Jim Carson One of these things is not like the other

Jim Carson
Gas versus Electric dryers

I still haven’t resolved my dryer issue. One technical detail has been annoying me for a while, until I finally worked on it tonight, is whether I should buy (another) gas dryer, or go with an electric.

Conventional wisdom is a gas dryer will be cheaper to operate in the “long-term,” whatever that means. Unfortunately, gas dryers cost $50 more to purchase. To quote Consumer Reports:

Consider gas. Both gas and electric dryers perform comparably, our years of testing show. Gas dryers cost about $50 more than comparable electric models, but the likely savings in fuel costs should more than make up the difference in the long run.

I’ve emphasized “likely savings,” because I have yet to see someone do actual math. Today, I will do that math. Mwuahahaha.

My utility bill is broken out into gas and electricity components. For the last three years, the gas portion has been substantially higher than the electric. From my power company’s view, it’s doubtful it will improve:

PSE expects the near-term market price for gas to be about 17 percent higher than what is reflected in customers’ current electric rates.

The only things consuming natural gas in my home are the furnace, water heater, and dryer.
Since we keep the furnace set to 66°F during the daytime, 55°F at night, and my bill peaks in January when it’s cold, dark, and rainy, it’s obvious the heater is a big chunk of that. (We turn it off completely from June through mid-October.) I don’t know how much the hot water heater and dryer use, except it’s a lot less than the furnace.
The first challenge is to determine how much gas and electricity actually cost per fomplicatron, the standard, unintuitive units of drive-by, comparative measurement.

Gas: He who smelt it, dealt it

Gas service is broken out into several different kinds of charges:

  • Customer Charge — charged regardless of how much gas is used. Theoretically supports costs of meter reading (which I believe is mostly remote now), billing and fixed costs. As of August 2005, this is $6.25.
  • Delivery Charge — a charge for the plumbing and maintenance that gets gas to you. This is currently $0.290620 per therm.
  • Cost of Gas — actual market cost; try not to think about the Enron manipulation on this one… This is currently $0.691560 per therm.
  • Gas Conservation Program Charge — pays for the weatherization and conservation programs. This is currently $0.004370 per therm
  • City tax — because your city needs lovin’, too. This is probably one of the only benefits of living in unincorporated King County.

What the hell is a therm, you might wonder. It’s yet another obfuscated calculation equal to one hundred cubic feet of gas multiplied by the heat content of the natural gas, also known as the “BTU factor.” The “BTU factor” is 1.056, no units are provided.
According to a handy conversion chart I found online, 1 therm equals 100,000 BTUs.

The cost of gas per therm is $0.98655.

Electricity, e-lectricity.

Electricity is much easier to grok. The basic unit is kilowatt-hour, equivalent to running ten 100-watt light bulbs for one hour.

  • Customer Charge — Same concept as above, just $5.75.
  • Energy charge — for residences, there are two tiers. The first 600 kWh are $0.067933/kWh. Each additional kWh is $0.084966/kWh. I’ve yet to use more than 600 kWh, however that’s also with the conventionally wise gas dryer.
  • Electric Conservation Program — $0.001154/kWh.
  • Energy Exchange Credit — ($0.017400)/kWh
  • Power Cost Adjustment — currently 0.
  • City tax — because your city needs lovin’, too.

The cost of one kWh of electricity is thus $0.051687 for the first six hundred kWh, $0.06872 for each additional kWh. (Unless your appliance and the electric company are both enrolled in the Friends and Appliances program…)

Assumptions

For simplicity, we’ll assume the household has both sources available and therefore pays both Customer Charges. Since an electric dryer would shift the equation, we’ll use the higher electricity rate. For the sake of argument, we’ll also assume that the spot the dryer’s in is plumbed for gas. (If it wasn’t, as was the case when I moved in, expect to spend about $10/foot for a gas line.) We’ll also assume a dryer works its magic in the same time, regardless of fuel source.

How much does it use?

I looked up the specs for the electric GE Profile DPSB620EC and its evil gas-heated twin, the DPSB620GC. The E has a 5,600 Watt heating element. The G uses a 22,000 BTU/hour heating element. A standard power connection is needed to turn the drum. It appears to be a 1/3 horsepower motor drawing approximately 6 Amps at 120 Volts. That being said, we’re going to simplify life by ignoring the drum motor and assuming each dryer dries equally. Waving my hands, I calculate the per-load cost as:

Electric dryer: 5,600 w/hr * 0.06872 = $0.384832 per load
(If we used the lower rate, it’s only $0.289447 per load)

Gas dryer: 22,000 BTU * 1 therm / 100,000 BTU * $0.98655/therm = $0.217041 per load.

Based on this, gas is cheaper to operate. Now, let’s figure out what the breakeven is. The cost difference is universally $50 for gas versus electric. (I think this is mostly marketing, the same way as premium unleaded is always $0.20/gallon more than regular unleaded.) The cost difference per load is: $0.384832 – $0.217041 = $0.168/load.

Conclusion

The number of loads we need to do to break even (save $50) is:

($50 + sales tax) / $0.168/load =

($50 + $4.3) / $0.168/load = 323 loads

In an average week, we do eight loads of clothes. A gas dryer would pay for itself in about ten months. Since the average lifetime of a dryer is at least five years, conventional wisdom is seems correct.

However… If I was single, it’s likely I would still be in the lower band for electricity cost. Thus the number of loads until break-even would be 750:

($0.289447 – $0.217041) = $0.072406/load

($50 + $4.3) / $0.072406/load = 750 loads

My eight loads per week assumes a family of four. For someone living alone, this might be closer to three loads per week. Assuming they’re in the lower incremental electric rate, the break-even period is 4.8 years, barely less than the average lifetime of a dryer.

December 14, 2005: Please see my update with my December billing rates and a handy-dandy spreadsheet you can use in the privacy of your own home ;-)

126 Responses to Gas versus Electric dryers

  1. Steve says:

    I’m astounded by the very *concept* of a gas-powered clothes dryer; are these common items in the US?

  2. jim says:

    They’re fairly common, like 30% or so of the sales. By “gas powered,” I really mean “gas-heated.” The heater element is the biggest consumer of power – and is very much like a furnace – hence, natural gas would be desirable.

