Clothes dryer - is it the heat setting or time for most energy?

mommabirdAugust 8, 2009

I've discovered that the "bulky items" setting on my dryer gives me better results than the "normal" setting. Clothes come out less wrinkled and softer.

"Normal" is at medium-high heat and 45 minutes duration. "Bulky items" is at medium heat and 60 minutes duration.

My dryer is supposed to have a dryness sensor and shut off if everything is dry before the alloted time. I don't know if it actually does because it's in the basement & I don't hang around for 45 or 60 minutes to see (lol).

Is it going to cost a lot more electricity to run the dryer the extra 15 minutes, or will I save that $ by the lower heat setting? Does anyone know what uses the most energy? It's an electric dryer (not gas).

And I do hang a lot of stuff out on the clothesline, but there are certain things I like to put in the dryer and often times I use it to save time, with 3 kids involved in sports & a FT job, I often am not home to hang out clothes and get them back in.

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Have you cleaned the dryer vent/hose (all the way from INSIDE the dryer to the outside exit) to make sure you don't have an obstruction (that missing sock) or softener build-up which attracts lint, that blocks air-flow? That can hamper the drying ability and is also a good place for a fire, so you need to do this periodically.

Anything that requires electricity to run, the longer it runs the more it will cost, but most of the expense is in heating the air, not tumbling the drum.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 7:42AM
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Lowering the heat setting on a dryer does save energy. Whether it comes out even or less energy when you run it 15 minutes longer, I don't know, but I'm guessing it will.

Even if it doesn't, take into consideration how often would you use that setting. If the result is better, how much more would you actually be paying. Is it worth it?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 10:51AM
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I always heard that if your dryer has a dryness-sensing dial, that is the best one to use, it will run as long as necessary and stop when the laundry is dry. I have been told this by a Sears authorized repairman.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 12:42PM
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I've also heard the dryer sensor will do the job. Either way, try a large/clean/dry bathtowel in with each load. I was astounded how much faster my things dry. Just use the same towel over and over.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 1:55PM
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My dryer is supposed to have a dryness sensor and shut off if everything is dry before the alloted time.
There is no allotted time when you use a sensor on drying. It senses when the load is dry. If things are lightweight and spun out well, it'll dry far quicker than if you had a load of towels that were not balanced and dripping wet. It's going to run until the sensor senses that the load is dry. There's a couple different ways it senses depending on the unit.

My dryer has a sensor drying feature but I can select if it's a heavy load or if I want to save energy and essentially have things slightly damp when it shuts off. I seldom use the latter since I put things in the dryer to dry. However if I put poly blend t-shirts in, I'll let them have a touch of moisture to eliminate the static. I can also choose to use 5 different heat settings and the sensor, but normally I just use high heat and get-er-dun!

Your question on the higher heat with shorter time vs lower heat and longer time is impossible to say with certainty but I'd guess it'd be about a "wash". Turning the drum isn't that expensive as Grainlady said, it's the heating and since it's just some additional heating I'm not sure it would make a difference. If you like the results of lower/longer, use it. If economy is your only concern then the MOST economical setting would be the "off" position!

A properly working sensor is a good system, but having had a dryer where it didn't work right, there isn't a savings in that situation. I could gauge very accurately how long I needed to dry a load and I'm sure a proper sensor wouldn't have saved anything significant in that case.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 1:59PM
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Hi mommy to the birds,

In addition to other obstructions that may restrict airflow through the vent, as grainlady spoke of ... sometimes one of those birds get into the vent, as well and may be unable to get back out.

If you'd like to check on whether the heat sensor cuts off the heat early ... set a kitchen timer for, say 30, 35 min., or whenever you think it wise to check. Timers are great waker-uppers. I had one a while ago, to help me to remember pots on the stove before they burned ... but I twisted its tail too hard, and broke it.

Life do have its problems!

Though both motors and heating take a substantial amount of electricity, I suspect that the heat cost is heavier per unit of time, relative to the size of a dryer motor. But my thought there relates to a difference between heat and no heat, but your reference is to a difference in levels of heat, and lacking precise measurement of the amount of flow at the two different levels, it's not possible to give a precise answer, I think.

ole oyful

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 10:55PM
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Thank you everyone!

The dryer is working fine - both settings work, it's just that the longer/lower setting leaves the clothes less wrinkled and softer. The shorter/higher setting leaves things more wrinkled. The dryer is only 2 years old, and is supposed to have an automatic sensor that works on every load. There isn't a separate setting for the sensor to work. I don't really know if it's working or not - I don't sit in the basement to see how long the dryer actually runs. I will try the timer, Joyful - that's a good idea! I'll set the timer for 60 min and see if the dryer is still running at the end.

So for now -I'll just use the setting that gives the best end result. THANKS!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 7:59AM
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mommabird -
Look in the user manual and see what the wattage is for the two settings.

Watts x minutes = power used

Whichever one ends up with the lowest number is the less expensive.

Let's assume it's 3500 watts for normal and 2700 for bulky. You need to put in the actual numbers.

3500 x 45= 157,500
2700 x 60= 162,000

If these were the numbers, the higher setting would use a few % more watts.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 2:38PM
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I've never seen a dryer user manual that states the wattage for the various temp settings, or the target temperatures. Unless the dryer has a multi-stage heating element or gas burner (which a few do), the instantaneous wattage consumption and heat output is the same regardless of the temp setting. Lower temps run the element for less time ... it takes less heating time to raise the temp to 125°F than to 150°F.

In any case, the heat source (electric element or gas burner) does not run continuously throughout the drying cycle (45 mins or 60 mins or whatever is the time). Like an oven or a central heating system, it runs to reach the target temperature, then cycles on/off to maintain that temperature. As drying progresses, the heat source will be on for proportionately less time. Moisture in the clothes keeps the temperature down due to evaporation, requiring the heat to run longer to reach the temp. As the clothes dry, they heat faster, and the heat source runs less to hit the target.

In regards to the 45 mins or 60 mins "time" on the aforementioned sensor cycles ... that is simply an estimate based on a typical load. The control system will increase or decrease the time as needed to reach the target dryness level depending on how large is the load, how much moisture is left in the clothes after the washer's spin, and how fast the load is drying (airflow rates, etc.). Run a cycle with no clothes in the dryer, and it surely won't go for 45 or 60 mins.

Longer drying time at lower temps makes for softer, less wrinkled clothes due to the longer time of tumble/flexing involved and slower evaporation of moisture.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 4:39PM
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I got my annual "settle up" bill from the electric co. today. I pay on the budget plan and August is my budget review month.

For the past year, my average daily cost of electricity for a 1500 sq ft house, family of 5, is $4.09.

I've decided to stop worring about the dryer setting and use the Bulk because I think we have a very, very low average usage compared to most families of 5!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 10:57PM
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