High-Efficiency Heat Pump Dryers

Previous work by members of the Ecos Research team on dryer efficiency showcase the unique mix of creativity, research and public policy employed to cost effectively find new ways to promote energy efficiency. Dryers were first introduced in the United States around 80 years ago, bringing a new level of convenience to an important everyday chore. This convenience led to rapid market expansion. There are currently about 87 million dryers in the United States, consuming 6% of household electricity and costing $9 billion dollars per year to operate, making dryers one of the largest energy consumers in the nation. When it comes to energy efficiency policy, dryers were able to escape scrutiny and as recently as early 2013 there were still no energy star labels, energy guide labels, or rebate programs in place.

Market Research Unveils Opportunities.

Our team commonly utilizes public and private databases to create models that help us place proposed changes in a context that is realistic. Our technical research is framed with models that synthesize data about technology innovations, the policy landscape, the rate of technology adoption, price competition, and the size of a market.

Understanding how dryer technology changed in other countries provided the insight to start building a case for the adoption of new products and policy incentives in the United States. While dryer technology has not gone through significant innovations in the United States, Europe was introducing a vastly more efficient option: heat-pump dryers. The lack of US efficiency labels and rebate programs mixed with this new breakthrough technology was a clear indicator that a great opportunity for improved dryer efficiency is in reach.

Developing a Test Method

Understanding the size of markets and different technologies is not enough to paint an accurate picture of how new technology will affect the energy consumption of an entire nation. The interplay of technology and real world application is complicated and requires us to utilize many tools – from engineering to scenario development – so we can ask the right questions and uncover false assumptions that could skew results. Here are just a few of the questions we asked about dryers:

  • What does a real life dryer load look like? A typical dryer load includes a mix of fabrics with a variety of sizes and thickness. How do you create test methods that reflect this mix?
  • How does dryer time differ in humid Florida compared to arid Colorado? What is a good “average” humidity level for uniform testing?
  • How do you create a climate controlled test environment?
  • How do dryer technologies affect clothing wear and tear? Will your jeans last longer with heat pump dryers when compared to regular dryers? How much money and electricity can be saved by longer lasting clothes?
  • What is the definition of “dry clothing?” How might manufacturers try to gain an advantage over a weak test standard by calling damp clothes dry?
  • What are the trade offs between different drying modes?

Thinking through and addressing considerations such as these is important if we want to be serious about decreasing energy and greenhouse gas pollution.

Informing the Policy Process

From market research to lab testing and report generation, we utilize every tool at our disposal and internationally recognized expertise to help guide our clients through the regulatory process and advocate for the strongest energy efficiency standards possible.

In Support of

Super Efficient Dryer Initiative

Current Research

Ecos Research is currently supporting NEEA to understand the how different dryer technologies impact wear and tear of clothing. Will the average household spend less on clothes because they buy a heat-pump dryer and if so, how does that impact the cost of ownership over the life of the dryer?