Ask Pablo: Which Uses Less Energy - Using The Dryer To Get Out Wrinkles Or The Iron?


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Dear Pablo: I have been hanging my clothes on a clothesline, but this means some things need ironing. Which uses less energy - using the dryer to get out wrinkles or the iron?

While washers have gotten drastically more efficient over the past several years, little has improvement has been made with dryers. You have made a wise, and energy-saving decision to use a clothesline but now your clothes are wrinkled and your towels are rough. What is a treehugger to do? Ironing your clothes is certainly a good option but how does it compare to using the dryer?Using The Dryer
Dryers use several kilowatt-hours (kWh) per load, resulting in emissions from a power plant. To find exact numbers on their energy use we can turn to a previous article on washers. The minimum energy factor (like MPG for cars) for a standard capacity electric dryer is 3.01 meaning that it uses one kWh for every three pounds of laundry. So for a load that is 24 pounds a dryer might use 8 kWh, or 832 kWh per year (104 loads per year, 2 per week), costing around $133. By using a clothesline you are not only saving this money bit also preventing the emissions of around one ton of carbon dioxide (depending on where your electricity comes from).

Ironing
If you are good at ironing it might be a good option for de-wrinkling your clothes from the line. Keeping in mind that most of your wash will not need to be ironed (socks, towels, knickers, t-shirts and jeans) you might end up with only a few items to iron. We can assume five dress shirts and one pair of dress pants per week. Depending one your skill level it can take only a minute per item or, if you are domestically disabled like me, well over five minutes per item. Assuming the latter we are looking at up to 30 minutes of ironing per week. A regular iron uses between 1000 and 1200 watts, so a slow ironing job might use up to 0.6 kWh. Compared to the 8 kWh used by the dryer, this is a bargain!

Other Options
If the thought of pulling out the ironing board and getting all domestic gives you anxiety don't fear. There are plenty of other options:

  • Invest in a few nice hangers and dry your shirts on them. This will reduce the severity of any wrinkles created by the clothesline and clothesline pins.
  • Toss your clothes into the dryer with a damp washcloth and run a touch-up cycle to remove any wrinkles. Remove the garments immediately and put onto their hangers.
  • Dry only your dress shirts and pants in the dryer. Reserve the clothesline for everything else and use it only for your dress clothes. Keeping out the towels and other items will cut your dryer bill down to around 2 kWh per load.

Pablo Päster is a weekly columnist for TreeHugger.com, an experienced greenhouse gas engineer and the Senior Environmental Program Manager at Hara Software. Send your questions to Pablo(at)TreeHugger.com or submit the via this form and connect to his RSS feed.
More TreeHugger Articles On Dryers:
Portable Spin Dryer from The Laundry Alternative
Cut Back On Energy Use From Your Dryer
These Smart Clothes Dryers Could Reduce Electricity Demand by the Equivalent of 6 Coal Power Plants

Tags: Clothing | Energy | Energy Efficiency

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