Energy Efficiency | January 27, 2016

Which is More Energy Efficient a Gas or Electric Dryer?

The average American family does almost 400 loads of laundry yearly, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency. All those clothes obviously need to get dried. Indeed, the Consumer Energy Center attributes six percent of the average household’s utility costs to the clothes dryer. While air drying your clothes is certainly the least expensive way to dry clothes, that approach is not always practical. A week of rain or snowy weather can literally dampen any thoughts of clean, dry clothes and finding space for sweater racks in living spaces can be difficult. This leaves many turning towards energy efficient dryers for help.

Before deciding on a gas or electric dryer, though, it’s wise to consider, among other potential points, the energy usage. Determining which is more energy efficient, a gas or electric dryer, requires knowing more about how they work.

Gas vs. Electric dryer

Gas vs. electric dryers

All clothes dryers operate the same way: electricity turns a drum that tumbles clothes through heated air to remove moisture. It’s the operating costs that are critical to understand in the differences in gas vs. electric dryers and deciding which is more energy efficient. Electric dryers use heating coils. Gas dryers use a gas burner to create heat and typically cost more in the initial purchase. The price of natural gas, however, is generally lower than electricity (depending on where you live, of course, and other variables). Depending on your rates, drying a load can cost between 32-41 cents per load in an electric dryer and 15-33 cents in a gas dryer.

Another difference in the gas vs. electric dryer debate is that gas dryers tend to run hotter than electric dryers, which means clothes can potentially tumble for a shorter period. This can result in energy savings and potentially lower wear-and-tear on the clothes themselves since they spend less time tumbling in the dryer. The Consumer Energy Center estimates using a natural gas dryer can result in up to 50% savings in dryer energy costs.

There is a cost to converting to natural gas. If your household currently has electric appliances, converting for just one appliance may not make financial sense. Checking out the cost of natural gas versus electricity in your area is a good first step. The Consumer Energy Center notes that the cost of converting to a natural gas dryer could be recouped in energy savings within a year or two. So the short answer to the question which is more energy efficient, a gas or electric dryer, appears to be gas.

You can still lower energy costs, no matter which dryer have. Pay attention to the EF, or Energy Factor. The EF measures the energy efficiency of a dryer in pounds of clothing per kilowatt-hour of electricity. The federal EF minimum standard for an electric dryer is 3.01. For gas dryers, the minimum is 2.67. For the best energy efficiency use a dryer with the highest EF rating.

Also use a dryer with a moisture sensor. This sensor automatically turns off when the clothes are dry. This saves energy and reduces wear and tear on your clothes because they are not over dried. Consumers can save about 10% in energy costs with a temperature sensing control and 15% with a moisture sensing control, according to the Consumer Energy Center. Both are energy savers over the regular timed drying cycle.

The Best Way To Use a Tumble Dryer

What’s the best way to use a tumble dryer?

Regardless of whether you choose a gas or electric dryer, operating it in a smart way can always help with energy costs. Here are some tips offered by the Consumer Energy Center consider:

  • The dryer should be in a heated space. If it’s in a cold space, like a garage or unheated basement, the dryer has to work harder and becomes less efficient.
  • Clean the lint filter regularly. Keeping the filter clear enables better air flow, which in turn helps with the dryer’s efficiency. Doing this can also help prevent fires.
  • If you use dryer sheets, you should also scrub the lint filter. These sheets can leave a film over time that can affect the performance of the filter. The Consumer Energy Center recommends scrubbing the filter with at toothbrush once a month.
  • Don’t ignore the outside dryer vent. Check it periodically to make sure it closes tightly so that outside air does not leak in.
  • Dry only full loads; however, don’t overload the dryer.
  • Separate clothes to dry similar types together. Lightweight synthetics dry more quickly generally and will dry even more quickly if not lumped in with heavy cotton towels.
  • Dry two or more loads in a row. This takes advantage of a dryer’s retained heat.
  • Use the cool-down perma-press cycle to let clothes finish drying with residual heat rather than creating new heat.

Now that you know what’s better, a gas or electric dryer, you can begin conserving energy and saving money. Although the difference between a gas dryer vs. an electric dryer doesn’t seem very dramatic, over the course of your dryer’s lifetime, you could save hundreds of dollars in energy costs. But remember: energy efficient dryers only save you money when used properly. Keeping your dryer in a heated space and cleaning the lint filter regularly are just two ways to increase the power of your energy efficient dryer.

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Comments ( 7 )

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Bceschi - 9/5/2018

Thank you for the very informational article!!!

    Constellation Community Team - 11/6/2018

    Hi Bceschi, you’re welcome! Happy to help.

Greg - 3/5/2018

I agree with Ellen. This article needs to mention a heat pump dryer. Their energy usage is less than a resistance electric dryer and a natural gas dryer. Natural gas is carbon-based, and always will be. Electricity is becoming more renewable every year. When considering the yearly operating costs, also consider that natural gas prices are at an unnatural and historic low due to excess supply and a ban on US exports. Natural gas is much more expensive in the rest of the world due to these factors. If natural gas prices normalize (say we ban fracking, or lift the export ban), then which is cheaper? Natural gas creates heat, and therefore can only be 100% efficient at the very best. Heat pump technology leverages existing heat already in the air and can typically be 150% efficient. Also consider the natural gas dryer’s need for a vent while a heat pump dryer is ventless. When you blow air out of the house with the vented dryer, it depressurizes the house, and draws air back into the house through doors, cracks, seems, etc. You pay to have the air heated/cooled in your house, so when you blow air out, your HVAC system has to work harder to heat/cool the new air coming in from the outside. This increases the cost of running a natural gas dryer that isn’t typically considered when doing yearly running cost calculations.

    Constellation Community Team - 4/12/2018

    Hi Greg, we think you and Ellen have provided a really great topic to cover. We’ve been putting together an Appliance Buying Guide on our website, so we will be sure to keep Heat Pump Dryers in mind moving forward.

Ellen Hershey - 12/28/2017

Of course dollar costs matter, but it’s disappointing to see yet another article that makes no mention of carbon emissions. Natural gas, marketed as a “clean” energy source, actually burns half as dirty as coal when it comes to carbon emissions. An electric dryer powered by electricity generated by rooftop solar panels is greener and cheaper by far than a natural gas dryer — once you buy the solar panels, that is! And how I wish that before buying my new electric dryer I had read up on the electric dryer referred to in the article posted by the first commenter to this blog. It uses heat pump technology, which is is very energy-efficient, and requires no venting!

    Constellation Community Team - 2/28/2018

    Ellen, thanks for sharing your input, it’s very wise! Solar is certainly one of the best (and clean) options for powering your dryer.

mai1987 - 7/29/2017

I don’t agree

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