Different types of clothes dryers explained

WTo most of us, a clothes dryer is a pretty straightforward proposition – it’s a metal box that takes wet clothes and makes them nice and dry, so we can wear them. Unlike other whitegoods such as refrigerators and washing machines, clothes dryers aren’t afforded a whole lot of consideration in terms of variety or differences between models. The attitude seems to be that if a dryer can dry clothes faster than the sun can, then it’s good enough.

But as with any appliance, there’s quite a bit of variety to be found among different clothes dryers, whether it’s how they’re powered, how big they are, or any number of other factors. So here’s a guide to both the different kinds of clothes dryers, and the differences you might find between models.


The first thing you’ve got to figure out when it comes to a clothes dryer is how big you need it to be. Are you living by yourself in a little flat, or part of a big family? How much clothing do you and your family wear (and subsequently wash) on a weekly basis? The answers to those questions should give you a reasonably good idea of what size you need your clothes dryer to be. Capacity tends to range from 4-10kg, but if you’ve got no clue about your capacity needs, consider these two tips:

  • First, when a dryer states its capacity in kg, that refers to the weight of the clothes once dry, not while they’re sopping wet and straight out of the washing machine.
  • Second, there’s a reasonably useful rule of thumb that states the capacity of your dryer should be double that of your washing machine. While you don’t need to aim for exactly double, just remember that your dryer needs to be quite a bit larger than your washing machine.

Right! Onto your options for how your dryer is powered.

Power options

It’s worth noting that your clothes dryer will be the single most power-hungry appliance in your house, with the possible exception of your fridge. So the way your dryer is powered could have a significant impact on your electricity bill, for better or worse. Your two options are electricity and natural gas, with the differences being:

  • A gas dryer will be slightly more expensive than its electric counterpart, to the tune of $100 or so.
  • However, that same gas dryer will pay for itself several times over by being more energy efficient and cheaper to operate.

While we’re talking about energy efficiency, it’s important to note that efficiency is one area where you won’t find variety among different dryers. Clothes dryers are rather inefficient beasts, to the point where unless you’re willing to spend the best part of $2,000, you won’t find a dryer with more than two and a half stars for energy efficiency.

Going with an electric dryer? Which one?

If you’ve decided to go with a gas-powered dryer, then you can skip this section. But if you’re looking at an electric dryer, it’s important you know that there’s three different kinds – vented, condenser and heat pump condenser. Here are the key differences between the members of the trio:

Vented dryers

  • The most common type of clothes dryer, a vented dryer is also the most basic kind.
  • They are generally cheaper to buy, but more expensive to run.
  • They deal with moist air in a relatively inefficient way, which can lead to a muggy laundry room.

Condenser dryers

  • Are generally more expensive to purchase than a vented dryer.
  • Recycle hot air by extracting the water vapour from it and sending it back through the clothes in the dryer, rather than simply expelling the moist air as a vented dryer would do.
  • While this method of dealing with moist air means no humidity in your laundry room, it doesn’t do anything for the heat itself, meaning your laundry will be just as warm as if you were using a vented dryer.

Heat pump condenser dryers

  • An old form of dryer that appears to be making a comeback due to a desire for more energy-efficient appliances.
  • Purchase price is higher than those of the other two types of dryer.
  • Makes up for the higher purchase price by costing roughly 63% less to run than a similarly sized vented dryer (according to Choice), however it’s worth noting that it’ll take years for that cheaper running cost to offset the higher price tag.
  • Doesn’t vent heated air or water vapour, so no heat and no humidity for your laundry room.

Ok, now we’ve finished going over that, time to move on to the different features you can find on clothes dryers.


In bad news for those with small wallets, features are just one of those things where you get what you pay for. A budget clothes dryer will have a start button, a stop button, and a handful of temperature settings. Dryers closer to the top of the line will probably have, among other things, stainless steel drums, extended tumbling cycles, multiple choices for temperature, cycle options for different kinds of clothing, safety locks, no-wrinkle functions, etc.

Obviously some cheaper dryers will have a few extra features and some of the more expensive dryers might come up short when it comes to features, but as we said before, the hard and fast rule is that you get what you pay for. Also if you live in a smaller space, try to find a dryer that’s either stackable or wall-mountable to save on space.

So there you have it. Every possible thing there is to know about the differences between various kinds of clothes dryers, with the exception of the various nuts, bolts, and circuit boards that make the things work. But who cares about them, right?

Now to take the next step in your clothes dryer journey, we suggest a review of our customer satisfaction ratings for different brands of clothes dryers.

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