When it comes time to shop for a new clothes dryer, you'll find two power source options. Should you select a gas or electric-powered clothes dryer? All dryers are manufactured with basically the same inner workings. They use a small electric motor to turn a large drum that tumbles the clothes inside and an electric fan to distribute heated air. There are, however, two ways to create the heat needed to efficiently dry clothes, gas or electricity.
Gas vs Electric Dryer: Major Differences
Natural gas and propane gas dryers use a gas burner to create heat, but otherwise, they operate the same as an electric dryer. There may be a significant difference in energy use over the long run between a gas and electric dryer. Installation needs differ between gas and electric dryers. Also, there can be a notable difference in how much it costs to purchase each type of dryer.
There are two options for gas-powered clothes dryers. They can be fueled by either natural gas or liquid propane gas. Gas dryers always need to be vented to the outside.
Most electric dryers operate on 240-volt current, twice the strength of the standard household current, to fuel the heating coils. Some compact or portable electric dryers may operate on a 110-volt current. Most electric dryers need to be vented to the outside to expel moist, hot air. There are a few pricey ventless electric dryers on the market.
Wear and Tear on Clothing
An advantage of natural gas dryers over electric dryers is faster drying of clothes which means less time spent on laundry. Natural gas dryers are more gentle on fabrics because clothes are dried more quickly at specific temperatures to adequately evaporate water from the fabric.
Electric dryers take longer to dry clothes because it takes more time to heat the elements. Electric components also don't run as hot as a gas burner.
Best for Wear and Tear on Clothing: Gas Dryer
Gas dryers have features that maximize drying time resulting in less wear and tear on clothing. If selecting a gas clothes dryer, look for:
- Pilotless ignition, automatic shutoff, and find models that offer electronic sensor drying. They use an electronic moisture-sensing device that "feels" the degree of moisture in the clothes. When the degree of dryness selected is reached, the dryer automatically shuts off.
- An automatic cool-down cycle, a timed interval at the end of the drying cycle when tumbling continues with the heat off to reduce wrinkling of heat-sensitive synthetic fabrics and no-iron finishes.
In most areas of the United States, natural gas and propane gas dryers will cost less to use than electric dryers to operate over the lifetime of the appliance. However, costs depend on the gas rates in your area.
Generally speaking, the cost of electricity needed to dry a typical load of laundry will be twice as much as a load dried using gas as the fuel. This also depends on the electric rates in your area.
Best for Energy Use: Gas Dryer
Over time, you'll find gas driers cost less to operate. In 2015, for the first time ever, the United States Department of Energy began rating gas and electric clothes dryers and some were given an Energy Star rating. Many of the models that receive the Energy Star rating use a ventless heat pump that can reduce the amount of energy used per load of laundry. A heat pump dryer is an alternative to the conventional gas or electric dryer.
If you don't already have a gas line connection, it can be quite expensive to install the necessary lines. Your local utility company must install any connections to underground natural gas lines.
If you have moved from a home with natural gas service but it is unavailable in your new location, the dryer can be powered by liquid propane gas (LP gas). Liquid propane is stored in a large tank on your property.
There are kits available to convert a natural gas dryer to a liquid propane dryer. If you choose liquid propane, a local company must install a storage tank as well as the gas lines. It is highly suggested that a gas dryer is installed by a reputable technician.
An electric dryer can just be plugged into a 240-volt outlet. You'll find there's a heavy-duty electrical outlet in the laundry room and specially designated breakers in a home's electrical box to handle the dryer's energy needs. An electric dryer has a large plug with three or four prongs to fit the outlet.
Best for Installation: Electric Dryer
An electric dryer is simple and easy to install right out of the box. A gas dryer is going to have an additional cost for installation even if gas line connections are already in place.
Most every dryer will come either as a gas or electric version. Gas dryers cost more to purchase, approximately $50 to $100 more, than the comparable electric model. That's because the components for gas dryers are more expensive than those that electric dryers.
Electric dryers are less expensive to purchase than gas dryers. However, a high-end electric dryer can sometimes cost the same as a high-end gas dryer.
Best for Cost: Electric Dryer
The immediate cost to buy an average electric dryer with basic features is lower than a gas dryer. The more features on an electric dryer will drive up the price and likely cost the same as a gas dryer with just as many bells and whistles.
Your choice of which dryer to buy might just come down to what connections are already in place. However, if you have both gas and 240-volt electrical connections in your laundry room, you have a choice in what type of dryer to purchase.
Before you buy any type of dryer, you should consider the needs of your family, your budget, and the appliance features you most desire.
- Dryers with moisture sensors typically shorten drying times and prevent over-drying 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.
- Steam cycles are a nice, but pricey, option and require a water line for the dryer. The same wrinkle removing results can be obtained in a steamy bathroom or by tumbling wrinkled items with a wet towel for several minutes and then hanging to air dry.