Tumble dryer reviews: Features explained
Tumble dryer programs
Sensor tumble dryers choose the drying time for you. You select the program based on the type of fabric and how dry you want it.
Your basic choices are:
Leaves clothes dry enough to store straight away. The load size for synthetic fabrics is usually half that for cottons.
A longer program for multi-layered or thick fabrics such as bed sheets, towelling bathrobes and socks.
Clothes are left very slightly damp which makes them much easier to iron. But you'll need to do so straight away.
For drying woollens or delicate fabrics with gentle heat and minimal movement.
Used at the end of a program to cool the clothes and dryer down to make them cool enough to handle. Can be used to refresh clothes worn previously.
Usually a few minutes of heat followed by a short cool tumble to relax the fibres of creased dry clothing.
The drum moves occasionally after the program ends to prevent creases setting in.
Timer dryers do not have programs as such, just guidelines for drying times.
The tumble dryer automatically detects how wet your load is and stops when it's dry.
You need to wipe the dryer's drum every few months with white vinegar or stainless steel cleaner, or the sensors won't work effectively.
Some machines allow you to take extra care of delicate fabrics, dry more quickly, delay the start time or have an anti-crease phase at the end.
Remaining time display
This indicates how soon your clothes will be dry – so you can plan to fold or hang them as soon as the load finishes.
Program stage LEDs
These indicate that the clothes inside the dryer have reached different stages of dryness, or are in the cooling or anti-crease phases.
You select high for drying cottons and low for heat-sensitive fabrics. Check the icons on your clothes' washing label for which to use.
Allows you to choose whether or not to have an audible end-of-program alarm.
These light up to remind you to empty the water container or clean the lint filter and keep your machine running at peak efficiency.
Program or timer dial
Features that need maintenance
Tumble dryers, especially condenser dryers, take more looking after than just about any other appliance in the kitchen.
Heat exchangers change steam escaping from your washing back into water, but tend to get clogged with fluff that is mixed up in the steam.
You need to clean the heat exchanger on condenser models at least four or five times a year, and this is usually a pain to do.
If you buy a condenser model, you'll need to empty the water reservoir just about every time you use the tumble dryer.
It's easier if it's housed in a drawer at the top of the machine, rather than down near the floor.
These trap the fluff whipped up in the dryer. To keep the dryer running at peak efficiency, you need to clean the filter every time you use the dryer.
We prefer filters that are easy to just lift from their mounting on the back of the door. Some other dryers make you rummage around inside the door opening to retrieve the filter.
And some filters are double sided, with hinges in the middle and tricky catches, which makes them twice as hard to clean.
Gas dryers are an alternative to the more common electric condenser or vented tumble dryers on the market.
If you're looking for a tumble dryer that offers lower running costs, a gas dryer could be an option to consider, as they're significantly cheaper to run than most electric tumble dryer models.
We've tested two gas dryers – the White Knight ECO 43A and the White Knight ECO 83A – and found that both of them scored well in our product tests. You can compare their performance with other tumble dryer models using our compare features and prices option.
Gas dryer running costs
Electric tumble dryers aren’t the most environmentally friendly of appliances, and most score a C rating for energy efficiency.
On average, an electric tumble dryer used every other day costs about £101 a year to run, compared to a gas dryer’s annual running cost of only £45. This means a gas dryer could slash your tumble dryer running costs by almost a third.
But electric heat pump condenser models that have an A-rating for energy efficiency fare better against gas dryers on running costs, a comparison of 7kg models can be found in the table below. To find out how much tumble dryers cost to run over their lifetime you can use our tumble dryer running costs tool.
|Gas vs electric tumble dryers|
|Type||Model||Aprox. cost per 7kg load||Annual cost|
|Gas||White Knight Eco 43A and White Knight 83A||29p||£44.50|
|Electric – A-rated for energy||Average taken from two A rated dryers||32p||£48.85|
Annual cost is based on drying a full 7kg cotton load, three times a week, for a year
Look at more tumble dryer models using our compare features and prices tool in this review.
How gas dryers work
Gas dryers work in the same way as electric vented machines; hot air is passed through the load to dry the clothes and moist, warm air is then vented through a hose taking the heat and moisture away.
But gas dryers use mains gas to heat the air inside the dryer. Electricity is used to turn the drum and power the control panel, but this is less than 10% of the total electricity used by an electric dryer.
Buying, installing and servicing gas dryers
You can buy gas dryers directly from White Knight, but you’ll also find them in major retailers and online.
One cost you will need to take into consideration if you’re looking for a gas dryer is the initial installation and ongoing servicing of your machine. Once you’ve bought your gas dryer, it will need to be professionally installed and regularly serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer (this replaced the Corgi gas register scheme in April 2009).
The most cost-effective way of getting your gas dryer serviced would be to add this work onto an existing service contract for appliances. To find a registered gas dryer installer in your area, visit the Gas Safe register website or call 0800 408 5500.And it helps if the water outlet slides open and closed rather than needing to be screwed or pressed shut.