Gas or electric dryer with photovoltaics

guysmomSeptember 25, 2005

We are building a house with photovoltaics. We also have natural gas available. Gas dryers are generally considered more economical to operate than electric. With the increases in natural gas prices coming and the fact that we have a photovoltaic system available, would it make more sense to have an electric dryer? It goes without saying they we will also be using line drying whenever possible. We live in northern California. Thanks for your feedback.

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If you're doing PV, forget about an electric dryer . . . take a look at the heater size in watts. They are also usually 230v; so you'll be needing a hefty-sized step-up transformer to run it; ( which means more losses ) or have stacked inverters to get true 230 that way. That's more money / connections etc . . .

You don't wanna have the size of your PV array determined by needing to run an electric dryer. Consider EVERY appliance very carefully for energy consumption . . . a few dollars extra for better efficiency avoids MANY dollars to provide that extra power via PV. You have not stated if you will be grid-tied or not; that too can impact some of your choices.

For what it's worth; I've got 2800w of panels; and run an 1800 sq ft place with a grid-tied / battery back-up system. I'm in central New York state ( certainly NOT the sunshine capital of the US ) and I'm a bit shy of generating everything that I used here in a year. With better sun in California; you would have done signifigantly better than I with a similar place.

Good luck . . . Bob

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 6:17AM
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It is important to learn as much as you can about your future PV system and how it works before you start making decisions about appliances and fixtures. It can be a little daunting but there are many good websites and books available. As a rule anything that uses electricity to produce heat is not going to be happily compatible with a PV system, there are some short term use exceptions.

You will be needing natural gas to cook also, unless you will be grid tied and plan to use mostly grid electricity.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 9:32AM
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It really depends what you want from your solar system and how it's connected (grid tied or battery).

If it's a battery system, I would suggest you buy a gas dryer. Electric dryers use a lot of energy, and they're most likely to be using during bad weather when it's cloudy and wet - which also happens to be the time of year that your solar pannels are least effective. Overall, it seems to be a bad combination and could result in either having to buy excess batteries or running them down too much.

With a grid tied system, an electric dryer isn't such a concern. At any rate, using it won't leave you in the dark, and you can 'borrow' electric from the grid to power it. However, if generating all your electric from solar is important to you, then gas is still a good choice. It's also a good choice if you intend to use it reguarly.

However, what about having no dryer at all? Dryers are a huge energy consumer, both gas and electric, and they have a number of dissadvantages. They wear clothes out faster, make some stains stick forever, and the resulting laundry is a crumpled mess that takes forever to iron. Personally, I hate ironing, which is why my dryer is never used. I don't even know where it is in the basement, it's been burried in boxes for so many years! If I hang the clothes out carefully, most everything comes off the line ready to wear or put away, which is a massive time saver. If the weather is bad, I just hang the clothing inside the house. I've set up a space in the basement for hanging clothes to dry, but you could use a shed or garage for this. It's not quite as fast as a dryer, but it cost nothing, saves a vast amount of ironing, and it helps the fabrics last longer. As for the common worry you'll run out of clean clothes without a dryer, I can assure you, without having to buy an expensive dryer and feed it with fuel all the time, I have plenty of spare cash for extra clothing, which makes me much happier than a dreary old bill at the end of the month!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 9:47AM
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Thanks for the feedback. I hadn't thought about the 220 volt issue with the dryer. We will be on the grid. Here in northern California our utility supplier has a tier system for electricity. Our system is sized so that if we do need to use power from the grid we will not use so much that we go into the higher costing tiers. Our system is 2500 watt for a 2400 sq ft house. We selected the most energy efficient washer we could find, realizing that the more "dry" the laundry was out of the washer, the less energy would be used in the drying process.

Bry 84, we get some of our best sunshine in the winter. I enjoy hanging laudry outside and the clean smell that only sunshine gives. Our laundry room is very accessible to our backyard. No basement, but I could line dry a few things in a pinch in the utility room. Think we will go with the gas dryer as a back up to line drying. Thanks.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 11:04PM
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House size has little to do with electricity needs, it is what you put in your house. With your system if I correctly did my math you should get about 10kwh per day from your array. The average usage for an American house is about 25kwh per day. You will need to do a lot of careful decision making or you will be using a more grid energy than you originally planned. I hope you have someone experienced near by to help you get the answers you need.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 3:12PM
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Just as a some additional info . . .

My 1800 sq ft place uses ~ 6 kWh / day summer; and ~ 10 kWh / day winter. I know these to be accurate as I kept records and all our power bills for 4 years before going PV / grid-tied. Knowing your existing use in a place, and what you want to achieve in terms of your grid usage / independence; will help greatly in getting a properly designed and sized system installed. My installer / designer were thrilled to have that info the very first time we had contact . . . helps the process along tremendously.


    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 6:07AM
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