Traditionally a clothes dryer had a drum, fan and big heating element. You turned it on for a set amount of time, and it proceeded to fill your laundry with steam. Nowadays, you have choices, and the technology to care for your clothes has come a long way.
In this how-to-buy guide, we will explain your options and help you decide which dryer will be suitable for your household.
For most Australian homes, a laundry is a private place with the door shut. In other words, we put all our mess in there and shut the door so visitors don’t see it. However, with current design trends in houses, a laundry is becoming more like a showroom, with marble countertops, high end fixtures and finishes. In short, the appearance of a washing machine and dryer does actually matter to some people.
As a general rule, a more expensive, highly specified machine will have an upmarket finish, such as glass vis plastic door and attractive case colours. While most dryers come in white, it is possible to get silver and black models to match other appliances or decor you may have in those colours.
The last consideration is the display/controls. These could be analogue (switches, lights and dials or include a LED display for showing the remaining wash time and other information.
Types of clothes dryer
There are three types of clothes dryer in order of price, starting with a vented dryer, which can be bought as a simple or dumb unit or with sensors, a condenser dryer and a heat pump dryer.
A vented dryer is named as such as it is best vented outside if possible. It essentially blows hot moist air into your laundry room if not ducted, which can quickly cause mould to start forming. Using a big heating element, they are expensive to run but cheap to buy. More advanced models include automatic sensing of when your laundry has dried, which will finish a cycle. Non-sensor units simply run based on a timer which can overcook and damage your clothes if left unchecked.
A condenser dryer works on the same principles as a vented dryer without the need for a vent. Here, the hot air is cooled and collected internally. The moisture is gathered in a tank for manual removal or can be plumbed straight to the drainpipe. Some models will use freshwater to achieve the condensing process, so they will actually consume water like a washing machine.
The heat pump dryer is the most expensive. It uses the same technology found in your fridge or air conditioner to heat the air and remove the moisture. This dryer type is very economical to run but expensive to buy and generally takes longer to dry your laundry.
For those short on space or looking for extra convenience, a combined washer-dryer will wash and or dry your laundry all in the same drum. Note that this process does take a long time, and you may only be able to do 1 to 2 loads in a day. Combined units can also use a large amount of water to dry.
Also, keep in mind that the total amount of clothes that can be dried will be half of the amount that can be washed. So for a 10Kg washer combo, for example, could wash 10Kg on its own but you can only dry 5Kg of laundry. This means if you want to run a wash and dry cycle concurrently, you could only do 5Kg in total. Otherwise, you could wash 10Kg but need to take half out for before drying, then dry another 5Kg afterwards.
In terms of temperature, a slow drying cycle is gentler on your clothes. A fast, hot cycle can cause damage. The damage comes in the form of broken fibres, which will make your clothes feel fluffier in the case of a towel. So yes, damaging the towel makes it more luxurious but also will reduce the life of a towel.
Prices start at a few hundred dollars for a vented dryer up to around $1000 for a condenser dryer and $1400 for a heat pump.
Dryer type comparison table
Before we talk about how big your machine’s capacity will be, Dryers are similar to washing machines and come in two standard widths. American, which is bigger with a 690mm width and European, which is more common in Australia, is 600m wide. With its greater width, the American can accommodate a larger drum and have a bigger clothes capacity.
If pairing a washer dryer, you can stack them or have them side by side with a door opening away from the centre for easy clothes transfer. Make sure you check your measurements so your appliances will fit.
When you visit your retailer to look at dryers, you will note they all have a kilogram (kg) rating on the front. This Australian standard indicates the kilograms of dry laundry the machine can hold and successfully dry. (Yes, it will be heavier when wet.) If a towel weighs about 400 grams, a 5kg machine could hold and clean more than 10 towels. It may seem impossible, but vendors must prove their machines pass this requirement.
Dryers in Australia range between 4Kg to 10Kg for domestic use. A sweet spot for a family of 4 would be a 7-8Kg machine. Note that the larger the Kg rating, the higher the price.
