Time to Buy a Clothes Dryer: Gas or Electric Dryer

dryer close-up

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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. There are also two options for gas-powered clothes dryers. They can be fueled by either natural gas or liquid propane gas.

Making a Choice Between Gas and Electric Dryers

Most electric dryers operate on 240-volt current, twice the strength of the standard household current, to fuel the heating coils. That's why you'll find the heavy-duty electrical outlet in the laundry room and specially designated breakers in a home's electrical box.

Natural gas and propane gas dryers use a gas burner to create heat, but otherwise, they operate the same as an electric dryer. In 2015, for the first time ever, the United States Department of Energy began rating clothes dryers and some were given an Energy Star rating. The models that receive the Energy Star rating use a heat pump that can reduce the amount of energy used per load of laundry.

And, before you have your old dryer hauled away to a landfill, consider recycling it in creative ways.

gas dryer vs electric
 Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

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. If you do not 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 choose liquid propane, a local company must install a storage tank as well as the gas lines.

Gas Dryer Considerations

Gas dryers cost more to purchase, approximately $50 to $100 more, than the comparable electric model. But in most areas of the United States, natural gas and propane gas dryers will cost less to operate over the lifetime of the appliance. Generally speaking, the cost of electricity needed to dry a typical load of laundry cost twice as much as a load dried using gas as the fuel.

You must also consider installation costs when making a purchase. A gas dryer is going to have an additional cost for installation even if gas line connections are already in place. It is highly suggested that a gas dryer is installed by a reputable technician while an electric dryer can just be plugged into a 240-volt outlet. 

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 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.

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.

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 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.
  • 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.