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Shower Vs. Iron
Recently at the Connect 2015 Conference an attendee shared a pro-traveler tip: “When you don’t want to iron, give your clothes a steam bath in the shower and the wrinkles fall out. Someone tell Alan Shedd to calculate the energy efficiency of ironing vs. the shower method.”
So, not to disappoint, Alan responded with the cold hard facts.
You can find a simple calculator for figuring appliance energy use in the TogetherWeSave “Save Energy, Save Money” app. The calculator says a typical iron is rated at 1,100 Watts. Settings will vary, but let’s assume the iron uses 1,100 Watts and it takes you 15 minutes (0.25 hours) to iron your clothes. Energy used = (1100 Watts x 0.25 hours) / (1000 Watts/KW) = 0.275 kWh – that’s about 3.5 cents worth of electricity at the 2015 national average residential cost of electricity, 12.7 cents according to EIA.gov.
Most hotels limit the temperature of water at the shower to prevent a scald hazard. As a result, they don’t make a lot of “steam”. Let’s assume you are at home with your water heater set at 120 F. Most shower heads are limited to a 2.5 gallon per minute flow.
So how much energy would it take to heat the water used if you turned on the shower for the same 15 minutes it took you to iron? We will only consider the energy used to heat the water, and we will assume we are using an electric resistance water heater. With the shower on at 2 gallons per minute, the answer is a surprising 4.4 kWh – 16 times more than the iron! We have the math if you want to see it.
Of course if you hang up your clothes to “steam” while you are taking a shower anyway, one may argue that there is no additional energy. So which is better? Even though I don’t like to iron, I’ve tried hanging clothes in the bathroom to steam them and found the results sub-par. Electric appliances designed to specific tasks and used wisely can be quite economic to operate.