Heat Pump Tumble Dryer

What Is a Heat Pump Tumble Dryer?

Tumble dryers have always had a reputation for being expensive to run. So if you’re due an upgrade, why not consider an economical, energy-saving heat pump tumble dryer? True, they’re more expensive to buy than vented or condenser machines. But they more than make up for it with lower running costs, making them a smart investment for the future.

And plenty of UK households agree. Now the technology has been around for a few years, the prices are becoming more accessible, meaning more and more people are switching out their old vented or condenser dryers for a newer, more energy-efficient heat pump model.

In this guide we’ll explain how heat pump tumble dryers work, how they compare to condenser dryers and what to consider if you’re thinking of getting on. We’ll cover:

What is a heat pump tumble dryer?

A heat pump tumble dryer uses hot air to absorb moisture from laundry – as with a condenser dryer, moisture from the air is removed by an evaporator and stored in a tank, ready to be emptied. With a heat pump dryer, the air is then reheated and sent back through the drum until the clothes are dry.

Hotpoint Heat Pump Dryer

How does a heat pump tumble dryer work?

A heat pump tumble dryer passes warm air through the drum, absorbing water from your wet clothes. It then goes through a condenser, which separates the water and collects it in a water tank, also known as reservoir. The remaining dry, warm air is then ‘recycled’ – it’s pumped back through the drum to help the clothes dry faster.

How a heat pump works

It’s this process of reusing the hot air that makes heat pump tumble dryers more eco-friendly than the alternatives. Vented dryers expel the hot air through an external vent, while condenser dryers convert it into water. Added to this, heat pump tumble dryers reach a maximum temperature of 50°C, compared to condenser tumble dryers which can top 70°C. No wonder they cost less to run.

The pros and cons of heat pump tumble dryers

We’ve already mentioned two of the big benefits of heat pump tumble dryers – they’re kinder on the environment... and on your utility bill. However, there are a few more pros and cons to consider before you buy.

First, the pros:

  • They’re cheaper to run – Because the technology reuses the warm air it generates, you can expect some big savings. According to Which?, a heat pump dryer will save you an average of between £42 and £51 a year compared to a vented or condenser dryer. Good news if you’re a big family with a lot of laundry to get through!
  • They’re better for the environment – Using less energy means you’ll be helping to do your bit for the environment too. A heat pump tumble dryer may use as much as 50% less energy than vented or condenser models.
  • They help protect your clothes – Yes, it’s true. Because they work at lower temperatures than vented or condenser dryers, heat pump dryers are gentler on fabrics. They also generally use moisture sensors to work out the perfect drying time and prevent over drying.
  • They can be installed anywhere – More good news if you don’t have space for a tumble dryer in your kitchen or utility room: heat pump tumble dryers don’t need to be plumbed in. All the water is stored in a plastic tank, which you simply remove and empty into your sink. This means you can install one wherever is most convenient.

And now for the cons:

  • They cost more to buy – It’s true you’ll need to invest more up front. Heat pump tumble dryers generally cost a couple of hundred pounds more than other types. Saying that, prices are steadily coming down as more models make it onto the market.
  • They dry clothes more slowly – Because heat pump tumble dryers use a lower drying temperature (around 50°C, compared with 70-75°C for a condenser dryer) they do take a little longer to dry your clothes. That might be a deal breaker if you’re always leaving laundry to the last minute.

Bosch Heat Pump Dryer

Heat pump tumble dryer energy usage

A 9kg heat pump dryer uses about 2.16 kWh of electricity for a full load. Used twice a week on average, that works out at approximately 259 kWh per year, giving an average cost of 43p per cycle and an annual cost of £51.80.

In contrast, the average condenser tumble dryer uses about 5.2 kWh to dry a full load of laundry. Over a year, it would use 617 kWh and cost £1.04 per cycle, £123.40 per year.

