Comparing Clothes Dryers Buyers Guide | Think Tank Home

Clothes Dryer Buyers Guide

Clothes Dryer Buyers Guide

Our clothes dryer buyers guide will help you research and select the right dryer to meet your household needs. With major improvements in technology and energy standards the dryer's of today offer incredible performance - but selecting the right one can be overwhelming. If you know what to look for you'll be able to find a dryer to meet your budget, lower your energy use, increase the fabric life of your clothing and fit your lifestyle.

Dryers have changed a lot over the years. They're no longer the ugly, noisy appliance that's hidden away in the basement. Today they are energy-efficient appliances with incredible features and functionality, that are designed to be attractive and shown-off.

Before You Begin Shopping

With our clothes dryer buyers guide we'll give you the information to make an informed buying decision, whether you're purchasing your first dryer or replacing an existing. But before you run out the door with your credit card in hand, it's a good idea to take a few minutes and ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • How much do you want to spend?
  • How frequently do you do laundry? Once a week? Five times a week?
  • Which cycles and features are important to you?
  • Is keeping your utility bills as low as possible important?
  • How much space do you have available for your appliances?
  • Will you need to stack your washer and dryer?
  • Will your dryer be near a living area? Will it need to operate as quietly as possible?
  • Does the dryer's appearance matter to you?
  • What will you do with your old dryer? 

Clothes Dryer Buyers Guide

Gas vs. Electric Dryers

There are 2 main types of dryers on the market today: Gas and electric. In most cases, your choice of dryer will be determined by how your home is configured. If you have a gas line installed where your dryer is located, you'll want to shop for a gas dryer.

It's important to note that all dryers, even gas, use electricity to turn the drum that keeps the laundry in motion and power the fan that distributes the heated air. The method the air is heated is the difference. A gas dryer will heat the air using natural gas or propane, where an electric dryer will use electricity. 

Electric Dryers

An electric dryer requires a 240-volt current to operate. If your home was designed for an electric dryer, there will be a 240-volt outlet installed. Depending on when your home was built, it will either have a 3- or 4-prong outlet.  Most manufacturers sell the cord separately, allowing you to get the right cord for your home. Check your outlet to determine if it requires a 3-prong or 4-prong plug. 

It's been estimated that nearly 75% of home dryers are electric. Like most everything, there are pro's and con's.

Advantages
  • Lower purchase price than gas dryers
  • Wide price range
  • Easier installation
  • Low maintenance
  • Less expensive to maintain. Frequently troubleshooting can be done by the homeowner
Disadvantages
  • More expensive to operate than gas since they are not as energy efficient
  • Electric heating coils need time to warm-up
  • Takes nearly twice the time to dry clothes as a gas dryer
  • Harder on clothes (more wear and tear)
  • Electricity is currently higher priced in most markets
  • Price Range: $500 to $1,500 
  • Method of Heating: Heating coils
  • Venting Required: Yes 
  • Power Requirement: Dedicated 240-volt outlet

Gas Dryers

A gas dryer is powered by natural gas to heat the air, but they also use electricity to power the fan and drum. If your home is configured for a gas dryer, you'll have a gas line installed and a standard 120-volt electrical outlet in your laundry space.

It's a best practice to use a new flexible gas line whenever you install a new gas appliance. For safety reasons, many installation companies will not connect your new dryer unless you have a new gas line.

Gas dryers are typically more expensive to purchase initially, however, they're far more energy efficient to operate. On top of the lower gas prices over electricity (in most markets), a gas dryer tends to run hotter and therefore dries clothes faster than electric, saving even more money.

