By ditching a dryer altogether, an average household could realistically save $90 worth of electricity per year, according to the Department of Energy’s energy-savings calculator, though you could save a lot more or a lot less depending on your local utility costs, the type of fuel your dryer uses (gas dryers are more efficient), and how often you run it. Even hanging some but not all of your laundry can make a big difference.
Hang-drying also helps your clothes last longer, with less shrinkage and fiber damage. It’s hard to give an honest estimate because some materials hold up just fine in a tumble dryer, according to Gajanan Bhat, Ph.D., head of the Textiles, Merchandising, and Interiors Department at the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Dr. Bhat also said that tumble drying does cause damage through abrasion, which affects the quality of material and is something hang-dried clothes don’t endure.
Outdoor line-drying is also great if you have the option. The elements usually help clothes dry faster with fewer wrinkles and lingering odors, and can brighten whites. But if weather, space, or community restrictions (you live in a state without a “right to dry” law, for instance) make this impractical, indoor hang-drying also works, even in small homes. Great, compact drying racks can cost less than $30. (Wirecutter recommends the Polder Wall-Mount 24-Inch Accordion Drying Rack, which works well in small spaces.)
Washing most of your laundry in cold water can be another good way to trim your energy use — though if you already own a high-efficiency washer, the energy savings will be modest.
Turn off the ice maker in your fridge
If your fridge has a built-in ice maker, you should know it causes your fridge to use 12 to 20 percent more energy, according to tests by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Ice cube trays do the same job using no extra energy.
Built-in ice makers can be finicky, and they’re expensive to fix, too. Shirley Hood, an appliance specialist at Abt Electronics, said that ice-maker issues account for about 10 percent of the service calls the store makes on new refrigerators. The problem is usually related to a dispenser or water line that has frozen shut, but if the ice maker itself needs to be fixed, it will cost at least $240 for parts and labor.
If you’re shopping for a fridge and a built-in ice maker is one of your must-have features, consider picking a model that has the ice maker and dispenser inside the freezer compartment. Refrigerators with dispensers in the fresh-food, refrigerator-side compartment are more prone to problems, Hood said, because they’re fighting an uphill battle against warmer temperatures.
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A version of this article appears at Wirecutter.com.