Are Gas Clothes Dryers Worth the Extra Money?

As I mentioned last week, we recently spent over $4000 replacing many of our aging home appliances, including the clothes dryer.

People looking to save money on appliances quickly learn that gas dryers typically cost between $50 to $100 more than their electric counterparts, primarily because the components are more expensive; for folks on tight budgets, that price premium can be a deal breaker. That’s one reason only one of every five households in the United States use natural gas clothes dryers.

The thing is, when it comes to home appliance energy use, only the refrigerator consumes more electricity over the course of a year than an electric clothes dryer. Then factor in that, in most places, natural gas is currently significantly cheaper than electricity and it begs the question: Are gas dryers worth the extra money over the long run?

Although I suspected they would be, I wanted to run some numbers and find out for myself before we made a final commitment.

First, Some Basic Assumptions

To keep things as simple as possible, I made the following assumptions:

  • The heating elements for natural gas and electric dryers are on for the same amount of time
  • The amount of electricity required to turn the drum for either dryer type is identical
  • Gas and electric dryers take the same amount of time to dry an equivalent amount of clothes
  • All electrical and gas lines are already in place
  • There are no installation costs
  • The efficiency of gas and electric dryers are essentially equivalent
  • Maintenance costs are equal

Calculating My Energy Costs

Because the amount of electricity and natural gas my household uses widely varies from winter to summer, I decided to calculate my energy costs across an entire year in order to help offset the seasonal effects of tiered usage-rates.

With that in mind, I spent $561 last year for 540 therms of natural gas and the obligatory taxes; a therm is equivalent to 100,000 British Thermal Units (BTU). That averages out to $1.03926 per therm over the course of the year.

As for my electric bill, I was charged $1676 last year for 9533 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, no pun intended. That averages out to $0.17578 per kilowatt-hour, all taxes and surcharges included.

Calculating Dryer Costs per Load

After researching the various dryer models available to us, we ultimately settled on a Kenmore Elite Steam Dryer; including sales tax, the natural gas version was $86 more than the electric.

The gas version has a heating element rated at 22,000 BTU. Multiplying my natural gas cost by the rating gives the following result:

(22,000 BTU) x (1 therm per 100,000 BTU) x ($1.03926 per therm) = $0.22864 per load

The electric version has a heating element rated at 5.4 kilowatts. Multiplying my electricity cost by the rating gives us:

(5.4 kW) x ($0.17578 per kWh) = $0.94921 per load

Based upon those numbers, it would cost me $0.72057 more per load if I chose to use an electric dryer.

Calculating the Break Even Point

Of course, I wanted to determine how long it would take to recover the $86 price premium commanded by the gas dryer. To do so I had to calculate the break-even point, which is calculated by dividing the gas dryer’s price premium by the cost difference per load. In my case:

($86) / ($0.72057 per load) = 119 loads

According to the Honeybee, she does about 25 loads per month. As a result, at current energy rates, it turns out that the extra money we’d pay for a gas dryer would be recovered in slightly less than five months.

Needless to say, for us it was a no-brainer — we paid extra for the gas dryer.

Some Final Tips

Your results will obviously vary depending on the number of loads you do each week, the price premium of the gas dryer, and the rates you pay for electricity and natural gas.

Also, keep this in mind: If you prefer the advantages of natural gas appliances, but your house isn’t plumbed for them, sticking with an electric dryer will probably be the best option because of the high cost of running a new gas line.

Finally, Consumer Reports offers the following tips to consider when looking for either a gas or electric dryer:

  • Use a moisture sensor. According to the California Energy Commission, they cut energy use by up to 15 percent.
  • Don’t focus on capacity. When if comes to everyday use, the differences aren’t significant.
  • Don’t pay for extra “bells and whistles.” Heat level, timed and auto-dry features, and a few fabric options are all you need.

Oh, and one final tip: A dirty lint screen will cause your dryer to expend 30 percent more energy — so keep it clean.

In Conclusion

In our case, it looks like we’ll be paying $69 this year drying clothes with our new gas dryer. If we had chosen the electric version, we’d be spending $284. Over a dryer’s expected 18-year lifetime, that’s a significant difference in operating costs.

Then again, for those who are looking to save even more money, there’s always Plan C: hanging your clothes out to air dry.

Photo Credit: David Goehring

18 comments to Are Gas Clothes Dryers Worth the Extra Money?

  • Jim

    We’re looking to buy a new washer and dryer soon and this overview was really helpful. We use an electric dryer now that is 12 years old but we also have a gas hookup, so we can go either way. After I dig up a years worth of utility bills I plan on running my own numbers but I bet they’ll confirm your findings that gas is the best bet. Its probably time to switch over.

