Woman impressed with expertly dried laundry

Finding Your Dryer: The Handy Tumble Dryer Guide

Choosing a new appliance can be a minefield and settling on something that doesn't suit your needs can be an expensive regret. We expect tumble dryers to be a long-term investment - making it paramount that you buy the right one for you - but with a multitude of drying methods, features that change from brand to brand and a befuddling energy rating system (scoring a B, despite what we're told at school, is not actually all that good), being sure about your selection is easier said than done. We understand and are here to help.

The first question you should ask yourself is: do I want a vented or condenser dryer? There's nothing tricky here and, once you're familiar with what both do, the choice should be a pretty easy one. So...

Condense Your Options

In simple terms, a vented dryer quite literally vents the water extracted from your clothes outside through a (usually) 4m long plastic hose. This method of drying has a few pros and cons to consider, but the main issue that often arises with this type of machine is accessibility. While depositing moisture directly outside prevents condensation (great for homes susceptible to damp), it also means that the machine needs to be parked next to an external wall to allow for a vent to be fitted - not always easy if you have a compact living arrangement. They are, however, almost invariably more affordable than condenser dryers; starting at as little as £150, they’re a great solution should you find yourself in need of a replacement asap but for an ideal permanent fixture, anything from £200 up to £600 is more of an accurate estimate. With average yearly running costs coming in at around £95 depending on the drum size and frequency of use, they're not the most efficient drying method but certainly won't break the bank. In short, what vented drying lacks in convenience is quickly compensated for in money-saving potential.

A condenser dryer is a little more involved than a vented but is nonetheless still relatively straightforward in principle. It separates water from the damp air circulating in the drum, depositing it into an isolated reservoir that can simply be emptied down the sink after a cycle (or can be drained via the washing machine plumbing if the setup allows). This means the machine is freed from any external wall dependency and gives you the ultimate convenience of installing it just about anywhere you like - provided wherever that may be is well-ventilated. Condensers do indeed have their downsides, though. They’re usually more expensive to buy, coming in at around £200 for the most basic model and climbing into the regions of £700+ should you desire your tumble dryer to sing, dance and possibly make tea. Averaging around £90 a year for a 7kg drum capacity, they're a little easier on energy consumption than vented but, all things considered, there's not much in it. Despite these cons, condenser dryers are the most popular choice as far as sales figures count, and they’re certainly a cost-effective lifetime investment if you can afford the initial price of a trusted brand.

There is, however, a third option.

The Price of Efficiency

A growing number of top-shelf condenser dryers are boasting intelligent heat pump technology that promises to revolutionise the way we dry our clothes – or, at least, the amount of energy required to do so. Heat pump tumble dryers don’t draw in external air like condensers, but rather incorporate a clever closed circuit system that makes use of a (surprise!) heat pump to rapidly cool warm air as it leaves the drum. This action condenses the moisture extracted from your clothes and stores it in the aforementioned reservoir container while the air is then reheated and passed back through the drum to continue the drying process. This recycling of the warm airflow is what makes heat pump technology so incredibly efficient, with running costs averaging a phenomenally low £35 per year – however, these tumble dryers aren’t necessarily the domestic dream these pocket-friendly energy figures will have you believe.

With lower-end models weighing in at just under £400 and reaching the heady heights of quadruple figures (the most expensive we offer coming in at just under £2000), it’s undoubtedly a big investment to make. They’re also somewhat slower than conventional dryers; because of the economical drying method employed, reaching the temperatures of vented or condenser types is unrealistic - depending on the load, it can take up to twice as long to complete a cycle. This is still relatively new tech though, and whilst premium brands (think Miele, AEG and Siemens) are currently the main population of the heat pump market, prices are slowly beginning to drop to levels a little less eye-watering.

Tumble dryer control panel

Some Handy Hints

Whilst deciding on the type of dryer right for you is a commendable step in the right direction, there’s still a myriad of perplexing features, programmes and settings to navigate. Most manufacturers boast special features – more often than not, they’re a rebranded version of functions shared by all dryers in a certain price bracket. To help guide you through this domestic maze, we’ve thrown together a list of what we think are genuinely useful features to look out for to make your money matter.

Sensor Dry

Sensor Dry dryers assess your washing load through weight and moisture sensors, automatically adjusting the cycle to use only the optimum amount of time and energy to deliver your clothes back perfectly dry. Infinitely useful if you don’t like guesswork.

Child Lock

Incorporating a child lock may seem like an obvious thing but it’s something a surprising number of lower end brands omit. Some dryers include not just a door lock but a control panel lock as well, so you don’t have to worry about the fate of your laundry falling to the mercy of your little one.

Reverse Action Drum

Dryers that feature a reverse action drum are excellent if you don’t particularly enjoy ironing. By switching up the rotation movement of the drum throughout the drying process, clothes come out less tangled, more evenly dried and much easier to de-crease – should you choose to make the effort.

Energy Ratings

There’s an increasing importance attributed to energy ratings and for a very good reason. Traditionally, dryers are one of the least eco-friendly appliances you could have in the home but with the introduction of the likes of heat pump technology, scores of A+++ (that’s incredibly efficient, in case it’s unclear) are growing among the ranks.


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