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With our heat pump clothes dryer guide, the homeowner can make an informed decision about high efficiency clothes dryers. In the typical household, doing laundry can use a significant amount of energy and the majority of it goes to drying clothes. The electric clothes dryer is one of the largest consumers of electricity in the home (typically about 6%).
The ordinary dryer uses an electric element to produce heat. Air from the inside of the home is used to pick up the heat and it is blown into a drum that contains the clothes. The air absorbs moisture from the clothes and is then sent to the outside of the home.
This is inefficient because it takes conditioned air (either heated or cooled) from the home and replaces it with unconditioned air. This causes the home's heating and/or cooling system to work harder and longer resulting in higher utility bills.
This efficiency was improved with the introduction of a condenser which extracted some of the heat from the exhaust air and reused it to dry the clothes. The cooling of this warm moist air produced water (condensate) which was collected in a reservoir that had to be dumped.
In 1997, Electrolux developed the first clothes dryer to use heat pump technology which resulted in a significant energy savings. The technology has been widely used in Europe and is finally available in the USA. In these units, the heat for drying is produced by a refrigerant system that uses a compressor. When the refrigerant is compressed it gets hotter and the heat from the refrigerant is then transferred to the air that is circulated through the drum to dry the clothes. This air picks up the moisture from the clothes and then is sent through a condenser where it is cooled and the water is removed. This water can either be collected in a reservoir or sent to a drain that is connected to the home's plumbing system. This cooled air is then sent back to be heated by the compressor and the cycle is repeated.
The result of using this technology was a significant savings in energy use (normally 50-60%). The disadvantage is the cost as the units are typically twice as expensive as traditional electric dryers. The cost can be easily recouped in homes with large families and high dryer usage or in homes with moderate usage but high electric rates.
Before investing in a heat pump clothes dryer, you can check out our brand ratings. We give you unbiased reviews of the brands and it is like taking a repairman with you while you shop.