Clothes dryer buying guide

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned white goods owner, buying a new clothes dryer can be a daunting experience. New features and technology can make the process confusing, and if your household has expanded since the last time you bought a dryer, you might not be too sure about what capacity is suitable for you and your family. On top of that, clothes dryers are one of the most energy-hungry appliances you’ll ever own, so energy efficiency needs to be top of mind.

While some of the important aspects of appliance buying are purely personal and subjective, we can certainly try to give you a hand with the more factual parts of shopping for white goods. So this is our buying guide for clothes dryers, complete with all the knowledge we can give offer to help you make the best choice possible.

Clothes dryer capacity

Clothes dryers come in a wide range of weight capacities, but if you’ve never actually gone to the lengths of figuring how much your laundry actually weighs, the numbers will be fairly meaningless to you. The fact is that you simply need a dryer that can handle your laundry. So, here’s what you do:

  1. Do you own scales to weigh yourself? If you don’t, borrow some from a friend.
  2. Weigh your laundry basket without anything in it. Record the weight.
  3. Fill your basket with a weeks’ worth of laundry. Weigh it and record the number.
  4. Subtract the empty basket weight from the total and you’ll know how much your weekly laundry weighs.

Now you’ve done that, here is a guide to clothes dryer sizes and weights. Keep in mind that buying a dryer with a capacity slightly greater than what you probably need isn’t a bad idea because you never know when you’ll need to wash a huge load of linen or towels, and you’re better off with too much than you are with not enough.

Dryer capacity Suitable for
5kg or smaller 1-2 people
5-7kg 3-4 people
7kg or greater 4+ people

Clothes dryer size

Don’t put yourself through the heartbreak of buying what you think is the perfect dryer, only to bring it home and discover it doesn’t fit in the space you’ve allocated for it. Make sure to measure the space you’ve got in mind for your new dryer, and measure the appliance you’ve got your heart set on. Even if the dimensions of the dryer are specified on the attached store tag, measuring it to double check they haven’t fudged or rounded any of the numbers isn’t a bad idea.

Also keep in mind that, from a safety perspective, it’s a good idea to leave a decent amount of space between your dryer and the wall, or other appliances.

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Clothes dryers features

While you’ll always be able to pick up a cheap bare-bones dryer that lets you simply press start, you might want to take a look at the features offered on some of the better-kitted models. Some of them are pretty handy, and may even save you some time and money.

  • Moisture sensor: Dryers equipped with this feature will be able to sense when your clothes are dry, and then cut the cycle short accordingly. This can obviously save you quite a bit in terms of energy expenditure – up to 15%! While models with this feature might also come with a higher price tag, consider the potential savings you’ll make on future energy bills.
  • Variety of programs: It’s a basic rule of thumb that the more expensive your dryer, the more programs it’ll come with. Quick cycles and dedicated programs for light and heavy garments are some of the more basic programs you’ll find on dryers, but there’s many more to be found on higher-end models. While these may sound like additional extras that you probably don’t need, consider the fact that they’re there for efficiency purposes. If you have an item of clothing that’s just a little damp, running it on quick cycle rather than a full one will definitely save you energy, and subsequently save you money.
  • Delayed start: This is another function that may initially seem pointless, but for those looking to save energy this feature could be just the ticket. Depending on your provider, electricity can cost varying amounts at different points in the day due to tariffs and ‘off-peak’ times. Setting your dryer to run during off-peak times of day could save you some serious dollars on your energy bills for exactly zero additional effort on your part.
  • Steam drying: A slightly more recent innovation in the field of clothes dryers, steam drying offers a number of advantages over regular hot-air drying. Among other things it can actually sterilise your clothes, make them significantly easier to iron, and kill off any nasty smells that may linger in your clothes. This is definitely worth the investment if you can afford it.

Different types of clothes dryers

Believe it or, while all dryers more or less look the same, they’re far from uniform in terms of how they work. There are a few different types of clothes dryers, with some being more efficient than others and some being more expensive to purchase than others. Here’s a breakdown of the main types of clothes dryer that you’ll run into.

  • Vented dryers: The most basic, stock-standard model of clothes dryer, vented dryers heat up air and then pass it into the drum holding the clothes. Once the hot air has become too moist to dry any further, it’s vented out of the drum and replaced with new, dry air. These are generally the cheapest clothes dryers you can buy, but lower energy efficiency makes them more expensive in the long term.
  • Condenser dryers: Similar to a vented dryer but far more energy efficient, condenser clothes dryers take moisture-laden air and, as the name suggests, condenses it into water, which is then either stored in a water tank or drained away. They don’t require any ducts or vents for hot air which makes them easy to install, but they will increase the moisture level in your laundry room. They’re more energy efficient than their vented counterparts but they’re also more expensive upfront.
  • Heat pump dryers: Generally the most energy efficient kind of dryer that you can buy, heat pump dryers use a heat pump to heat air, but then after the air has become damp it’s cooled to extract the water and reheated for use again. It’s a locked cycle, making them both efficient and convenient, and unlike other types of clothes dryers, a heat pump dryer won’t create heat or moisture in your laundry room. According to The Good Guys, a heat pump dryer uses less than half the energy per load of a condenser or vented dryer.
  • Gas-powered dryers: These are similar to standard vented dryers, but use a gas burner instead of electricity to create heat. Gas-powered dryers are generally more energy efficient than vented models, but will cost more to buy upfront.
  • Washer/dryer combos: Sacrificing overall energy efficiency for the convenience of having your washing machine and dryer in the one box, washer/dryer combos are an appealing option for those in small homes or apartments. However, the two-in-one nature of these models renders them a jack of all trades and a master of none. But as technology develops, washer/dryer combos should start to improve.

Energy efficiency and cost

Canstar Blue research shows that about a quarter of households considered energy efficiency the number one decision factor when they last bought a new clothes dryer. Chances are it’s important to you to – and it should be. The initial outlay of a clothes dryer can be significant, but it’s the running costs that you’ll continue to pay on a daily or weekly basis, and will eventually determine the long-term cost of your clothes dryer. On average, Aussie households keep their clothes dryers for about seven and a half years, having spent an average of $531 on the initial purchase. Shop around and you’ll find clothes dryers valued at anything from $300 to over $1,000, with the more energy efficient models occupying the higher price point.

So, once you’ve narrowed down your choices to a few different brands or models, input their specifications into the Smarter Choice clothes dryer running costs calculator. This will give you an idea of how much energy the various models will use over a long period of time, and how much money said energy use will cost you in the long run. Speaking of which…

Long term reliability

Reliability is an incredibly valuable thing for an appliance to have. If you’re going to be spending hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, on an appliance then you’ll want it to last you as long as possible, while giving you very little trouble. In our most recent clothes dryer ratings, we found Electrolux to be rated highest by consumers in terms of the brand’s performance and reliability, with a five-star rating. LG, Fisher & Paykel and Simpson also did well for reliability, scoring four stars.

That’s everything we can tell you about clothes dryers and what to look for if you’re in the market for one. Do keep in mind that all of the above is reasonably general advice, so make sure to do your own research and think long and hard about the merits and drawbacks of any appliance you’re considering for purchase. Your wallet will thank you for it.

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