Last night I got my utility bill and Holy Moly, it’s more than double last month’s thanks to a colder-than-normal month and an increase in utility rates. (Hey, Fed, I found your inflation.) Anyway, there has been a lot of interest in my previous musings on the ongoing cost tradeoffs of gas versus electric dryers. Since it’s been a few months, I thought I’d plug in the more recent numbers into a spreadsheet.
The summary: it still makes sense for me to have gas over electric.
Since August, everything’s gone up. Electricity, previously calculated to be $0.06872 per kilowatt-hour (above 600 kWh), is now $0.07145/kWh, or approximately 4% higher. Gas was previously $0.98655 per “therm” (see here), and is now $1.1286/therm, an increase of 14.4%.
Although gas has inflated (ha ha) faster than electricity, for my scenario of 8 loads per week, I break-even in 359 loads versus 323 loads. In the spreadsheet, I assumed a breakeven of less than two years made it compelling to go with gas; otherwise, electricity makes more sense. Please feel free to try your own local rates and numbers.
Nice assesment of gas vs electric cloyhes dryer costs of operation. I’m making that decision (again) currently. According to the appliance mfrs association (and others), the avg life of a gas dryer is 13 yrs and the average life of an electric is 15 yrs. The electric dryer I’m retiring served a family of 4 for 22 yrs.
you made. a spreadsheet…about the dryer.
Instead of just, you know, picking out the dryer you like best.
You would have a coronary in our house, I think.
Your analysis was helpful and interesting. Thank you. I believe the most comprehensive cost comparison between electric and gas should also include reliability as repairs of broken appliances are extremely costly (as well as a BIG hassle!). As previously mentioned, the pilot light/burner in a gas dryer can be expected to last 5 to 10 years. This has happened to my gas dryer after 8 years. It is a high cost repair and, I think, should be factored in to the “price per load” of a gas machine. Electric dryers break too, but statistics show that the first repairs for electic dryers occur later in their working lifetimes. Statistics also show that electric dryers last longer. Shouldn’t this difference in reliability and lifespan be factored into the “cost per load” of the two types of machines? I am now in the market for a new dryer b/c the cost of repairing the burner in my gas unit is too high a percentage of the cost of a new machine. With SCARY gas price forecasts AND the cost/hassle of repairs added into the mix I would imagine that gas may still win out as more cost effective, but I’m guessing the difference is not as obvious as some would imagine. Does anyone have a more quantitative analysis to offer regarding these points?
Great job, but I think you are missing one critical mpiece of the puzzle. The heating element or burner do not run the entire time the dryer is on. Once the dryer heats up to a certain temperature (controlled by the thermostat), the heating element or burner shut off. So the actual cost per load is significantly less than your calculation. Want I have yet to figure out is what percentage of the time the element or burner is on . . .
This can get complicated. None of us really care about last month- we are trying to look into the future. What are the future costs for a Therm of gas vs. the same amount of heat from electricity. Who knows?
Since electricity is generated using gas, coal, nuclear and falling water (hydropower) and elecricity is now a commodity delivered over a series of grids, future cost per KWH is detarmined almost minute by minute as demand changes,
Bottom line? Quien Sabe! It is safe to predict that drying clothes can always be done in the sun and wind, if the bill gets too high.
LOVE IT! I am currently overworking my own decision regarding this dirty debate and I am delighted to see that there are others that share the concern!
One factor that I have to include is the gas fitter charges as the dryer area is set up currently for electric. I have no estimate yet from the gas fitter to provide but I will be back!
Thank you so much for this information! My gas dryer is on it’s last leg and I am debating on purchasing either a new electric or new gas dryer. With gas prices on the rise I sat down with your spreadsheet and my PSE&G bill to decipher which would be best for me.
A half hour later, I can’t get my numbers to match your “yellow” boxes. Can you please assist?
Being a single Mom with two jobs I really need to figure out which is best $$ for my family.
Here is all the information on my Dec ’05 Gas and Electric bill. Hopefully you can help me use these numbers to fit into your spreadsheet. If you need additional info please email me!
