A clothes dryer is considered a must-have appliance in most of today's modern homes. While clotheslines and fresh air remain one of the best methods for drying wet clothes, many households don't have the time or space to use a clothesline. The energy-powered clothes dryer that most of us are familiar with is fueled by electricity, natural gas or propane gas and works by pulling in air, heating the air and then discharging air through a vent.
The discharged air is full of moisture so it is sent through an airtight hose to a rigid vent placed in a wall and then expelled outside.
But there is another kind of clothes dryer - a ventless dryer.
How Do Ventless Dryers Work?
When you shop for a clothes dryer, you can easily find the vented types but there are also two types of ventless clothes dryers that have no output air vent and rely on other methods to dispel the moisture laden air. Two types are condensation or condenser dryers and heat pump dryers. Ventless dryers can function in any location in the home and do not require the installation of a vent pipe; making them perfect for renters and small spaces. All ventless dryers are powered by electricity due to the combustible nature of gas in a non-vented space.
Ventless dryers do require adequate air flow to operate properly.
So, if they are housed in a closet, the door should always be left open during drying cycles.
Like a traditional vented dryer, the condensation dryer pulls in cool, dry air from the room. It is heated and passed through the clothes; but instead of being vented outside, the air travels through a heat exchanger.
A cooling device, the heat exchanger cools the heated air causing the moisture in the air to condense and flow into a containment chamber within the dryer. As the air is dried, it is reheated and passed through the clothes again. The process is repeated until the clothes are dry.
Some models allow the water to be directed and discharged through a washer's drainpipe. This is convenient if you can locate the dryer directly next to the washer or stack the two units. A condenser unit with a discharge unit needs the same attention as one with a containment chamber except for emptying the chamber.
Heat Pump Dryers
A heat pump dryer pulls air from the room which is passed through a heat pump where the cold side condenses the water vapor into either a drain pipe or a collection tank and the hot side reheats the air to use again. Heat pump dryers use less than half the energy required by either condensation or traditional dryers.
How to Use and Maintain a Condenser Dryer
Just as with a vented dryer, there are maintenance steps that should be taken with a condenser dryer. If the maintenance is not done, the dryer must work harder to dry clothes and will not last as long as it should.
After EVERY load, the containment chamber must be emptied and the dryer lint trap cleaned to be sure that no debris or lint is clogging pipes.
The water that is collected can be recycled to water indoor plants or gardens.
Most lint traps are located just inside the dryer door. After every load, remove the trap and scrape away the lint. Once every two weeks or so, the lint trap should be washed with a bit of dish washing soap and cleaned with a soft brush to remove any build-up from dryer sheets or residue fabric softener or detergent.
No matter how diligent you are about emptying and cleaning the lint trap, eventually lint will build up on the condenser unit of the dryer. The unit should be checked and cleaned at least four times per year. If the condenser is covered with lint, it will reduce the efficiency and longevity of the dryer.
To clean the condenser unit, remove it from the dryer and take it outside or to a large utility sink.
Using a hose or strong flow of water, rinse each side of the unit to remove any lint build-up that may be inside. Allow the unit to air dry until no water is visible or caught in the unit. Replace in the dryer.
If you need an operating manual, which usually includes a diagram of the dryer parts, you can find one here.
The outside of the dryer can be cleaned with a damp cloth and a bit of all-purpose cleaner. While a condenser dryer does not need an outside vent, they do require adequate air flow to operate properly. If they are housed in a closet, the door should be open during drying cycles. It is also important to vacuum regularly behind and around the unit to keep excessive dust at bay.
Prices range from unit to unit, but in general condenser dryers tend to be slightly more expensive than vented dryers. They also use more electricity to run their extra components, which can add to the cost over time which is why it is important to maintain them well.