We’ve tested vented, condenser and heat pump clothes dryers to find the fastest, most efficient, and easiest to use.
What type of dryer?
Vented dryers are simple. They suck in air, heat it, and blow it through your washing. Moisture in the washing evaporates and is then blown back out. Ideally, they’ll be ducted outside.
- Cheaper to buy than condenser and heat pump dryers.
- Need to be vented or ducted outdoors to prevent damp walls and ceiling.
- Expensive to run.
Condenser dryers have a heat exchanger that removes heat and moisture from the air that’s passed through your washing. The moisture is collected (as water) in a reservoir or funnelled out a drain.
- Don't need to be vented or ducted outdoors – just crack a window.
- Expensive – often double the price of vented dryers.
These dryers use a small heat pump to heat the air that’s blown through your washing. The warm, damp air is then cooled to remove the water, which collects in a reservoir or is funnelled out a drain.
The cool air is then reheated and recycled. This closed loop system means there’s very little moisture released into the room. Heat pump dryers are ideal in places where external venting isn’t possible.
Energy efficient – cheap to run.
- Don't need to be vented outdoors.
- Expensive – four times the price of some vented models.
Larger capacity generally means a physically bigger dryer. Measure the space available in your laundry area.
Vented clothes dryers emit a lot of moist air. A model that can be ducted outside is preferable to prevent dripping walls and mouldy ceilings.
Some dryers come with ducting kits, while others have kits as an optional extra. There are also universal ducting kits available from many appliance stores.
Wall mountable or stackable
You'll save space if your dryer can be mounted on the wall or stacked on top of a front-loading washing machine. Typically, vented dryers are the only type that can be mounted on the wall. Stackable models are designed to pair with a washing machine of the same brand.
Racks are useful for drying shoes and other items not suited to tumble drying – they’re usually an optional extra. There are both internal and external types. External racks only work with non-ducted models that have an exhaust in the front door.
What about a washer-dryer?
A washer-dryer does the job of a washing machine and clothes dryer in a single appliance. Is one right for you?
Sensor and timer or timer only
A sensor detects when the washing is dry and automatically turns off the dryer. But some dryer sensors turn off the machine before the load has fully dried. If the sensor of your dryer isn’t working as well as you’d like, use the timer instead.
Sensor and timer models tend to be more expensive than timer only dryers. Think about how often you'll use the sensor or whether you need it at all.
Dryers that reverse the direction of their drum at regular intervals minimise tangling and dry your washing more evenly. Check our test results to see which models have reverse tumbling.
Some dryers come with a bunch of extra settings: extra dry, very dry, cupboard dry and so on. Don't pay more for a machine with settings you won't use. Basic low and high settings will do the job.
This varies between models and depends on the capacity of the machine and the weight of washing being dried. The quickest dryers can dry a load of clothes in under 2 hours. Slower models can take an hour longer. Our test results show which models are quickest.
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 the dryers we've tested need to be manually restarted.
Which brand is most reliable?
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Energy rating labels
The Energy Rating Label shows how energy-efficient a model is compared to other models of the same 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 a dryer will cost to run. The MBIE-reported national average cost of a kWh in New Zealand is 25¢.
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.
If your new dryer costs you several thousand more to buy than another, less energy-efficient model, you’ll need to make that money back through lower running costs.
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. You’ll need to use a heat pump dryer 383 times every year to make it a better option than a condenser model, and 549 times a year to make it better than a vented dryer.
A heat pump dryer will only offer true savings if you’re running it every day. This might suit large families or workplaces. But, for the typical family, a vented dryer will be the cheapest option to buy and run.
If your laundry can’t be ducted or ventilated well, then a condenser dryer won’t cost you much more than a vented model.
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.
Buying second hand
A clothes dryer is a basic appliance, and you can buy one cheaply second hand.
- Buy only if the dryer looks tidy and clean.
- Check that the door opens and shuts properly.
- Under the Electricity Act, all electrical appliances for sale must be safe, whether they're new or second hand, bought privately or from a dealer.
- If you buy from a second-hand dealer and then discover the dryer's faulty, you're covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. If you buy privately, you're not.