The tumble dryer is an incredibly useful invention; with its help, you’ll be able to get your newly-washed clothes dry in next to no time – and with next to no effort. It’s particularly welcome during winter, when drying your clothes the natural way might be tricky.
Tumble dryers come in many different shapes and sizes, and choosing the right one for your home and lifestyle can sometimes be difficult. That’s why we’ve put together this buyer’s guide, in which we’ll explain how the various dryers work, and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s begin with an overview of the main sorts of dryers.
Types of Tumble Dryers
Vented dryers work by heating your clothes, causing the moisture inside them to evaporate. The steamy air in the dryer is constantly being expelled from a vent in the rear, which is attached to a pipe that leads outside. Vented dryers are cheaper than condenser dryers, but the fact they need venting means they’re a little trickier to install.
Condenser dryers do not need to be vented. This means you’ll be able to install them in any room where the ventilation is sufficient (they’ll still generate a little bit of moisture). Condenser tumble dryers use a special device called a heat exchanger, which collects water from the air and drains it – either into a special tray, which must be regularly emptied, or directly into the plumbing system.
Heat pump dryers are the most energy efficient dryers available. This is because they’re able to work at a lower temperature, and therefore consume less electricity. They’re also quieter than their peers, making them ideal for households where peace and quiet is important.
Heat pumps work via a system of circulating air, which alternately condenses air by filtering it before circulating warm air back into the drum. Since the hot air is kept inside the machine rather than being vented as steam, we don’t have to waste energy heating cold air back up again – which is what makes heat-pump dryers so much more efficient.
That said, this efficiency comes at a price; you should expect to pay several hundred pounds for a decent quality heat pump dryer.
Gas dryers work in the same way as vented dryers, but with one crucial difference – they heat your clothes using gas instead of electricity. This tends to make them more economical than the alternatives – but since they need to be installed safely with the help of a registered gas engineer, getting them into position in the first place can sometimes be tricky.
What Size Tumble Dryer?
Dryers come with different sized drums to meet the needs of different households. You’ll want to select one that’s matched to your average laundry load. Drum sizes are measured according to the weight of laundry they can accommodate in a single cycle. The smallest might offer room enough for just 3kg, while the largest might provide space for 9kg or more.
Larger drums sizes are ideal for big families. They tend to be more efficient, using less energy per kilo of wet laundry than smaller tumble dryers. But this is only the case if you’re able to fill the drum to capacity every time – so if you feel that you’ll struggle to fill the dryer, you’ll likely be wasting more energy than you could hope to save.
At the other end of the spectrum are compact dryers, with room for 3-5kg of clothing. If you live on your own, then this might be a sensible option. While compact dryers tend to be slower and more wasteful than their larger counterparts, you might end up saving energy with a smaller dryer if you only have a small amount of clothes to dry each week.
Most commercially-available dryers fall between these two extremes, at around 6-7kg. This is equivalent to around 18-21 men’s shirts, which is about right for the majority of households.
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Choosing an Energy Efficient Tumble Dryer
When you’re selecting a tumble dryer, you’ll want to consider the cost. This figure will include not just the upfront cost of the machine, but the amount of energy it uses.
How much does a tumble dryer cost per hour?
Compared to most of the appliances in your home, a tumble dryer is quite expensive, drawing around 2,400 watts during a cycle. This works out to around thirty-five pence per hour – or around eighty-five pounds per year (depending on how many times you use it). Of course, some cycles, on average, are more energy-efficient than others, and, as we’ve seen, some sorts of dryers consume less power than others.
Does a condenser dryer use more electricity?
As we’ve noted, condenser driers tend to offer superior efficiency compared to their vented cousins. The same is true for gas-powered dryers. The power consumption of a dryer will be listed in the form of the kilowatt hours it uses per annum, which you can use to deduce exactly how much extra cost you’ll be taking on. You’ll also find an energy rating, which might fall anywhere between D and A+++ (the former being the worst and the latter being the best).
If you’re paying many hundreds of pounds for an appliance on the basis that it’ll pay for itself in the long run, you should be aware that the ten pounds you’ll save on electricity every year by opting for a more expensive model might take several years to recoup.
How long does it take for a tumble dryer to dry clothes?
The larger a load is, the longer it will take for that load to dry. A bedsheet might be done in just an hour or so, while a load of heavy towels might take twice that. You’ll also need to consider how wet the clothes were when they first went in – if your laundry is entering the dryer soaking wet, perhaps because of a problem with your washing machine, then your dryer will take much longer to do its job – and it’ll use up a great deal more power in the process.
Features and Functions
If you’re shopping at the cheaper end of the market, you’ll find that dryers offer only the essentials. You might be able to adjust the temperature to suit different sorts of fabrics, but beyond that your options will be quite limited. If you’re willing to spend a little more, however, you’ll find that pricier dryers come equipped with features and functions that’ll make your life much easier.
Cupboard dry versus Iron dry
Clothes tend to be slightly easier to iron if they’re ever-so-slightly damp. This moisture will be quickly evaporated by the heat of the iron, and it’ll help to eliminate creases that much more easily and efficiently.
If you’d like your clothes to come out of the dryer with a little bit of moisture left in them, then select ‘iron dry’. If you’d like to put your clothes straight into the cupboard, on the other hand, then it might be better to select ‘cupboard dry’.
Synthetic fabrics have slightly different drying requirements than natural fabrics. If you’re drying synthetics, then a special program designed for that purpose will get better results. These programs will usually require that the drum be under-filled.
Tumble dryers work by heating clothes up – which is great for removing moisture, but not so great when your fingers encounter the brass button on a pair of jeans. Avoid this with the help of a post-dry cooling cycle.
If you’ve got small children in your house, you probably won’t want them to be able to tamper with your dryer. A child lock function will provide the necessary protection.
A machine that comes with a sensor will be able to detect how much moisture is in the drum, calculate how much drying time is necessary, and stop the dryer when your clothes are finished. While a sensor will add to the upfront cost of the dryer, it will ensure that your dryer is only active for as long as it needs to be, cutting costs in the long term.
Many modern dryers, like modern fridges and freezers, come with reversible doors that can be removed and reattached so that they open from the opposite side. If space is at a premium, then this might help to make your life easier.
So, Should You Buy a Tumble Dryer?
If you’ve yet to invest in a dryer, and are more used to hanging your clothes on a line, then you might find it has a significant (positive) effect on your life – for most, there’s no going back after making the switch.
When making your decision, you’ll need to weigh several different factors. You’ll need to account for the upfront cost of the dryer, while being sure to account for the cost of installation and the savings you’ll make by opting for a more efficient device. You’ll also need to work out how much clothing you’re looking to dry at once, and how much you’ll benefit from special features like iron-ready drying cycles and reversible doors. Once you’ve accounted for these things, you’ll be in a much better position to choose a dryer that’s right for you.
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