One of the things that concerns me the most about cloth diapering is how much I am spending on washing/drying. It is still less than what it costs to use disposables, but this frugal mama is all about trying to cut down on costs everywhere she can. So I was thrilled when LooHoo (formerly Woolly Rounds) offered to provide me with a batch of their Wool Dryer Balls so that I could carry out my experiment to see if they really cut down on drying time.
And BOY was it an experiment. I tried different methods for over EIGHT months. I will give you a detailed description of my methods below these results:
Vertical Axis is average dryer time in minutes
Based on my methods (discussed below), I found that the drying time of wool dryer balls appeared random and that there was thereforeno significant difference in drying time with the dryer balls.
However, I did find that the amount of static on my diapers did diminish significantly (and went away almost completely when I added a ball of aluminum foil). I also found that I could use the dryer balls to add an extra fragrance to my diapers (I will show you that soon) that made them smell good.
Will I keep using them? Yes. I was impressed with the lessened amount of static and the fragrance.
I tested the dryer balls using a Whirlpool HE Dryer.
Dryer Balls measured approximately 3 inches in diameter.
My initial goal was to have 20 tests of each dryer ball quantity (so 20 clothing loads of 2 dryer balls, 20 of 4 dryer balls, 20 of 6, etc). I also wanted to do that same amount for cloth diaper loads. Unfortunately this came to a bit of a halt when I just had to move unexpectedly (and therefore the conditions for experimentation changed), so the quantity of observations isn’t as high as I had hoped.
I initially used my hands to determine if a load was done drying. I simply set a timer and reached my hand in every 5 minutes. However, I decided that it may be more accurate to rely on the “feel” of my machine. So I used the automatic setting and checked the time of the load when the buzzer went off and disposed of all data associated with the “hand feel” method.
I tried to make all loads as equal as possible. I felt it a little wasteful to do loads JUST to determine dryer time (i.e. washing a certain number of towels a certain number of times). I figured it was a little ironic to waste doing extra loads when I am trying to figure out what cuts energy costs.
I did a minimum of 10 loads for each number of dryer balls (therefore 20 total for clothes and diapers).
If I washed towels, jeans, pillows, sheets, or any other items that I felt threw off the dryer time, I did not include those times.
When collecting the data, I removed all possible outliers (i.e. any loads that had a significantly low or significantly high drying time).
My attitude in this is that I understand that the more ideal situation would be to have more controlled conditions. However, if I want to consider the energy cuts of the dryer balls, I want the results to be visible and dramatic. Therefore, I am not as concerned that all loads have been weighed equally (although I tried to keep it similar).
Wooly Rounds is hiring a scientist to perform some more controlled experiments to truly see if there is a difference. It is my hope that more people conduct these experiments to see what they find. I am of course limited by my own circumstances and results may certainly vary. I have heard some people say 20 dryer balls makes a difference. Some say 8. It would be interesting if we could all collaborate to revise the methods for testing and develop more controlled conditions for testing these.
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