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Are tumble dryers energy guzzlers?

Posted by Gabby Mallett on 8 August 2016 at 4:56 pm

We all know that drying outside is the cheapest and most energy efficiency means of getting our clothes dry. Even if it's pretty cold outside you can still feel some benefit from this as the wind aids evaporation. Even in really cold weather I will put clothes outside for a while before bringing them in to dry on clothes horses. It takes out the majority of the moisture and still contributes to that lovely fresh air dried smell. And of course they take much less time to dry inside when they have been outside first. 

Of course drying lots of clothes in the home can increase the relative humidity and if left unchecked this can lead to condensation and damp. But sometimes drying outside is just not an option. And sometimes, if it’s pouring with rain, if you live in a flat without access to external clothes drying space or if you just have so much washing, then you have to resort to a tumble dryer. 

These have always been terrible energy guzzlers, but technology is advancing. It is now possible to buy an A+++ energy rated tumble dryer, although you would need to pay through the nose to get one that energy efficient. A quick trawl of the internet shows that you can choose from machines from less than £150 to around £1,500 (yes, that’s not a misprint). So, what do you need to do?

Clearly you have a budget in mind. You want to consider the cost of buying the machine and the cost of running it and the likelihood of it requiring repair or replacement. Some tumble dryers now say they will use as little as 235kWh per year, and with electricity at around 11p/kWh that’s just £25 per year. Of course that’s for the most energy efficient (and expensive), but have a look at the typical annual usage figures, then think about whether you would use it more or less than the average to work out how much it might cost you.

It’s not an easy decision to make. Which? has some good advice on how to get the best out of your tumble dryer, see here, and (if you pay the subscription) has recently done some testing on over 100 models.

My advice is dry outside whenever you can, even if you only get the clothes half dry it’s still better than nothing. Buy a machine with the highest energy efficiency rating that you can afford. Do all the sensible things to make it easier to get the washing dry, like untangling everything before putting it in and remembering to use the right setting. If you are going to iron everything straight away then you won’t want it bone dry, just dry a little, then iron and hang up to air. 


Image: PROMike King

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2 comments - read them below or add one


richmcComment left on: 31 August 2016 at 6:59 pm

If you have solar and want fluffy towels, then the tumble dryer is the way to go if the sun is shining.

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Jeff B

Jeff BComment left on: 8 August 2016 at 11:01 pm

Or you could buy a dehumidifier and put your wet clothes on a clothes horse in a small room. Shut the door and windows and off you go. They use far less electricity than your average tumble drier.

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