This is the final installment of blog posts from the 2012 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. So far, I’ve blogged about my appearance on the Plug Loads Panel, the inspiring and industry-leading energy professionals I met, and the presentations that I attended on the latest and greatest in phase-change materials, variable refrigerant flow systems, and consumer electronics.
Today, I’ll dig into a familiar (though perhaps not so sexy) technology that could be poised for a full transformation. Clothes dryer efficiency finally appears to be ready to move into the 21st century. While many major household appliances—including clothes washers, refrigerators, and dishwashers—have seen efficiency improvements of 50 to 80 percent in the past 20 years, clothes dryer energy consumption has changed very little. I assumed, along with everyone else, that there wasn’t much opportunity for efficiency improvements. The development of heat pump clothes dryer technology in Europe, however, encouraged New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program to launch the Super Efficient Dryer Initiative (SEDI) in 2010 to support the successful introduction of advanced clothes dryers into the North American market. In their presentation Bringing North American Clothes Dryers into the 21st Century: A Case Study in Moving Markets (PDF), Chris Badger and Rebecca Foster of the Vermont Energy Investment Corp. provided an overview of SEDI’s market transformation initiative.
Efficiency gains of 30 to 40 percent appear to be possible using the European heat pump technology. SEDI identified that there are more than 80 million residential electric clothes dryers in use in North America today and about 5.5 million U.S. replacement units were shipped in 2008—a sufficient quantity to support the development of a North American residential advanced clothes dryer initiative. SEDI next collaborated with manufacturers and other stakeholders to engage the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to start a scoping process for the development of an Energy Star clothes dryer specification. And as icing on the cake (from a marketing perspective), the EPA selected advanced clothes dryers for its 2012 Emerging Technology Award. If all goes according to SEDI’s plan, we can expect to see the first efficient clothes dryers on the market sometime in 2013. We’ll keep you posted!
Were you at the ACEEE Summer Study this year? If so, what did you see that was new, insightful, interesting, or potentially game-changing? Or were you disappointed that a particular topic wasn’t discussed? Share your thoughts in the comments section.