Back in 2010, I wondered when one of the most ergregious households energy guzzlers, the clothes dryer, would at long last join its sibling, the washing machine, and be deemed as Energy Star-worthy. At the time, it seemed to be one of those “don’t hold your breath scenarios” with the folks at Energy Star stating that:

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.

In 2012, it appeared that there was some progress being made on the Energy Star-certified clothes dryer front. And now, four years after I first wondered when if ever, clothes dryers — considered the second most energy-intensive household appliance behind the refrigerator and responsible, on average, for generating 2,224 pounds of carbon dioxide annually — are officially eligible for Energy Star certification.

Reads a statement released by the EPA earlier this week:

Over 80 percent of U.S. homes have a clothes dryer, and these appliances account for approximately six percent of residential electricity consumption. Dryer models that meet the new Energy Star requirements are likely to have improved auto termination sensors, which help reduce energy use by more effectively ending the drying cycle once clothes are dry. Among the more efficient gas and electric dryers that will earn the Energy Star, consumers should expect to encounter a promising new technology. Heat pump dryers recapture the hot air used by the dryer and pump it back into the drum to dry more clothes. By re-using most of the heat, it creates a heat pump dryer that is more efficient and avoids the need for ducts leading heat out of the laundry room.

This new Energy Star specification also establishes optional ‘connected’ criteria for residential clothes dryers. Energy Star dryers with connected functionality will offer consumers convenience and energy-savings features, such as an alert indicating there is a performance issue or feedback to consumers on the energy-efficiency of different cycle selections. These products will also be “smart grid” ready, meaning they will give consumers the option to connect their dryer with their local utility to save money on their energy bills, where those services are offered, and also facilitate broader electric power system efficiency.

Fabulous news all around, and, as pointed out by the EPA, if all residential clothes dryers sold in the U.S. meet the new Energy Star standards that require 20 percent higher efficiency, we’d collectively save $1.5 billion in annual utility costs and prevent the generation of 22 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

While high-efficiency clothes dryers with heat pump technology and smart grid-readiness are certainly a welcome and long overdue addition to the stable of existing Energy Star-branded products, the best way to save on laundry room-related energy bills is to, of course, channel the penny-pinching granny buried deep (or not so deep) inside of you by eschewing the dryer altogether and hanging your damp knickers outdoors to dry whenever possible: simple, cheap, effective.

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Clothes dryers added to list of Energy Star-qualifying appliances
Congratulations, washing machine, your lonely days are now over as clothes dryers have become, at long last, eligible for Energy Star certification.