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A Laundry Room Energy Hog Gets a Makeover – Heat Pump Dryers

Heat pump dryers recycle wasted heat to save energy and money

Residential clothes dryers have never been known for their efficiency. In fact, if you were to head down to your local Home Depot or Lowe’s in search of a new one sporting an ENERGY STAR® certification, well, you’d be plum out of luck. In fact, dryers have never been a part of the federal government’s ENERGY STAR program. Why? Because as the folks at ENERGY STAR explain, most models use similar amounts of energy, so any comparisons would be meaningless.

That is all about to change. The energy-guzzling clothes dryer (they consume approximately 5 percent of household electricity and, by some accounts, are the second most energy-intensive appliance behind the fridge) is about to join its laundry room workmate, the washing machine, on the energy-efficient appliance list as ENERGY STAR pushes for greater dryer efficiency. To that end, the ENERGY STAR program named Advanced Clothes Dryers—heat pump dryers— the recipient of its 2012 Emerging Technology Award, which recognizes products that have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of heat pump dryers, energy savings as high as 60 percent go hand in hand with reduced carbon dioxide.1

Heat pump dryers already command significant market share in parts of Europe and have been made available here since early last year. When compared to conventional dryers, they may cost more upfront and require longer drying times, but they offer savings in the ballpark of $30 to $40 a year or $700 over the lifetime of the machine.2 The EPA estimates that an ENERGY STAR rated heat pump dryer could save enough energy in a year to run an ENERGY STAR certified clothes washer for 11 months while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 6,000 pounds.3

Heat pump clothes dryers extract heat from air inside the house and release it at a higher temperature inside the dryer. Most dryers generate heat using electricity or gas, and then vent that hot air out that curly vent pipe thing on the side of your house, wasting a lot of energy. In contrast, a heat pump dryer draws in air only once and continues to use it to dry the clothes fully.

So, if you’ve had it with your old energy-hogging dryer but you’re not quite ready to get grandma’s clothes pins out of storage, a new heat pump dryer may be worth considering. And with more major manufacturers producing them, more consumers in the U.S. will be seeing superior quality, energy-efficient dryers when they head to their local appliance store.


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