Buy a new major appliance today and it’ll be a lot more energy efficient than what was on the market 20 or 30 years ago. Unless, that is, you’re buying a dryer.

The Natural Resources Defense Council on Thursday put out an issue brief and call to action regarding money- and energy-wasting clothes dryers. While manufacturers have boosted the efficiency of washing machines, refrigerators, and other appliances in recent decades, their enthusiasm for doing the same thing for dryers has been damp at best. Dryers remain so energy hungry that even a new one can consume as much electricity as an efficient new clothes washer, refrigerator, and dishwasher combined.

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NRDC concluded that Americans spend $9 billion a year on the electricity used to dry their clothes. If their dryers were all upgraded to the best models available in Europe, Australia, and Asia, those costs would drop by $4 billion. And because most of the nation’s electricity still comes from fossil fuels, those upgrades would keep 16 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year. Here are some highlights from the findings:

There are 89 million residential clothes dryers in the United States (75 percent electric models, 25 percent natural gas). Although electric dryers dominate the U.S. market, natural gas dryers typically cost 50 percent to 75 percent less to operate.

A typical household pays over $100 in annual utility bills to operate an electric dryer and $40 for a gas dryer. Homes with electric dryers pay at least $1,500 over the dryer’s lifetime for the electricity to power the machine. …

U.S. policies for clothes dryers lag behind those for other appliances. …

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How a consumer uses a dryer is almost as important as which dryer is purchased. Choosing a lower operating temperature can slow the drying process a little, but it cuts energy use significantly. Stopping the dryer before all of the clothes are bone-dry saves time and energy, while reducing wrinkles and helping clothes last longer.

Of course, a brighter solution for reducing the costs and climate impacts of drying clothes is out there, just blowing in the wind.

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