I was recently challenged on buying a new clothes dryer: How to be Green?
Green is not all that scientific, it's a bit subjective, but the manufacturers and sales folks avoid the issues. The in-store displays and brochures make it easy to understand features and even to compare electrical costs - but I had more questions.
First, I wasn't sure if I should replace my dryer. The question came up because the washer broke, and needed to be replaced. Does one buy the matching dryer simply because they are buying a washer? Or,wait until the dryer breaks and needs replacement. The first step to being green is to avoid new purchases when possible.
My wife was sure she would regret have a mis-matched pair forever. At least until I pointed out that our current pair was mis-matched and no one (including us) had seemed to notice. But the issue was exacerbated by the fact that form factors changed. Dryers have mostly always been front loaders, but now that washers are front loaders - the whole design has changed. We were going to replace the top loader washer with a front loader, and the traditional dryer looks puny next to the big washer.
I did some research, and found that gas dryers tend to last about 18 years. Now, the hard part - how old was ours? I found a great website that allowed me to enter some information to determine. It turned out that our dryer was 16 years old. It was still working fine, but officially in overtime.
We were buying through Lowes, and have already learned their haul-away service makes no effort to resell/reuse the appliances. When they took away my old-but-working fridge, they took the doors off to make it lighter. They quickly cut the tubing to the in-door water and ice dispenser. I had assumed they would attempt to sell the working fridge, but instead find it easier to sell them for scrap. I wished I had put it up on Craigslist. Craigslist is great for old appliances that are working - but Lowes haul-away is better for broken items. So, I posted my old working dryer on Craigslist and found someone happy to give it a new home.
Now the next problem: Gas or Electric?
Most homes are set for one or the other, but we actually have a choice. There's lots of factors to consider such as where the fuel source used to create the electricity. Green power such as solar or wind favors electricity on the green question. We do have solar panels, but they don't provide all of our power. The rest comes from a coal plant. Gas is generally considered more efficient for a few reasons. There's lots of great research on this. I'll just say that the gas is burned to make heat which is reasonably efficient - as opposed to burning coal to make steam to make electricity to power a heater to create heat.
A gas dryer is great, but dryer's are not generally green at all. The greenest choice is to avoid using the dryer - clothes lines are great when feasible. Another trick involves the washer. It turns out that if you want to reduce power with the dryer, best look to the left.
All dryers spin and generate heat, there's not much to differentiate them, fuel source being the biggest. The real opportunity is reduce drying involves the spin cycle in the washer. I have to say the high-speed spin in our Maytag is impressive. Clothes come out of that new washer practically dry. You can't use it all clothes - nothing delicate. But the stuff that goes through that high-speed merry-go-round, don't spend much time in the dryer.