Service Charge $2.41
Distribution Charge / kWh Charges 414 kwh @ $0.053840580 gave me a subtotal of $24.70
BGS Energy 414 kWh @ $0.064057971 came to a total of $26.52
My Total electric is $51.22
Service Charge: $5.79
Distribution Charge: 95.868 therms @ $0.2979096 = $28.56
Balancing Charge: 74.144 therms @ $0.08658830 = $6.42
Total Delivery $40.77
BGSS Commodity 95.868 therms @ $0.90864520 = $87.11
Total Gas: $127.88
There’s a spreadsheet here. Basically it works out that the cost per kWh is twice what mine is, but gas is about 15% higher, so… gas may make more sense depending on how many loads you’re doing.
Thanks for doing all the grunt work for us! Our nearly 40-year-old dryer finally died on us over Christmas, and we wondered about cost effectiveness with rising gas prices.
Conventional wisdom still seems to say gas is cheaper, but living in the shadow of a nuclear power plant gives us cheap electricity.
With your spreadsheet and last month’s utility bills, we can can estimate $0.29 per load for electric and $0.30 per load for gas. Looks like it’s a wash! (ha ha)
This is from Kevin’s Book Natural cures they don’t want you to know about
Decided to go with a gas dryer. Result…$115 to have the gas company come in and attach gas line to dryer! Stainless steel flexible line was already attached to house supply from old gas dryer. So, all the gas company person had to do was connect the other end of the supply line to the dryer. It took him 3 minutes and he was gone. And I was $115 poorer. I think this kind of installation cost HAS to be part of the comparison between gas and electric. Electric would have cost me nothing to install as Sears would have given me the cord for free and I already had the electric outlet. Don’t do what I did…check the cost of installing the gas line BEFORE choosing…NOT after!
I didn’t factor the installation cost into the equation because most states allow consumers to install it themselves and, as you noted, it’s not technically difficult to do.
Where it gets really expensive is if you have to run a separate gas line…
Installing a gas dryer may not be technically difficult, however, a novice may damage the gas line or not tighten the lines appropriately, thereby allowing a small gas leak to occur. For example, one may not know to use teflon tape or dope on the connection between the supply valve and the flex hose. I am disconnecting my gas dryer and I will be paying a professional to cap the gas line simply for my peace of mind.
I’ve been doing the gas vs electric debate as well since I am buying a new dryer, and since my house uses an LP tank, I have to pay an additional $320 total if I go with gas ($50 more for the gas version of the dryer, plus $110 for a propane conversion kit, plus Lowes charges $170 for delivery and install of the gas dryer by a 3rd party). So it will take several years before I break even with gas.
I just had to let you know that your analysis of this issue is great! My husband and I are currently trying to decide between the gas and electric dryers. We have hook-ups for both. Old broken dryer is gas. When I saw your spreadsheet, I knew you were the guy we needed. My husband is an “Engineer” who puts EVERYTHING into spreadsheets. Since we have just moved, he doesn’t have time to do that right now…..and being a mother and wife….I NEED a dryer right now. So I was given the task to find out info. of gas vs elec. You have just made my job easier since I am NOT the spreadsheet type(just not a “numbers” person)! Thank you for all your hard work, as I know this took some time. IF only we really knew how high gas prices are going to go and if they will stay there or drop. Right now, I think that electric is the better investment for us, especially with the added benefits of the electric venting compared to venting gas….which brings up the safety issues of operating elec. over gas. If the costs are so close that we need a spreadsheet to determine which is more cost effician…..maybe safety issues should be taken into consideration more often. Are a few dollars worth the extra risks taken when dealing with gas? I think so……but still figuring it out. Thanks again for all your work. I love your site and your opinions and can’t wait to forward this on to my husband!
Found your site via google. It’s good that you didn’t just take the standard gas is cheaper over the long-haul approach. I must comment on the long haul…
> IF only we really knew how high gas prices are
> going to go and if they will stay there or drop.
Here is the simple answer: gas dryers are going to get ever more expensive to use and at a faster rate than electrical rate increases (unless your electricity is primarily NG fired, then you are screwed). Since electricity is not a primary source of energy and can be generated from a number of sources (think coal, hydro, oil, nuclear, wind or …nat gas). If one source gets too expensive there are substitutes. Natural Gas on the other hand is non-renewable and will deplete. (after all once you burn it, it’s gone.) Nor could you hope to use if gas was curtailed or unaffordable. Now here is the tricky part…when do we run out or run short of the stuff?
