Your clothes dryer is an energy hog: measuring clothes dryer energy use

by Government Worker FI | Last Updated: February 19, 2019

I love saving energy because it is a double win!  Saving energy saves money. Saving energy also reduces fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.  What could be a better frugal win? In this post, I’m going to talk about clothes dryer energy consumption.

My thoughts about home energy use

Buildings consume 40% of the energy in the US.  Surprisingly, transportation only consumes 20%. For some reason, people seem really concerned about transportation energy.  A Prius or Tesla has become a green status symbol. I don’t care if you drive a Prius if you set your thermostat at 72 in the winter.*

In most houses, air infiltration is the largest energy source of energy loss.  While I love Mr. Money Mustache, his post about insulating your house is misguided.  (To be fair, he did update the post and note that “if you have air leaks you should fix them”).  Properly air sealing an “old” house (probably anything built before 2000) can save up 10%-40% of your heating costs.  That also means that you’re using up to 40% less oil/natural gas/electricity each year. The environmental impacts of some well placed spray foam and dense packed cellulose are SO MUCH BIGGER than driving a Prius.  

I’ve worked to make our building envelope is as tight as I can make it.  I really care about trying to reduce energy use. I’ve hacked our hot water heater for goodness sake.  But when Mrs. Fig suggested that we stop using our clothes dryer I got defensive.

The irony of the clothes dryer

There was as time, prior to starting our FI journey, when Mrs. Fig’s job was eliminated.  We immediately freaked out and started coming up with ways to save money. At one point, Mrs. Fig suggested we stop using the clothes dryer.  However, I threw a mini-tantrum because that felt like deprivation. “Really? How much could we save by reducing our clothes dryer energy usage. I don’t think we’re that destitute yet”.

(Side note- I really like putting clothes out on the line when it’s a nice day out.  Given our Midwestern climate, that’s really only an option 5 months out of the year. So that means 7 months of clothes dried in our humid basement).

picture of our clothes dryer
This monster is an energy addict!

Looking back, it seems odd that for so many years I was fine trying to save energy when it involved reducing our heating/air conditioning costs but freaked out about using crispy towels and jeans.  

The clothes dryer revisited

Shortly after starting our FI journey, Mrs. Fig and I both read MMM’s post about how he uses a clothesline to dry all of his clothes.  We thought we’d try not using our clothes dryer for a month and see what happened. Here are some things we learned

graph of our energy usage
Daily average energy use for each month in 2018. We stopped using our clothes dryer at the end of August.
calculation of energy use
Pinterest pin- do you know how much energy your clothes dryer is eating up? This post is all about measuring how much energy your clothes dryer uses.

Summary

We learned that you can dry your clothes inside of your house year round, even if you have to dry them in a humid basement.  
Moreover we also were able to measure our clothes dryer energy usage. All in all, we measured a reduction of 5.9kWh per day and our greenhouse emissions by over 2,000 lbs annually .  

In summary, this is an incredible energy and frugality win.  And the best part is you don’t need to do “more” to achieve the win.  You just need to not use your clothes dryer!

*I didn’t mean that statement to be judgmental. You can use energy however you want.