How to spend less on your clothes dryer

Nothing in a home uses more power than a clothes dryer when it’s running. Most dryers use over 3000 watts when operating; some use over 5000 watts. (For comparison, an energy-efficient CFL or LED light uses about 13 watts.) A load a day will add $100 to your power bill over a year. But there are plenty of ways to reduce that:

  • Clean the lint screen after every load (scrub it every now and then if you use dryer sheets; they leave a film on the screen) and use your vacuum cleaner to clean underneath the screen periodically, to keep air moving easily through the dryer
  • Periodically clean the vent pipe that leads from the back of your dryer to the outdoors, and inspect the outlet for lint or other obstructions
  • Don’t overdry clothes: if your dryer has an automatic moisture sensor, use it. And use a cool down cycle to allow residual heat to finish drying clothes; some dryers do that automatically on certain cycles (IE permanent press)
  • Do loads consecutively to take advantage of remaining heat from an earlier load
  • Dry full – but not overfull – loads
  • Use dryer balls (or even tennis balls) to allow air to move more freely between clothes as they tumble, allowing them to dry faster
  • Dry lighter materials separately from heavier materials; they’ll be dry much sooner that way
  • Don’t add wet clothes to loads that are already partially dried
  • Remove clothes from the dryer while they are still slightly damp to save energy and reduce the need for ironing

And for 100% savings, use a drying rack or a clothesline! (A bonus: clothes tend to last longer that way too!)

Borrow a power meter from your library

Portable power meters are excellent tools for helping you save on energy, because they measure the power consumption of anything that plugs into a wall outlet.  Your power bill might tell you the total amount of energy consumed in your home, but it doesn’t provide any indication of where it was consumed.  How much power does your toaster use? Or your PVR?  Or your hair dryer?

A portable meter can tell you precisely.  As well, it can help you find phantom power users.  (Phantom power is the trickle of power used by many devices even when they are turned off; it can be eliminated with the use of a power bar.)

Here’s some great news: many libraries now have power meters you can borrow like a book.  It’s an excellent, zero-cost opportunity to do a little measuring so you can identify ways to lower your energy bills – and do the planet a favour.  It’s great fodder for a school science fair project, or to stimulate a family discussion about ways to save energy.

(Of course, you can always buy a meter if you like – they’re available in many hardware stores, including here, here and here.)

A portable power meter can save you energy and money

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” goes the expression.  It applies to electricity too, where our only indication of consumption is the monthly bill we get.  But by then, it’s too late to do anything about it.  As well, power bills tell us nothing about what’s running up our bill – so we have no way to distinguish the power hogs in our homes and workplaces from the power misers.

Portable power meters to the rescue!  They’re simple devices that provide a real-time readout of the power consumption of anything that plugs into an outlet.  Once you know how much power is consumed by the different things in your home or workplace, you can zero in on actions that will make the biggest difference in your power usage – and bill.

Portable meters like this one, this one or this one (a bit more expensive, but very good and easy to use) are available for loan at many public libraries, or at many hardware stores.

What’s good for the environment can be great for your wallet, and a clothesline is a perfect example.

Clothes dryers are among the biggest power hogs in your home, consuming about 4500 watts of power – equal to six microwave ovens or 350 compact fluorescent light bulbs.    If your power rate is 10 cents/KWH, a big load in the dryer adds 45 cents to your power bill.  One such load a day uses about $150 worth of power annually.

Then there are emissions.  If your power comes from coal or oil (as most of North America’s does), one big load in the dryer equals 4 kilograms of emissions.  One such load a day for a year adds over a tonne of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Clotheslines make environmental and economic sense.  Springtime is a great time to get reacquainted with yours, or to install one if you don’t have one.  Here’s a great seven minute video that explains everything about planning and installing your clothesline (except they use a rope where most clotheslines are plastic coated wire).

Automatic door openers are in buildings everywhere these days, helping provide access to people with mobility challenges.  But their popularity has led to an unintended side effect: many people with no mobility issues have gotten into the comfortable habit of pressing the button too.