  3. Scout says:

    Just nit-picking, but aren’t you going to be paying the Customer Charge and the Delivery Charge no matter what? Should they be factored into the math for an individual appliance if you’re paying them anyway?

    The whole concept of charging customers to give them something you’re charging them for all ready? Man, that drives me up the wall. The unending ways that companies find to bilk people should be criminal.

  4. Steve says:

    >They’re fairly common, like 30% or so of the sales.

    Amazing.

    >By “gas powered,” I really mean “gas-heated.”

    I’d figured out that part :-) They strike me as quite a sensible idea for areas with reticulated natural gas (which encompases a lot of urban Australia these days) yet we don’t have such dryers over here.

  5. Steverino says:

    The difference in efficiency is enormous. An electric dryer takes a few minutes to heat-up. A gas dryer gets hot nearly immediately. Electric must heat-up a heating element.

    Repairs in a few years:

    GAS
    The pilot light/lighter will probably go out within five to ten years.

    ELECTRIC
    Heating element in about 10 years.

    BOTH
    Drive belt (Which turns the drum), will snap about every 12 years. Cause? Dry rot.

    My pick: Gas, just for the energy savings.

  6. Carol says:

    What about the current rise in gas prices? How does that affect the gas versus electric cost? We’re building a new home and have to decide on which type water heater. The gas one will run us $250 more in initial cost.
    Thanks!

  7. emily says:

    Wow. What a comprehensive analysis.
    Your site clarifies a lot of issues concerning the gas / electric debate.
    Thank you. It has helped me take a more realistic look at the cost benefits of gas drying.

  8. jim says:

    My local utility indicates natural gas prices will increase 15% this winter. This makes the cost (with my new gas dryer) $0.249597/load. The number of loads before a natural gas dryer is more efficient than an electric dryer increases from 323 to 402.

  9. Sue says:

    With the Katrina Hurricane disaster, I do not know which utility will rise more. I have both natural gas and electrical hookups for my dryer, and this week my gas dryer broke (after many years of use).

    To complicate matters, Home Depot has my GE dryer in gas for $469, or a slighted dented on the side electric (same model) for $375.

    Wish I knew which fuel will be higher than the other. Any idea anyone?

  10. Joseph says:

    Since it’s not the time that dries the clothes, but the heat; you have to factor this into your calculation. Assuming the electric dryer accomplishes the drying in 1 hour, then you need 5.6kwhr * 3413btu (1 kwhr = 3413btu), or 19,113btu. The gas dryer you said was 22,000 btu per hr. You would need less time for the gas dryer to accomplish drying a loa of laundry. 19113/22000 * 0.217041 = 0.1886 cents per load.

  11. Tim says:

    I was wondering which was going to go up more- electric or gas. When I bought my house 11 years ago, I moved in with a 2yr old electric dryer, but the house came with a gas dryer. Since there was no electric hook up, that was a no brainer. 2 years ago the gas dryer went. I determined that since gas was supposedly cheaper, AND it was gonna cost a good bit for the electric hook up to be installed, I opted to by a dented gas dryer at sears. Now, in October ’05, as I hear about skyrocketing natural gas prices, I am wondering if I should stay with gas. I guess the cost of electric hook up installation is still nkot worth it. Any thoughts?

  12. Paul C says:

    BTW, would you need to pay a plumber to hook up the gas, even with a gas connection in the laundry room?

    Our city-owned electric utility charges only .057/kWh (2nd tier, for more than 500 kWh). Our private gas company charges $1.69/therm (Oregon, Sep 2005). Based on the earlier feedback, I guessed that gas dries in .87 the time of electric. I save a whole .03 cents per load! Not having kids gives us a 78.28-year payback :-). Definitely electric for us. Although I don’t feel great about all that coal being burned to generate electricity, even though the power here is largely hydro.

  13. Muhammad says:

    I am confused about gas vs electric dryer!!! I am in Garland Texas and am not sure what is cost efficient. PLease help!

  14. Jeff says:

    I have been told by several people that gas prices have risen/will be rising so that there will be no cost advantage over electric…..have you heard anything about this, and how high would gas have to rise to negate the savings?

  15. Bill says:

    I have just recently been discussing this with people and I am thankful for your analysis.
    It would be very interesting to see an equivalent analysis based on electric vs gas heating of your home where there is an efficiency issue depending on the gas furnace type you have.

  16. jim says:

    Natural gas prices are definitely rising this winter. I’ve heard the expected costs increase will be as high as 50%.

    If the base cost of gas, $0.217040 per therm, increases 50%, the payback period looks like this:

    1. The cost per therm increases: (1.5 * .217040) = $0.32556
    2. The cost per load difference of gas versus electric: ($0.384832 – $0.32556) = $0.059272.
    3. Number of loads until you break even: ($54.30 / $0.059272) = 916 loads
    4. Number of weeks until you break even: (916 loads/8 loads per week) = 114.5 weeks or 2.2 years

    Conclusions:
    a) You have to do a lot of loads per week for it to be worthwhile.
    b) If natural gas prices increased 78% without any change in electricity rates ($0.384832/$0.217040), you’d never break even.

  17. Leo says:

    am i missing something?
    your original calc shows elec to be 5600w* 0.6872 = $0.384832 per load
    thats fine, except 5600W = 5.6kWhr, not 0.56kWHr. big difference. that raises the cost of elec to $3.84/load!

  18. jim says:

    As noted earlier, the price of electricity was 0.06872 per kilowatt hour. In the summary, I had omitted a preceding zero. The typo has been fixed.

  19. josh says:

    I was just thinking that in a lot of places they use natural gas(or some other fuel) to generate electricity. If you use a gas dryer don’t you cut ou the middle man? Thus cheaper…………..??????????????

  20. Duke (in Key Largo) says:

    Nicely done Jim, very Consumer Reports-ian, and quite helpful. We chose a Kenmore gas dryer 13 years back, and assume it has saved more than the $20 premium we paid. Keeping it has cost us two belts and one heat sensor. Strongly preferring a gas range, an LP tank was part of our plans anyway when building the house. Yes, gas is going up quickly, but so are all enegy costs (especially fossil fuels), so lacking the ability to forecast the future, we’ll be buying gas again. Now I am trying to decide between $60 in parts (burner tube, fuse and bearing ring), or replacement.

