Tumble Dryer Buying Guide

Don’t let your washing machine get lonely, add a tumble dryer and stop wasting your life hanging out washing!

Colourful clothes hanging for drying on an airing rack
Life without a tumble dryer looks like this…

Many people view tumble dryers as unnecessary or ‘a bit of a luxury’, but we’re big fans. There’s no denying that they do consume a fair bit of electricity (which comes at a cost to both your wallet and the planet) but you need to weigh this against the huge hassle (and cost) of trying to get your clothes dry any other way. In the Summer months it’s easy enough to stick your washing out on the line assuming you have some outside space. It’s during the looooong, dark winter months that things become a trickier. If you find that you’re meticulously organising your washing on radiators you’ll need to bear in mind that this is going to significantly reduce the effectiveness of your central heating as the clothes will absorb a lot of the heat. If, in turn, you end up having to run your heating for longer this will obviously have a cost attached which has to be accounted for. You may be able to use an airer but, from personal experience, this isn’t always effective and can sometimes lead to clothes smelling musty and needing to be washed again.

Even if you do think a tumble dryer would be a great addition to your home you’ll also need to have the space to house one – not everyone has the luxury of a utility room. Assuming you’ve got the room and the inclination below we’ll run through some of the factors you’ll want to consider when making your selection below.

To be honest, tumble dryers are much more straightforward than washing machines or washer dryers, but there are still some nice features that are worth including on your wish list if budget permits.


Condenser Vs Vented – which is better?

One of the first things you’ll need to decide when choosing a tumble dryer is whether to buy a condenser or a vented model. The differences are as follows

picture of a vent outside a houseA vented model has a hose attached to the rear of the machine which will need to be placed outside of your property either by simply putting it outside of a door or window or ideally being attached to a permanent vent in the wall (like the one shown in the picture on the right). As the excess water is removed from your clothes it is vented out through the hose meaning there is no build up of water or steam in the machine. The main benefit of this type of dryer is that ongoing maintenance is reduced as you don’t need to worry about regularly emptying the excess water reservoir as forgetting can cause machines to malfunction.

A condenser unit works in the same way as a vented model but instead of expelling the hot air and water out of your home it allows the excess water to condense into a reservoir that then needs to be periodically emptied. The benefit of this is that installation is simpler as you don’t need to have a vent drilled through an external wall.

Please also take a look at the video below which explains the key differences


Other things to consider…

1. Capacity / Drum Size

The capacity and drum size of a tumble dryer is going to determine the amount of wash that you can fit in the machine. This is important because households with more people are going to need larger machines to handle the increased amount of laundry. The capacity of a dryer is measured in the same way that the drum size of a washing machine is and you generally want the drum capacity of your dryer to match the drum capacity in the washing machine.

The drum can be measured in volume and in the weight capacity, with weight being the more significant figure for most consumers. The smaller compact machines can go as low as a 3kg weight capacity, whereas you have bigger machines that can handle 9kg or more. On average, a 7 or 8kg capacity machine will be good for most homes, but there are some advantages to going with larger models.

2. Ease of Use

Finding a machine that is easy to use will be another important consideration. Part of the reason for buying a dryer is to make life more convenient, so you don’t want to go with a machine that requires a lot of effort. A few factors can determine the ease of use and it will vary from one model to the next.

The control panel is one thing to consider. Look at the way that the controls are laid out and the accessibility of the different features, options and settings. You also want to think about how easy the machine is to load. Find out the size of the opening and the degree to which the door opens. If a machine is difficult to load and the controls are overly complicated or poorly designed, then the dryer is going to be less convenient than some of the competing models.

3. Running Cost

For many buyers, the running cost of an appliance is going to be an important factor in their purchasing decision. In general, the running cost of dryer is going to come down to the amount of electricity that it consumes per cycle. You can generally find information about the estimated annual energy consumption for most models in the detailed specifications published by online retailers, and in some cases, you may even be able to find figures for the energy consumption for the individual programs.

As a general guide, to run a tumble dryer is going to cost somewhere between £30 and £100 depending on the efficiency of the particular model. This is based on ‘average’ usage and a cost per unit of electricity of £0.154 which is about average for major suppliers. The most energy-efficient tumble dryers available are gas-vented and condenser dryers with heat pumps. These will be closer to the £30 mark with most regular vented and condenser models nearer the higher end.

4. Noise Level

A tumble dryer is an appliance that is going to generate some noise, but you can look for models that emit less noise than others do. While some manufacturers really do not concern themselves with the operating noise of the machine, there are some that use specialized motors and sound-dampening insulation to reduce the loudness of the machine when it is in operation. However, due to the nature of these machines, you will never find one that is whisper quiet.

5. Number of Programmes / Functions

The amount of programs and functions that a machine has will reflect the level of versatility that you can expect from a dryer. Usually, you will have a dial with a dozen or so programs to choose from and then you will have some additional features like the ability to enable crease protection or a lower heat setting. Additionally, there may be different settings for things like timed drying or sensor controlled operation.

The programs and functions are something to consider because you want to make sure that the machine can handle the different types of laundry that you may need to dry. As an example, if you have a lot of wool items, then you will want to look for a machine that has a special program for wool.

Sensor Drying – In the past you simply set your tumble dryer to run for a fixed period of time based on the manufacturers instructions. Now however many models offer sensor drying which means the machine uses inbuilt moisture detection sensors to decide when the load has reached the desired level of dryness (ie cupboard dry, bone dry etc) and then shut off the heat. Obviously this can save energy and also avoid your clothes ending up over-dry and creased to oblivion so can only be a good thing. The only catch is, on many of the machines we’ve tried, the system isn’t perfect and you’ll sometimes find some items are still a bit damp when you come to empty the machine. One way to avoid this is to ensure all socks, jeans etc are fully unfolded before putting them into the drum as these are the areas that tend to retain water even when most of the load is dry.

Cool Down Cycle – Some machines offer a cool down cycle which means they gently reduce the temperature at the end of the cycle rather than simply shutting off which can help to reduce creasing and damage to fabrics.

Anti-Crease Function – It’s not always possible to empty your dryer the minute the cycle ends and this can often be when creases set in. Look out for machines at offer an anti-crease feature (sometimes known as reverse action or reverse tumble) which will continue to periodically tumble the clothes once the drying cycle has ended to minimise creasing.

6. Energy Efficiency

picture of a tumble dryer with an energy efficiency colour templateThough it is not always the case, the less expensive models tend to be less efficient, but the best way to judge the efficiency is by looking for the energy rating. Tumble dryer energy efficiency ratings range from A+++ to G, with A+++ being very efficient and G meaning you’ll have Friends Of The Earth camped outside your door with placards (just kidding).

A dryer that has an A+++ rating is going to be one of the most efficient, but it is also very likely to cost more than models with lower energy ratings. Moreover, two machines that have the same rating may not offer equal efficiency. One model that has a B rating may be more efficient than other models that have a similar B rating.

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If you know that you’re looking for a washing machine click here to find out all the key areas we suggest you research before making a purchase.

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If you’re considering a combo read this buying guide to find out the pros and cons of these machine and the ballpark prices you should expect to pay.

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Thinking of buying built-in units? Read our Integrated Appliance Buying Guide here