Different types of clothes dryers explained


To 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. We will cover each topic in the following order:

  • Dryer capacity
  • Power options – Electric vs Gas
  • Dryer types
  • Dryer features

Dryer capacity

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.

As a rough guide to sizing, consider the following:

Power options – Electric vs Gas

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

Dryer types

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 gas dryers and the members of the electric trio:

Gas dryers

Gas dryers

Gas dryers use gas to heat the tumbler and in turn, uses less electricity to fuel the appliance compared to standard dryers. In terms of wet weight capacity, expect 4kg to 9kg.

  • Generally cheaper to run
  • Often heats up clothes faster than electric dryers
  • Require a vent to the outside, thus not ideal for small apartments

According to Appliances Online, the average price of a gas dryer in Australia is well over $2,000, which is a sizeable investment. The full range typically starts at around $1,500 and can go up to $3,600.

Vented dryers

Vented dryers

Vented dryers heat up air and pass it into the drum. 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. Most vented dryers range from 3kg to 9kg of capacity.

  • Most common type of clothes dryer and also the most basic kind
  • Generally cheaper to buy, but more expensive to run
  • Deals with moist air in a relatively inefficient way, which can lead to a muggy laundry room

Prices start from as little as $450 and max out at around $3,600.

Condenser dryers

Condenser dryers

Condenser clothes dryers 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.

  • Generally more expensive to purchase than a vented dryer
  • Don’t require as much ventilation as tumble dryers, thus you’re not restricted to where you position the dryer, which is ideal for apartment living
  • Too heavy to be wall mounted but can be stacked on a front load washing machine

A condenser clothes dryer can be had from around $650 for the basic kind and up to $4,000 for the more advanced models.

Heat pump condenser dryers

Heat pump condenser dryers

Heat pump dryers are a type of condenser dryers that recycle heat in the process of extracting moisture.  It’s 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 vented or condenser dryers
  • Makes up for the higher purchase price by being extremely energy efficient, 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

Expect prices from around $950, going all the way up to the $5,000 mark.

Dryer Features

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. Some key features to look out for any type of dryer include:

  • Energy ratings: look for energy efficient dryers – the more stars the better! While an energy-efficient dryer might cost you more upfront, it can help you save in the long run with cheaper energy bills
  • Size: apart from load capacity, it’s also important to measure the space where you want to fit one in as not all dryers are the same size
  • Programs: while the basic program might suffice, you might want to look out for models that feature additional programs such as anti-crease or sportswear
  • Lint filter: typically needs to be cleaned regularly, so look out for dryers with easy to access lint filters
  • Auto-sensing: is a particularly helpful feature that automatically stops the drying process once it senses that the load is dry, which helps to keep your clothes from over-drying as well as save you on electricity bills
  • Electronic display: the more advanced the dryer is, the more high-tech the front panel will be. Electronic displays allow you to see at a glance how much time is remaining and when systems such as the lint filter or water container need to be emptied

Obviously, some of the more expensive dryers will have a few extra features and some of the cheaper dryers might come up short, 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.

The bottom line on clothes dryers

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. While there are certainly pros and cons to each type of dryer, it might ultimately come down to your budget in terms of which one you will settle on. Nevertheless, we hope you found this guide helpful! To offer an extra hand in regards to which brand to buy, why not check out our customer ratings for clothes dryers, which can be found via the link below:

Clothes Dryer Reviews & Ratings

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