  21. robyn says:

    I am so grateful that I found your site! I was seriously wrestling with this exact question (is electric cheaper than gas now) and the parameters you gave to set the stage for your math fit me to a “T.” I was ready to ditch my broken gas dryer for a brand new electric. So glad i read this first! Thanks Jim!

  22. Micahel FX says:

    I need to replace our gas dryer. I will stay with gas. I need one of the large capacity ones. Any one have a LG or Maytag? Do you like them? Are they quiet? Stable?

  23. David says:

    We are having a house built and we have the option of the standard electric range and electric dryer (which is included in the price of the house) or we can hook up gas lines to each place for $450 each. Then it would cost us another $185 to upgrade to a gas dryer and $245 for the upgrade to a gas range. The total cost being $1330 more to upgrade to a gas range and a gas dryer instead of just taking the standard electric range and electric dryer. Would we ever break even if we went with the gas instead of the electric?

  24. Miguel Furlong says:

    If another disaster hit the country the first thing to resent it is the gas price and then the domino effect.
    Prices in gas this winter are expected higher than ever.
    My gas broke and I’m very serious in going electric.Something everybody forgot is that the heat in electric it can be used to heat the house,instead of sending the hot air outside it can be diverted into the house.Gas natural is very clean too,but you’llnever know for sure.

  25. joany says:

    I’m considering switching from electric to gas for drying–need to buy a new machine–I have hookup for either one already. I just called for gas pricing. We only have the option of liquid propane. At $2.20/gal. , pricing as of Nov. 14, 2005, would this still be less expensive per load of dry laundry than a comparable electric machine–my electric rate is $0.120451/kwhr(Yes! that’s just over 12c/kwhr). Thanks for any help.

  26. Leo says:

    I would like to add that burning Natural Gas produces water vapor, but electric heat does not have any such problems. I wonder if it takes longer to dry using natural gas bacause of the vapor problem.

  27. chris says:

    I live on the eastside and use PSE power and gas. We do maybe 3 or 4 loads per week. The gas dryer was 100 bucks more since they had a sale on electrics. I can go either way. Given the rising gas prices and the hassle and possible safety issues of gas I am thinking of going with the electric dryer. Thanks for the helpfull info. I did not find much info for the Puget Sound area regarding gas and electric dryers.

  28. Chuck says:

    Her in Denver area we’re at about .09/Kwh elec., with gas jumping around from .8 to 1.1/therm. I come out with elect at .504 v gas at .2574 using 1.1/therm. Dryer being replaced after 17 yrs. Think you’re low on avg life even if 17 is high. Cost diff T $125 (purchase + install). I’m going with gas.

  29. Ed M Chicago says:

    I’ve been thinking about trying to reclaim the lost heat flowing through the dryer. With electric, in the winter, couldn’t I vent it into the house, perhaps through the forced air furnace, instead of venting to the outside? With gas, obvioulsy this is not safe. If feasible, how could we calculate this value? Common sense tells me the cost of the electricity used to dry clothes in the winter would be nearly free from an incremental standpoint, aside from the efficiency of the dryer creating heat, versus the existing furnace. Also the moisture coming off the clothes would humidify a dry indoor environment.

  30. Leo says:

    I was wondering if the Water Vapor released from burning Naturas Gas slows down drying the clothes Vs. drying them in an electric dryer. Any comments on this?

  31. JimCny says:

    Gas dryer does cycle the burner at about a 50% duty cycle.

  32. JimCny says:

    Dryed couple pairs of genes and sweatshirts ruff glance at gas meter used .25 therms. 30 gallons of hot water similar uses around .25

  33. Al says:

    You may have a mistake here. You are assuming that the heating element (electric or gas) is on all the time. That’s usually not the case at all. It’s thermostatically controlled, and goes off and on. I notice this with my gas dryer.

    However, your estimates are very close to what I find here:

    According to this page: http://www.lyon-coffey.com/search.htm

    An electric dryer uses about 3 kwh per load. For me, that would be 33 cents.

    According to this page: http://www.energy.wsu.edu/ftp-ep/pubs/building/res/Eff_appliances.pdf

    A gas dryer uses about .09 gallons of propane per load. For me, that is 19 cents.

  34. cathy says:

    Have 3 family house. Gas bill hit the roof. Thinking of buying coin operated washer and dryer. But which to buy? Gas or electric?
    Ta!

  35. Steve says:

    Leo wrote (December 6, 2005 10:19 AM):
    I was wondering if the Water Vapor released from burning Naturas Gas slows down drying the clothes Vs. drying them in an electric dryer. Any comments on this?

    Pretty sure there is a heat exchanger that prevents the gas combustion emissions from coming into contact with the clothes.

  36. Steve says:

    I think the long term savings of the gas dryer over the electric will be higher than calculated because dryers last significantly longer than 5 years.

  37. jim says:

    Hi Steve,
    I used Consumer Reports’ “Repair or Replace” (subscription required) chart to estimate the lifespan of a dryer. Curiously, they say repair it if it’s less than 2 years old; consider repairing it until it’s 6 years old, replace thereafter. They base this on a $250-600 purchase price, and $75-$150 repair price. The dryer I bought had a one year parts warranty, though an extended warranty of up to three years was available.

    That being said, my previous dryer lasted quite a while and therefore was a net savings over the electric.

  38. Jay says:

    I just got my gas bill and see that I paid $1.47/therm delivered with tax, etc. I need a new dryer, so I had to do the math to see if gas was still better. I figure, at $1.47/them, electricity has to be about 6.5 cents/kwh or lower to beat gas. In central CA, gas is still better, but it’s not the no-brainer it used to be.

  39. gregor says:

    i have gas heat/hot water and am wondering what the range of cost might be to install a gas dryer when there is gas in the house, but gas lines have not been run for the dryer. Installation would require running new lines as well as actually hooking up the dryer. Range of cost?
    Guestimates?
    thanks
    g

  40. Jeff says:

    I’ve been pricing out running a gas line for a gas dryer, and the first bid I received was $350 for first 20 ft, $17/foot beyond that. That seems high so I have some other bids coming in. For a 20 foot run, that makes the break even on gas versus electric much less compelling.

