The right clothes dryer will get your laundry done quickly and economically. The mechanics of a dryer—a tumbling action combined with heated air and a vent for moisture—are simple, but how it affects different types of clothing and fabrics can be more complicated.
Dryers are long-lasting appliances, especially when compared to washing machines. A well-made dryer can outlast a washer by two-to-three replacements, so do your research and invest wisely when buying a new one. Unlike a washing machine, dryers have very few parts and are inexpensive and simple to fix.
How do dryers work?
All dryers work the same way: the internal drum turns while a fan distributes heated air that dries clothing.
What should I consider before buying a new dryer?
Before you start shopping, consider the following:
- Vented vs. ventless dryers
- Dryer size (driers range from compact to extra-large)
- In-door lint trap vs. elsewhere on the dryer
- Extended warranty
- Noise level, depending on placement in your home
- Digital controls vs. knobs
- Specialized settings and temperature controls
Gas vs. Electric Dryers
When choosing between gas and electric models there are several things to consider, including electricity cost, existing hookups in your home, and efficiency.
Gas dryer advantages:
- Lower electricity usage and cost
- Take less time to dry than electric dryers
- Produce less static cling
Gas dryer disadvantages:
- Require an installed gas line and special installation
- Can be more expensive to purchase than electric
Electric dryer advantages
- Usually cost less to purchase than gas
- Wide range of models
- Easier to install (don’t require a specialist)
- Relatively low maintenance
- Typically cost less to repair
- Some electric dryers have a steam dry function to reduce wrinkles and static
Electric dryer disadvantages:
- Higher electricity costs depending on usage
Vented vs. Ventless Dryers
There are two options for dryer output: vented and ventless. Vented dryers remove moisture through a vent fitted to a hose and/or external wall. Ventless dryers, also known as condenser tumble dryers, remove moisture by moving hot air to a chamber where it's condensed into water. The water is then collected and stored in a container under the dryer.
Vented dryer advantages:
- Most common type of dryer
- Typically cost less money upfront
- Tend to have a larger drum capacity
- Faster drying time
Vented dryer disadvantages:
- Require proper ventilation to the outside which may not always be available, particularly in apartments
Ventless dryer advantages:
- Easy to install
- Don’t require venting to the outside
- Greater energy savings over time
Ventless dryer disadvantages:
- Most commonly found in compact dryers that have a smaller drum capacity
- Cost more upfront
- Longer drying time
- Require frequent emptying of the collection chamber
Capacity: Full-size vs. Compact
Driers are available in two standard capacities: 25” – 29” models have a drum capacity of roughly 7 cubic feet and 24” compact models have a drum capacity of 3 cubic feet. When deciding between a full-size or compact model, consider both the space you have available for the dryer and what your drying needs are.
Other Dryer Factors to Consider
While energy source, vents, and capacity are the three most important considerations, there are other factors to consider when shopping for a dryer.
- Door orientation: Dryers are available in both front- and top-loading styles. Consider the amount of room you have, whether the dryer will sit side-by-side with a washing machine, and how much space is available for the door to open so you can load/unload clothes. If you need stackable units, a front-load machine is a must.
- Controls: Dryer controls can be manual knobs, a combination of digital and knob, digital only, or touchscreen.
- Drum material: Dryer drums are available in materials including aluminum, porcelain, and stainless steel. There’s no real difference when it comes to performance, but stainless is the least likely to rust.
- Smart features: Today’s high-end dryers are equipped with smart features like Wi-Fi connectivity, Alexa, Google Assistant, and brand apps.
- Steam settings: Some dryers come with steam settings that eliminate wrinkling. This can be a time saver, and helpful for people who allow time to pass before folding or hanging dried clothes. Steam settings can also be used to sanitize, which is beneficial for diapers, bed linens, and kitchen towels and washrags.
Dyer Cost and Buying Advice
Once you’ve determined energy source, size and capacity, and what features you want, it’s time to think about price. Compact dryers can cost anywhere from $299 – $3,399, while standard size dryers can cost between $488 and $4,100.
Shop for dryers at big box stores as well as small appliance outlets, and remember you can find bargains on resale sites, especially if you don't mind a mismatched set. If you prefer matching machines, you're best off buying your washer and dryer at the same time.