Heat pump vs condenser tumble dryers

There are three types of tumble dryer: vented, condenser and heat pump. All three remove water droplets from laundry using hot air.

Vented dryers expel the moist hot air through an external vent, while condenser and heat pump dryers condense and collect the water. Only heat pump tumble dryers reuse the same hot air, sending it back through the drum multiple times until the laundry is dry.

This is known as a closed-loop heat exchange system, and as well as being more energy efficient it also means the heat pump tumble dryers dry clothes more slowly and at a lower temperature. While the process may take a little longer, it’s also gentler on the fibres in your clothes.

The differences in energy usage

You’re probably familiar with energy efficiency ratings – that little chart with coloured bars that show you how well your new appliance compares on energy use. It’s also an indicator of how much each model will cost to run.

Heat pump tumble dryers generally range from A to A+++, meaning you can expect your to be very energy efficient. According to one estimate, an A+++ model with an 8kg capacity could save you up to £91 a year compared to a B-rated condenser dryer. If you have the dryer for 12 years, that’s £1104.

Drying temperatures and laundry wear

If you’re the proud owner of a great wardrobe (or you just don’t want to shrink your favourite jumper to child-sized proportions), heat pump tumble dryers offer a further benefit. They use coolant to ensure the dryer works at a lower drying temperature than standard condenser dryers, meaning laundry stays beautiful for longer and will shrink or wear less quickly.

By contrast, the high drying temperature of a condenser dryer means there’s more chance of annoying shrinkage. They use a heating element to dry laundry and reach a far higher temperature – around 70-75°C.

Drying cycle durations

Here’s where condenser dryers have the advantage. Because they use a heat element, condenser dryers dry your laundry relatively quickly – about 2 hours and 15 minutes to dry 8kg of laundry. But that high heat is harsher on your clothes, and on your pocket. For comparison, an A+++ heat pump dryer with an 8kg load capacity takes an average of 2 hours and 45 minutes (half an hour longer than with a condenser dryer).

Which is better – heat pump or condenser tumble dryer?

So, heat pump tumble dryers are cheaper to run and definitely the more eco-friendly option, as well as gentle on clothes. But they’re expensive to buy and can keep you waiting a bit longer. Condenser dryers are cheaper to buy but more expensive to run. And while they get the job done quicker, that high heat isn’t the gentlest on fabric. The best choice for you really depends on your priorities and lifestyle.

Keen to get a heat pump tumble dryer?

Great! Before you buy, this section answers a few FAQs about buying and fitting a heat pump tumble dryer.

What do you need for a heat pump tumble dryer?

Unlike vented dryers, you don’t need a vent, or an open window to stick a hose out of. In fact, all you really need is a space in your home or garage within reach of a socket.

Where to put a heat pump tumble dryer?

One of the great things about heat pump tumble dryers is that you can install them anywhere. You don’t need to plumb them in because the moisture is stored in a reservoir you can empty straight into the sink. That means you can put install yours wherever works best in your home – you just need an electrical socket nearby.

How to install a heat pump tumble dryer

Most heat pump tumble dryers don’t need to be plumbed in. But some use a drain hose to remove the condensed water, while some give you the option of attaching a hose to save emptying the reservoir. If a drainage hose is used, it will need to be connected to a sink, drain outlet or the drainage system of another appliance.

Different manufacturers and models vary, so always check the manual before installation. As a guide, installing a heat pump tumble dryer with a drainage hose has three steps:

  1. Carefully remove the drain hose from the attachment on the back of the dryer.
  2. Connect the hose to the nozzle.
  3. Place the end of the hose into the drain. Check that there are no twists or bends in the hose, and that it doesn’t go further than 10cm into the drain. Lastly, check that the drain isn't more than 1 metre higher than the tumble dryer.

Shop heat pump tumble dryers at Marks Electrical

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

You can shop our full range of heat pump tumble dryers here. Need a hand choosing? We’re always available to talk you through the options and find the best model for you – just get in touch.


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