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Need a New Dryer? Save Money with an Energy Efficient Heat Pump Dryer

Woman Shopping For Dryer

Since buying a 1929 Dutch Colonial a few years ago, my wife and I have been trying to reduce our energy bill and improve the interior temperature and comfort of our home. We’ve invested in weatherization, cold climate heat pumps, a heat pump hot water heater, and other energy efficiency upgrades with support from a local lender. After we completed these upgrades last year, I’ve been curiously exploring what else we could modify for further efficiency. Enter the heat pump dryer!

Our 1,300-square-foot house has three different kinds of “fuel” delivered on a regular basis. With more and more of our house running off electricity and putting aside the oil furnace, I’m left with a relatively minimal propane bill that I’d like to eliminate.

Other than our range, the appliance that consumes the most propane is the dryer!

Naturally, I’ve been researching new dryer technology. Let me introduce you to the hottest (pun intended) dryer technology around: the heat pump dryer! I first stumbled across this technology in an article from The New York Times’ Wirecutter (a recommendation website where experts review and test all kinds of products) titled, “The Best Washing Machines (and Their Matching Dryers).” One of their picks is the Miele T1, a $1,200 dryer that uses heat pump technology to significantly reduce power consumption and costs only a few hundred dollars more than traditional models.

 

THE HOTTEST DRYER TECHNOLOGY AROUND

What makes a heat pump dryer so amazing? Firstly, it can be plugged into any standard 120-volt outlet. Don’t have a 30-amp dryer plug because you live in a small space, want to put the dryer somewhere else, or are converting from gas? No problem! A standard household plug will provide all the power you need.

Because heat pump dryers are so efficient, they also consume much less energy and don’t require the kind of electrical supply that a traditional electric dryer would need. Energy Star reports that heat pump dryers use at least 28% less electricity compared to standard dryers. According to several heat pump dryer owners on the Mr. Money Mustache forum, a standard heat pump dryer uses about half of the electricity per load of a traditional machine.

Secondly, a heat pump dryer is entirely self-contained. Because of the way heat pumps work, the machine cycles all the air through the system and doesn’t require a vent to the outdoors! This is beneficial for numerous reasons. You don’t have to punch a hole in the insulation of your house or can reduce the number of holes in your house for greater efficiency and comfort. You’re also able to put your dryer anywhere, including in a closet with no access to the outside!

All you need for this dryer is somewhere to send the condensation from the heat exchanger in the base of the unit, like a floor drain or a sink. You don’t even need a plumber to install it and there is no outside unit.

Finally, heat pump dryers are less aggressive on clothes, are easier to remove lint from and clean, and are advertised to have a long appliance lifespan. The Miele W1, the counterpart washing machine to the T1 I mentioned above, received a good review by Wirecutter, which had this to say:

Only a few brands make durable washers anymore, and some of those heavy-duty machines are essentially laundromat washers—often loud, rough on fabric, inefficient, and not so great at cleaning. The Miele W1 is the opposite of all those things and is still somehow built to last for 20 years.

 

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HOW A HEAT PUMP DRYER WORKS

The dryer works by feeding hot, dry air into the clothes drum where your wet laundry is being tossed. That air picks up the moisture in the clothes and then passes the now warm, humid air over a set of cold coils in the base of the machine. These coils are referred to as the heat exchanger.

The rapid cooling of the air over the cold coils creates condensation, which drips out down a drain hose into a nearby sink, floor drain, or pipe. As the hot, moist air blows over these coils, it simultaneously begins to warm up contained liquid in the coils, called refrigerant. It’s called refrigerant not because it is always cold, but because it is very efficient at transferring heat!

The now warm refrigerant is passed to a compressor, which superheats it. The colder, dry air created in the previous step passes through this next set of extremely hot coils. The cold air picks up heat from the coils, and in turn, cools the refrigerant. The hot, dry air now is passed into the drum of the machine and the cycle begins again. It is this process of moving heat and moisture around using refrigerant, a compressor, and coils that makes the machine so efficient and is what gives it its name.

(Want to learn more about how heat pumps work? This short, free video from Ask This Old House provides a wealth of visual aids so that you can easily understand what makes these machines so incredible.)

 

THE DOWNSIDES

On the other hand, heat pump dryers do dry slower than their standard counterparts and usually don’t come in the massive drum sizes that many 2021 models from LG and Samsung advertise. As a result, they may not be the right fit for large families.

To recap, heat pump dryers are more efficient, can use a standard outlet, don’t require a vent, and you don’t have to pay a premium to access this futuristic technology. What’s more, you can get up to $400 cash back from Efficiency Vermont for an Energy Star certified heat pump clothes dryer and up to an additional $200 from some electricity providers. If you need a new dryer, a heat pump dryer feels like a no-brainer to me!

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