Advantages
  • Natural gas is less expensive than electricity in most markets
  • Uses less energy to dry clothes than electric dryers
  • The gas burner instantly heats up
  • Shorter drying cycle than electric dryers (about 1/2 the time)
  • Easier of clothes (less wear and tear) 
Disadvantages
  • Higher purchase price than electric dryers
  • Requires a dedicated gas connection. It's possible to change the fuel source (either gas-to-electric or electric-to-gas), but you'll need to hire a professional contractor
  • Not all areas have natural gas available
  • Professional installation is recommended. If the dryer is not installed properly it could result in carbon-monoxide poisoning, fire or even an explosion
  • Repairs and maintenance typically require a qualified technician
  • Price Range: $500 to $1,900 
  • Method of Heating: Gas burner
  • Venting Required: Yes 
  • Power Requirement: Dedicated gas line and 120-volt outlet

Heat-Pump Dryers

Heat-pump dryers have been around for years in Europe, but in the United States they are relatively new. A traditional dryer will exhaust the hot, moist air outside thru a vent, but a heat pump dryer recaptures the air, then removes the moisture before it sends the dry air back into the drum to continue the drying cycle. These dryers operate much like a refrigerator or air conditioner, only instead of cooling, they are heating the air. Learn how a heat pumps works.

A heat pump dryer does not need to be vented outside since the majority of the heat is converted within the dryer rather than being exhausted outside. In addition they are very energy efficient since heat is moved versus generated which results in lower operating costs. They also are gentler on your clothes.

Expect a higher purchase price for a heat pump dryer and a limited selection. Since heat pumps tend to be temperature sensitive, these dryers must be run in environments that are not too cool or too hot. Also, many repairmen may not be familiar or equipped to make repairs. 

Hybrid Dryers

Hybrid dryers offer cutting edge technology with little consistency between manufacturers and fewer models to choose between. Still the trend is to offer the consumer a dryer with both energy savings and time savings, with the added advantage of having the ability to modify between the two as needed.   

Whirlpool offers a model called Duet Hybrid Care which is a ventless dryer that uses a Heat Pump Plus Eco Monitor to dry clothes. Sensors monitor the dryness of your load so clothes are never over dried. There are a number of settings to choose from, including 3 eco-settings that trade speed for efficiency. The speed setting should closely match that of a traditional dryer.

LG offers eco-hybrid technology and utilize a heat pump and a heater which gives the user the best of both worlds. If you're in a hurry you simply select the cycle that uses the heater and your load should dry 30% faster. Use the eco-cycle and the dryer becomes 50% more efficient. You can also adjust these settings however you choose. It doesn't need to be a speed or efficiency decision.

As manufacturers are working hard to offer more options for consumers, you can expect to see more innovative models and technology. But it does come at a price. These models both start at $1,500. 

Dryer Buyer Guide: Dryer Dimensions

Dryer Dimensions 

Before you begin shopping for a new dryer it's a best practice to know the amount of space you have available. If space is limited, so are your dryer options. There's nothing worse than bringing home a brand new appliance only to discover that it won't fit in your laundry room! This article will help you prepare. 

Once you know the dimensions you have to work with, you'll be able to eliminate any dryers that won't fit. This will save you both time and frustration. Here's a few things to keep in mind: 

  • If space is limited, consider a stacking  front-load washer and dryer. Most modern washers and dryers are designed with this option. All you need is the correct stacking bracket for your model.
  • If you have the space to set your washer and dryer side-by-side you may want to consider placing them on pedestals. You'll have additional storage space for your laundry supplies, and some manufacturers even offer washer pedestals that operate independently. Just be sure to order the correct pedestal for your model.
  • Allow for a minimum of 1-inch on each side of the washer and dryer (a total of 3 inches).
  • As a general rule of thumb, top-loading machines are typically wider, where front-loading machines tend to be deeper. 
  • If space is really tight you may want to consider and All-in-One Washer and Dryer.  

Dryer Capacity

Finding the right sized dryer for your family is key to your satisfaction. But don't pay attention to the manufacturer's marketing hype. Descriptive labels such as King-Size, Super Capacity or Extra-Large don't tell the true story. These terms aren't standardized and vary from one manufacturer to another. By focusing on cubic feet (cu. ft) you'll be able to accurately compare. 

If you are purchasing your washer and dryer together as a set, the decision is much easier. Each unit is designed to work with the other. However, if your washer is still in good shape and you only need to replace your dryer, the decision can be a bit more complicated. 

