Energy Savings from Line-Drying Clothes

Rachel Stone

Math & Sustainability

Professor Deforest

9 October 2017

Energy Savings from Line-Drying Clothes

As a college student, I’m looking to save as much money as I possibly can. I’ve already jumped on the sustainability bandwagon and started using Green2Go containers at the dining hall. What else can I do to help the environment and save me money at the same time? After being at school for roughly two months, I have gotten into a routine when I do my laundry in my residence hall and swipe my LionCash away every time to dry my clothes. Not only does a dryer use my cash it also uses energy! I would like to calculate the amount of energy that would be saved if I used a clothesline instead of a dryer during the school year at PSU to see if it would be worth it to make the switch. This advocacy piece explains the benefits of drying your clothes with a clothesline versus using a traditional dryer and why it is important to consider the benefits of this lifestyle choice.

Dryers are unique in the way that they use energy. They have to apply heat to the clothes to dry them. In addition, they spin their internal barrel which uses even more energy. Through research, I discovered “the average dryer uses 3.3 kilowatt hours of energy and estimates an average of 11 cents per kilowatt hour” (Hamm). The dryers on campus take a total of 50 minutes to complete one cycle. That means the average PSU load of laundry consumes 2.75 kilowatt hours of energy.

However, I am trying to determine what my energy savings would be over the course of my freshman year. On average, I do my laundry about twice a week. After scrolling through my calendar, I learned that (while factoring in holidays and breaks I will be at home), I will be doing laundry in my residence hall for about 32 weeks in the school year. That means I will be carrying out approximately 64 loads of laundry in my freshman year. So, I would actually be saving 176 kilowatt hours of energy over the course of the whole school year, as you can see in the calculation below.

\(2.75 \text{kwh of energy} \times 64 \text{loads of laundry}=176 \text{kwh of energy}\)

Many people try to cut their energy usage with things they can actually see or visualize, such as turning off the lights when not in use. However, many fail to realize that drying their clothes in a machine is actually a major contributor to their electric bill as can be seen in the pie graph above. Drying machines accounts for about 1/3 of energy usage in major appliances in a household.

Each load of laundry costs $0.75 to dry at Penn State on campus. In total for the school year, my money spent on drying clothes accounts for $48. So, not only does drying my clothes in a machine use energy, it also drains my wallet! Building off this, the $0.75 being paid for the dryer not only accounts for the money it uses to operate but that also accounts for the profit the owner of the dryer is receiving. I was curious as to how much of this money was actually used to pay for the energy put into the dryer itself. As stated previously, “the average dryer uses 3.3 kilowatt hours of energy and estimates an average of 11 cents per kilowatt hour”. Specializing this to the timing of dryer at Penn State, I can conclude that the electricity cost is actually roughly $19. That means $29 is truly being wasted by being put into drying my clothes every year as profit to the controllers of the drying machine. Just another reason why line drying clothes is the better option since your money is not even all going towards what you might think it is.

\(2.75 \text{kwh of energy} \times 64 \text{loads of laundry} \times \$.11=$19.36\)

Aside from the two most obvious benefits of line drying your clothes (energy consumption is decreased and money savings is increased), there are other perks that come alongside this transition. Without using a dryer, you no longer need dryer sheets. Recent studies have shown that dryer sheets contain many harmful chemicals. After cycling through our clothes, we “wear” these chemicals and when we come in contact with our clothing it seeps into our skin. While some of the fragrances on dryer sheets appear to only cause some small issues on the surface (like allergies), some of the chemicals in the fibers are linked to serious health problems. Eliminating this from our clothes by cutting out drying machines is a major plus to line drying your clothing from now on.

In addition, drying your clothes with heat has other undesired repercussions as well. For example, dryers often cause clothing to shrink, greatly decreasing the longevity of the clothing you worked hard to get. A research study found that “tumble-drying shrinks twice as much as air-drying” (Senguen). Also, your clothing fibers break down due to the tumbling in the machine. Don’t believe me? Take a look at your lint tray next time you dry your clothes and you will see the proof before your eyes!

In conclusion, there are many energy-related benefits in choosing to line dry my clothes as opposed to using a drying machine. Not to mention there are many other positives that come along side this change as well. I think this was useful to investigate because it directly relates to me and my life on campus as a Penn State student. It’s relevant and I will be making the change to save energy as well as keep the change in my pocket! I encourage everyone to realize they can reduce their “energy footprint” by making this small adjustment to their laundry routine.