  41. Ray says:

    I recently looked at gas vs electric dryers at Lowes. The gas model of a dryer was $50 more than the electric model. BUT, in addition to the $50 upcharge, I would have had to pay $110 for a propane conversion kit plus an additional $169 delivery charge (Lowes won’t install gas dryers so they use a 3rd party that charges $169 to come out and connect the gas line). So that $50 price difference is more like a $330 price difference if I choose gas over electric.

  42. Dave in Utah says:

    Jim, Did you factor in the electricricity cost of a Gas dryer? A Gas dryer uses electricity too. Having never owned a Gas dryer, Will it dry cloths faster? Time is the most valuable to me. If it were faster it would save my time =$$$.

  43. Brian says:

    In the past I’ve wondered if a gas dryer whould be better than my electric one. but…
    Then I decided to put up about 50 feet of clothes line in my laundry room and just started to hang up all my clothes on it as I pulled them out of the washing machine. Now I don’t even bother putting the clothes away, I just go down there and pull them off the line and put them on in the morning… now how lazy is that… Net result, saves about 200kw per on my power bill, which is now at an all time low.

  44. jim says:

    Hi Dave, I made the assumption that the cost of turning both drums would be identical (as the gas needs electricity to do this ;-p), therefore it was merely the time the burner elements were on.

    Brian – the clothesline would be a great option if I had space for it. Outdoors isn’t an option as it rains nearly every day. I did sun-dry my clothes when I was a student — living in a sunny climate — and loved the “crispness” they had to them.

  45. KING says:

    QUESTION: IS PROPANE GAS MORE EXPENSIVE SO AS TO MAKE ELEC DRYERS MORE ECONOMICAL THAN PROPANE DRYERS”?

  46. Dollie says:

    I was wondering if the gas dryers and electric take about the same amount of time to dry the clothes. Also, are the electric ones less of a fire risk? And is there a significant savings to operate a gas dryer considering the increasing gas prices?

  47. Sir Donald of expensive natural gas bill. says:

    Maybe I have missed something but our gas bills here in Louisville, Ky. have gone up by about 400% in the last year or so. Every place on the web that I have looked for info. on gas vrs. electric as far as home appliances are concerned seems to be doing so with gas and electric service at pricing from 3 years ago or more. If this were the case, it would be a no brainer because ele. has always been far more expensive than gas until about a year or so ago. I am asking the gas vrs. ele. question based on the most current pricing info. I know what it use to be but I am concerned on what it is now. I am remodeling our home and will need to install new water heaters, and two heating/air conditioning units. Based on the fact that gas cost is far more expensive now than it use to be, I would think that maybe I should switch from gas to ele. however, I don’t know if the natural gas cost is going to stay the same from now on or are electric appliances still too expensive. Help!!!

  48. jim says:

    The gas prices I quoted were based on my bills in August (this one) and December of 2005 (the update).

    > if the gas dryers and electric take the same amount of time to dry the clothes

    This was a simplifying assumption I made for calculation.

    > Are the electric ones less of a fire risk?

    Assuming the units are installed correctly, there is negligible difference in fire risk. I would point out that homeowners’ insurance policies, which have specific exclusions for mold and radiation, make no mention of gas dryers.

    > did I factor the electricity cost of the use of the gas dryer?

    Yes. First, I made an assumption that both ran the same amount of time. The calculations for the electric and gas are for the heating element only.

  49. Kym says:

    Thanks for your analysis. I just moved into a house and only have an electric plug, but own a gas dryer. So I needed to weigh the cost of having a gas line installed or buying a new dryer to match my washing machine. It wasn’t only the cost of the energy. Also, my boyfriend suggested that since the gas dryer would be close to the bedroom, it might not be good to have because of the fumes or in case there was any leak.

  50. Keith says:

    In MD both gas and electric prices are cyclical. Gas becomes real cheap from 1 month before end of winter (utility companies stop buying natural gas futures), until one month before heating season (utility companies start buying futures). Electric becomes cheap during Nov to May (according to my electric company rate schedule). So… it doesn’t really matter :) All commodity prices are going up. The reason natural gas was cheaper in the past is because we did not have to import it. Now we do, so the price has gone up. My suggestion is to get a length of clothesline and use it whenever possible ;) Oh and invest in oil (buy in Winter) and gas (buy after heating season) mutual funds so you profit off the price increases.

  51. Confused in Windsor - says:

    Here’s one for ya, all the new washers & dryers on the market are digital with electronic screens & buttons, etc. etc….so obviously electricity is required to run all that stuff….so why have gas & electricity?!#% Gas is for cars….not for home appliances!! These engineers spent too long in the spin-dry!

  52. Dan says:

    Well… I have a gas dryer that started making my clothes smell REALLY BAD (like gas). Obviously a dryer problem, not a problem with gas dryers in general. I have a friend who is an electrician who is installing a 220 outlet for me, and I’m switching to electric. I figure this is a good feature to have int he home anyway,… now someone could go electric or gas. I’m going electric.

  53. Devang says:

    As mentioned, new gas dryers have a $50 premium over electric dryers. However when you purchase a new electric dryer, you have to buy the 3 or 4 prong electric cord for $20. Assuming that your house has a gas and electric hookup, the initial savings is only $30. Thus reducing the payback period by 40%.

  54. jim says:

    The cord argument isn’t factored in because you’d also need to purchase a gas hose. Both are easy to connect.

  55. Maria says:

    Hi Jim, We just moved from SF Bay Area in CA to Spokane, WA. I have always had gas dryers because they dry clothes faster and more efficiently. Here in Spokane there are a large number of electric dryers and that was the only hook-up in our new home. We are hiring professionals to run a gas line for a dryer and a range. (I really dislike electric ranges; they take too long to heat up and cool down.)
    I researched gas v. electric in Spokane. According to our new utility company, Avista, gas dryers are more energy efficient. Gas dryers offer “Lower energy consumption. Because there is more heat in a dollar’s worth of natural gas than in a dollar of electricity, you can dry almost three loads of wash in a gas dryer for the cost of one load in an electric model.”
    You may also notice that most coin-op laundrys have gas dryers because of the energy efficiency and cost factors. They are in business to make money, after all.
    Cheers.