  • If you purchase a dryer with a smaller capacity than your washer your dryer won't be able to dry a full load of laundry in a single cycle.
  • If you purchase a dryer with a larger capacity than your washer you'll waste money and increase your energy usage.

When selecting your dryer, you need to know the capacity of your washer. The dryer's drum should be capable of allowing a full load of wash to freely tumble with extra space for the hot air to circulate thru your clothes.

To play it safe, the ratio should be 1:2. In other words, your dryer should have twice the capacity of your washer. So if your washer has a capacity of 3.5 cu. ft., you should purchase a dryer that is 7.0 cu. ft.  

  • Keep in mind that your washer determines your dryer load size. Purchase a dryer that is double the capacity of your washer. 
  • If you typically wash bulky items such as comforters, consider purchasing a large capacity dryer. 
  • As a general rule of thumb, a king-sized comforter should fit comfortably in a 4 cu. ft. dryer. 
  • Always use cu. ft. to measure drum capacity. Most models are between 5.5 - 9.0 cu. ft.
  • A standard washing machine drum capacity ranges between 3.6 to 4.2 cu. ft. 
Dryer Buyer Guide: Dryer Cycles

Dryer Cycles

Manufacturers are working overtime to meet the demand for new and improved dryer cycles. Modern dryers take much of the guess work out of selecting which cycle to use, since they offer cycles that do much of the thinking for you and have features that weren't possible in previous models. 

Many of the high-end dryers have 14 programed cycles in addition to manual settings. Here are a few of the cycles that are available, although keep in mind each manufacturer may call them something different:

Normal  - This is your standard cycle that can easily tackle a medium sized load which doesn't have any special care requirements.

Eco Cycle - By monitoring the dryness of the load, this cycle can make a significant difference in lowering the amount of energy needed. 

Delicate  - The delicate cycle is designed to dry sensitive items by applying low heat with minimal tumbling. 

Permanent Press - Medium heat is used to minimize wrinkles.

Air Dry - If you're trying to dry items that are sensitive to high heat, such as floor rugs that have a rubber backing, this cycle will do the trick.  

Cool Down - Your laundry will finish drying by using the heat that is already within the drum. This cycle will help reduce your energy usage.

Damp Dry - If you plan to iron your clothes immediately this cycle will end when you clothes are still slightly damp.

Speed/Quick Dry - This cycle will quickly dry a single item, such as a shirt.

Heavy Duty Dry - High heat is used to handle the more challenging loads such as, jeans and towels.

Steam Cycle - This handy cycle allows you to steam your clothes. Steaming will freshen them up without washing. The steam penetrates and moistens the clothes while softening and reducing odors and wrinkles.  

Anti-Bacterial/Sanitize Cycle - 99.9% of common household bacteria is eliminated by using the sanitize cycle. Items such as pillows and heavy blankets and comforters are difficult to wash, but this cycle can kill the bacteria and germs.


Dryer Features

Manufacturers have recognized the demand for features that not only make the consumer's lives easier, but also moves the clothes dryer into state-of-the-art machines that can rival any home appliance. Still, all these cutting-edge features come at a higher purchase price, and you should be aware that many of them won't improve your dryer's efficiency.

Let's take a look at some of the available features:

Stainless Steel Drum - The basic dryer drum is made of steel and is ceramic-coated. With normal usage it'll develop scratches and nicks from buttons, rivets and metal zippers. Many manufacturers offer stainless steel drums with their dryers. Although significantly more expensive, they are better suited to handle longer drying cycles. Keep in mind, they won't improve your dryer's efficiency. 

Drum Light - This handy light will illuminate the interior of the drum to help you find even the smallest article of clothing. It is especially helpful if your dryer is located in a space without good lighting.

Reversible Door - You'll be able to set the door so your dryer can meet the configuration of your laundry space. As a general rule, it's best to have the door open in the same direction as your washer door if your appliances are stacked. If they are side-by-side, we recommend the door open away from your washer to prevent it from being in the way when you transfer clothes to the dryer.