    • Len Penzo

      “Dig up a year’s worth of utility bills.”

      Heh. Very clever, Jim! :-)

      And I am certain you’ll love your new gas dryer too. We love ours!

  • I’ve always had a gas dryer. When I bought my first place, I was given a dryer that was gas, and I paid the gas company to come out and run a line as there wasn’t one there. When we moved, we bought a new one and didn’t even consider electric. I think they last a lot longer than electric dryers as well.

    • Len Penzo

      They do last a long time. Probably because they’re really pretty simple machines — especially the older models.

      How much did the gas company charge per foot to run your line? I’m guessing it’s got to be $15 – $20 per foot.

  • Bill

    Len, I am with you on having as many natural gas powered appliances as possible. The cost difference of utilities makes it a slam dunk. Where as a stove or furnace is always fixed and not moving, the dryer sits usually next to a washer that shakes and shimmies a lot. Although a small chance of worry but have you any ways to protect the gas line connection staying firmly connected to the dryer in this case? A gas leak is rare, but, uh, a rather explosive possibility.

    • Len Penzo

      “… a rare but explosive possibility.” Bravo, Bill!

      (I just love how my readers are really on their toes today!)

      Anyway, here in California — earthquake country, of course — gas water heaters must be physically strapped to the walls by code. The same is not true for washers and dryers. However, they do make straps for them too:

      http://store.shopreadyamerica.com/wast.html

  • I think so! We had one while living in Costa Rica and it was cheaper with electricity than my friends paid for theirs.

    It did burn my clothes once because at first I started using it like I used electric ones.

    We have never had any gas leaks or problems.

    • Len Penzo

      Yep, Marina, as you discovered gas dryers do tend to operate a little hotter than electric ones. I hope you didn’t lose any favorite outfits! :-)

      But my experience is that gas dryers don’t run as long either; if I had to venture a guess, I’d say electric dryers tend to run about one-third as long as gas dryers.

  • Our current house is only set up for a gas dryer, which I considered a bonus at the time we purchased.

    I’ll have to admit I didn’t do the math at the time, but I reasoned it this way: Business DO calculate the costs, and invariably laundromats use gas dryers. Therefore gas dryers must be more cost-effective.

    And now, you’ve proven it. :)

    • Len Penzo

      While I don’t normally recommend making decisions based upon anecdotal evidence, DC — I think that line of reasoning was pretty clever!

      I never thought about the laundromat angle, but if you had made that case to me before I ran my numbers, I no doubt would have had to agree with you. It just makes too much sense. :-)

  • All right… I guess I am the naive one (politely speaking) because I did not even know that gas dryers existed in this world. So it is all new to me. Don’t throw stones at me. I just learned something REALLY new.

    • Len Penzo

      (Don’t worry; your secret is safe with me, Aloysa!)

    • As Paula Pant of afford-anything.com put it, “Don’t be afraid to ask silly questions.”

      You should read the reply from a reader in Thailand. Being afraid of asking questions or admitting not knowing something is apparently a national pastime. :)

      Most houses in the US are wired for electric dryers, and once in position, there’s nothing to distinguish a gas dryer from an electric – they look the same. You may have seen one at a house and never knew the difference.

  • That’s a pretty fantastic savings, and you see that savings almost immediately. A matter of months is nothing to scoff at.

  • Reading through your post and comments, I think I have to consider a gas dryer next time. Though we do not use dryers very often as I have a clothes line in our backyard, which I use when the sun shines brightly and the wind blows well, we still need clothes dryer when it rains and during winter.

  • How about a clothes drying rack? It’s insurance for the environment and you’d save a bundle on energy. It leads to some inconvenience in the winter but it can be done.

  • Rob

    I have a gas dryer aged 13 yrs and have been researching new dryers. Lot of changes since my last purchase. I recently changed out a defective gas water heater for a Marathon electric water heater which has proven to be less costly to operate than the natural gas. Now it’s dryer time. We hang our clothes outside and in the winter in the basement where I added heat to the area by plumbing into the existing hot air duct pipe using an 8 ft 4″ sewage pipe with its drain holes enlarged to let more hot air escape and it has shortened the drying time of the laundry by half. Since we don’t use the dryer except for rainy days an electrical has become my choice because it is less expensive to buy, has fewer and cheaper components for DIYfrs if repair is needed and using google I found the only dryers ever recalled by manufacturers has been the gas models.

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Question of the Week:

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.