Buying a Dryer: Natural Gas or Electric?

Choosing a Dryer

A clothes dryer is one of those modern conveniences that most families just can’t do without. Sure, there’s always the old clothes line and sun-drying method, but seriously, who has the time for that these days? So, if you’re looking to purchase a replace a dryer, one thing you’ll need to consider is whether you want one powered by electricity or natural gas.

All clothes dryers work in pretty much the same way; they use a small electric motor to turn a large drum which holds the clothes. Air is then heated using either an electric coil or gas flame and then forced into the drum as the clothes are turned. The heated air is vented out of the drum, carrying the moisture from the clothes and eventually drying them.

Dryer Cost and Energy Efficiency

Making a direct comparison of the cost of natural gas vs. electricity is not as easy as it might seem. This is because the two use different measurements for the amount of energy that they consume. Electricity is measured and billed in kilowatt hours (kWh), and natural gas is measured and billed in therms. A therm is equivalent to 100,000 BTU.

There is a way to compare the cost of operating a gas dryer vs. an electric dryer, however. The manufacturer tells you how much energy the dryer will need. A gas dryer typically uses between 20,000 and 25,000 BTU (or .2 to .25 therms) per hour, while an electric dryer typically uses between five and seven kilowatts per hour (kWh). Check out this handy guide from the Department of Energy, which will help you estimate your own energy usage. These numbers plus your current energy rate will tell you the cost per load for each type of clothes dryer.

For example, if you paid $1.20 per therm for natural gas, your cost with a natural gas dryer would be:

$1.20 per therm X 0.225 therms = $0.27 per load.

Likewise, if you paid $0.14 per kilowatt hour, an electric dryer would be:

$0.14 per kWh X 6 kW = $0.84 per load.

Bottom Line

As you can see, it costs three times as much to dry a load in an electric dryer as it does to dry a load in one powered by natural gas. That would make a natural gas dryer the obvious choice.

However, natural gas dryers are usually more expensive than electric dryers. On average, they can cost between eight and 15% more up front. That means you will need to calculate how often you use your dryer to determine what the payback period will be. Typically however, it is measured in months. If the average household does seven loads per week and the cost of a gas dryer is 10% more than an electric dryer, you would make back the difference in as little as eight months.

Keep in mind however, that even natural gas dryers use a small amount of electricity to power the motor that turns the drum. It’s a negligible amount, but it adds a small amount to the cost per load. Also, you may not have a choice when selecting between natural gas and electricity, as your home may not have a gas line run to the laundry area. If that’s the case for you, running a new gas line would cost much more than you would save with a natural gas dryer.

We at Choose Energy are always looking to save our customers money however we can. Use these calculations as a starting point for figuring your home energy costs as natural gas could be cheaper than electricity. If you have questions, feel free to drop us a line and we’ll follow up in a future article. As always, let us know your thoughts.