Drying similar fabrics in the same load can help your dryer operate more efficiently and save energy in the laundry room.
Q: With two kids in the house, it seems like the laundry never ends. How can we can reduce our energy use in the laundry room?
A: The average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry per year. That does use a lot of energy! Here are some easy ways to reduce your energy use in the laundry room and “load up” on savings.
Consider purchasing more-efficient appliances. One big change you can make is to purchase a new Energy Star-certified washer and dryer. Washers with this certification use about 40 percent less water and 25 percent less energy than standard washers. Front-loading machines are generally more water efficient and energy efficient, helping offset additional upfront costs. Energy Star dryers use 20 percent less energy than standard dryers. Visit energystar.gov for information about the estimated water and energy use of their certified products.
Get out of hot water. The easiest way to increase energy efficiency in the laundry room is to use less hot water. Almost 90 percent of the energy consumed by your washing machine is used to heat water—but most loads of laundry can be cleaned just as easily with cold water, which is also easier on your clothes. If you need to use hot or warm water on a particularly dirty load, a well-insulated water heater will help decrease your costs.
Do fewer loads. Whenever possible, wash a full load of clothes. For smaller loads, adjust the water-level settings on your machine.
Help your dryer out. You can reduce drying time by getting as much water as possible out of clothes in the washing machine. A higher spin setting will wring extra water out of your laundry. When you dry, try not to overfill the dryer; leave enough room for drying air to reach the clothes.
Use your dryer’s features. If your dryer has a moisture sensor, use it, rather than guessing how long each load needs to dry. A dryer’s cool-down cycle uses the residual heat to finish drying clothes, without using as much energy.
Dry like with like. Heavy fabrics, like towels and blankets, should be dried separately from lighter fabrics, like T-shirts. A dryer’s moisture sensor will keep the machine running until the wettest (and probably heaviest) item is dry. Rather than one towel extending the drying time for a whole load, dry just the towels together.
Live lint free. Clean your dryer’s lint trap regularly to help air circulation. Periodically, use a vacuum nozzle to clean under or behind the lint filter, where lint can get caught. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter clean about once a month—dryer sheets can leave a film on the filter, reducing airflow.
Remember safety. Your laundry room extends from the back of the dryer, down the dryer duct and all the way to the end of your dryer vent. Inspect your outside dryer vent regularly to make sure it is not blocked, and periodically get a professional to clean your dryer ducts. Keeping the duct and vent clear helps your dryer work more efficiently and can also prevent a fire—more than 15,000 fires per year are sparked by clogged dryer ducts and vents. If possible, move the dryer closer to an exterior wall to shorten the length of the dryer duct. Make sure the duct is as straight as possible—this helps reduce clogging and increases efficiency.
Use your solar-powered dryer. The old-fashioned way to dry clothes—a clothesline—will definitely reduce energy use. You can tumble-dry clothes until damp, then line-dry them until fully dry. This helps prevent the crunchy feeling line-dried clothes sometimes have.
Send questions to Energy Q&A, South Carolina Living, 808 Knox Abbott Drive, Cayce, SC 29033, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax (803) 739-3041.