Tumble dryers: How to buy the best tumble dryer Tumble dryer types
Before you start shopping for a tumble dryer, you'll need to decide which type will best suit your needs.
There are four types of tumble dryer – electric vented tumble dryers, electric condenser tumble dryers, gas vented tumble dryers and compact tumble dryers.
Read about the pros and cons of each type to see which one will suit you best, then check out the Which? tumble dryer reviews for the latest Which? Best Buys.
There's a huge difference in the prices of tumble dryers. You can pay less than £100 for an entry-level model, while top-end A-rated quick-drying dryers cost closer to £1,000.
Electric vented tumble dryers
Vented tumble dryers take warm, damp air from the drum and vent it out through a hose. Almost all vented tumble dryers are electric.
- Pros Electric vented tumble dryers are cheaper and generally use less energy than condenser models.
- Cons Vented tumble dryers need to be positioned near a window or door to vent the air away.
Vented tumble dryer prices
About £100 will buy you an entry-level vented tumble dryer. A top-of-the range vented model will be about £700.Best Buy vented tumble dryers start from around £180.
Electric vented tumble dryer brands
Electric vented tumble dryers are made by manufacturers including AEG, Beko, Bosch, Electrolux, Hotpoint, Indesit, Miele, Siemens and Zanussi.
Electric condenser tumble dryers
Electric condenser tumble dryers remove moist warm air from the drum. It's then cooled inside the machine, and the resulting water is collected in a removable reservoir.
- Pros A condenser tumble dryer can be installed anywhere – it doesn't need to be near a window or wall. Because water from the drum is collected, steam isn’t an issue.
- Cons Choose a poor condenser dryer and you'll still have to cope with damp air and the possibility of mildew. You need to empty the reservoir regularly.
Condenser tumble dryer prices
About £150 will buy you an entry-level condenser tumble dryer. A top-of-the-range condenser model will be about £800.
Best Buy condenser tumble dryers start at around £280.
Condenser tumble dryer brands
Condenser tumble dryers are made by manufacturers including AEG, Beko, Bosch, Electrolux, Hotpoint, Indesit, Miele, Siemens and Zanussi.
Gas vented tumble dryers
Gas vented tumble dryers use gas as their heat source to dry the laundry. As with electric vented tumble dryers, damp air is vented away through a hose.
Gas dryers are an energy-saving alternative to traditional electric machines. On average, a standard electric condenser or vented dryer will add around £100 to your annual energy bills. A gas dryer uses almost no electricity and we estimate you’ll pay around £40 per year for gas, making it significantly cheaper to run.
We've tested two gas powered models, the ECO 43A and the ECO 83A from White Knight - both of which cost around £300, or almost three times the price of its cheapest models. However, gas tumble dryers need specially qualified Gas Safe engineers to install them, which can add another £100 to £300 to the initial price – and these models can also be hard to find.
The installation charge will vary according to how much work it requires to safely run gas to where you want the dryer, but the cheapest quote we've had is £100 to £150. So before you consider buying a gas dryer, use the advanced search on the Gas Safe register site to find an engineer with 'tumble dryer' listed as one of their areas of work, and get a quote.
- Pros Gas vented tumble dryers have cheap running costs and good drying performance.
- Cons Gas dryers need to be professionally installed by a Gas Safe registered installer. Like electric vented tumble dryers, gas vented models need to be positioned near a window or door to vent the air away.
Gas vented tumble dryer prices
Two gas vented tumble dryers are available from White Knight for about £300 each.
Best Buy gas vented tumble dryers start at around £300.
Gas vented tumble dryer brandsCrosslee, manufacturers of White Knight tumble dryers, makes gas powered tumble dryers.
Compact tumble dryers
Compact tumble dryers can be vented or condenser. They're much smaller than full-sized dryers, with correspondingly smaller drum capacities.
- Pros These tumble dryers are compact – so, if space is tight and you need a dryer, a compact will be your only option.
- Cons Compact tumble dryers are slower, less efficient and have capacities that are on average half the size of full-sized machines.
Compact tumble dryer prices
You can find compact vented dryers from about £100. Compact condenser dryers are more expensive at about £280.
Compact tumble dryer brands
Compact tumble dryers are available from manufacturers including Hotpoint, Indesit, White Knight and Zanussi.
Heat pump tumble dryers
Heat pumps are a tumble dryer innovation that can lead to big energy savings. They work in two ways: reheating air that's sucked out of your washing on one side, and cooling the air to condense it back into water on the other. Condensed water is collected in the machine as in a normal condenser dryer, and the reuse of hot air means energy is kept within the machine instead of being allowed to escape.
The Bosch WTW84360GB and Miele T8826WP use a heat pump, which conserves the heat of the air inside the drum and uses it to dry clothes.
Pros Cuts energy use by at least a third compared to other models without extending drying time, a good choice if you want an electric dryer that's as energy efficient as possible.
Cons Heat pumps are a relatively expensive technology, though prices are coming down. We've reviewed models priced from £550 - £1000, while entry level standard electric dryers start at less than £200.
Click to read our latest heat pump tumble dryer reviews.
Tumble dryer sizes and capacities
Using a large tumble dryer is the most energy-efficient way of drying your laundry and, per kilo, bigger machines will take less time to dry clothes than smaller or compact dryers.
A big drum size is also helpful – if your tumble dryer is as big as your washing machine, you'll be able to move laundry from one appliance to the other, making wash day that bit easier. Each kilogram is equivalent to about five t-shirts.
Largest drum size
One of the biggest tumble dryers we’ve tested is the Bosch WTB76556, which has a massive 10kg capacity. This will be able to dry almost two washing-machine loads at once.
However, the 10kg Bosch model we tested is deeper, wider and taller than all the other machines we've tested, making it more at home in utility room than in a kitchen.
Large dryers come with 8kg drums, which is enough to take a whole load straight from most washing machines.
Average drum drum-size
Most tumble dryers come with a 7kg capacity. This should still be big enough to dry a whole load straight from the washing machine, but bear in mind that washing machine drums are getting bigger.
Compacts dryers have 3kg capacities, so aren’t ideal for getting the family's clothes dry quickly. If you live on your own, space is very tight and you'd like a tumble dryer, a compact dryer will be able to dry small loads.