Tip: A larger machine will help you complete the task of drying faster as you will have fewer loads to do. A separate dryer allows a washer and dryer to be running simultaneously to also reduce laundry time.
Key features you should consider when making your clothes dryer decision
Accessories – These may be included or cost you extra, and some examples are a stacking kit or drying rack. A stacking kit allows a dryer and compatible washing matching to be securely attached together when stacked on top. A drying rack will enable items such as shoes to remain stationary in the drum to allow drying.
Reversible door – This allows the door to be removed and reattached on the opposite side if direction opening is not convenient.
Auto-cleaning condenser – If you buy a condensing dryer it will require manual cleaning to remove lint, unless it has an auto-cleaning feature.
Time-saving vs energy saving – To make a dryer energy efficient, a drying cycle will take a long time. Some models let you choose between energy efficiency or fast drying.
Stainless steel drum – They are more expensive but resists scratching and rusting from zippers etc., over a cheaper enamel drum.
LED light – This allows easier inspection of the inside drum to remove clothes.
Moisture sensor – did you know you can over dry and damage fibres? A unit with sensor technology will stop overdrying and also do things like drying to the point of ironing.
Delicate cycles – Not dissimilar from a delicate cycle in a washing machine, this setting will allow laundry to be dried more delicately.
Fabric type – this makes adjustment for jeans vs wool.
Steam function – this removes wrinkles, freshen up clothes and removes odours.
Direct motor drive – Your machine is driven by a motor that attaches to your drum (the bit your clothes go into). With cheaper machines, this connection is with a rubber belt like the fan belt in your car. For more expensive machines, the motor is directly connected to the drum. The advantage of this is two-fold. First, your machine does not have a rubber belt to wear out or break. The drum direction and speed control are more accurate, so more dry cycles can be selected. Benefits include less shrinkage and creasing.
Allergies – If you are an allergy suffer, look for models that remove allergens such as mites, bacteria and pollen.
Efficiency – Each dryer in the retailer showroom will have an energy star rating and Kilowatt-hour rating (kWh) on a sticker. The more stars out of 6, the more energy-efficient the dryer is. The cost of running the washer each year will be the kWh times the cost per Kwh hour you pay for electricity. For example, if you paid $0.30 per Kwh and your dryer consumed 500 kWh/yr, the cost would be $150 per year in electricity.
Warranty – A quality dryer should last you 5 years or more. Indeed, some brands offer up to an 11-year warranty on the motor only, which is the most likely failure. In the unlikely event that your dryer does fail, and your warranty has run out, you may still be able to get your dryer repaired under Australian Consumer Law
Internet connected – All washing machines will run without an internet connection. Still, some offer additional benefits like downloading additional cycles like one for cleaning doonas or unusual stains. A handy feature that has helped save GadgetGuy staff is an alert when the washing is finished as a reminder to hang it on the line. This can be sent to your mobile phone or even compatible TV. Otherwise, it remains in the machine till that night, and people get unhappy.
Dryers are expensive to run but are extremely convenient to dry your clothes. Thus manufacturers are always looking for more efficient methods to save electricity. Dryers also create fluff from your clothes, and various methods, including self-cleaning systems, make maintenance easier.
Old clothes dryer removal
Most local councils offer a free service to remove your washer from the nature strip. Your retailer may offer a service to remove your old washing machine too so it’s worth giving them a call.
What clothes dryer should I buy?
We recommend you go with the more popular brands and not the cheapest. Walking around a retailer, you will soon see which brands are popular as they will have more display models than others. Also, look out for stickers from consumer advocacy groups who do testing and have subsequently found a certain model to be better. Definitely pay attention to a machine’s Energy Star rating too, and make sure you compare the total cost of ownership.
After reviewing this article, make some notes on what is important to you and how far your budget will stretch. Once you have picked your model, don’t be afraid to haggle on price. Remember, a delivery fee may be required to get your dryer installed and remove your old unit.