Choosing the right clothes dryer pays off in the long run.
We’ve tested heat-pump, condenser and vented clothes dryers to find the most efficient, easiest to use and fastest.
Mechanically, vented dryers are simple beasts.
They suck in air and heat it before blowing it through the clothes. Water in the clothes evaporates – and this hot humid air is blown out of the dryer, preferably through a duct to the outside of your house.
Condenser dryers use a heat exchanger to remove heat and water from air that has passed through your clothes.
The water is collected in a reservoir or funnelled down a drain.
Heat pump dryers use a small heat pump to heat the air that dries your clothes. The warm, damp air is then cooled to remove the water, which is collected in a reservoir or funnelled down a drain. The cooled air is then reheated and recycled within the dryer. This “closed loop” system means there’s very little hot air or moisture released into the room. They’re ideal for places where external venting isn’t possible, like apartments.
In the market for a dryer? Consider the following features.
Larger capacity generally means a physically bigger dryer – so the capacity of your dryer is likely to be determined by the available space in your laundry area.
Vented clothes dryers generate lots of warm moist air – a model that can be ducted outside is preferable. Ducting to the outside prevents dripping walls and mouldy ceilings. Some dryers come with ducting kits supplied, kits for other models are an optional extra. You can pick up universal ducting kits from appliance stores like Noel Leeming and Bond & Bond (priced between $50 and $70).
You'll save space if your dryer can be mounted on the wall or stacked on top of a front-loading washing machine. Vented dryers (see "What type of dryer?", above) are generally the only dryers that you can wall mount. Stackable models are designed to be mounted on top of a front-loading washing machine of the same brand. If you want to stack your dryer, check on this before you buy it.
These are used for drying shoes and other non-fabric items so they don't tumble as they dry. Racks are usually an optional extra, available in internal and external types. External racks only work with non-ducted models with an exhaust grille in the front door.
A washer-dryer does the job of a washing machine and clothes dryer in a single appliance. Is one right for you?
"Extra dry" or "cupboard dry"? Here are the essential electronic features.
A sensor detects when the clothes are dry enough and automatically turns off the dryer. Some members have complained that sensors switch off the machine before the load has fully dried. Models with a sensor usually have a timer as well, so if you don’t think the sensor is working, try using the timer instead.
Sensor-and-timer models tend to be more expensive than timer-only. Think about how often you'll use the sensor: there's no point paying for sensor drying if you use it only occasionally.
Many models reverse the direction of their drum at regular intervals. This minimises tangling and dries your clothes more evenly.
Some dryers come packed with automatic settings: "extra dry", "very dry", "cupboard dry" and so on. Don't pay more for a machine with extra settings you won't use – a more limited number of settings (such as "high" and "low") should do you just fine.
This varies between models, and depends on the capacity of the machine, and the weight of clothes being dried. The quickest models can dry a load of clothes in about 2 hours. Slower models can take up to 90 minutes longer.
Dryers that automatically start tumbling again if you open and close the door mid-cycle are dangerous for young children who might climb inside the drum and shut the door behind them. All of the dryers we've tested need to be manually restarted.
The Energy Rating Label shows how energy-efficient a model is compared to other models of the same size/capacity.
More stars = more energy efficient.
The energy consumption figure is in kilowatt-hours (kWh) and you can use this figure and the cost (tariff) from your latest power bill to calculate how much this model will cost to run. The MBIE-reported national average cost of a kWh in New Zealand is 29¢.
Lower kWh = cheaper to run.
Clothes dryer annual energy consumption in kWh is based on standards testing and assumes 52 uses a year.
You should only compare star ratings of clothes dryers with the same or similar capacities.
For information on energy ratings and how to use them, see our Energy Rating Labels explained article.
That’s why we calculate life-cycle costs, which show the real cost of a dryer over 10 years. Inflation and interest rates mean each dollar spent on a dryer now is worth more than a dollar saved through reduced running costs in the future. We also factored in a yearly power price hike of 1%.
We plotted the average life-cycle cost over 10 years for the top-performing models in each category. The result’s a bit grim for heat pump dryers, with 383 loads required every year to make them a better option than condenser models.
The numbers are even more daunting if your house is suitable for a vented dryer. You’ll need to dry 549 loads a year to make heat pump dryers cheaper to buy and run than vented models.
This means heat pump dryers will only offer true savings if you’re running at least one load every day. While this could suit some large families or workplaces, it’s not viable for most of us. For the typical family, vented dryers will be the cheapest option to buy and run. However, if your home isn’t suitable for ducting, or you don’t have a well-ventilated space for a vented dryer, then a condenser model won’t cost you too much more.
GUIDE TO THE FIGURE We’ve charted the average 10-year life-cycle costs for the models in each category which perform well enough to earn our recommended tick. The intersection of the lines is the number of loads per year required to make heat pump dryers economic with respect to condenser or vented models. Results are shown for a 3.5kg load.