Shopping for a clothes dryer is a bit more simple than shopping for a washer but there are many more options today from every brand than in years past. Today's clothes dryers offer a wide range of features to complement washing machines. Before you buy, take the time to consider the laundry needs of your family and recycling your old dryer in a creative way to keep it out of the landfill.
Is a Matching Set Necessary?
The main benefit of purchasing a washer/dryer set is that the styles, colors, and heights will match. They are more attractive but certainly not necessary to doing laundry well. The average life expectancy of a dryer is 13 years; so weigh that against buying a new one right now.
There are two basic dryer options in the United States: traditional front load or front load with steam to remove odors and wrinkles. Each is available in gas-fueled or electricity run options.
Traditional dryers are usually less expensive and still offer a wide range of sizes, multiple temperature settings, and cycle options. The capacity sizes can vary from compact 4.4 cubic feet units to 9.5 cubic feet.
Steam dryers offer a cycle that incorporates water vapor to freshen clothes by removing wrinkles and odors. These models are more expensive and some require the installation of a water line to the machine.
Gas or Electric
There are two ways to create the heat needed to efficiently dry clothes—gas (natural gas or propane) or electricity. Which one should you choose?
Most electric dryers operate on 240-volt current, twice the strength of the ordinary household current, to fuel heating coils.
Natural gas dryers use a gas burner to create heat, but otherwise, they operate the same as an electric dryer. Natural gas is more efficient in heating air and dries clothing more quickly than electricity. Installation of a gas line must be done by a professional which will add to the cost if a gas line is not already available.
Vented or Ventless
For homes without a dryer venting system, there are ventless clothes dryers often called condensation dryers. Ventless clothes dryers have no output air vent and rely on other methods to dispel the moisture-laden air.
Two types are condensation dryers and heat pump dryers. Ventless dryers can function any place in the home and do not require installing a vent pipe making them perfect for renters and small spaces. All ventless dryers are powered by electricity due to the combustible nature of the gas.
While all dryers require maintenance to prevent lint build-up, ventless dryers do require a bit more daily care to prevent moisture problems.
Energy Star Ratings
Until 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy did not rate clothes dryers for energy efficiency. Older models showed little difference in the energy use between models.
However, that has changed. Working with appliance manufacturers, the DoE developed efficiency specifications that some manufacturers have met by incorporating advanced sensors that more effectively detect when clothes are dry and stop the dryer. The Energy Star certified dryers with the improved sensors are available as gas, electric and compact models.
At least 45 models of dryers earned the Energy Star label, including Whirlpool, Maytag, Kenmore, LG, and Safemate, by being at least 20 percent more efficient than older models and are now available at prices comparable to standard dryers.
Options and Special Features
Dryers with moisture sensors typically shorten drying times and prevent overdrying that can shorten the life of your clothing. Noise reduction packages are a good choice if your dryer is located in or near a family room.
Perhaps the most important "option" for a clothes dryer is how you connect the dryer to your home's venting system. If you still have a flexible plastic accordion-style dryer vent hose, replace it immediately. Whether white plastic or shiny foil material it is a lint trap just waiting for an accidental fire to happen. Be sure to buy and install the proper rigid metal or rigid plastic dryer hose vent and outdoor vent and clean them regularly.
Even if you already have a clothes dryer, get out that measuring tape before you go shopping anywhere. Measure the laundry room space—height, width, and depth—as well as the sizes of any appliances you plan to keep. Measure the doorways and access areas, write it all down and take your notes and tape measure with you when shopping. Be certain that the location of the dryer vent will align with your new dryer.