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New sustainability standard announced for home clothes dryers

There is no doubt that doing the laundry is one of the most resource-wasting activities we do. Washing and drying clothes at home (in the US) consumes about 850 billion gallons of water, 241,000 GWh of electricity, and produces 179 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions, according to study by the Duke University Centre for Sustainability and Commerce. Americans, the study said, could remove the equivalent of 12.1 per cent of passenger cars from the country’s roads simply by using front-load washers and dryers, washing in cold water, and hanging clothes out to dry half of the time instead of always using the dryer.

It’s a little bit perplexing, given that that Duke University study was conducted in 2010, that it has taken so long for the people who make household appliances to develop a sustainability standard for clothes dryers, but they have finally done so. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the CSA Group, and UL Environment announced today the first voluntary sustainability standard for dryers.

The purpose of the standard is to assist manufacturers of clothes dryers in evaluating the environmental sustainability of the appliances, and to help governments, retailers and consumers identify “environmentally preferable” products. A statement from AHAM says that the standard is based on a lifecycle approach to environmental impacts, including energy, materials, end-of-life, consumables and manufacturing.

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Gas dryer from LG Electronics (DLGX5001V) is compliant with new AHAM sustainability standard for clothes dryers.

At least two manufacturers have already come forward to announce that they have dryers that comply with the new standard: LG Electronics and Whirlpool Corporation. LG said in a statement that it has thirty-two gas and electric dryers, more than any other manufacturer, that meet the new standard. The dryers were tested by CSA Group, a product design and program management firm which, along with AHAM and UL, has developed four household appliance standards previously.

Whirlpool-HybridCare-Ventless-Heat-Pump-Dryer-AHAM-sustainability-standard-Condo.ca
Heat pump dryer from Whirlpool (WED7990FW) is compliant with new AHAM sustainability standard for clothes dryers.

Whirlpool, meanwhile, which claims to be the number one major appliance manufacturer in the world, announced that some of its dryers have received certification under the new standard. Matching sets of washers and dryers, both meeting AHAM standards, are now available from Whirlpool. They include top- and front-load washers paired with gas, electric and heat pump dryer models, Whirlpool said in a statement. The company had previously announced certifications for sustainability standards for refrigerators, and cooking appliances.

No details were given about how much energy a consumer could save by using one of these standard-compliant appliances, but for a general idea, gas dryers cost approximately one-third less to run than electric, depending on energy costs in a given area. Heat pump dryers are the cheapest to run, typically costing from 10–25 per cent of a standard electric dryer. Consumers would need to check the individual products for actual energy use ratings and potential savings.

Ultrasonic heat-less clothes dryer set to revolutionize the industry

While this new sustainability standard is good news, even more exciting things are coming. Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee are working on an ultrasonic clothes dryer that they say will do the job in half the time of a conventional hot-air dryer, and use 70 per cent less energy. The Department says that electric dryers account for 4 per cent of all residential electricity use in the US, adding up to about $9 billion in utility bills, so a 70 per cent reduction is not insignificant.

The ultrasonic dryer being developed uses high-frequency vibrations to remove water from fabrics. A scientist at the Oak Ridges National Laboratory said that a piece of fabric in test conditions could be dried in just fourteen seconds, as opposed to “several minutes” in an oven. The lab is working with GE to commercialize the concept and hopes to have a prototype dryer ready this summer. It could cut drying time by more than half per load. The project could “revolutionize” the clothes dryer industry, according to the Department of Energy.

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