Well, recent evidence is indicating north american natural gas supplies are indeed depleting and faster than industry and governmental officials let on. US gas production peaked in 73 and has been trending down ever since.
Think about that for a moment. We had more gas 30 years ago than today. It’s only been thanks to massive industrial job cuts and improved efficiency that gas is even affordable or available.
Drilling has reached record levels, yet each well yields less gas and runs out faster (9 month lifespan in many cases. Nor can our neighbors help us out. Mexico now imports from us. Canada peaked 2002 or something like that. Gas production has trended downwards on a continental basis for the past few years now and with few gas discoveries have been made in decades the future is even more bleak. You cant drill it if you havent found it yet! And unlike OIL which is easily transported, gas needs to be cooled to -160C to be transported by ship. Relatively few of these ships exist and fewer LNG ports are operational in this country to receive it.
To put it simply, gas is going to get more expensive. It’s simple economics really, if each year you can produce less gas and the demand keeps increasing (or even stays level) the price will go up. And up. And up…
Any disruption will trigger price panics. Think hurricane Katrina.
It’s bad now and it will only get worse. I chatted up with a VP of a major energy firm in CA (and for which I used to work for). He’s not optimistic either. Read that discussion here:
We will be facing some real nasty energy crisis in natural gas and oil soon. Unless your electricity is 100% renewable and locally available, expect to become reaquainted with the old fashioned clothes line. It’s still the cheapest way to dry.
For more info check out http://www.energybulletin.net or http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net
We are going through the same decision making process but our current dryer we are replacing uses propane instead of natural gas. Are the comparisons similar, or is propane a different comparison altogether?
Same question about LP.
Which is better right now? LP or electric????
I did my own calculation for Miami Fl and here electricity is .12 KWH and Propane (LP) is 3.03/Gallon. with a 22000 BTU dryer or 5400 W dryer (both the same kenmore Elite model) then a load will be .65 for electric and .73 for propane. maybe my propane cahrge is too expensive, but with the continuous scrutny being placed on the profits of eclectric companies and the regulation they face,I expect the rise in electric prices to be less than propane, I don;t think electricity will ever surpass propane in price here. I may stick with electric in the long run.
I am faced with repairing a 20 year old Whirlpool gas dryer (possibly the igniter). It was repaired once in that span of time. Kinda makes me lean toward gas. I’ve also been told you need a dedicated electric outlet for an electric dryer, larger than the one I have now for the washer and dryer. The labor for the electrician would factor into the cost. On the other hand, if repair is not too costly and dryer works well, about 1 load a week, mayber I will just fix it.
Well, I was/am debating the very same issue…
Some people already indicated the complexity of the calculation. In particular — the predicted future costs of one vs. the other. Here, in MD, the cost of electicity is going to increase by 72% (yes, really!) any day now. There are two new points that make me lean twards electric dryer:
1) gas heat emits CO/CO2 – more dangerous the electric
2) electric power can be “home generated” if you convert to solar PV power source [expensive to do, but we plan to do that as soon as we have the $$$]
If you are considering running a (propane) gas line yourself and have never done it, be forwarned, gas can kill you very easily if it is not done properly. I saw the house of a guy who rented his basement to someone, and that someone decided to move out in the middle of the night. He took the stove with him (it belonged to him) and disconnected it without shutting off the gas. The owner woke up the next morning and flicked on the light switch in his bedroom upstairs and kaboom! It blew the roof right off the house and set it in the yard 20 feet away. It blew the whole second floor away (walkout rambler), cracked and heaved the concrete slab in the basement where the stove was, blew the owner of the house out into the yard (didn’t here if he survived, but at the time I was on site the guy was clinging to life in the hospital). Also, glass from his windows killed his horse that was more than 30 yards away from the house.
Long story short, if your messing with gas you had better know what your doing. I am someone who is a do-it-yourself kinda guy. After seeing that though, gas has fallen off my list of things I am willing to do myself.
