My wife and I recently replaced a pair of our first purchases together.
We bought a new washer and dryer shortly after we were married 15 years ago. It was a basic set, the least-expensive model we could find. They had no bells and whistles, but they did a fine job of washing and drying clothes.
I have patched them together to keep them running, twice replacing the dryer heating element and once repairing the switch on the washer that let it know the lid was closed.
But after so much time together, last month it was time to let them go. We replaced them with new, front-loading models.
The new machines are much larger, able to handle several blankets or several days’ worth of clothes in one load. They also have a sanitary mode for especially nasty jobs and steam modes for more delicate items.
While all of these settings and functions have been helpful, the new machines also boast a savings on both water and electricity.
When we bought our first washer and dryer, we were most concerned with the immediate cost. This time, however, we chose more efficient models that promise to use less energy and water over time.
I was pleased with our purchase until this week when I found a recent report from the National Resources Defense Council that says American consumers are missing out on $4 billion in annual savings from inefficient clothes dryers.
The report found that clothes dryers have not undergone the same level of energy efficiency improvements as air conditioners, refrigerators and clothes washers have seen over the past two decades.
“The amount of energy wasted by clothes dryers in the United Stats has received little attention, and energy efficiency standards for them remain essentially unchanged,” the report stated. “In fact, today’s typical electric clothes dryer sometimes consumes as much energy annually as a new energy efficient refrigerator, clothes washer and dishwasher combined.”
It’s not all bad news. The report found that high efficiency washers like my new model use about 75 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than typical models from 1981.
But the improvements apparently have not translated to the dryers in the same way, at least not in the United States.
The report found that updating residential dryers in this country to the most efficient versions sold overseas could save U.S. consumers up to $4 billion a year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 16 million tons annually.
But while my new dryer may not be as efficient as some sold in other parts of the world, it does boast a sensor that stops the cycle when the clothes are dry. My old dryer spun until the cycle ended, regardless of whether the clothes already had been dry for 20 minutes.
For now, I’m happy with the savings the new model promises. Hopefully greater efficiency improvements will be available in another 15 years or so when it’s time for another replacement.