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Taming the clothes dryer energy hog

New efficient dryer models for less wrinkles

Q: Dear Jim: I have an old clothes dryer with very few features. It runs a long time and the clothes are either still damp or too dry with wrinkles. Will a new dryer work better and be more efficient? What features are most important? - Sandi G.

A: Dear Sandi: There are many significant improvements in new clothes dryers that you will notice it both in the effectiveness of wrinkle-free drying and in your utility bills. The newest features should virtually eliminate wrinkling and tangling problems that are common with older dryers. With little or no ironing needed, the utility bills savings are even greater.

People often do not realize how much it actually costs to run a clothes dryer. Since a dryer is a heat-producing home appliance, it is a natural energy guzzler from the start.

There is also a secondary energy loss when operating a clothes dryer. Not only does it produce heat, but it also draws a lot of already heated or cooled air out of your house. Whenever indoor air is sucked out of your house, outdoor cold winter air or hot humid summer air is drawn indoors through all the cracks around windows, doors, etc. This makes your furnace or air conditioner run longer.

One of the key features to consider when selecting a new clothes dryer is the type of moisture sensor used. This sensor determines when the clothes are dry per your dryness setting and when to shut off the dryer heater elements. Overdrying clothes is more common than underdrying and it is the primary cause of wrinkling, shrinking and actual damage to the material fibers. Also, if you have to iron, it wastes more time and energy.

The best dryer moisture sensor is an electronic design that is mounted inside the drum. This moisture sensor actually contacts the clothes to accurately determine their moisture level. There are several effective designs, but one particularly effective design measures the electrical resistance through the clothes to the dryer drum. As moisture is removed from the clothes, the resistance increases for a precise dryness level.

Simpler, less expensive "automatic" moisture sensors are less accurate because they often determine the dryness of the clothes in an indirect way. For example, some just measure the exhaust air temperature to estimate the dryness of the clothes. As the clothes become drier, the exhaust air temperature increases. Regardless of the type of moisture sensor you choose, select a model with many settings to vary the dryness depending on the fabric type.

Auto-reversing drum rotation is also an excellent feature that minimizes wrinkling. It changes the direction of the rotation every several minutes to keep the clothes from tangling and wrinkling. With the clothes tumbling freely, they dry quicker thereby reducing the amount of energy used and your utility bills.

Several other nice options include a no-wrinkle feature that tumbles the clothes every several minutes after they are dry until you remove them. An optional super-large lint filter helps if you forget to clean it. An

James Dulley is a mechanical engineer who writes on a wide variety of energy and utility topics. His column appears in a large number of daily newspapers.

Copyright 1999 James Dulley


optional internal drying rack is helpful for drying delicate items.

To eliminate the indoor air loss from your home and to use a dryer in an interior room, consider a condensing clothes dryer that does not vent outdoors. You can locate the dryer anywhere in your home. These dryers are more commonly used in Europe and they recover the dryer heat to help heat your home in the winter.

Condensing dryers are also designed to be exceptionally quiet. This is because in Europe, they are often used in the living area, not in a utility room or basement. The moisture from the clothes is condensed and it flows into a small drawer that you empty at the end of the drying cycle.

Another option is a combination clothes washer/dryer. The same space-saving cabinet both washes and dries the clothes using the condensing drying process. These one-step units are very convenient to use. You put in dirty clothes and take out clean dry clothes an hour or two later. They are ideal for older people who do smaller loads and cannot carry much weight up and down stairs.

Since clothes drying actually starts with the washing machine, it is critical to follow the washer manufacturer's operating instructions. The final washer spinning cycle is used to remove as much water from the clothes as possible. If the washer is over-loaded and less effective, the dryer must run longer to remove the extra moisture left in the clothes.

Write for (instantly download Utility Bills Update No. 591 - buyer's guide of 15 vented, condensing and combination dryers listing sensor types, capacities, drum rotation and material, sizes, features, prices and laundry efficiency tips. Please include $3 and a business-size SASE. James Dulley, Illinois Country Living, P.O. Box 54987, Cincinnati, OH 45254.


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