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Heated laundry airers... how to cut both drying times AND costs


The headlines

The Energy Savings Trust recommends the cheapest way to dry laundry indoors is to put them on an ordinary airer in a closed room with a window open a crack. This DOES work but is slow and isn't for everyone.

Heated laundry airing racks come in various shapes, sizes and types and basically speed up the Energy Savings Trust method, though that does come with a cost for the energy used. They are also seen as a lower cost alternative to tumble drying.

They CAN be costly to run, but drying times and costs can be minimised with the tips here.

It is REALLY important that they are used in smallest room that is practical, with the door closed. Providing enough ventilation is ESSENTIAL to avoid issues such as damp and condensation.

The explanation, list of tips, guidance on costs and pros and cons of different types of airers are below.

See also my other articles on dehumidifier running costs and another on creative alternative methods for drying laundry.

 

Explanation

All the points here are relevant to ALL heated airers.

Heated indoor airers of ANY sort, actually only partially dry the laundry directly. They all rely to some extent on creating warm air currents through and around the laundry. The room an airer is in has a big impact on how efficiently they work.

I'll start with an explanation for a simple common type of heated airer below.

Hot air rises as shown by the arrows at the centre of the image below.

This airer works by creating air currents as shown in the animation.

The warm air heated by the hot rails on the airer rises. It then gradually cools and falls. It then gets gently sucked into the bottom of the laundry, passing up through the laundry.

As the air passes up through the washing it is warmed up again by the heated rails and the whole process begins again.

Most of the drying effect is actually because of these air flows, which gradually get warmer as the room warms up. The laundry on this airer is actually only in contact with the warm rails at the very top of each item.


Tips and tricks to reduce energy costs and drying times

  • If the room is small the air flow created from the heat of the airer will be more concentrated. If it is in a large room much energy will be wasted on the larger wall and ceiling areas which also warm up. Drying time in a small room will be reduced and the airer can be turned off sooner. So always try to use a heated airer in the smallest room you can practically use.

  • Keeping the door closed is important to stop the heat escaping into other rooms. You want the airer to focus on its job.

  • Avoid using an airer in a cold poorly insulated place such as a conservatory. It will struggle to get the air very warm and increase drying time and costs.

  • A wash load can hold anything from 1 to 3 litres of water. As the laundry dries, all this water in the air has to go SOMEWHERE. Without ventilation the humid air from the washing will find its way into all sorts of areas of the home, cause damp and condensation issues and actually make the rest of the home feel cool and damp. So ventilation is essential. Opening a window just a crack (say 20mm) is all that is needed for the moisture to find its way out.

  • If you have curtains, here is a suggestion for how to draw them to help the airer, even if the radiator isn't on. Tucked in behind the radiator, drawn almost closed to keep the heat in the room, but with a small gap to give an easy way for the moist air to find its way to the open window.

  • If you have curtains like those in the photo below. If the heating is ON leave the curtains OPEN to keep the heat from the radiator in the room and help the laundry. If the heating is OFF, then draw the curtains shut to help the heat from the airer stay inside the room and help your laundry.


  • Using a heated airer to help dry laundry in an open plan room with stairs like in this photo will not work well. The warm dry air created by the airer will rise upstairs away and not help the laundry.

  • Similarly using a dehumidifier in a room with high ceilings will not work well at all.

  • If an item of laundry feels heavy when it comes out of the washing machine, it is because it is holding lots of water, which means it will take longer to dry. If you can dry heavy items outside, or in other ways (e.g. simply air drying in a room with a window open for ventilation), you will save money.

  • If you use a simple plug in timer you can limit the "on time" for any type of heated airer. Of you can go one step further and use a wifi energy monitoring smart plug like one of these that will allow you to both set timers, but also to know over time how much energy your heated airer is costing you. They are incredibly easy to setup and use.

  • Doing an extra spin cycle in the washing machine isn’t worthwhile from the testing I have done as spin cycles are a pretty harsh thing a washing machine has to do. The best result I had was with heavy towel dressing gowns. An adult one holds around 700ml of water at the end of a wash cycle. Giving them a second spin in a washing machine only squeezed out a further 50ml of water, around 3 tablespoons of water. Not much.

  • Towels in particular, are very slow to dry, so why not consider using smaller towels as this also reduces the amount of moisture in the air when drying and the chances of damp issues. Also question whether you are washing towels too often? I know someone who washes towels after just one use. The laundry industry recommends every 3-4 uses (though in our house we probably use towels 7-8 times before washing).

