How Much Does a Tumble Dryer Cost to Run?

How Much Does a Tumble Dryer Cost to Run?

As the cost of living rises, most of us are becoming more mindful of our energy use – whether that means always switching lights off or turning the central heating down a notch. But what about using the tumble dryer? They’ve long had a reputation for being expensive to run, but have things changed? How efficient are the latest heat pump and condenser tumble dryers?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at tumble dryer running costs and ask how much it really costs to get your clothes dry. We’ll cover:

Tumble Dryer

Average tumble dryer running costs in the UK

The >Energy Saving Trust tells us that a tumble dryer uses roughly 4.5 kWh per cycle on average and that, as of April 2022, the average cost for electricity in the UK is 28.3p per kWh. Working on those averages, a tumble dryer would cost you £1.27 per cycle, or £132.44 a year if you use your tumble dryer twice a week.

But it’s not quite that simple. The actual amount you pay will depend on a range of factors, including the type of tumble dryer you’re using, how efficient it is, how often you use it, the type of clothes and load sizes you’re drying, and even where you keep the tumble dryer in your home. We’ll look at these variables in more detail below.

Which is the cheapest tumble dryer type to run?

Saving energy and saving money go hand in hand here. The most energy-efficient tumble dryers – hence the cheapest to run – are heat pump tumble dryers. Condenser dryers come next, closely followed by vented dryers.

Gas tumble dryers are comparable to heat pump dryers in terms of energy efficiency and cost. However, there aren’t many models available currently and they’re expensive to install, meaning they’re not a viable option for many.

Vented tumble dryer running costs

Vented tumble dryers work by drawing in and heating air from the room. The warm air is blown around the drum causing moisture in the clothes to evaporate, and the moist air is then expelled by the hose.

Because they need to be placed near a wall or window, vented dryers may not be suitable for all homes. They’re also known for using more energy – perhaps unfairly, as newer models often feature drying sensors to help save energy.

After the energy price cap rise in April 2022, Ideal Home helpfully calculated average costs for the three main types of tumble dryer. They worked out that a 9kg vented tumble dryer uses 5.34 kWh for a full load cycle, costing £1.50 per cycle. If you used the dryer twice a week, over a year the total cost would be £178.08.

Heat pump vs condenser dryer running costs

Condenser tumble dryers lift moisture from your wet clothes and collect it in a container that sits inside the machine. When the tank is full you simply empty it.

Similarly, a heat pump tumble dryer uses hot air to absorb moisture from your laundry. The difference is that after the hot air has passed through the drum, it goes through a condenser, which removes the moisture and stores it in a tank. The remaining air is reheated (using a heat exchange system, not more electricity) and sent back through the drum multiple times until your clothes are dry. By ‘recycling’ the warm air, they use less energy and are cheaper to run.

According to Ideal Home, a 9kg condenser tumble dryer uses 5.2 kWh for a full load. That’s a cost of £1.46 per cycle and £172.76 annually – almost as much as a vented model.

In contrast, a 9kg heat pump tumble dryer uses 2.16 kWh for a full load. That works out at just 60p per cycle and £72.52 over the year. Again, those figures are based on using your dryer twice a week.

There is a trade-off here to bear in mind: although heat pump tumble dryers use less energy than conventional condensers, they do take longer to dry your clothes.

For a more in-depth comparison of these two types of dryers, see our guide to heat pump tumble dryers.

Hoover Condenser Tumble Dryer
Hisense Condenser Dryer

Tips to keep your tumble dryer running costs down

As you might expect, heat pump tumble dryers generally cost a couple of hundred pounds more than other types to buy in the first place. If you can afford to invest up front, you’ll reap the benefits of much cheaper running costs over the lifetime of the machine.

But even if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, there’s still a lot you can do to get the best out of your tumble dryer and keep running costs to a minimum. We’ve rounded up our top tips here.

