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GadgetGuy has been looking at the tech difference between vented, condenser and heat pump clothes dryers. Not necessarily from the standpoint of what is best but what works in different circumstances. In other words. What are the advantages and trade-offs?

These days when you go into Hardly Normal you will be faced with over 50 choices ranging from a $380 Simpson 4.5kg timer vented dryer to about $800 (the latter have smart sensors and programs), several condenser dryers from $799 to $1599, and nearly 30 heat pump dryers from $1099 to $4499! The range is mind-boggling.

Then there are the washer/dryer combos. These are space-saving devices – one cabinet to do two things.

We look at the tech difference between vented, condenser and heat pump clothes dryers and discover that in most cases all you need is a typcial vented dryer.

Note: For this article, we will use Fisher and Paykel references. This is for convenience, not necessarily an endorsement.

Vented dryers (Simpson)

difference between vented, condenser and heat pump clothes dryers

We are all familiar with this type. It is an open system. A fan draws external air over a heating coil, blows it through the drum and expels hot, moist air out a vent. Air should vent to the outside – otherwise it can get hot and steamy in enclosed spaces.

These are by far the fastest, drying a 4-5-6kg load of sheets or towels in under an hour. Regardless of the 2-to-3-star energy rating, they dry faster and use less overall electricity per kg/minute.

Upside: Cheaper to make and buy. Quick-drying. Stackable or wall mount. Good energy $ per kg/minute drying time ratio.

Downside: hot, moist air needs to go somewhere so vent if you can or open a window in the laundry. Shorter replacement cycles. Not as gentle on clothes as one heat/time fits all. Can ‘ball’ clothes leaving damp patches inside.

Sensor vented dryers (Fisher and Paykel)

difference between vented, condenser and heat pump clothes dryers

Some add smart sensors, programs, auto-reverse (stops balling of clothes) and delayed timer start to ensure clothes are not overdried or use low tariff electricity periods. These are better and stretching to this level will get you the best heater/dryer.

Upside: Fastest. Stacked or wall-mounted. Gentler on clothes as you can select programs. Even more energy efficient on an energy $ per kg/minute drying time ratio.

Downside: hot, moist air needs to go somewhere. More complex electronics to go wrong.

Condenser dryers

difference between vented, condenser and heat pump clothes dryers

A condenser dryer is a closed system. Air is blown over a heating coil and into the tumble drum. It is expelled to a condenser chamber where water is extracted, and the dry air is heated and goes around again. The collected water reservoir needs frequent emptying.

My experience with a combo washing machine and condenser dryer in the 90s was frustrating. Why? While the washer may have been able to wash 8kg, the dryer was only able to dry 5kg. And the drying time was often several hours, especially for sheets and towels. We found that heavier items tended to be dry on the outside and wet on the inside.

So, condensers, especially combos, are very, very slow. They also use more energy (typically 2-star) than a vented dryer due to heating and condensing air.