  • Put heavier, wetter items at the top and on the outsides of the drying rack. Rotate items around part way through, if some areas are drying quicker than others. Turning harder to dry items inside out will help too.

  • If you are interested in buying a heated airer of any type, I recommend looking at YouTube and Amazon reviews. Do bear in mind though that some of the negative reviews could be because of reviewers not having used them in the way the tips above suggest.


Costs, other types of heated airer and other tips


Costs

As I said earlier, heated airers turbocharge the ordinary indoor air-drying method. The higher power a heated airer, the quicker they will dry the laundry and the sooner they can be turned off.

So, a low power one of 200-Watts will use less energy but need longer to dry the laundry than a 300 Watts one. It will probably cost in total the same whichever one you use. The important thing is to make sure you turn it off as soon as you can.

Based on Oct 2023 energy tariff, a 200 Watt airer will cost under 6p per hour to run, and a 300 Watt airer 8p per hour.

There are heated airers that consume 1200 Watts. These should work even more quickly but will need to be turned off as quickly as possible as 1200 Watts costs 32p per hour!


Tent type heated airers

These have heated rails at several levels. The tent reduces the air flow through the laundry but concentrates the heat. I would expect these to dry a little more quickly with the tent on than off.

But the air flow around the room shown in the explanation graphic above will still be important, especially for the laundry at the bottom. SO, I would expect the laundry items at the bottom of the airer to see very little air flow, and so will probably be pretty slow to dry.

 

The above airer types just rely on natural circulation of the air. The heated airer solutions below actually blow heated warm air to turbocharge drying.


Dri Buddi

This uses a heater and a fan to rapidly circulate warm air inside a fabric bag around the laundry which is hung from hangers inside.

These use 1200 Watts which is very energy hungry. Even though everything is contained inside the bag, the tips listed above about the room are still important as it will still be recycling air from the room.

The fan in the unit blows the fabric bag up. This actually squeezes the warm air through the fabric of the bag out into the room and the unit then sucks air from the room back in at the bottom.

The more warm air that can be kept in the area around the unit, the warmer the laundry will get, and it will dry out quicker. So, the earlier tips about room size and keeping the door closed are still important.

As this unit uses so much energy and is so intense, it SHOULD mean clothing more quickly than the other types of dryer above. This will mean the water from the laundry goes into the air much more quickly so ventilation is even more important with this type of airer.

It has a downside in that it looks to me like it isn't suitable for large items like bed sheets.

1200 Watts is a LOT of energy, costing 32p an hour as mentioned above. Given that a conventional tumble dryer costs something like £1.50 for a full drying load to run, and a heat pump tumble dryer around half of that, then a Dri Buddi could be very costly to run if left on for very long.

It does have a simple adjustable mechanical timer though that limits run time to a maximum of three hours to help you keep control of costs.

The Dri Buddi uses a motor to run a fan, so they are not silent.


Heated air blowers

These devices sit on the floor under a conventional laundry rack. This is another turbocharged way of drying laundry. Again, all the tips about the room above and ventilation apply as these blow warm air upwards and draw in cool air from the floor around them.

1000 Watts is 27p per hour to run, so turning these off as soon as laundry is important. This also has an adjustable mechanical timer to limit run time (max 3 hours).

These aren't silent either.



 

Overall summary

Overall whether you get a low power simple rack or one of these fan assisted airers, the actual total cost of drying a wash load probably won't be very much different.

  • Higher power ones cost more to run per hour but can be turned off sooner.

  • Lower power ones cost less to run per hour but will need to run longer.

Below is a simple pros and cons comparison.

Drying method

Pro

Con

Essentials

Unheated airer

Cheapest solution. Almost any size room or type will do. Silent.

Very slow (typically 20 hours).

Ventilation and door shut

Simple heated rack airers

Quicker. Low power means if you forget about the laundry the cost for being switched on too long is small. Silent.

Smallest room needed. Laundry at the top of most racks usually dries more quickly than at the bottom

Ventilation and door shut

Fan assisted heated airers

Quickest. Audible fan.

Smallest room needed. Costly per hour so need close monitoring to ensure costs don't overun

Ventilation and door shut

Whichever you choose, the same tips apply.

This recent Telegraph article on heated airers might be useful.

All costs above assume 27p/kWh (the tariff from Oct 2023 onwards)

 

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Thanks.


Mark Thompson


Get Energy Savvy - simple practical home energy efficiency information




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