1. Buy the most energy-efficient model you can

Regardless of which type of tumble dryer you choose, pay attention to the energy rating. All dryers come with energy ratings, starting with the ultra-efficient A+++ rating and going all the way down to D. According to the Energy Saving Trust, choosing an A+++ rated machine over an A-rated one could save you around £640 over its 13-year lifetime.

Check out our guide to energy rating labels for more information.

2. Make use of energy-saving features

New tumble dryers today some with an array of features to help you save money on every load. Look out for:

Sensor drying

Many tumble dryers have this feature, which uses sensors to work out how long your clothes need to dry and stops the cycle when they’re ready. As well as helping to cut bills, this also helps to prevent damage to fibres so clothes look good for longer.

As a bonus tip, keep the sensor working accurately by giving it a wipe now and then with white vinegar and a cloth – you’ll usually find it just below the door opening in the drum, made from two strips of metal.

Drying levels

If you’re going to be ironing clothes or bed sheets, you don’t need them to be 100% dry. If you choose a dryness level, the cycle will end when the sensors identify that clothes have dried to the required level (look out for the ‘iron dry’ setting!)

Lower temperature settings

Many heat pump tumble dryers use lower temperatures to save energy and help protect your clothes. Some also use drum movements to prevent clothes clumping together and allow warm air to circulate efficiently.

Auto cleaning

The autoclean feature uses water collected during the drying phase to clean fluff from the condenser at the end of each cycle. It’s a clever trick that saves time and money and helps the machine work more efficiently for longer.

3. Don’t under (or over) load

Obviously, it’s not energy efficient to use your tumble dryer to dry just a couple of items. In the example cited by Ideal Home, the 9kg vented machine used 2.9 kWh for a half load, compared to 5.34 kWh for a full one.

Don’t overdo it though. Overload the machine and not only will air not be able to circulate freely in the drum, but you could also end up with an unwanted repair bill or two.

4. Use tumble dryer balls

Tumble dryer balls reduce drying time by helping warm air to circulate around your clothes. For the same reason, if your washing has clumped together in the washing machine – perhaps as a result of a vigorous spin cycle – it’s a good idea to separate and loosen things up before you pop them in the dryer.

5. Keep your dryer in a warm room

Did you know the location of your tumble dryer can impact how efficient it is? When you keep your dryer in a warm room, it’ll take less energy to warm the air up to the necessary temperature, helping you keep energy costs down.

6. Dry similar materials together

Another lesser-known fact: washing and drying clothes made from similar materials together is more energy efficient. Different materials have different drying times, so by sorting loads by material you can run shorter cycles and prevent heavier, damper clothes spoiling your fast-drying items.

7. Choose a faster spin speed

Wetter clothes take much longer to dry. If you can use a faster spin cycle on your washing machine you’ll already have a head start on the drying time.

8. Dry your clothes overnight

If you’re on a cheaper off-peak tariff, take advantage of your tumble dryer’s delay start feature and let it run overnight. As an added bonus, you’ll have toasty-warm clothes to slip on in the morning.

9. Clear the filter after every load

It’s amazing how quickly lint can build up on the tumble dryer filter. The manual most likely told you to clean it after every use, and with good reason – all that dust and fluff restricts the airflow, making drying less efficient. If you have a vented tumble dryer, make sure the wall vent is fluff-free too, and check the hose for kinks.

10. Get your tumble dryer serviced regularly

Just like any other appliance, a tumble dryer will run more efficiently if it’s properly installed and well maintained. A service also gives you the opportunity to pick up on any faults before they cause a bigger issue.

Fancy a more energy-efficient tumble dryer?

A final tip – technology is getting better all the time, so if you’ve had your tumble dryer for a while it could be time to upgrade to a more energy-efficient model.

At Marks Electrical, we stock a wide range of vented, condenser and heat pump tumble dryers from top brands, all at competitive prices with free delivery available.

To get started, take a look at our tumble dryer buying guide. Or you can browse our range of A+++ rated tumble dryers here. Don’t forget, we’re always available to talk you through the options if you need a hand.


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