Dryer safety and energy efficiency go hand in hand. The more efficient we can be in our use of electricity, the less negatively it impacts the environment. Electricity accounts for 39 percent of the total energy consumed in America. Anytime you use electricity it impacts the environment, contributing to such diverse negatives as air pollution and climate change. Following the rules of clothes dryer safety will lead to a more energy efficient appliance that will, by extension, help the environment.

Buy Green

Washer manufacturers, for as long as we can remember, have tried to outshine competitors with energy efficient features. Big yellow EnergyGuide labels on the side of each machine detail the amount of electricity use along with your estimated savings. Energy Star backs the efforts of many manufactures with its blue labels of endorsement.

When it comes to energy efficiency, however, dryers have traditionally been the black sheep of the laundry appliance family. You won t see any fancy blue and yellow labels on their frames because they are by nature energy hogs. But that is slowly changing   and maybe not all that slowly.

A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that dryers account for 4 percent of residential energy use in the U.S. That s a huge statistic for a single appliance. Until fairly recently dryers of all makes and models consumed roughly the same amount of energy across the board. While a large percentage of dryers are still hogs, there is a growing movement toward manufacturing energy efficient dryers. The U.S. lags behind Europe in this regard, but we are gaining more ground all the time and are starting to hold our own.

Energy Star gave its first ever Emerging Technology Award to the Samsung DV457 dryer in 2013. Samsung claims that the DV457 uses 36 percent less energy than conventional dryers, and Energy Star s backing confirms that Samsung s flagship dryer is on the cutting edge of energy efficiency. With Samsung and similar dryers as standard-bearers, energy efficiency will become the norm among dryers as it is among washing machines. That s good news for the environment and for consumers. As your dryer increases in efficiency, your utility bills will proportionately decrease, as will things like carbon dioxide emissions.

The Samsung DV457 and other dryers with smart technology don t come cheap and not everyone is inclined toward smart dryers anyway. If that describes you, don t despair   there are plenty of midrange dryers that promote energy efficiency. Eco-friendly features to watch for when buying a dryer include moisture sensors, lint filter lights and duct blockage indicators, to name a few.

This leads to the question of what we can do personally to conserve energy and at the same time protect ourselves from potential dryer-related safety hazards.

Safety Precautions

In the same way that properly maintaining your car cuts down on CO2 emissions and other pollutants, proper dryer maintenance keeps your dryer efficient and protects the environment. Perhaps the most immediate benefit of proper maintenance, however, is protecting your home and family from potential fire hazards.

Sadly, some people have learned the hard way how dangerous dryers can be. Lint buildup in dryer ducts has been responsible for burning houses to the ground. When lint builds up in a duct, especially saggy plastic dryer ducts, and it reaches a high enough temperature to set the flammable lint on fire. It could spread quickly not only in the laundry area but throughout the house. A metal duct is more likely to contain the fire if one were to start.
Here are some things you can do to remove fire hazards (and by extension protect the environment):

  • Keep the lint screen clean: You should get in the habit of cleaning the lint screen daily or whenever you do laundry. You should also wash the lint screen with soap and water at least once a month. This will dramatically decrease the amount of lint that builds up in ducts and around the dryer.
  • Use metal dryer ducts: Saggy plastic dryer ducts become lint traps and need to be replaced by metal ones. Lint is much less likely to build up in a metal duct, and if, heaven forbid, there is a fire, metal is more likely to contain it. Also, clean the dryer duct regularly   even metal needs to stay clean.
  • Keep the dryer area lint free: Lint can build up in the area in and around the dryer. Move the dryer away from the wall regularly to clean it out. You ll also want to make sure the inside of the dryer stays free of lint. The less lint you have in and around the dryer, the more quickly and effectively your dryer runs, which means you will use less energy, and the energy you use will run more efficiently.
  • Buy dryers with moisture sensors and lint filter lights: Moisture sensors will shut off dryers automatically to prevent over-drying and lint filter lights will alert you when the lint builds up. You ll want to be sure to clean off the moisture sensor occasionally to keep it functioning effectively, and keep filters and ducts free of lint.
  • Air-dry chemically stained laundry: Laundry items stained in gasoline, cleaning agents or cooking oils should be washed multiple times and initially by hand. Soaking clothes in baby oil and baking soda can help remove chemicals, before attempting to use regular detergent in a washer. And since even the fumes are a potential fire hazard, you ll want to line-dry instead of drying in an electric clothes dryer.

Following the rules of safety is good for the longevity of your dryer and it dramatically reduces fire danger. When you buy a dryer with eco-friendly features and properly maintain it once it s in your home, you take steps toward protecting the environment. That s something we can all feel good about.

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