Heat pump dryers: Are they worth the money?

Clothes dryers are a mainstay appliance in homes around Australia, providing a hugely convenient way to dry your clothes if you haven’t got the time, space or weather conditions to hang them out on a line. What many people don’t realise, however, is that there are actually several different technologies used in modern-day clothes dryers – some much more energy-efficient than others.

The most effective of all clothes dryers are heat pump dryers, which contain a fully integrated system that’s far superior to simpler condenser or ventilated dryers. Heat pump dryers are usually more expensive, but will save you both time and money in the long run due to their superior energy efficiency. So how do heat pump dryers actually work? What’s so good about them, and what should you look out for when buying one?

How do heat pump dryers work?

The heat pump system used by these eponymous dryers is the exact same cycle used in the air conditioner that cools your living room – and in the power plant that generates electricity for them both!

A heat pump cycle is the same thing as a refrigeration cycle – it basically absorbs energy from a cooler area and then releases it into a warmer area. Some refrigerant fluid (or air) absorbs heat in an evaporator and is then compressed to a high temperature – it then travels to a condenser and releases its heat, before being expanded and returning to the original evaporator to absorb more energy. In a refrigerator or an air conditioner, this cycle is used to remove heat from an area to make it cold. In a heat pump such as a dryer, it’s used to draw energy from electricity and heat up your clothes in the dryer.

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The big advantage of a heat pump dryer is that it’s extremely energy-efficient. Sustainability Victoria claims they use less than half the energy of a traditional ventilated dryer, due to the closed system which extracts moisture from the air before re-heating it to be used again. Whereas a ventilation dryer simply expels the hot, moist air, a heat pump drains off moisture and retains much of this heat to be used again. It’s for this reason that heat pump dryers can achieve an energy-efficiency rating as high as 6 stars – the best score possible – whilst simpler clothes dryer models usually score 2 or 3 stars.

Long-term savings

A heat pump is more complex than a simple vented dryer, the latter of which just draws in air, heats it and then expels it after use. As a result, they’re considerably more expensive; vented dryers start from a few hundred dollars and typically cost less than $1,000, whereas a heat pump dryer usually costs $1,500-$2,500.

Despite this high up-front cost, buying a heat pump dryer over a cheaper dryer is likely to save you money in the long-run. Their vastly superior efficiency will result in lower power bills – particularly important if you use your dryer frequently.  Furthermore, their necessarily higher price means they’re usually built to a higher standard of reliability – similar to how expensive luxury cars loaded with new technology are expected to be high quality. This means that they’ll likely last you for years longer than a cheaper dryer, enabling you to reap the dividends of lower power bills and no repair or replacement costs.

If a heat pump dryer suits your household, then you’re bound to enjoy cost savings and reliable usage for years to come. Even if they’re not what you’re looking for, the technology is bound to trickle down and become cheaper in the coming years, enabling everyone to look forward to a more efficient home.

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