How Much Does It Cost to Run a Dryer?

Close-up of a woman with a laundry basket washing clothes

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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. With some simple calculations, you can easily determine how much it costs to operate your dryer and decide whether you need to find ways to bring down your energy costs.

Calculating the Cost

While knowing the national average helps, it doesn't tell you how much your dryer costs to run. It's pretty easy to find this out if you have a calculator, you know your dryer's wattage, and you have a recent electric bill. You can get your dryer's specifications from the owner's manual or you can search for the dryer's wattage online using the make and model number of the dryer.

Using these simple math steps, you can figure out how much you're spending per load, per month, and per year to dry your clothes.

  1. 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.
  2. Multiply the kilowatt-hours by your "cost per kWh." This number is your cost per load and is listed on your electric bill.
  3. To calculate your cost per month, multiply your cost per load by the number of loads that you typically do in a month.
  4. To calculate your cost per year, multiply your monthly cost by 12.

Sample Calculation

Though the number of hours per month you use your dryer and your cost per kilowatt-hour will differ, your calculations should look 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 relatively low here—9 cents per kWh or 3 cents below the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. For this example household, 24 loads of laundry are dried per month, which is pretty typical for many families.

Utilize Off-Peak Hours to Save

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.

Contact your electric company representative and determine if your electric company offers "off-peak" or "time of use" plans. These plans may charge more for electricity during peak hours but offer cheaper service during off-peak times. The concept is similar to surge pricing. Prices are higher when electricity is in high use, and many people are using it. When there isn't much demand, you can get more favorable pricing.

Cost-Saving Dryer Tips

Calculating your dryer usage show how much it costs to operate your dryer under perfect operating conditions. You can expect that an older, poorly maintained, or non-Energy Star-rated dryer may have higher costs. These other tips will help you keep costs down:

  • Empty your lint screen after each load and clean out the outside dryer vent a couple of times a year. Lint clogs lower a dryer's efficiency and drives up costs. Most importantly, it can cause a fire.
  • Always dry a full load; smaller loads waste energy.
  • If your dryer is taking too long to dry a load of clothes by requiring repeat cycles to dry a load, make sure you're not overfilling the dryer. Clothes need room to tumble around to dry. If you are using your dryer correctly, consult your owner's manual to troubleshoot the problem or get your dryer serviced.
  • Whenever possible, use lower-heat dryer settings. Newer dryers use significantly less energy to dry most typical loads on low heat than on high heat. Even if the dryer runs a little longer, it is more economical to let the clothes run longer on low heat. It's also gentler on clothes.
  • If your dryer has a setting for auto-dry with moisture sensors, be sure to use this setting instead of the timer to avoid wasting energy. Also, make sure your dryer's moisture sensors are clean. Sometimes a film from dryer sheets can coat the sensors rendering them useless.
  • The biggest money-saver is line-drying your clothes. You can run a clothesline outside with weather-resistant wire or string or line-dry clothes inside and hang them from your shower curtain rod or a clothes-drying rack.