Ask Pablo: How Best To Get The Wrinkles Out, And Why Natural Gas Dryers Are Better For The Environment


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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?

Despite concerns that <">clotheslines may lower your property value more and more treehuggers have been switching over to line drying. The line doesn't leave your clothes smelling "spring fresh" (whatever that means) but at least you can avoid using cancer-causing dryer sheets. There are many other benefits to line drying.Which Uses Less Energy: The Dryer or The Iron?
When you line dry you will no doubt have wrinkles and folds in your fabrics that you may want to iron out. The majority of your textiles are fine to just fold and put away (towels, sheets, socks, underwear, etc). An iron uses about 1000 watts, or 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity per hour of use. An electric clothes dryer may use three times as much energy but keep in mind that not all of the items need ironing and that the iron would be used far less than an hour. Therefor line drying and using an iron for the few clothes that will need it uses less energy than drying the entire load in an electric dryer.

But Which Is Better: An Electric Clothes Dryer Or A Gas Clothes Dryer?
Dryers have been a hot debate topic in TreeHugger's Forums. According to the California Energy Commission's Consumer Energy Center most electric dryers will use about the same amount of energy, which will cost you around $1,530 over the life of the dryer. Natural gas dryers cost about $50 more than their electric cousins but they cost about half as much to operate ($0.15-0.20 vs. $0.30-0.40 per load) due to the cheaper price of natural gas. In addition, electric clothes dryers have an energy factor of at least 3.01 pounds of clothes dried per kWh while the natural gas dryers are at least 2.67.

Which Is Better Environmentally?
If we assume that both dryers have an energy factor of 3.0 pounds per kWh (they are both pretty close) which one creates less greenhouse gas emissions? Your first instinct may be to say that they are the same, but this would be wrong. Since 1 kWh = 0.03413 therms and one therm of natural gas emits 6.1 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2), drying 3 pounds of clothes in a natural gas dryer creates 0.21 kg of CO2. If you are in Kansas (where electricity comes mostly from unclean coal) the electric dryer would be responsible for 0.89 kg CO2 but in California is would be only 0.33 kg CO2, still more that the natural gas dryer. But of course nothing is as efficient as line drying. If your situation doesn't allow for it (space, disability, or homeowners association rules) the are some ways to cut back on energy use from your dryer.

Pablo Päster is a weekly columnist for, an experienced greenhouse gas engineer and the Senior Environmental Program Manager at Hara Software. Send your questions to Pablo(at) or submit the via this form and connect to his RSS feed.
More Resource On Drying Your Clothes:
How To: Eco-Laudry
These Smart Clothes Dryers Could Reduce Electricity Demand by the Equivalent of 6 Coal Power Plants
National Hanging Out Day: 5 Ways To Dry With Solar and Wind Energy

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