Clothes dryers have a reputation for being energy hogs, but how much do they really cost to operate? In the U.S., it costs approximately 45 cents to dry a load of laundry in an electric dryer, based on a 5,600-watt dryer, 40-minute run-time, and a 12-cent-per- kilowatt-hour rate. A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is equal to the energy of 1,000 watts working for one hour.
Calculating the Cost
While the national average helps, that really doesn't tell you how much your dryer costs to run. With a little math, it's pretty easy to find out.
Grab a calculator, your dryer’s owner’s manual, and a recent electric bill, and use these simple math steps to figure out how much you're spending per load, per month, and per year to dry your clothes.
- Multiply the dryer’s wattage by the length of the load in hours and divide by 1,000. This will give you the total number of kilowatt-hours used.
- Multiply the kilowatt-hours by your cost per kWh. (You can find this on your electric bill.) This is your cost per load.
- To calculate your cost per month, multiply your cost per load by the number of loads that you typically do in a month.
- To calculate your cost per year, multiply your monthly cost by 12.
Though the number of hours per month you use your dryer and your cost per kilowatt-hour will differ, your calculations should look something like this.
(5,600 watts x 0.667 hours) / 1,000 = 3.73 kWh
3.73 kWh x $0.09 = $0.34 per load
$0.34 per load x 24 loads a month = $8.16 per month
$8.16 x 12 = $97.92 per year
Note that the cost per kilowatt hour is fairly low here—9 cents per kWh or 3 cents below the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. But, the person in this example does dry 24 loads of laundry per month, which is pretty typical for many households.
Do Your Laundry at Night
Some utility providers offer cheaper rates during off-peak hours. If yours does, you may be able to cut your drying costs by doing your laundry at night, after the rates have dropped.
To calculate your potential savings, crunch the numbers for both peak and off-peak times to see how they compare. You may just find it’s worth staying up late and doing your laundry in the evening.
Cost-Saving Dryer Tips
These calculations show how much it costs to operate your dryer under perfect operating conditions. However, a well-used or poorly maintained dryer may have higher costs.
To achieve these numbers, you need to empty your dryer vent after each load and clean out the outside dryer vent a couple of times a year. If either becomes clogged with lint, it’ll take significantly longer to dry your clothes and this costs money. More importantly, this can start a fire.
If you find that it’s taking longer and longer to dry your laundry, and cleaning the dryer vent doesn’t help, consult your owner’s manual to troubleshoot the problem. You don’t want to spend money running your dryer if it isn’t doing the job you’re paying for.
If you're interested in saving both the most money and energy, consider line drying your clothes. You can create your own clothesline, outside, with weather resistant wire or string, or bring your clothes inside and hang them from your shower curtain rod.