  56. David says:

    Another factor that needs to be taken into consideration is the environmental impact of gas vs. electricity. The least efficient use of electricity is for heat, one of the most efficient is for turning motors. If the electricty is produced by burning coal (here in Minnesota) or by burning natural gas, the environment takes a big hit when electricity is used for heating anything. If the electricity is water- or wind-generator produced, then it’s by far the better option in terms of environmental impact (aside from the visual impact of wind farms and the destruction of beautiful canyons, like Glen Canyon :-( ).
    Thanks for the discussion topic and the info!

  57. John says:

    “The cost difference is universally $50 for gas versus electric. (I think this is mostly marketing, the same way as premium unleaded is always $0.20/gallon more than regular unleaded.)”

    Being a salesperson who makes living selling Washers and Dryers, I believe its my obligation to inform the un-informed consumers.

    The reason why gas dryers cost more, is because they are more expensive to manufacture, thus the $50-$60 difference seen across retail stores ($60 more at Sears to be specific). Its not a marketing scam or anything, just that gas dryers have more expensive components and a whole different heating system in place.

  58. george says:

    I am putting in a new laundry mat, I have argue that electric 3 phase will run cheaper than gas. I would like your answer and how you figure it. The unit is 208v 36kw. Electric will cost .0504 per kw compare gas at 1.65 per therm. This unit is 210,000 btu and both will run approx. 15 minutes.
    Thank you

  59. Debbie says:

    As a newly single woman, no childen at home, I am having my own custom home built. Contractor is recommending all electric appliances and heat due to rising cost of gas and cleanliness, among other factors. Also would eliminate need to purchase – or rent – and install a propane tank. I am insisting on putting piping in place for future conversion to gas, if desired. The propane companies in south central Colorado where I live are predicting rising costs. Am I doing the right thing by following builders’ advice?

  60. Robert says:

    Your calculations assume that the gas burner or the electric heating element run 100% of the time and produces the same amount of heat. This is not the case. The ONLY way to compare costs is to convert both gas and electricity to the same unit of power, and then factor in the lower efficiency of the gas burner (about 40% of the gas heat goes up the flue).
    In my area, electricity is about $.05/kwh or $1.46/100,000 Btu. Gas is about $12/thou cu ft or $1.20/100,000 Btu. These calculations use the conversions: 1Kwh= 3414 Btu, and 1 Therm = 100 cu ft = 100,000 Btu. Since 40% of the gas is wasted, you are actually paying $2.00/100,000 btu for gas.
    These caculations can also be used for water heaters, stoves, or any other gas vs electric appliances.

  61. chris koruga says:

    I am installing a radiant floor system in my new home. It is 8,000 square feet. The installer is suggesting that an electric boiler for this system may be cheaper to use than a gas boiler in the long run. He cites rising natural gas costs. Do you agree? The Electric boiler he specs draws 22 KW.

    Chris Koruga

  62. David says:

    Time to replace a very old dryer, its gas. I do have the hook up for elect. Uncertain to stay with gas or go to elect. Of course gas goes up here in TN in the winter months. Utility bills have run hi this summer with electricity.
    The new units made now, both elect and gas are very efficient. Bottom line which would be the way to go? Thanks for your feedback. I’ve been throwing this in my head for weeks. Here in TN. they say a very small % has gas dryers, is this due to cost?
    Thanks
    I’m buying a dryer this week.

  63. luis says:

    Good information. thank you

  64. Scott says:

    I am moving into a new house and have three boys where the dryer is always running. I have not pruchaed my washer/dryer but it has been hooked up ready for electric. Should I convert it and purchase a gas dryer and get a larger propane tank? Please advise asap. I intend on living here for a number of years.

    Thanks,
    Scott

  65. jim says:

    The big question is whether you already have a gas connection accessible to the dryer. I didn’t factor in any additional costs for LP versus natural gas, though it’s probably going to be relatively small to the costs of running the line. In these parts, estimates are about $10/foot (+/-) to have a plumber run additional gas lines and do the connection.

    I’d recommend downloading the spreadsheet and changing the $50 to be $50 plus the estimated additional costs (run the line, buy the tank, unless you planned to do that anyway). It should give you a good idea what the break-even time is.

    Hope this helps.

  66. frank the tank says:

    what kind of gas do i use for the super heater 1500978

    Thanks,
    Frank the Tank

  67. Frank says:

    My kid burned his hand off in our electric heater, could of we advoided that with a gas heater?

  68. Laura says:

    Does the analysis hold true when comparing propane gas to electric?

  69. Sven says:

    In your gas dryer vs electric, did you factor ion the electricity required to turn the gas dryer drum?

    regards

  70. jim says:

    No. As mentioned above, electricity turns the drums in both types. Also, the cost of turning the drum is far less than the cost to heat.

  71. jennifer says:

    Is there any way to convert my gas dryer over to electric ? Like, any sort of kit I could buy? We have a gas dryer and our new house only has electric hookups. We have a GE dryer.

  72. jennifer says:

    Is there any way to convert my gas dryer over to electric ? Like, any sort of kit I could buy? We have a gas dryer and our new house only has electric hookups. We have a GE dryer.

  73. jim says:

    Jennifer – It’s possible, but probably not economically viable as you’d be gutting the most expensive components. You’d be better off selling your gas dryer and buying an electric.

    Jim

  74. deedra says:

    I have a gas dryer and previously have had electric dryers. I have to tell you as a mother of 5 children, I pick the gas dryer any day. I would make the purchase even if it cost me 100.00 more.
    The time it takes to dry by electric dryer is considerably longer than it takes to dry by gas. When your full-time employed parent and have way more work than is humanly possible to complete, time is of great importance. As mentioned in previous comments, the instant heat that is received from a gas dryer begins the drying process immediately.
    My husband and I chumped off and purchased the oversized front load Kenmore washer and Gas dryer. I was very reluctant because of the initial cost. I am the frugal one. I have to admit, I have not regretted the purchase one bit. We are literally able to wash 10 to 16 pair of jeans at a time or a huge load of towels. The wonderful thing about our gas dryer is that the cloths are dry in the same amount of time that it takes to run the next load of cloths. This is a huge bonus so there isn’t baskets of wet clothing waiting for the dryer to finish the previous load.

