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Clothes Dryers Join Energy Star Program

WASHINGTON – Clothes dryers will be permitted to contend for Energy Star status for the first time under new specifications approved by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The new spec, which was developed with extensive input from manufacturers, retailers, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and environmental groups, formally goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015, although certified dryers may be labeled and promoted with the Energy Star brand immediately.

The voluntary federal program was launched in 1992 to identify energy-efficient products and practices that can help consumers and businesses save money and protect the environment.

Qualifying gas, electric and compact dryers will use about 20 percent less energy than next year’s minimum efficiency standards thanks to improved sensors that automatically end the drying cycle once sufficient moisture is removed from the laundry load. The most efficient new models — dubbed heat pump dryers — will also recapture the hot air used by the dryer and pump it back into the drum to dry more clothes.

The new spec also establishes criteria for smart dryers, including such features as performance issue alerts; feedback to consumers on the energy efficiency of different cycles; and automatic powergrid control of usage times and cycles.

“The addition of clothes dryers expands the range of Energy Star products to include one of the most energyintensive home appliance not yet covered by the program,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “Working with industry on innovative approaches to address our changing climate, we are helping consumers select more energy-efficient appliances, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

But the industry isn’t on board with all the Energy Star requirements. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) and Whirlpool took issue with the EPA setting a maximum cycle time of 80 minutes, with the trade group arguing that “manufacturers are best-situated to make that determination” based on consumer sentiment. And both AHAM and BSH Home Appliances, makers of the Bosch and Thermador brands, are opposed to providing consumers with the energysaving percentage of each cycle, due to the additional testing and reporting the mandate will require.

To earn the Energy Star label, products must be certified by an EPA-recognized third party based on testing in an EPA-recognized laboratory. In addition, manufacturers of the products must participate in verification-testing programs operated by recognized certification bodies.

The EPA said dryers account for about 6 percent of all residential electricity consumption, and that if all home models sold in the U.S. met the new efficiency requirements, the utility cost savings would grow to more than $1.5 billion each year, and more than 22 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented.