A clothes dryer uses a lot of power. And if you are trying to reduce your power bills, the obvious answer is to use your dryer less often. But while that’s good advice while the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, it’s not always that simple. New Zealand doesn’t get its famous lush, green landscapes from having sun all year round. The winter months can be a pretty tough ride, and feature weeks of seemingly never-ending wet weather.
And for those stuck in apartments, there’s not always a lot of airflow to utilise. So anything left on a clothes horse can end up smelling mustier than when it went into the wash.
So if a clothes dryer is a necessary evil, how can you best utilise it without burning through the power?
In this article:
How much electricity does a clothes dryer use?
This takes a little bit of math.
Electricity usage is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). This measures how much energy you would use per hour if you were running a 1000W appliance. So if you run a 1000W appliance for one hour, that uses 1 kWh. A 2000W appliance would use 2kWh and so on. On the other hand, a 50W appliance only uses 0.5kWh, so you would need to run it for 20 hours before it consumes the equivalent of 1kWh.
The average clothes dryer
The typical clothes dryer is anywhere from 1800W to 5,000W, using 1.8kWh to 5kWh per hour. However some super efficient models may use less power, or some cheaper models use more.
Assuming a load of washing takes about two hours to dry, your clothes dryer could use anywhere between 3.6kWh to 10kWh per load.
To put that into context:
- An 8W LED bulb needs to be left on for 125 hours to use just 1kWh
- Four hours of TV watching in the evening consumes just 0.4-0.5kWh (approx)
- The average refrigerator consumes about 1kWh to 1.5kWh per day
- The dishwasher (a relatively high energy-use appliance) on a standard setting consumes about 1.2kWh to 2.5kWh per load
That means just one load in a clothes dryer can consume more energy than your TV, fridge, dishwasher, and all the lights in your house (assuming they’re all LED) do in one day, combined!
→Related article: Most Energy-Efficient Washing Machines
How much does it cost to use a clothes dryer?
Again, this takes a little math. And getting this down to an exact science isn’t easy. You have to factor in:
- The wattage of your clothes dryer
- The settings you choose/ how long you run it for
- How much you pay for power
To do the calculations below we’ve taken a national average kWh price of 33.5c. Note that this price is simply the rate paid per kWh and doesn’t factor in your daily costs. Furthermore, the actual rate you pay for power may differ.
|Energy usage per hour (kWh)
|Cost per load (1-hour cycle)
*Based on NZ average price of 33.5c per kWh
Based on the above, running the clothes dryer just once a week could cost anywhere from $31.20 a year (one hour load in a 1800W dryer) to $174.20 a year (two-hour load in a 5000W clothes dryer).
Of course, many of us do laundry more than once a week. In which case, your dryer-usage costs could be astronomical. Just imagine, if you’re drying three loads of laundry a week, you could spend nearly $300 a year on drying clothes alone!
→Related article: Most Energy-Efficient Clothes Dryers
Is it worth buying an energy-efficient clothes dryer?
As you can see from the above, the ongoing costs can differ greatly. But whether or not a more energy-efficient dryer is worth it will depend on several factors.
The main issue is that an energy-efficient clothes dryer tends to be more expensive. So, you need to calculate how long it would take to earn that money back. For example, if you spend an extra $400 on an energy-efficient model, how quickly can you recoup that $400 in lower operating costs?
|Energy usage per hour (kWh)
|Cost per load (1-hour cycle)
|Cost per year (one load per week)
|two loads per week
|three loads per week
In the above example, assuming you were drying three loads per week, you could make back the added sticker price ($400 more) in a little over two years’ time. On the other hand, by just using your clothes dryer once a week, it would take almost eight years of consistent use to make back the added upfront costs.
Of course, in a real-world example the upfront costs could be larger, and the kWh usage smaller. Perhaps the difference in operating costs won’t be this great. So whether or not a more energy-efficient model is worth it for you will depend on several factors. And you should consider:
- How much more expensive the energy-efficient model is
- How often you will use the clothes dryer and how much you will be saving in ongoing costs. (How long will it take to recoup those costs?)
- Is it just about cost? Or do you value appliances that are better for the planet?
- Are there other benefits to be had? Energy-efficient models are typically more premium models with other added features and benefits
- How do you like to manage costs? Some people find it harder to part with money upfront, and would rather pay a higher monthly bill. Others are happy to pay more at once for lower ongoing costs.
Other ways to save
Below you can find some tips and tricks to help save costs when using a clothes dryer:
- Avoid having it on standby, turn it off at the wall
- Avoid drying loads of laundry that are too small or too large. Too small and it’s wasteful, too large and clothes won’t ventilate and dry efficiently. The warm air needs to move through the clothes
- Use dryer balls to speed up dry time. Dryer balls absorb moisture while also tumbling through the dryer, separating clothes and improving ventilation through the washing
- Switch loads while the dryer is still warm
- Dry heavyweight items separately. The dryer will continue to run until the heaviest items are dry, meaning any small items included will dry longer than necessary
- Use features, such as a cool-down cycle, which finishes drying with the remaining heated air left in the dryer
- If your electricity plan offers off-peak rates, or free power hours, run your dryer at times when electricity is cheaper
- Don’t use a dryer at all. Use an outdoor line, if possible, or an indoor clothes horse to dry your laundry for free!
Make the most of free or cheap power, and compare power providers
Some power providers offer free power hours, so utilising these to run your clothes dryer (as well as your dishwasher, shower, heating and more) can really help you cut costs. Otherwise, you can make the most of a time-of-use plan, that offers cheaper electricity rates during off-peak times.
Aside from discounted or free electricity, you should be regularly reviewing your electricity provider and plan regardless. Are you getting the best rates and perks and what about customer service?
Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ power companies compares them on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.
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Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in April 2023, published in June 2023.
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About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Caitlin Bingham. Caitlin is an experienced writer whose passion for creativity led her to study communication and journalism. She began her career freelancing as a content writer, before joining the Canstar team.