  75. jims says:

    electric dereg. will i think make gas preferabele,in maryland consumers are looking at a quit signifagant increse in the cost of elaectric

  76. GC says:

    Is it possible to just give a “ballpark estimate” for the cost of running a gas line for a clothes dryer (where there currently is only an electrical outlet)? Thanks

  77. Nathan says:

    I do not know about dryers but here is a true story about gas vs electrity in my house on average it cost 180$ a month just in gas to heat my 30yr old home ( 1600 sqf) and another 30-40$ in average jump in the electric bill to run the unit to despence the heat so thats 220$ a month to stay a misserable 65 in the day 55 at night since my unit died i had to run out and by some space heaters 4 accually ( cost 60$ at target) and now my house stays at a comfortable 70-75 degrees for a 50$ dollar raise in my electric bill to me the numbers are simple gas is way too much way over priced PS my average elecrtic bill is 50$ in fall without running ac or heat with space heaters its about 90-105$ to stay alot warmer

  78. Anthony says:

    I just checked my electricity bill (Oakland CA) and they have a tiered concept here. They allow me only 9.9kw/day so 320kw at $0.13. Above it I pay a premium; For usage over 640kw I pay a whopping 0.32$ extra so $0.43/ kwh . For amusement: a nightlight of 6w costs me 6x24x365x.43= $22.60 ; don’t ask me for the 100w light bulb.

    How about screwed up pricing?

  79. Heidi says:

    I am buying a house that has only “regular” electrical outlets in the utility room, not kind you need for an electrical dryer, and some gas pipes in the corner, so I assume I need to go with a gas dry. I am quite intimidated as I have never had a gas dryer before and have no idea how to hook one up. Should I have a plumber do it?

    Heidi

  80. Joe says:

    There are other things to consider for individuals. my electric water heater and dryer are on an interuptable switch by the power company and can be turned off for 30 minutes at a time. I pay about 40% less for the power and have never noticed an interuption in 11 years. Also, you can not vent a gas dryer to the inside to retain the heat as you can with an electric device. Gas devices cause negative air pressure in the home and cause your furnace to work harder/longer to make up for the warm air loss.

  81. chris says:

    An electric dryer vented into the house increases the efficiency dramatically. Don’t forget that a gas dryer vented outside will draw your (warmed/airconditioned 65/75 degree) house air out of the house.So while your gas dryer is running your gas (furnace/electric airconditioner) is on trying to keep your house at 65/75 degrees. Also external exhaust vents are great heat losses and when the dryer is not running the cold air infiltrates back into the dryer. This is like putting a huge block of ice in you house. Put your hand on top of your dryer after it has not run for a while, it is ice cold.Of course in the summer you can exhaust your electric dryer outside.

  82. Rod says:

    Jim,

    I have a Kenmore gas dryer (can’t get the model information because it is in storage but it was purchased in 2000) that I need to convert back to electric. I believe the dryer only required a 110v outlet as a gas unit. So my question is: when converting to electric (assuming it’s possible) will I end up having to put in a 220v outlet?

    Thanks,

    Rod

  83. Jim says:

    Rod: It’s probably not going to be cost effective to convert it from gas to electric. However, I’d be surprised if you don’t already have a 220V outlet in the spot. (220V is more efficient for the heating element.)

  84. Jason says:

    I just bought a GAS Fisher and Paykel TOPLOADING dryer (only one on the market, I believe??) from Fred’s Appliance for $175 LESS than the electric model…Normally, the gas version of this dryer is $10 more, but I scored an unused floor model that was on closeout…After reading the write-up, here, I think I’m saving three ways with this dryer: 1) Upfront cost; 2) Energy savings going with gas and; 3) More efficient TOPLOADING dryer that uses a canister that only needs to be emptied every 20 loads (instead of the standard lint trap that clogs, baffles hot air flow, and needs to be emptied every load)…Fisher and Paykel is an innovative tech company from New Zealand that is just now getting popular in the states, as they now have an assembly plant in Ohio and just signed on with Lowe’s to sell a few of their washer and dryer models as well…If anyone is in the market for a new washer and dryer and/or haven’t checked them out all ready, I would HIGHLY recommend doing so, as it will probably change your perspective, just as it did mine. Peace out!!!

  85. Susan says:

    Jim,

    I can’t believe what a thorough analysis you’ve provided! Here in Maryland our artificially-suppressed utility prices will jump again this summer. I am considering a “dented” new LG gas dryer that is priced identically to a “dented” new LG electric dryer at the same warehouse.

    We have a gas hookup from builder, though current dryer is electric.

    I also read the C.R. vague recommendation, and thought about comparing actual costs, but your calculations proved to me that I don’t want to do that work myself. :-)

    Here’s my question: With upcoming Maryland utility increases, do you think gas is still a good idea for my new LG dryer?

    Thanks!!!
    Susan in Maryland

  86. Jim says:

    Susan – it would be worth running the numbers in the spreadsheet. Gas is more efficient for drying, but the break-even point is influenced by the cost of gas and the number of loads.

  87. Andy Mellor says:

    Hi There,

    Just came across your blog and would be interested to know what percentage of domestic clothes dryers in the US are gas ‘powered’? The UK stands at less than 1%. Those that do have them swear by them, especially the high speed versions DRY IN HALF THE TIME of a conventional electric clothes dryer. You can see the UKs only domestic gas dryers at our web site http://www.gastumbledryers.co.uk.

  88. Bobola says:

    Where I live I do not have access to natural gas but I have had a propane dryer, hot water, and stove for 9 years. My propane bill has always been high and now that propane is over $4 per gallon I feel like it is a rip off. My propane bill is around 75% of my electric bill on a monthly average. How would you compare propane at $4 per gallon versus electricity at $.114/KWH?

  89. Cathy says:

    Jason mentioned that he purchased a Fisher & Paykel top loading dryer, how satisfied are you with this brand? I need a dryer and just learned of the brand. Anything you don’t like about it?

    Anyone using this brand, please reply.

  90. Dave says:

    Approximately 20% of dryers in the US are gas heated. If you go to a consumer products site like Best Buy (www.bestbuy.com) you’ll find 84 electric and 68 gas models for sale. There are lots of areas (like mine – Ohio) where the gas usage is higher. I know lots of people (myself included) who swear by gas for drying and cooking.

  91. mark says:

    Jim, thanks for your work.