I just went to look at driers at the store and this was the first research site i came upon – thanks for putting this together. i actually live in Belize, so have to calculate my rates a little differently – we use butane gas and it is cheaper than electricity. But since my dryer will be for rainy days only (otherwise they are hung out in the yard), i was looking for machine effectiveness, environmental friendliness and other measures of satisfaction than cost. any other thoughts? is the only difference installation and cost of opperation? Thanks!
Great assessment Jim. It really helped in my decision process. Unfortunately, me (single, age 26) and my generation move around a lot for work and such. So figuring out gas versus electricity is a no brainer. Go with electricity becuase it’s cheaper, and not every place we’re going to move to has a gas hook up or a w/d hook up for that matter. Additionally, moving a lot puts wear and tear on the equipment. So going cheap for us is where we want to be. I think you should also consider your status in life as a part of the decision process. Are you going to be moving a lot in the future (i.e. military), or is this the house/apartment you’re going to be in for the next 5-10 years?
Thanks! My engineer-type fiance has a hard time believing that me, the “just do it” type, could make an analytical decision about the electric/gas issue. Thanks to you and your contributors, it is clear that I will choose electric and refer him to this site when he raises his eyebrows. I get my way and you get to back me up!!
Thanks for the analysis Jim. Even without doing the calc I am guessing the gas will be cheaper in the long run. There is about a year for that break even to occur based on the extra $50 MFG cost of the gas dryer. If it costs me another… say $100 to get a gas line run and installed then wouldn’t that be a 3 year break even? I liked the logic of NG being a non-renewable resource and will therefore increase in cost at a higher rate than electric. That is for history to tell us if that will be the case so I will discount that fact and assume utilities will increase in cost evenly for both elec and gas. Now if they made a “switchable” dryer that I could use elec in the winter and gas in the summer, now that would be something to consider. There is still the clothes line option. I wonder if I could vent my attic air into my dryer to make both more efficient during the hot summer months? It gets pretty hot in my attic above my garage.
Also, I have been reading more and more about the breakthroughs in photovoltaic cells coming down the pike that may allow the average consumer the ability to invest in their own supplimental power grid on their rooftops by 2009 or 2010. Yes that initial cost may be prohibitive but thinking of getting a check monthly from my utility company instead of paying them may require me to consider it. Since I just bought my new house I have a new furnace (gas) and water heater (gas). I didn’t get a chance to have a geothermal system put in as my house was finished before I bid on it. That too should be another consideration for all new home buyers.
I say all this because there are a lot of things to consider. Saving that first $50 is a start and since I have never had a gas dryer and we are getting ready to go into the cold season, I think I’ll stay with electric. I will take my chances over the next 3 years until I can add those panels to my roof and generate my own electric. Who knows, one day running my electric dryer may be as cheap as running that clothes line afterall.
Good day everyone.
I got the “right” answer from your spreadsheet (using my kwh and therm charges and your assumptions for amount of each needed for a comparable load of clothes), but mine shows that electric is much more favorable to operate, in addition to being less expensive to purchase. However, the logic in your “answer” cell provides “Consider a gas dryer”. Not a big deal, just didn’t know if you were aware of it. Thanks for putting this together.
Thanks, I realized the logic bug in the calculation. If the break-even time was negative (meaning you’d *never* break-even), it’ll show electric.
Thanks to all that have crunched the numbers. Bottom line on cost varies. They are getting close to the same. So I want my decision will be a subjective one. I have heard…Clothes
are more uniformly dry when using gas. I also understand that gas dryer do not cause Static cling. Having the gas supply to the dryer will increase the marketability of your home. Of course you can now brag to your neighbor about all the cool information you learned on this website. Thanks, Nic
Since the gas bill is in listed in therms, you might just want to calculate the cost per therm instead of the cost per BTU. You have taken into account the conversion from therm to BTU in cell G6, but it would more accurate to have /100000BTU in cell F6.
One other factor you need to add to your spreadsheet is that a gas dryer also uses electricity. You can view a document at the following link that shows the annual energy consumption of gas and electric dryers as well as other appliances. The file was found at multiple sites in many different formats, but they all have the exact same data.
