Vail Valley Voices: There’s hope for the dryer |

Vail Valley Voices: There’s hope for the dryer

Adam Palmer
Vail, CO Colorado

Often when I talk to homeowners about home efficiency and appliances, it comes as a bit of a surprise when I tell them that there are no Energy Star dryers. They don’t exist. There are Energy Star refrigerators, clothes washers, boilers, furnaces, air conditioners, windows, computers, humidifiers, phones, and, yes, even flat-screen TVs come with Energy Star labels. So why not clothes dryers? They use more energy than any other home appliance other than the refrigerator, and there are about 90 million clothes dryers in the United States alone. Here’s what Energy Star says:

“Energy Star does not label clothes dryers because most dryers use similar amounts of energy, which means there is little difference in the energy use between models. The Department of Energy’s Appliance Standards program conducted a detailed study which found that the clothes dryers on the U.S. market do not vary significantly from each other in terms of energy consumption. This is also the reason why the Federal Trade Commission does not require clothes dryers to have a yellow Energy Guide label … “

The simple equation is that dryers, whether gas or electric, essentially work the same: They suck in air, heat it, blow it on wet tumbling clothes, and exhaust the warm wet air outside. They also eat socks and shrink sweaters, but those are just unfortunate side effects. As they cycle, dryers take warm indoor air and pump it outside, which is why often if you’re running your dryer at home during the winter, your furnace or boiler will turn on. As the dryer creates a vacuum in the home, cold outside air comes in through all the little cracks and holes in windows and doors to make up the difference. Also, this scenario is a primary cause of carbon monoxide poisoning – the dryer creates negative pressure in the mechanical room, the furnace kicks on, and the exhaust is sucked into the living space instead of going out the flue.

If we can design efficient and safe buildings and appliances, then, is there hope for the dryer? Turns out there is: a Super-Efficient Dryer Initiative (SEDI) is being spearheaded by Energy Star and its partners. This dryer design heats air, pumps it through the wet clothes and catches all the lint monsters, condenses the water from the exhaust, then pumps the same hot (and dry) air back into the clothes. Not only do these models save more than 50 percent in direct energy costs, they make the rest of the home more efficient and safer as well.

As usual, the Europeans are way ahead of us on this: They have a similar efficient model that already occupies 25 percent of the new dryer market share. So keep your eyes open, or better yet, encourage Energy Star and appliance manufacturers to hurry up and bring a safe and efficient dryer to market in the U.S.

Until then, use the clothes line.

Adam Palmer is the environmental policy planner for Eagle County, administers the Eco-Build efficient building code and sits on the board of directors for Holy Cross Energy. Palmer is also program manager for Energy Smart, a three-year grant program in partnership with the Department of Energy, which aims to save energy costs by 20 percent in at least 10 percent of homes in Eagle, Pitkin, and Gunnison counties. Comments can be forwarded to or go to for more information.

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