Use Your Clothes Dryer Wisely to Save Energy, and Maybe Your Life

by Ben Hendry

Your clothes dryer is perhaps the most unrecognized yet powerful tool to manage your home environment. Using it wisely means operating it to bring in optimal air and avoiding the pulling in of gases like radon.

Your Dryer Exchanges Your Household Air

Your dryer operates by pulling air outside the dryer into the tumble drum, heating and mixing it with moist air from clothes, and expelling that mixed air from the exhaust vent. The source of the intake air is the big question for you to consider to save energy and avoid bad air.

Where Does Your Dryer Find Its Intake Air?

Most people keep their dryer indoors and have no inlet to allow outside air into their dryer. This means the dryer must pull in air from outside or under your house, so it creates a vacuum to suck in air from any opening tiny to large around doors, windows, power outlets, pipes, etc. So your dryer exchanges the air in your home by bringing in outside air to itself and expelling conditioned air. Another way to say this is that the dryer creates negative pressure into your home.

Choose the Optimal Time of Day to Bring in Air

Think about the best time of day to bring air into your home. To save heating and cooling costs, try pulling in the warmest air of the day during the winter and coolest air during the summer. Use your dryer in the late afternoon during winter for the warmest outside air, often the least humid air of the day in Atlanta. Conversely, during the summer dry clothes in the early morning or late night to pull the coolest air into your home. Thus your heating and cooling systems work and cost less to keep your home comfortable, and you put less stress on our electrical grid and indirectly cause less pollution from power generation at peak times.

Does My Dryer Pull in ‘Bad Air’?

Because your dryer creates a vacuum, it can pull in air and gas from under your slab via cracks or gaps in the concrete. Unsealed tops of the hollow steel columns posted under your slab to support the upper floor also allow in gas, as can openings in basement walls. One intruder could be radon gas, a serious health threat and supposedly the #2 cause of lung cancer according to the EPA as you can see here.

How Can I Reduce Intrusion of “Bad Air’?

See if your dryer intake can connect directly to the outside and thus eliminate the negative air pressure problem or move the dryer to where it won’t draw in air to the living area. A different way to help is to create an inlet via a partially open window to relieve the negative air pressure and allow air to flow freely from that window to your dryer.

Pick a spot for the best quality air that allows an unimpeded way to the dryer. I know one person who removed his basement door handle and opens that hole up when using the dryer to freshen the stale air in his basement (the rest of the door is reinforced to prevent burglary). I sealed up the hollow steel columns supporting my top floor by drilling a hole into them and filling with expanding foam, so that is now a closed entry route for radon.

Check Your Radon Levels and Get Professional Advice

Of course you should check your radon levels and get help to mitigate problems. I used a radon expert to do so, and he taught me about what I’ve written here. I am not a trained, certified professional, so use this information at your own risk. However, try the link to educate yourself about the significant danger of radon. Once you develop a mind set to save energy in your home, it’s easy to spot many little things that add up to big savings. I hope you are able to use this article to make the best decisions about using your clothes dryer.

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