Thanks for all these helpful comments. I will be needing a new dryer very soon and currently have electric. I will probably stay with elec because I don’t want to pay the hook-up fee to PSE&G. This thread has been great to read, thanks Jim!
I live in Colorado at almost 6,000 ft elevation and am told that burning gas drops in efficient by 4% for every 1,000 ft elevation increase. There is less oxygen here. Also natural gas has a moisture component which must be removed, electric doesnot. I plan to ask the local utility if this is the case, however to be politically correct I don’t expect an answer.
Thanks for the information! Seems to be quite a debate. I just purchased the Kenmore front loaders H4’s for my wife. Using the website that Terry posted http://www.energy.wsu.edu/documents/building/res/Eff_appliances.pdf above I took thoses numbers and called my utility company and got currnet rates. Sure they will change – Well gas will, electric is locked in until 2010, but it gave me an idea of what it will take. What I don’t know is how does the H4 with its energy saver rating will effect consumption. Any help? I am sure that the Numbers change. Using Jims spread sheet there is a definite diff. in favor of gas. But what about the CO gas factor and the Ion electric factors? Help ! davidmckinney [at] juno [dot] com
I think you need to recalculate. Seems you forgot the fact that a gas dryer uses electric also to turn the tub hello? The cost of a gas dryer is about $50. more and the upkeep is more. so elect. has got to be less in the longrun.
Mike: Reread the original assumptions. Both the gas and electric dryers have a rotating drum. The power consumption is based on the heating element only.
Ok lets do one based on total consumption and maintenance seems that is the only way to make a smart decision on which to buy. And I understand that you may only have one choice anyway depending on your set-up in your house. I had gas and switched to electric and dropped a line to do it, to many problems with 2 previous gas models and they were top of the line maytags.
Based on a quick glance at RepairClinic, the electric dryer motor is 1/3hp, 1725rpm (use: 6.4A and 115V == 736W in your calculations).
It’s slightly over 10% what the electrical heater uses. However, since both the gas and electric dryers have this component in them, it shouldn’t affect the number of loads.
But your point about going with what your house is plumbed with is spot on. Running gas line costs about $10/foot by a plumber.
JIM,need new dryer soon, have electric dryer now,but I not sure if, LP at $3.00 a gal or
return to the electric at 0.14 cent a KWH,Is the way to go,
OH,OH is LP or Electric faster?,
Nice workup. As an engineer, I like the approach. I also got a laugh from the guy saying “well, gas isn’t renewable so it will go up.” To which I say, yes it might someday. But for now, the choice is clear. Would you choose an electric water heater for your home over gas? How about the furnace? The water heater choice would DOUBLE your cost per month…the furnace would also be much more expensive – plus the air out of the vent would be much cooler than from a gas furnace.
Gas is the best choice and it will remain so for quite some time.
After reading the comments I am more confused than ever. One thing no one seemed to touch upon is the following: is one drying source, gas or electric, better for your clothes? does one harm the fabric less vs. another? If you claculate the cost of some clothing articles today if one heat source damages clothes less this could be a deciding factor for me. Is there ant proven research to this question?
Here’s another scenario. We have a small granny unit, and we’re remodeling our home. I want to place a washer/dryer in a closet in the granny unit, and must decide on gas or electric.
For gas, a line needs to be brought to the closet. Labor from the contractor for that will not be too much.
For electric, we need 240 volts, and the service panel must be replaced in order to gain more breakers. The labor for this is more.
Then, we plan to have solar panels placed. The washer/dryer will not be used nearly as much as the one in our house.
So… It seems to me overall that electric is the way to go, considering low appliance usage, solar generation, and lower environmental impact. However, right or wrong, I have a sense that gas may perform better. Do gas and electric perform the same with todays appliances?
As an HVAC and gas contractor and a former appliance repairman I have some food for thought for all:
1.Drier repair costs for gas driers are much more expensive. If you tend to keep your appliances a long time consider electric the way to go.
2.If you are limited in demand growth for your electric panel (100 amps or less for your panels capacity) AND you already have gas piped into your house And you have the additional capacity in your gas system, go with gas.
3.An IMPORTANT consideration is also whether or not your local electric utility uses nuke, coal, or hydro generating power. If the answer is yes to any of these, then the rate of increases in your electric bill is likely to be less making electric the way to go.