Moisture Sensors - Several sensors are used to track the temperature and moisture of the clothes. The dryer will then automatically turn itself off when appropriate. Moisture sensors help prevent clothes from over drying and as a result, extends the life of the clothes. This feature will also lower your utility costs.

Noise Dampening - Many higher-end dryers are equipped with noise dampening features and materials to help keep your living space quiet.

Delayed Start - Select a future time for your dryer to run. You can set it to start while you're sleeping and have warm clothes to wear when you wake-up! Even take advantage of lower power rates by running your dryer in the early morning or late at night when the demand for power is low and so are the rates.

Control Panel - All dryers have a control panel where you select the cycle and start and stop your load. Many still use a dial and others use a combination of a dial and touchpad, or even just a touch pad. In high-end dryers you'll be able to set and save your dryer preferences, saving you time in the future. 

Drum Rack - A removable dryer rack allows you to dry tennis shoes, hats and other delicate items without having them tumble. 

Wrinkle Protection - To help minimize wrinkles, the drum will tumble your clothes every few minutes after the cycle finishes. 

Reverse Tumble - Dryers with reverse tumble drums periodically change the direction of the drum during the cycle. Not only will this feature keep your clothes from wrinkling and tangling, it will also reduce the drying time and your energy consumption.

Steam - Although relatively new, steam cleaning cycles have become quite popular. Evaporated water is used during the cycle to create a burst of steam. Steam helps remove odors, stains, and reduce wrinkles.

Wi-Fi Enabled - Monitor your dryer from your phone and download updates to keep your dryer on the cutting edge. See below for more details. 


Smart Dryers

Modern dryers have all the smart features that tech savvy consumers demand. As technology continues to advance, tomorrow's dryers will undoubtedly stay on the cutting edge. However, expect to spend more for the added intelligence.  

Connecting your new dryer is as simple as downloading the app and establishing an account. Once the dryer is paired it'll be able to provide you with amazing data. Here are some of the features available with a smart dryer: 

Text Alerts - Once the dryer has finished it's cycle a text message will be sent to your phone notifying you that it's time to remove your laundry.

Remote Control - If you enjoy the text alert feature, you'll love using the remote control. Using your smart phone you'll be able to remotely start and pause your dryer, track the energy usage, and even the cycle progress. You'll be alerted when a load finishes and have the ability to activate the Wrinkle Guard cycle!

Nest - If you have, or are thinking of getting the Nest Learning Thermostat many Smart Dryers are designed to seamlessly integrate. You'll be able to maximize the your participation in the Rush Hour Rewards program.

Diagnostic Tools - The Diagnostic Tool will alert you to problems, offer step-by-step instructions, and most manufacturers will guide you to quick fixes using how-to videos or forward the information to a repairman. With this technology dryers are becoming so smart that you may have the answer before you even know you have a problem!

Amazon Replenishment - By syncing your Smart Dryer app to your Amazon account your dryer will estimate the amount of supplies you have on-hand and order dryer sheets or any other supplies you may need. 

New Cycles - Manufacturers are beginning to take advantage of the ability to keep their appliance's technology up-to-date. When new dryer cycles or improved software become available, you'll be able to download and update your dryer's program to keep it on the cutting edge.  

Voice Assistant - Do you have an Amazon Echo/Alexa or Google Assistant in your home? More and more dryer models are being designed to use these virtual assistants. 

Smart Grid Awareness - If you live in an area that offers the Smart Grid, this feature has the potential to really save you some money. Simply load your dryer and walk away. The dryer will determine when the energy rates drop to their lowest point and then begin drying your clothes. When the load is finished a report will be sent to your phone with the amount of money you saved. Check out this video to learn how it works:

If owning smart appliances is important to you, you should know that at this time, there isn't a huge selection. But the demand is steadily growing and more and more models are available. One thing to keep in mind, is although smart dryers are exciting, the "wow factor" doesn't improve it's performance over high-end "non-smart" dryers. But they do have the potential to lower your energy use.

