Laundry is no one's favorite chore, and it doesn't help that washers and dryers are among the costliest appliances to operate. Since most of us do at least a few loads of laundry each week, it's worth taking steps to reduce energy use.
Here's how your washer and dryer compare to two other high energy users in your home—your refrigerator and dishwasher:
But there are ways to save money and energy in the laundry room and reduce the wear and tear on your clothes—and some of them won't cost you a thing. Here are some things you can do to save in the laundry room:
- Wash with cold water. Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load's energy use in half, and using cold water will save even more. Cold water detergents can be helpful to ensure items get clean, and high-efficiency detergents (indicated by the "HE" symbol) should be used when required by the manufacturer.
- Wash full loads. Your washer will use about the same amount of energy no matter the size of the load, so fill it up.
- Dry right-sized loads for your machine. If the dryer is too full, it will take longer for the clothes to dry. Loads that are too small can also take longer to dry, plus you spend more per item when running the dryer to only dry a few things.
- Air dry when you can. Hang laundry outside or on a drying rack to avoid using the dryer altogether.
- Switch loads while the dryer is warm. This will allow you to use the remaining heat inside of the dryer for the next cycle.
- Use dryer balls. Wool or rubber dryer balls will help separate your clothes and get more air to them, cutting drying time. They can also reduce static so you don't need dryer sheets (see #7 below). The wool balls are said to absorb some moisture, further cutting drying time.
- Clean the lint filter on the dryer. The dryer will run more efficiently and safely. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter once a month with a toothbrush to remove film buildup that can reduce air circulation.
- Use the high-speed or extended spin cycle in the washer. This will remove as much moisture as possible before drying, reducing your drying time and the wear on your clothes from the high heat of the dryer.
- Use lower heat settings in the dryer. Even if the drying cycle is longer, you’ll use less energy and be less likely to over-dry your clothes.
- Dry towels and heavier cottons separately from lighter-weight clothes. You'll spend less time drying the lighter-weight clothes.
- Use a cool-down cycle if your dryer has one. This cycle allows clothes to finish drying with the heat remaining in the dryer.
- Use the moisture sensor option if your dryer has one. Many new clothes dryers come designed with a moisture sensor, which automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry. This will save energy and reduce wear and tear on your clothes caused by over-drying.
- Sign up for time-of-day programs with your utility. These programs offer lower energy costs at certain times of day—often overnight. If you can plan to do your laundry overnight (or use controls on your machine to schedule washing or drying), you can pay less to do your laundry. Contact your utility for more information.
- Use an ENERGY STAR-certified washer and dryer. New ENERGY STAR washers use about 25% less energy than conventional models, and ENERGY STAR dryers use 20% less energy.
- Consider a gas dryer. Depending on gas and electric rates in your area, a gas dryer could cost less to operate, though it may cost a little more to purchase. Keep in mind a gas dryer does need a dedicated gas line.
- Consider a heat pump dryer. The initial cost may be a bit higher, but heat pump dryers can save 20%-60% over conventional dryers by taking in ambient air, heating it, and recirculating it. There are some things to consider if you decide to buy a heat pump dryer—namely sealing old dryer vents and drainage. Visit ENERGY STAR for more information.
To find out about how much you're spending to run your washer and dryer each year, use the DOE's appliance energy use calculator.
Find and share more tips for saving energy and money at home on DOE's Energy Saver Pinterest board.
Written by Allison Casey / DOE. Allison works with DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory to manage the Energy Saver website. She holds an Ed.M. in Technology, Innovation, and Education from Harvard University and a B.S. in Scientific and Technical Communication from the University of Minnesota.