Automatic openers use electricity, and they often hold exterior doors open long enough for a lot of heat to escape.

So to save a bit of electricity and heat, why not leave automatic door openers for those who really need them, and , if you can, open doors the old-fashioned way.

In the News

What are the TOP 10 environmental moments of the past decade?  Here they are, according to CNN.  The last two sentences of number 8 will likely surprise you.

Who – or what – came out on top in Copenhagen last month, and who – or what – lost out?

…I said to some friends who commented over dinner that their July power bill was much higher than their June bill. And a quick test with a portable power meter showed that that was indeed the case.
Summer is the time of humidity. And while it’s very important to keep humidity at bay to prevent the growth of mould, dehumidifiers – especially older ones – can consume a lot of energy. My own dehumidifier (an oldie) uses nearly 500 watts, or as much power as three dozen CFL bulbs. Ouch!
So what can you do?
1. manage your dehumidifier use: instead of turning it on in June and turning it off in September (as many of us do), set it to operate at a level that keeps humidity levels reasonable. Trying to get humidity levels to zero is like swimming against a river: it takes a lot of energy, and the river always wins eventually.
2. when buying a new dehumidifier, look for the ENERGY STAR symbol, a sign of top efficiency.
3. install a Humidex or similar device

In the news
Wal-Mart, often a target of environmentalists, has announced plans to require all suppliers to assign green ratings to their products. The move will enable consumers to know the carbon footprint of products before they buy, and choose their purchases accordingly. With Wal-Mart’s global buying power, the new policy has the potential to revolutionize the sustainability of the retail industry. Bravo Wal-Mart!

Ever hear of bike sharing or car sharing programs? Neat ways to stretch your dollars and do a good thing!

It’s summer, but your electric baseboard heaters may still be consuming energy and running up your power bill.

Here’s why. First, in spite of our best intentions, thermostats are sometimes not turned down. We forget, especially in rooms we don’t often use, or they get turned up on a cool day and aren’t set back down later.

Secondly, thermostats often lose their accuracy – so even when you turn them down, they may still click the heat on during cooler periods. For example, a thermostat that’s off by 5 degrees may kick in when it’s 15 degrees, even if you have it set down to 10 degrees. That’s heat you don’t need and money you can save.

There’s a simple way to be sure your heat is not coming on behind your back this summer: go to your power panel and turn off the breaker for your heaters. Then just reset it in the fall when you want the heat. Simple savings!

In the news

Green power is taking root in China with massive investments in wind (6 huge projects are under construction, each with the output of 16 coal fired power plants). Britain has the potential to be a world leader in offshore wind and wave power in just over a decade. (It’s amazing how much change is possible in just ten years:

In the meantime, lamentably, Canada placed dead last in the World Wildlife Fund’s rating of G8 nations, “not even close” to meeting its Kyoto targets.

Does your computer run around the clock, 24/7? If so, you’re missing out on an opportunity to knock a few dollars off of your monthly power bill.

Just this morning I measured my computer’s power use, and here’s the result. It uses 45 watts when it’s just on – let’s call that idling – and 105 watts when it’s thinking really hard. My monitor uses 55 watts. Add speakers, printer (off but still using a trickle of “phantom power”) and router, and the total power use of my system is 115 watts “at idle”, 175 watts when it’s thinking really hard.

That means that, if left on constantly “at idle”, a system like mine would consume nearly $100 in power per year. If that power came from coal, it would generate almost one tonne of greenhouse gases.

The solution? You can use sleep and hibernate settings, so your system drops into a power-saving mode when not used for a few minutes. (Click Control panel – Power options). And for even more savings, shut down your computer when it is not in use, and plug everything into a power bar that you can click off to completely eliminate those trickles of phantom power .

In the news

Let it blow, let it blow: New Brunswick’s first wind farm, Kent Hills, is now on line, producing enough power on a windy day for 17,000 homes. Three more are under construction. A recent study identified potential for 4,500 MW in NB – more than all the power presently used here.