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Dryer Buying Guide

An in-depth look at modern dryers. Learn what matters and what doesn't when buying a dryer for your home.
Dryer Buying Guide Video
Dryer Buying Guide
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Getting Started

Clothes dryers have finally started to see the kinds of helpful innovations that other kinds of appliances have been enjoying for years. As one of the most power-hungry devices in the home they've been overdue for the energy-efficient overhaul that has emerged in recent years. Keep reading to find out what features your new dryer needs simplify your life and keep energy costs down.

Gas vs. Electric Dryers

The first decision to make when buying a clothes dryer is whether you want a gas or electric model. Both of these types of dryers enjoy similar drying performance, though gas dryers are slightly faster than electric ones.
Is My Dryer Gas Or Electric? Video
Is My Dryer Gas Or Electric?
Is My Dryer Gas Or Electric? Video Is My Dryer Gas Or Electric? Video
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As for cost, gas dryers are more expensive upfront, but they usually have lower operational costs. However, if you don't already have a gas line in your laundry room, paying to install one will likely negate most or all of the savings from the lower operating costs.
If you're not sure which fuel is best for your home, discover more with our guide to choosing between electric or gas dryers. Whichever kind of dryer you end up with, you'll need to connect it to power. And while electric dryer plugs can be a confusing, this simple breakdown should answer any questions you may have:

Electric Dryer Outlet / Electric Receptacle Types:

Electric dryers require more power than standard outlets (receptacles) provide. To see if your laundry room is ready for an electric dryer, look for one of the two outlets pictured below. The 3-pronged outlets pictured here should be found in homes built before 1996. Newer homes use 4-pronged outlets. If your home currently has a 3-pronged outlet, it's not necessary to upgrade to a 4-pronged outlet.
3 Prong - 125/250 Volt outlet and plug and 4 Prong 125/250 Volt outlet and plug

Gas Dryer Outlet / Electric Receptacle Type:

Gas dryers require propane or natural gas for their heating element. They also require electricity to spin the drum and manage the control panel. Because the aren't very power-hungry gas dryers only require a run-of-the-mill 110/115 V outlet, just like the one you plug your toaster into. If you want to install a gas dryer but don't currently have one, look for a capped-off gas line and a conventional outlet to see if your home is already set up for one.
Gas dryer hook up connectors including an electrical plug

Types of Dryers: Vented or Ventless

Another important consideration is whether a vented or ventless system makes sense for your home. Standard (vented) dryers, both gas and electric, use a heating element to raise the temperature of the air in the dryer. Doing so heats your clothes and the water in them, creating steam. The dryers vent this steam outdoors through aluminum ducts. However, it's not always possible to install these ducts. For years, if you couldn't install a venting duct, you couldn't install a dryer.
Ventless Dryers solve this problem, making it possible to install dryers in apartments, closets, and other places where ducts aren't possible. Be aware, laundry rooms, especially small ones, with ventless dryers can get hot. Although most of these sophisticated machines contain the majority of the heat and moisture, small amounts of hot air and condensation can seap out.
Unfortunately, ventless dryers cost more than their vented counterparts. Heat pump dryers, a kind of ventless dryer, offset their higher upfront cost with much lower operational costs. You'll have to decide if the convenience and lower operational costs justify the higher price tag.

Condenser Dryers

Instead of using a heating element to raise internal temperatures, these dryers pull in air from around the machine and pass it through a condenser to warm it up. Condenser dryers pass this air into the drum to dry the clothes. As warm air fills the drum it pushes cool, damp air out, passed the condenser where the moisture in the air converts to water. The dryer then directs this water either into a holding tank or out a drainage hose. If your dryer uses a holding tank, be sure to empty it after every load or two.
Condenser dryers use lower temperatures than vented models. As a result, these machines have longer drying times and sadly aren't much help when it comes to saving energy. But, the lower temperatures are easier on fabrics. So your favorite clothes should last a little longer.

How Do Condenser Dryers/Condensation Dryers Work

Illustration of the internal workings of a condensation dryer
  1. Cool ambient air goes inside the dryer from the living area.
  2. Cool ambient air is heated by the heating element at the back of the dryer.
  3. Hot air circulates in the drum, evaporating moisture from the load.
  4. The combination of the hot air and moisture circulates through the condenser unit.
  5. The hot air and moisture condenses into water as it passed through the cool condenser unit.
  6. The water is collected under the condenser unit and is pumped out by the drain pump.
  7. Warm dry air is reheated and circulated back into the dryer drum.

Heat Pump Dryers

If you're looking to go green with the most energy-efficient dryer you can find, a heat pump dryer is your best option. Heat pump dryers use a refrigerant system with hot and cold coils. Air coming from the drum passes over the cold coil, releasing moisture and creating heat. The resulting heat adds to that of the hot coil which raises the temperature of the air on its way back into the drum. Because of this efficient process, heat pump dryers use about 50% less energy than any other kind of dryer.
Heat pump dryers do share some of the drawbacks of other ventless dryers. The water it removes from the air has to go somewhere. So heat pump dryers require a drainage hose or a holding tank. And like condenser dryers, drying times are longer than those of vented dryers.

Washer/Dryer Combos

If space is especially limited in your home, consider a washer dryer combo unit. These units combine a ventless dryer with either a condenser or heat pump and a front load washer. These appliances simplify the laundry process by eliminating the need to transfer clothes from one machine to the next.
However, if you have room for both a washer and dryer it usually makes sense to get two separate machines. Adding a wash cycle to the extended drying times of the ventless dryer can turn the whole process into a 4+ hours affair. Plus, dryers work best when their capacity is twice that of a washer. So, manufacturers suggest washing half loads when using washer dryer combos or removing half of your clothes after the wash cycle completes.

