ENERGY STAR® is a brand and certification program created by the EPA to give Americans a comfort level about buying products that would help conserve natural resources (electricity, natural gas, water). Since 1992 they have been attempting to give buyers credible, impartial information about how their purchasing decisions can help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The ENERGY STAR label has now become distinctive with 85% of Americans now saying they recognize it. Further, the program was recently strengthened in late 2009 when the Dept of Energy (DOE) established an official partnership with the EPA to provide technical support, and in early 2011 when the program formally incorporated a process for third party certification.

ENERGY STAR® is a registered mark of the EPA

ENERGY STAR® is a registered mark of the EPA

Lighting, Heating and Cooling, Home Envelope, Office Equipment, Commercial Food Service, Appliances, Home Electronics. (Wheh! That’s quite a list!) The EPA has developed standards for over 65 product categories, but noticeably absent has been clothes dryers. As Matt Hickman of the Mother Nature Network puts it, “When it comes down to it, pretty much all conventional clothes dryers require the same, hefty amount of energy — they’re the second greatest energy users in the home behind the fridge — to operate and the technology for a less-consuming dryer simply doesn’t exist.” Until now. Recognizing this fact and wanting to use the market power of their brand to nudge manufacturers in the right direction, the EPA is finally working on a standard in this area. “Considering that dryers account for roughly six percent of residential electricity, this attention to efficiency is good news for consumers, even if the benefits are not immediate,” according to Consumer Reports. Demand savings for electric dryers could be significant given they have a typical power draw of 5kW during the drying cycle.

Goals of Dryer Standards.
Proposed qualifications are a minimum of 13% reduction in energy consumption for electric dryers, and 10% reduction in energy consumption for gas dryers. The existing 2015 DOE product standards are being used as the baseline. But EPA’s assumptions on normal usage could be too conservative. Based on a study conducted by Ecova for the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2011, real-world usage savings are likely 35% higher than the government’s test scenario. If new equipment provides a 30% energy savings for electric dryers and 20% energy savings for gas dryers, it would offer “annual savings that range from $6 (gas) to $21 (electric), which provides lifetime savings of $95 to $342,” according to the EPA. (Assumes $0.1089/kWh electricity price, $10.50/MBTU natural gas price, 283 cycles per year, useful life of 16 years.) Based on conversations with stakeholders, EPA is estimating the price premium for electric dryers with the energy saving features described below would be about $50. This puts the payback period at less than 3 years.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is likely that in order to qualify for the ENERGY STAR label, machines will need to include automatic shut off and minimum warranty features. Smart Grid compatibility will be encouraged but optional, at least on the initial version of the standard.

EPA is proposing that dryers be equipped with automatic shut off using both moisture and temperature sensing controls. While most dryers on the market currently include temperature sensing technology, less than 25% have moisture sensing controls. “Manufacturers and Consumer Reports have indicated that moisture sensing do a better job at sensing when a load is dry than temperature sensing,” according to the EPA. The EPA is also seeking to phase out the use of timed drying. They state that timed drying can lead to wasted energy on over-drying as well as greater wear/tear on clothing.

EPA believes minimum warranty requirements will help increase consumer confidence in new energy-saving clothes dryer technologies. So they are proposing a minimum 3 year parts warranty for control boards (microprocessors) and a 5 year parts warranty on a sealed system.

Looking Ahead.
Smart Appliances are connected products that provide demand response feedback by integrating with the so-called Smart Grid. This is likely to be an encouraged but optional feature for the first version of the ENERGY STAR clothes dryer standard. EPA is highly interested in supporting Smart Grid technology and plans to encourage manufacturers to integrate this technology into this and other product categories going forward. EPA expects to develop connected product criteria first for the refrigerators/freezers product category, and then to parlay that work into other categories such as laundry. They believe there is an opportunity to tap into the trust that the Energy Star brand has built with consumers as various aspects of “smart grid” are extended to end-use products. “Connected functionality can also deliver near term convenience and energy savings features, e.g., enhanced energy awareness, product level energy consumption, messages/alerts relevant to the product’s energy consumption, and remote management capability,” according to the Agency.

Another item likely to be excluded from Version 1.0 of the new dryer standard is Commercial Clothes Dryers, due to lack of available efficiency data. This is unfortunate news for multi-family owners with common area laundry rooms. But for owners who provide in-unit laundry equipment, this new standard will make a near-term impact.

Drafts, comments, and revisions were in the works throughout the second half of 2012. EPA’s current timeline expects the standard to be finalized in April 2013. EPA anticipates a range of models could be available and cost-effective at these efficiency levels starting this year. In the meantime, residents can follow the DOE’s laundry tips at http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/tips-laundry.

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One Response to Coming Soon: the very first ENERGY STAR clothes dryers

  1. Henry Cannon says:

    Good overview!

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