Is it more efficient to dry at low or high heat?

If I live in a house with oil heating and I am drying clothes in an electric clothes dryer, which uses less energy overall: running the dryer on low heat for a longer time, or on high heat for a shorter time? I am assuming using low heat saves energy, but what about when the home heating is on?

Answer from Green Energy Efficient Homes

Assuming you aren’t heating your house (for argument’s sake), a lower heat setting definitely saves energy on drying clothes. You’re air drying instead of heat-drying, and it takes far less energy to tumble your clothes around than to heat them up. It will take longer to dry but less energy.

On the other hand, given that you’re heating your house, and especially if it’s very cold out, the shorter time the clothes spend in the dryer, the less energy you’ll use overall on clothes drying, because the dryer vents outside (at least it should), so by running the dryer you’re sucking air out of your house that you’ve already paid to heat.

Since electric heat costs much more than gas heat (because only about 32% of the original heat energy from a coal plant reaches your electric dryer where it’s converted into heat), you may still be better off financially drying clothes on low heat if you have an electric dryer and you heat your house with gas or oil.

For anyone with a gas dryer, it probably doesn’t make much difference whether you dry at low or high heat when the home heating is on, but in your case I suspect you have an electric dryer because you have oil heat.

Some tips to save on drying costs:

  • Buy an energy efficient washer – a front-loader, which spins the clothes much faster than a top-loader, so that it takes less energy to dry them
  • Take the clothes out of the dryer while still damp, and hang them up inside on a laundry rack or line.
  • Use an energy efficient dryer vent. A lot of cold air can come through your dryer vent. An energy efficient dryer vent costs as little as $20 and can pay for itself in energy savings in a couple of months.

For help finding an efficient clothes dryer, see dryer reviews at

See these Green Energy Efficient Homes articles

2 replies
  1. kikia
    kikia says:

    “An energy efficient dryer vent costs as little as $20 and can pay for itself in energy savings in a couple of months.”–

    so where can i buy such vent? and is it easy to install for anyone, or would i need o hire outside help?


    • Robin
      Robin says:

      There are a couple of different ways to save energy on a dryer:

      1. If you’re using an electric dryer, vent the heat into the home in winter instead of outdoors. This does add more humidity to the home so makes sense if the air is quite dry. You can use the DEFLECTO Heat Dryer Saver for example (Canadian link).
      2. Install an outdoor vent cover with louvers that open when the dryer is running, and fall to a closed position when it is switched off
      3. As an alternative to 2, choose a vent cover such as the Heartland Natural Energy Saving Dryer Vent Closure which uses a shuttle to seal the vent – rising to an open position when the drye is running.

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