If you're not ready to pull grandma's clothes pins out of storage and start line-drying your clothes, chances are you're using an energy-hogging appliance to do that work for you. Even in my hyper-efficient net zero energy home, our dryer is one of the biggest energy-consuming items.
Dryers account for about 4 percent of total residential electricity use in the United States. But like the cell phone, flat screen TVs, induction stoves and high-speed trains, the Europeans are years ahead of us on adopting the best technology. Heat pump dryers were first developed in Europe by Electrolux in 1997. Currently, there are over 25 models available on the European market . . . and zero in the U.S. market.
Using innovative heat pump technology, Bosch has a dryer that uses 40 percent less energy than a standard Energy Star dryer. The Bosch Ecologixx 7 is available only in Europe. It costs a meager 20 cents per load.
A heat pump dryer pulls energy from the air just like a heat pump heating and cooling system. Hot air enters through a rear drum to dry the laundry. The warm moist air exits the drum.
But wait, there's more energy to save
Now this is where it gets fun. Instead of the hot wet air being exhausted out that curly vent pipe out to the side of your house, it goes back out through the lint screen and into an evaporator. The evaporator removes the moisture, then sends the hot air back into the dryer to keep drying the clothes.
"In terms of technology, the dryer has always been seen as this lowly appliance equivalent to a giant toaster," says Peter Banwell, director of product marketing with the Energy Star program. "It's time to put our collective wisdom toward moving a new technology into the market."
EPA has announced that Advanced Clothes Dryers have been added as a category to the Energy Star 2013 Emerging Technology Award. This means consumers in the U.S. will be seeing superior quality dryers in Home Depot and Lowe's in the coming years.
In Germany, the least expensive heat pump clothes dryer is available for $675. Some of these advanced dryers run as high as $2,000. While you may pay a bit more for one of these dryers, they may still cost less than a conventional dryer in the long run. A conventional dryer without a moisture sensor can run your family as much as $150 per year in energy costs. Most of the advanced clothes dryers will cost less than $40 per year.
Read this Consumer Reports guide to buying the best clothes dryers available on the U.S. market.
Here's a detailed study from UC Davis about heat pump clothes dryers.