What do space heaters, microwave ovens, vacuum cleaners, coffee makers, and clothes dryers all have in common?
They all plug into a wall? True, but no dice.
They all make funny noises? For the most part, yes, but try again.
They all can be found on your cousin Gretchen’s wedding registry? Perhaps, but nope.
The answer? If you head out to your local Home Depot or Bed Bath & Beyond in search of a new one sporting Energy Star
certification, well my friend, you’re plum out of luck.
However, the clothes dryer, an energy-hogging appliance of hefty proportions (they consume approximately 6 percent of household electricity and, by some accounts, are the second most energy-intensive appliance behind the fridge), is finally in for an energy-efficient redux according to a recent Consumer Reports
So why the holdup? As I’ve written about previously
, conventional clothes dryers are not currently Energy Star qualified because all models require the same amount of energy to operate. An official explanation
from the folks at Energy Star:
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 (FTC) does not require clothes dryers to have a yellow EnergyGuide label.
This year, Energy Star bestowed a program called Advanced Clothes Dryers
as the recipient of the Emerging Technology Award, a sign that things could change at some point in the not so distant future for the laundry room staple. Peter Banwell, Energy Star’s director of product marketing, tells Consumer Reports: “In terms of technology, the dryer has always been seen as this lowly appliance equivalent to a giant toaster. It's time to put our collective wisdom toward moving a new technology into the market."
For one, Energy Star is at work developing a specification for conventional dryers that could potentially improve efficiency by 5 to 10 percent through more accurate moisture sensors, improved motor efficiency, and tweaks to standby power. Secondly, popular-in-Europe heat pump dryers
— the aforementioned "advanced clothes dryers"— will start to be unrolled stateside by manufacturers early next year. These models, when compared to conventional dryers, cost more and require longer drying times but offer savings in the ballpark of $30 to $40 a year or $700 over the lifetime of the machine.
So while I certainly wouldn't start holding your breath in anticipation of an Energy Star labeled clothes dryer to magically appear at your local Sears over the next several months, the heat is certainly on. In the meantime, of course, the easiest way to save a few bucks each month and to limit the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from your clothing laundering activities, is to invest in a front-loading HE washing machine and hang those clothes out to dry
while the weather is still nice n' toasty.