Hamm, Trent. “How Much Do You Really Save By Air-Drying Your Clothes?” The Simple Dollar, 10 Dec. 2013,

“Electricity Usage of a Clothes Dryer.” Energy Use Calculator,

Senguen, Timur. “How Dryers Destroy Clothes: We Delve Into the Research.”, 8 Aug. 2013,

Spear, Stefanie. “Why You Need to Ditch Dryer Sheets.” EcoWatch, 11 Aug. 2016,



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5 Responses to Energy Savings from Line-Drying Clothes

  1. Haley Brown says:

    Rachel, I enjoyed reading your Write and Respond post, I thought it was very informational and well-written. Line-drying clothes is very relatable for me because growing up my mom would hang our clothes on the clothesline in the backyard to save money on electricity. I didn’t realize just how much energy it saves by hanging your clothes versus using a washing machine. Also, you compared using a drying machine while here at Penn State. I have a drying rack that I sometimes use for my clothes but not all the time. Your calculations showed me that I should be using my drying rack much more often than I do. It will save me money and also save a lot of energy.

  2. Sarah Sobel says:

    Hello, what an interesting Write and Respond 1 post! It is crazy that the average PSU dryer for a single load of laundry consumes 2.75 kilowatt hours of energy. I liked your graph conveying that clothing dryers are the leading appliance in the energy use of standard household objects. My family of 5, typically runs the wash once a day, so I imagine that our energy use over a year would be outrageous. I liked how you not only calculated the amount of energy that you would be save if you used a clothesline instead of a dryer during the school year at PSU, but also how much of this money was actually used to pay for the energy put into the dryer itself. It is hard to believe $29 dollars a year is being wasted and put into PSUs pocket, instead of being used for the production of energy. Dryer sheets are not only costly but I dislike the way they make my clothes smell. I agree and am aware that they contain harmful chemicals. Air drying my clothes is something I personally prefer to do. Buying a drying rack from Bed Bath and Beyond is a great alternative and solution to your problem! Your essay not only made me rethink the usage of dryers because of their wasteful energy consumption, but also for my personal financial benefits. Also, the shrinkage of my clothing isn’t appealing either!

  3. zml5135 says:


    I really enjoyed reading your Write & Respond 1. It was almost the completion of my W&R1. If we were to combine our two Write & Respond posts we would have covered the energy and water usages for the entire laundry process. It would also provide alternative, more environmentally friendly options that could be substituted in for the traditional ways of doing your laundry, the drying rack and front-loading washing machine. I was surprised by how much energy that a dryer uses in comparison to a washing machine. I did no research into dryers while conducting my own research, but I had assumed that a washing machine would have used more energy. I think it was refreshing to see that you were able to come to the same end conclusion as I was after writing this post. Things can and should be done to change the current laundry process. While your alternative option is notably cheaper than mine, do you think that people would be willing to adapt to your method if they already own a dryer? My theory is that while mine is more expensive, it may be more adopted. People may be willing to switch to a different type of washing machine, but I doubt they would be willing to give up such a “necessary” home appliance as a dryer. What do you think?

  4. Joy Blazofsky says:

    Hi Rachel,

    The topic you brought to light is really interesting to me, solely because I never really think about how much I am spending drying my clothes each time I do laundry. I never really thought about how much energy I was exerting by having dry clothes. I usually hang dry some of my clothes, mostly because I worry that when they dry they will shrink. However, you brought several important factors into this work that have never come to mind about why dryers are bad not only for the environment but also or your clothes. I haven’t thought about how damaging and chemical ridden dryers were until I read your submission and realized while I’m drying my clothes I am also harming them (and myself by wearing them). The only plus side to drying clothes is that you could wear them sooner, which could be important if you are in a rush, however once I think about it, its not really necessary considering 98% of the clothes you dry end up sitting in your drawers for weeks on end without being worn or noticed. After reading your very convincing post, I’m definitely going to invest in a drying rack to not only increase my LionCash savings, but also to help the environment by conserving energy and help my clothes from shrinking and being full of chemicals.

  5. mpc5424 says:

    Hello! You did a nice job on this assignment and I really enjoyed reading it. I liked the topic you picked, it really relates to a lot of students living on and off campus. I personally never thought about line drying my clothes until now. I like how you mentioned that it would save money because that is one thing all college students love to here. I think I would want to try and line dry my clothes. It’s nice to see the calculations of how much money you would save when you stop using the dryer. I also am amazed how dryer sheets can affect the efficiency of the dryer.

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