes dryer sometimes consumes as much energy annually as a new energy efficient refrigerator, clothes washer, and dishwasher combined.

Clothes dryers are arguably the most important of all residential appliances in need of an energy efficiency upgrade. Of the washer-dryer pair, clothes washers have received more attention with a complete makeover over the past two decades. Nearly half of all models now open from the front rather than the top, which allows them to spin more water out of the clothing and reduce energy and water consumption. Additionally, washers today contain sophisticated technology for optimizing detergent, energy, and water use across various sizes and types of loads, which means they use about 75 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than they did in 1981. This remarkable success was accelerated by substantial rebates from energy and water utilities over the years.

Currently, Americans spend $9 billion annually to operate their dryers, but extensive research by NRDC and its consultant Ecova shows that just updating residential dryers to the level of the most efficient versions sold overseas could save U.S. consumers a whopping $4 billion a year. Now is the time to seize the massive energy savings opportunity they represent.

Other key findings from our testing and analysis:

  • There are 89 million residential clothes dryers in the United States (75 percent electric models, 25 percent natural gas). Although electric dryers dominate the U.S. market, natural gas dryers typically cost 50 percent to 75 percent less to operate.
  • A typical household pays over $100 in annual utility bills to operate an electric dryer and $40 for a gas dryer. Homes with electric dryers pay at least $1,500 over the dryer's lifetime for the electricity to power the machine.
  • If all of America's electric dryers were updated to the most efficient models sold in other parts of the world, U.S. consumers would not only save $4 billion worth of energy per year, it would prevent roughly 16 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to the pollution from three coal-fired power plants.
  • U.S. policies for clothes dryers lag behind those for other appliances. More focus is needed to a) update the test method for measuring dryer energy use, b) develop improved dryers for the U.S. market, c) implement labeling programs such as ENERGY STAR™ to help consumers identify the most efficient models, and d) provide utility rebates for the most energy efficient models.
  • How a consumer uses a dryer is almost as important as which dryer is purchased. Choosing a lower operating temperature can slow the drying process a little, but it cuts energy use significantly. Stopping the dryer before all of the clothes are bone-dry saves time and energy, while reducing wrinkles and helping clothes last longer.

last revised 6/12/2014

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