Q: I’ve been reading up on the EnergyStar appliances rebates being unrolled state by state and decided it’s high time to part ways with my clunky, energy-guzzling old washer and dryer set and replace it with something new and more efficient. I have my eye on an EnergyStar-branded washer that’s in my budget but in terms of finding a dryer, I can’t find a darn thing. Am I missing something? Do EnergyStar dryers even exist?

Don’t want to be hung out to dry,  

Ron

Chelan, Wash.

A: Hey Ron,

Nope, my friend, they sure don’t.

Kind of odd two such complimentary appliances, the washer and the dryer, generally purchased together, can live such separate lives when it comes to energy efficiency, huh? An EnergyStar washer without an EnergyStar dryer is like Sonny without Cher, Bonnie without Clyde, Oprah without Gayle … it just doesn’t register. With over 40,000 models of appliances in 60 categories sporting an EnergyStar logo you’d think dryers, not exactly an obscure item, would too. Well, they don’t.

When it comes down to it, pretty much all conventional clothes dryers require the same, hefty amount of energy — they’re the second greatest energy users in the home behind the fridge — to operate and the technology for a less-consuming dryer simply doesn’t exist. I’m not exactly sure why models of dehumidifiers and cordless phones, for example, can consume energy that varies enough to warrant EnergyStar labeling but dryers can’t.

It’s one of life’s great mysteries, I guess. Here’s what the folks at EnergyStar have to say about the matter:

EnergyStar 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.

Over the next few years, DOE Appliance Standards program will be revisiting this study as it determines whether to revise the current federal energy conservation standards for dryers. We will keep a close eye on this process to see if changes in technology and market conditions have made an EnergyStar clothes dryers program more feasible.

 

So what to do, Ron? Well, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for a more energy-efficient conventional dryer to hit the market. I would, however, suggest you look into the possibility of purchasing a condenser dryer. Miele is a popular brand to look for when shopping for one, although condenser dryers, Miele or not, are still not EnergyStar-certified even though they offer some energy savings. Similar to condenser dryers are heat pump dryers that provide even greater energy savings but are, naturally, harder to find and more expensive in the U.S. It’s also worth keeping your eyes open for dryers with a built-in moisture sensor function that automatically turns the machine off when the clothes are dry in lieu of inaccurate timed-dry settings that can over-dry your clothes and waste energy.

Let’s say you opt for a conventional dryer because it fits your budget and is coupled with the EnergyStar washer of your dreams. Here’s what you can do: Use it less. The average household dryer is responsible for generating 2,224 pounds of carbon dioxide annually so every time that you opt to line dry your clothing (which can be a whole other sticky issue depending on where you live) you’ll drastically reduce your ecological footprint and save a few bucks given that using a dryer can cost you upwards of $80 a year. Line drying is, hands down, one of the most effective ways you can go green at home.

And when you do use your dryer, make sure the lint filter is cleaned and everything is in working order to ensure better efficiency. Remember, an unkempt, lint-ridden dryer has to work harder to dry clothes, and, in turn, sucks more energy.

Happy appliance shopping, Ron — sorry that EnergyStar dryers are a no-go. And before I sign off, just a heads up: don’t go looking for EnergyStar-branded space heaters, solar products, microwaves, ovens or ranges. They, like dryers, don’t exist.

— Matt

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