Dryer Sizes and Capacities

  • Full-sized - 27" wide, ~7 cubic feet of capacity
  • Compact - 24" wide, ~4 cubic feet of capacity
When deciding what size dryer you need, make sure you pick one with roughly twice the capacity of your washing machine. If you're not replacing your washer, this rule makes it easy to find the perfect dryer size. Replacing your washer dryer set takes a bit more thought.
Think about how often you do laundry and who will be sharing the dryer with you. If more than two people will be using the dryer, compact units probably don't make sense. But how big should you go? The largest dryers on the market offer around 9 cubic feet of capacity which is big enough for 17 full-sized bath towels. In contrast, a 4 cubic foot dryer has enough room for about 6 of the same towels.
As for physical size, there are two basic options: compact and full-sized. Ignore terms like "high-capacity" and "ultra-large." These phrases aren't standardized and can be misleading, especially when comparing different brands.

Compact Dryers

Roughly 24" wide with a 3.5 - 4 cubic foot drum, compact dryers are all electric. Consequently, they require a 240v outlet for power. These models are great for tight spaces or homes with minimal laundry needs. But if you do multiple loads of laundry every week, a compact dryer probably isn't the best choice.

Full-sized dryers

Full-sized dryers are generally 27" wide with 7 cubic feet of capacity. However, "full-sized" has been used to describe dryers from 25" to 29" wide with capacities ranging from under 5 cubic feet to more than 9.

Stacked and Stackable Washer Dryers

Stacked washer and dryer in laundry room
If you want to squeeze both machines into a small space, stackable washer dryers are a great solution. With an affordable stacking kit, you can secure a stackable dryer above compatible front load washers. Should you ever find yourself with a little more room, you can detach the stackable washer dryers and place the units next to one another.
Alternatively, you can find stacked washer dryers that come attached to one another. While these models are often less expensive than buying and stacking two separate machines, they usually have smaller capacities.
Whatever size you decide on, make sure your dryer has a little breathing room. Vented dryers need at least 6" of open space behind the machine for ductwork. Similarly, you should leave an inch or two of space around ventless dryers.

Features to Consider

Deciding which features are important to you is the last step in buying a dryer.

Dryer Cycles

Some dryers offer more cycles than you could possibly use. Most of them are just variations of heat and time. Others bring something unique to the table. Keep reading for an explanation of a few of the most popular dryer cycles.
Sensor Dry
By monitoring the moisture levels inside your dryer, Sensor Dry cycles make sure your clothes dry fully without overdrying. Saving time, money, and wear on your clothes, sensor dry is probably the most useful cycle a dryer can offer.
Meant to save energy, eco-cycles generally just use low heat over an extended time. Some models may even have a monitor on the console that displays the energy use and efficiency of different drying cycles. While the cycle can help you save money on energy bills and reduce wear on your clothing, you can achieve the same or similar results with any dryer that allows you to adjust cycle length and temperature.
Broad view of dryer control panelClose up of dryer control panel
The steam cycle is a newer feature introduced that assists in the drying of your clothes. Steam cycles can refresh an outfit you've already worn by injecting small amounts of steam to relax wrinkles and remove odors. While the automated process is definitely convenient, throwing a damp wash cloth in with your clothes has a similar effect.
The delicate cycle uses an ultra-low temperature to safely and gently dry lightweight garments, as well as any loosely woven fabrics. This will help your clothes last longer and maintain their color.
Express Dry
This dry cycle uses large blowers for increased airflow so laundry can dry a lot faster than usual.

Door Hinges

Person switching door placement
Dryer doors hinges are typically found on the left or right of the door. Some hinges rest along the bottom edge of the door, allowing the door to swing open like an oven door. While some dryers allow you to choose which direction the door opens, not all do. Just make sure your dryer door doesn't get in the way when transferring clothes from the washer.

Drum Light

Losing socks while doing laundry is all too common. Drum lights illuminate the inside of your dryer to make sure you don't leave anything behind. Simple as this feature is, it's incredibly useful.

Drum Rack

Designed for delicate items like shoes and sweaters, drum racks provide a flat surface to dry items without tumbling them.

Extended Tumble

When you can't be there right when a cycle ends, many dryers can tumble your clothes at regular intervals to prevent wrinkles from setting in. While this feature is a must for many people, be aware that it can increase energy usage by as much as 10%.

NSF Ratings

The National Sanitary Foundation rates machines based on their ability to destroy allergens and bacteria on fabric. This is something to look into if you're worried about cleanliness and staying healthy.

Silent Operation

This allows users to mute the end-of-cycle signal on machines located close to living and sleeping areas.

Wi-Fi / Smart Functions

Many newer dryers allow you to monitor and adjust cycles right from your smartphone. They can send you notifications at the end of a cycle, helping you prevent wrinkles. Some models can even track energy rates from your utility company and delay drying until the cost of electricity drops overnight.
While this increased level of control can be convenient, it's still important to use your dryer responsibly. The National Fire Protection Association recommends only using your dryer when you're home and awake.

Vent Blocking Indicator

Person adjusting dryer vent
This feature let's users know that it's time to clean out the dryer vent, as sometimes it's easy to forget.

In Summary

Buying a new dryer may seem overwhelming but it's easy to break it down into a series of either or questions. Gas or Electric? Vented or Ventless? For Ventless, Condenser or Heat Pump? Compact or Full-Sized? Stacked or Standalone?
If you're updating your washer too, check out our Washing Machine Buying Guide for help finding the perfect model for your home. And if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at 800-860-3577 so we can help.

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