There as many ways to save energy when washing your clothes, and many of these topics have already been discussed on Green Options. Energy Star washing machines and dryers are more efficient and often use less water. In fact, our front-loading Maytag Neptune uses less power than my propane clothes dryer, and I can run it off two solar panels when our hydro turbine is down. Washing your clothes in cold-water can save 90% of the energy used in the process and make your clothes last longer. Hanging your clothes on a laundry line outside eliminates the need for a dryer during the summer months. But what if you live in a town that has an ordinance against outdoor clothesline, like the suburb I grew up in, and you don't have room in a basement or garage?
If you find yourself needing to use a clothes dryer, cleaning the lint trap before every load will decrease the energy used by 30%, according to the Sierra Club. Not only will removing lint save you energy, it will also reduce the risk of fire associated with gas dryers and extend the life of the appliance (whether gas or electric). Lint gets in your dryer beyond the trap, so using a lint brush with a flexible handle will help you into the vent. In addition, cleaning your lint trap with warm water, a scrub brush, and mild detergent will further increase the efficiency of your clothes dryer, especially if you use dryer sheets that can leave a waxy build up on the screen.
Ever wonder how your dryer works? A fan pulls fresh air into the dryer over a heating element or gas burner. The heated air is channeled into the tumbling drum containing the wet clothes. The warm air absorbs the moisture from the clothes, which passes through the lint trap and is then vented outside. Fresh air replaces it, and the cycle begins again. When your lint trap is dirty, the warm air cannot pass as easily and efficiently through the trap to the outside vent, and thus drying time increases.
If you must use a clothes dryer, for whatever reason, cleaning the lint trap and vent to the outside will increase the efficiency of the appliance. You can save the lint and use it for a variety of purposes, such as crafts, firestarter, and mulch. Don't forget to periodically wash the lint trap as well, to remove the fine particles and build up (if you use dryer sheets). Of course, hanging the laundry outside is the best option. Sure, it may take more time, leave your clothes a little stiffer, etc., but a little sacrifice to reduce our impact on climate change is worth it.