    Robert, 40% of the electric heat ALSO “goes up the flue” usually out the vent as the heat from the direct burning of the gas heats the clothes. So that is a non issue.

    Jim, I am now paying $2.80 a gallon for propane,(natural gas is about $15,000 to bring in) and $.9/kwh off peak and $.32kwh 12-6 m-f for electric. Gas dryers do dry much faster from my personal experience they are approx. 30% faster. I wonder whether gas is still a good choice. I have rented a electric dryer for a year, and now own both electric and propane gas dryers. I have plumbed the gas to the dryer location but if electric is better why switch.
    I already replaced the electric stove with a propane unit and it is way better.

    By the way why does propane cost $1.00 more a gallon in california than the midwest?

  92. Sara says:

    Hi Jim,

    I’m relocating from one state to another, and while visiting the new state to secure a home lease, one of the landlords said something that sounded off to me. She seemed rather decided on the matter, so I didn’t pursue it any more.

    She said that washers are either gas or electric. Is this true? I understand that dryers can be gas or electric, but she was convinced my washer wouldn’t work with electric. I don’t see a gas connection to my washer, only to my dryer… can you clarify?

    Also, as my dryer is gas, is there any way to convert it to work with electric, or do I need to buy another dryer?

    Much appreciated,

    Sara

  93. Mike says:

    The discussion of gas verses electric is not so straight forward as is presented by Jim Carson.

    Besides the energy cost I think you must consider the combustion products of natural gas. When natural gas (CH4)burns it creates water vapor. The water vapor reduces the heating value in two ways. The energy value of natural gas is calculated as if the water vapor condenses back into water and releases its heat. (This is called the high heating value HHV) All gas sold in the US is sold on an HHV basis. You must add 10% to the cost of gas to make up for the HHV vs LHV difference.

    The second difference with respect to dryers is that the combustion gases flow through the dryer and don’t pick up as much moisture as dry air. I don’t know how to account for this difference. Maybe another 10%, maybe more?

  94. Registered User says:

    Does the BTU conversion factor (1.056) adjust for this?

    Also, I don’t think the combustion gases would flow through the dryer for the simple reason that this would create an internal source of carbon monoxide.

  95. mhoward says:

    Gentelman, lets not forget that the venting of these appliances, while similar in configuration, becomes much more important when installing a gas fired unit. The 4″ duct that each should be connected to must run to the exterior of your home. It must not be held together with screws or anything else that penetrates the inside of the duct so that lint will not collect inside.The fewer elbows you use to make the run the better the unit will operate and the faster your clothes will dry. While all these concerns are common to both types of units the biggest difference is that the products of combustion while using a gas fired unit must also pass thru this 4″ pipe to get to the exterior of the home. This also means that the space in which the dryer is located can effect its operation. Combustion air is required for the correct operation of the gas fired unit. A calculation of 50 cu.ft. per 1000 BTU of input can be figured to determine if the space provided for a dryer hook-up is adequate. Inproper venting or volume provided for combustion air can create carbon monoxide issues inside the home. An electric dryer can not produce carbon monoxide. Also, a gas dryer is still using electric (110) to the motor that turns the drum and to the motor that vents the exhaust.

    • jim says:

      Since both electric and gas dryers use electric motors to turn the drum, this wasn’t factored into the calculation.

  96. Mary O'Neal says:

    I have a gas dryer that I converted from electric. I am moving and gas is not available there. Can I convert it back to electric?

  97. dave says:

    your insight so far has been really helpful… i would like to put in a gas line to be able to put in a gas dryer. do you think that would be worth it. are gas lines expensive to put in. we have gas in the house already.

  98. jim says:

    Dave, I would figure on about $1/foot for the gas line (that may be low), installed by a plumber, typically. Next, figure out your savings over the estimated lifetime of the dryer. It becomes more expensive if you have to increase the size of the gas line from the street to accommodate multiple items (hot water heater, dryer, oven, house heater).

  99. jim says:

    @Mary – in theory you can if you have the old components. Generally it’s not cost effective to convert it back. (You also want to consider the condition of the dryer – will it last long enough to offset the costs?)

  100. Mela says:

    I have a gas dryer and I am moving to an apartment complex where they do not use gas appliances. Can I convert my dryer? If so would it be worth it? My dryer is about 3 yrs old.

  101. j mann says:

    Keep in mind that a gas dryer’s transfer of heat from combustion to dryer is probably around 80% efficient (like a modern non-condensing furnace). (I have not, however, ever seen this listed) Resistive heat (electric), while more expensive, always transfers energy with 100% efficiency (because there is no exhaust). So in a 22,000 BTU gas dryer, probably 4400 BTU goes out the exhaust.

    • Bob says:

      The burner is closer to 95%, the “flue gas” is used to heat the clothes. Think of efficiency being closer to an unvented space heater. Also consider the 22k bTU gas burner produces more heat than the 5,600W heating element 5,600w x 3.41BTU per watt = 19,096 BTU.

  102. SHEDERE says:

    I am looking into buying a new dryer. How much propane does it take to run a load of laundry. I would say 80% of my laundry is dried on delicate 10% on perm press and 10% heat.

  103. Lisa says:

    I have a gas dryer that I love so much that I took it with me when we moved out of our old house. The energy savings were great(I lived in Las Vegas so in the summer we need every break on our electric bill we can muster) plus it dries clothes twice as fast & as a new mom every second counts. Alas, now I’m moving into a new house and there is only hook-ups for an electric dryer. The house has a gas water heater so I know there is gas in the house. Does anyone know how much it will cost to run a gas line for my dryer?

    • Bob says:

      Cost depends a LOT on how difficult it is to run the line and local labor rates. Typically it’s not worth doing unless you are having other work done.

  104. Heath says:

    I live in northern Ohio and am currently trying to decide if I want to use either an electric or gas dryer. Your analysis has actually convinced me to use electric. There are several filters that can be used to divert the (partial, or whole)heat and humidity back into the home. It is my guess that with even a 25% redirect of this otherwise lost heat, the dryers would break even. Being single, my gas dryer pay off, with the diverter use, would likely be 10+ years. Even if the dryer did last that long, it would be substantially longer before the savings would amount to anything. Thank you for the time you put into this.

