Around 75 percent of dryers in the United States rely on electricity, while the remaining 25 percent burn natural gas to generate heat. If you have access to natural gas lines, gas-powered dryers offer much greater efficiency than electric ones and can cost 50 to 75 percent less to operate, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Electric dryer owners spend $1,500 more in operating costs over the life of the appliance, the NRDC estimates. For the most efficient technology of all, consider a heat pump dryer. Used by many in Europe but rarely seen in the United States, these appliances contain an internal condenser to remove moisture without wasting heat. They need no venting but do require a means of draining water.
Understand Energy Factor
The combined energy factor, which is listed in the manufacturer's specifications for dryers, serves as an easy way to compare different models. CEF reveals how many pounds of clothes the dryer can dry per kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed during operation. The higher the CEF, the more efficient the unit. Some highly efficient models certified by the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Star program have a CEF as high of 3.94 as of 2014.
Choose Your Features
A smattering of new features allow dryers to operate more efficiently. Look for models with moisture sensors, which figure out when clothes are dry and stop the dryer, even if the cycle still has time left to run according to the timer. Models with dual-temperature heating elements allow you to match temperature settings to fabric and load size. Cutting-edge usage tracking functions gather data about your dryer use and provide tips to help you use the appliance more efficiently by adjusting load size and settings.
Consider Energy Star
The DOE's Energy Star program serves as a quick way to find the most efficient dryers on the market. The DOE estimates that dryers certified under this program use 20 percent less energy than non-Energy Star models without sacrificing performance. If all dryers sold in the United States met Energy Star certification requirements, the country would collectively realize a $1.5 billion savings in operating costs as of 2014.