4. I personally think that the rate of fuel increases in the next few years will make all of these considerations extremely critical to us all.
My question is…”what is the difference between natural gas and propane gas clothes dryers?” We’ve moved and have our dryer, which used natural gas, and now is using propane. It looks like a fire is going on in the back of the dryer so we are not using it until we find out.
When moving from natural gas to propane changes must be made to the gas burner. Propane burns hotter than natural gas. Most new drier come setup for Natural gas with the part to change over to propane included.
We are considering what kind of dryer to buy to replace our gas dryer which is more than 15 years old. We’ve had about 3 repairs, all kind of pricey, in that time. We had solar panels on the roof which were calculated to cover our current usage. If we switch to an electric dryer, I’ll just be buying more power from SDGE. But, with the new gas dryers, is their energy consumption so much less than my old dryer that if I buy gas, my gas bill will go down or if I buy electric my electric bill won’t go up that much? This is far beyond comparing apples and oranges. It’s very complex. Also, are front loaders more energy effecient or do they just save water over top-loaders?
For the electricity decision, it would probably be best if you ran the numbers (cost of buying power from SDGE, # of loads, etc) through the spreadsheet:
Front-loader washers use about 40% less approximately half the water as the top-loader types.
It seems the discussion is primarly regarding the installation and operating costs. Now that I have that information, my big question is, which dries clothers faster? I have always been a gas appliance consumer, but if cost of electric vs. gas is minimal in my area, efficiency and time are very important. Thanks!
Go look at http://www.savenrg.com They have a patented – yes patented, house design that does away with the heating element in the clothes dryer and pumps atic heat instead.
That is just a small portion of there HUGE energy savings built into their homes.
Personally, I think we have far more gas than even some industry execs believe. There is proven reserves in Kansas that has as much energy as the oil in Kuwait. Several small companies have most of it tied up. They are pumping, and it is so clean it can go right into the distribution system – almost unheard of.
I have not decided for my self. Am rebuilding after a house fire. But am leaning electric. There are so many more sources for generating electric that are renewable (or not if coal is used but which can be processed for super clean burning) that if supervised properly rates will be much less volatile than other “fuels”. Yes, I believe in some regulation and some deregulation. Just not the way the wonderful pols here in Md. (and CA) did it.
I’m a single mom moving about to move into a rental house. I have a small child and do approx. 8 loads a week. I own a gas dryer, but there’s no hookup for gas. Is it better to buy an electric dryer, or pay to have a plumber install a gas line?
A new twist for you. I live in the Jensen Beach area of FL, one mi from the ocean. In 2004, in one month’s time, we had hurricanes Jeanne and Francis. Both eyes came ashore within 10 mi of our house. We were without electricity a total of 5 wks combined. I have a 6kw generator which can be, and was, hooked straight to the panel box after both. It was our salvation. It would run everything in the house, without having to alternate breakers, except the central A/C, and the electric clothes dryer. We have LP gas for our range and water heater. Our electric clothes dryer has died after 10 years. You can bet your butt that I am buying a gas dryer, because the generator only has to power the motor to turn the drum. The little bit of difference between the energy cost doesn’t matter to me. P.S. Adelphia cable was the last utility to get back up and running. (over 2 months) After the first couple of weeks, I went and bought a Dish.
Great spread sheet but I noticed there was no cell to account
for the gas dryer’s motor. I used the tested figures (.21kw) from this site:
and added cells for that. Also they measured their electric dryer’s power consumption at 4kw for the cycle but the gas btu’s were the same as yours. Otherwise it’s a GREAT tool. Many Thanks 🙂
Here in California, the public utilities (SDG&E, SCE, PG&E) have high tiered rates. You need to make sure you are using the right rate. An electric dryer might bump you up to a higher rate or the savings might be less with a gas dryer because you fall to a lower rate.
Gas prices have also fallen over the last few years. New technology, (“fracking”) might even lead to falling gas price.
Currently for PG&E electric rates for most customers rise from $0.1184 to $0.49929 depending on usage level “the tier”.
Gas is about $1.05- $1.07 a therm.
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