  105. Nick says:

    Jim, that is absolutely the only article I have ever read that actually shows me the difference between gas and electric for a clothes dryer in Seattle. Thank you so much! I can sleep now. After I have a gas line installed of course.

  106. Nick H says:

    Its the same rule of thumb as every other economic relationship.

    If there was an obvious advantage, then everyone would be doing it one way.

    If owning a car was always cheaper than leasing, nobody would lease.

    If gas was always cheaper than electric, Sears would never sell and electric dryer.

    But yet they do, so it just comes down to personal needs/preferences.

    • David Filler says:

      Continuing this line of reasoning it seems that home owners always choose a gas furnace and hot water heater unless they are unable. For instance, many homes in rural areas have to run all electric appliances or have a liquid propane tank. So if it makes sense to heat or homes and our water with gas would it not follow that we should heat or clothes with gas. I think we would need to look at the entire value stream, that is, how much energy is expended in getting the natural gas to our homes versus the electricity. Does it make sense for the local power plant to use natural gas to generate electricy (with significant heat losses) then trasmit that to your home (also with significant losses) and then reconvert that back into heat in your dryer? There are energy losses associated with transmitting natural gas as well but it seems like it should be more efficient since there is not a conversion to and back from electricity that has to take place.

    • bob says:

      sears sells electric because some houses dont have gas. some have gas, but not in the laundry room. some people rent to own appliances and lease their cars.

  107. Lurker says:

    What a very informative breakdown. My neighbor was looking at his electric meter (the one the power companies install) His 220V dryer was pulling 5.5kwh while on – He ended up installing a gas dryer to save a few dollars.
    Go with gas, just make sure it’s exhausted outside.

    J. Mann December 2nd, 2009 at 11:29 – the exhaust (CNG, burns clean) goes directly into your clothes and then out the vent. Take one apart, it’s nothing like a Forced air furnace.

  108. Amy says:

    I cannot access your update or spreadsheet. We recently decided to go with electric because the sales guy STRONGLY recommended it because of the price of gas. I wanted to compare for myself. I wish I had found this before we took his advice so we could’ve made a fact-based decision.

  109. Karl says:

    Excellent article. Just a few comments. You assume the lifespan of a dryer to be about 5 years regardless of usage. Granted it may die early, but if rather the lifespan is usage based not time based, it could still be beneficial for someone single to own. For those who have had to install a gas line and vent, what is the cost of that, and the time to recoup those costs? The other thing one should consider is the use of a high efficiency washer. Some of these now have spin cycles of up to 1400rpm almost twice the speed of older dryers. This will get the clothes very close to dry and further reduce the time in the dryer. This would further close the cost gaps in the time usage of the two dryers .

    • jim says:

      The dryer lifespan was taken from Consumer Reports’ “repair or replace” articles that appear periodically.

      You do make an excellent point about high-efficiency washers. Since going to one of these early last year, I’ve observed the drying time is significantly reduced because the washer has a high-speed spin. (This helps us get through laundry a lot faster!)

      I have not reworked any of the numbers to account for this.

  110. Travis Malek says:

    Thanks for the great spread sheet and site. I modified it a little to work with the random charges i get. I wish i would have found the spread sheet before i bought a washer/dryer- I bought a washer and electric dryer. However, since i did buy used units, i am planning on getting a gas dryer now that i see it’s cheaper. I never knew how much energy content was in a therm of gas or how to do the calcs.

    I used a foolish line of reasoning- since all the appliances in my new house used nat. gas, a gas dryer would put me way over my baseline allowance(or tier 1 as you call it). I got my first partial gas bill(2 separate utilities here) and i did go over my baseline without a dryer. But the numbers don’t lie and the cost per load is still cheaper @ the higher tier on the spreadsheet; about half!

    I think there is one thing you could add to the spread sheet and that is- what if your dryer dries in 1/2 hour or 45mins. I know how to figure this on my own but others might not know or think about it. just times the heating element kw rating by .5 or .75 etc. Same for therms.

  111. Hepcat says:

    Thanks for that. I’ve had my gas dryer for 10 years, so I guess it’s paid for itself plus some.

  112. Darlene says:

    I have had my gas dryer 16 years and the dial finally went on it. Motor still goes. So I am sticking with gas. Great info!

  113. Leo says:

    Your calculations are misleading, a 5000 watt electric heating element does not put out 22,000 btu of heat. A gas dryer generates more heat, and will dry faster, and dry clothes quicker.

  114. Deb from Colorado says:

    Thanks so much for the awesome info. ;o)
    Glad you did all the work, I couldn’t think of what math operation I would/could use!!

  115. Jedd Sullivan says:

    Thanks for taking the time to run the numbers and share this highly accessible analysis. By far the clearest and most useful I’ve seen on this question. Will try your spreadsheet with current local figures. So far it looks like we’re going with gas (house we’re moving into has both hook ups, would that all builders were thoughtful enough to provide both). Go well.

  116. John H says:

    If you live in cold climate, then electric is more energy efficient. The reason is that GAS dryers must vent to the outside, so you lose a lot of valuable heat and humidity. However, with an electric dryer you can vent to inside the house, which means that your furnace will run less. A lot of people have trouble with nose bleeds in the winter because the furnace makes dry heat. So an electric clothes dryer can help to humidify the air. All you have to do is put a panty hose on the dryer exhaust to remove the lint.

  117. J.R. says:

    The only problem I see with your math is that you are figuring that heater on both comes on and never cuts out once the heat limit is reached. So if my calculations are right the gas dryer would have to burn for a shorter amount of time than the electric to produce the same amount of heat. So the gas should be even more effcient, I think.

  118. Roger Ellis says:

    Today is May 3, 2013. Gas drilling technology has exploded in recent years due to: 1. Horizontal drilling and 2. Fracking. Both of these technologies has allowed the gas industry to discover enormous gas accumulations in rock. America could become the biggest exporter of Natural Gas in the world, if the Feds allow terminals to be built. According to Supply and Demand, Natural Gas prices are going down. Our supplier, Cascade Natural Gas, reduced its prices 17% over the winter. Gas is the way to go, into the near future. Also, companies with large fleets of trucks, think UPS, Fed Ex, are converting their diesel to LNG. My wife & I are moving to a rural home that is all electric: and we are bringing in Propane to run our gas dryer.

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