If you enjoy all the bells-and-whistles, a smart dryer could be right for you. Before you get too excited about the features, double check that they will work for you. Smart Grid access isn't available in all areas and you'll need a smart phone that's compatible. Also check if your Wi-Fi signal reaches into your laundry room.

Do your research before you make your buying decision or you might be spending a lot of money for features you won't be able to use.

Dryer Buyer Guide: Dryer Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficient Dryers

Did you know that a clothes dryer can use over 10% of your overall household energy consumption? In fact, it's one of the top energy using appliances in your home!

Finding a dryer that's energy efficient can make a big impact on your monthly utility expenses, and in addition, lower your environmental impact. That's why we spend some time covering this important section in our clothes dryer buyers guide. When comparing clothes dryers you'll need to find the balance between: 

  • Initial purchase price
  • Operating expenses (utility costs, etc.)
  • Household drying needs

How to Compare Energy Efficiency

You can easily check the energy efficiency of a dryer by looking at any one of these three resources:

1. Energy Guide Label

The Energy Guide Label is the big yellow label pasted to the side of most household appliances. It's required by the federal government to help you determine if an appliance is energy efficient. It provides you with annual operating costs and the energy consumption of the dryer. You'll find the following information on the label:

  • Manufacturer, model and capacity
  • Based on the national average, it'll display the estimated annual operating cost, as well as the operating cost range for similar models
  • An estimate of the annual electricity usage
  • If the dryer meets the strict energy efficiency criteria, the Energy Star logo will be displayed

With the information listed on the Energy Guide Label you'll be able to compare dryers and determine which model will be the most energy efficient and how much it will impact your utility expenses. 

2. Combined Energy Factor

Within the manufacturer's  specifications you'll find the Combined Energy Factor (CEF). The CEF will state how many pounds of laundry the dryer is capable of drying in a kilowatt-hour. Look for a high CEF number, as the higher the CEF the more energy efficient the dryer. 

3. Energy Star

If you see an Energy Star label it means that the dryer has exceeded the minimum federal standards for energy efficiency. This program is run by the Department of Energy and they estimate that Energy Star certified appliances use 20% less energy without sacrificing performance than non-Energy Star models. In 2014 the DOE estimated that the United States would collectively save $1.5 billion in operating costs if all dryers met the Energy Star certification requirements. 

This handy tool and website will help you shop and compare Energy Star certified dryers. They're listed so that you can easily sort by ratings, brand, savings and a few other criteria. We recommend comparing the Combined Energy Factor (CEF). The higher the CEF the more energy efficient the dryer.

Many ENERGY STAR appliances provide rebates and other offers. Click here to check if there are any valid offers in your area. 

How to Buy an Energy Efficient Dryer

Gas Dryers

It's estimated that only 25% of dryers burn natural gas. If natural gas is available in your area they're far more energy efficient than electric dryers. In fact, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that they cost 50 to 75% less to operate.

Features

There are a number of new features available that help optimize the energy efficiency of dryers. Here are a few:

Moisture Sensors - With the use of sensors your dryer will signal when your clothes are dry and dryer will automatically stop. This feature will not only reduce the energy use of your dryer, but it will also extend the life of your clothes since they will never be over dried.

Dual-Temperature Heating Elements - Dryers with dual-temperature heating elements allow a greater level of flexibility. This is because you'll have more options with temperature settings, load size and fabric type. Did you know that running your dryer at a low heat setting for a longer period of time will use less energy?

Usage Tracking - The dryer will monitor and log the efficiency of every load you run. You'll be able to review the electronic reading and improve your dryer use. Most models will even provide tips to help you increase the efficiency.

The "You" Factor

Today's dryers are built with energy efficiency as a top priority, but with all the bells and whistles don't forget your habits and routines. Taking advantage of an already heated drum by running loads back-to-back. You'll reduce the amount of energy you use more than you might think.

Also, take advantage of the summer's warm weather. You'll be able to give your dryer a break by drying your clothes on a clothesline or drying rack. This not only saves money by not operating your dryer, but it'll also keep your house cooler and reduce the energy used in running your air conditioner.