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Tumble dryer FAQs

By Matt Stevens

How much do I need to spend - and how much do tumble dryers add to my energy bills? Get the answers to these questions and more from the experts at Which?.

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Which? tumble dries more than 1,500kg of clothes a year to find the best vented and condenser tumble dryers on the market. The better dryers not only dry your clothes twice as quickly as other models, but are also kind on your electricity bills - a big concern when you consider running costs can vary from less than £30 to over £100.

How much you need to spend depends on what sort of dryer you want. But it's not only the initial cost you need to think of, as different sorts of dryers will add different amounts to your annual bills.

How much do I need to spend - and how much do tumble dryers then add to my bills?

Vented dryers can cost as little as £100, but you'll need to spend twice that to get a good vented tumble dryer - and more to get a Best Buy. Typically, vented models add around £100 to your annual electricity bills, but that figure will vary with the size of the drum. As a rough guide, expect a 6kg-capacity model to add £78 to your annual bills, a 7kg-capacity drum to add £87, and an 8kg-capacity drum to add £113.50.

Condenser dryers are a bit more expensive than vented dryers. Prices start at around £190 - but you'll need to pay slightly more for a good condenser dryer, and though we have found Best Buy condenser dryers that cost around £250, it's likely you'll pay more for a Best Buy. Average energy running costs are about £92, but you can expect to pay about £76 a year for a 6kg-capacity drum, £92 for a 7kg-capacity drum and £104 for an 8kg-capacity drum.

Heat-pump condenser dryers have much lower running costs than vented or condenser dryers but cost significantly more in the shops, reducing the potential savings. We have seen a heat-pump condenser dryer that costs under £500, but a more likely cost is £600-£700. Heat-pump dryers tend to do well in our tests, not because of speedy drying, but because of their very low running costs, typically around £33.

Gas vented tumble dryers have similar running costs to heat pump condenser models. They are rare in the UK and will require a Gas Safe engineer to both install and service them, so it's important to read up about gas tumble dryers before buying one. The gas tumble dryers we've tested are from White Knight and will cost you around £300, plus installation. Running costs are about £45 a year.

Want to know which tumble dryer is best for you? Take a look at all of our tumble dryer reviews.

Is a condenser dryer better than a vented one?

Condenser dryers collect moisture from wet clothes in a water reservoir, which you must empty when it is full. Vented dryers simply expel the moist air from the room through a hose.

Condenser dryers are usually seen as more convenient as you don't have to place them near a wall vent or hang a hose out of a window. However, they're more expensive to buy than vented machines and use more electricity.

To avoid the poor condenser models, check out the condensation efficiency rating in the test results section of our reviews. You can also use our tumble dryer energy costs calculator to get an idea how much it will cost to run a tumble dryer over its lifetime.

How do automatic dryers work, and are they a good investment?

Automatic dryers, also called sensor dryers, have humidity sensors that detect how moist your washing is and stop the machine when it's dry.

They should take the guesswork out of setting the machine, but we've found the sensors on cheaper models tend to be less effective.

You can help your sensor to work better by trying to dry similar fabrics together. Mixed loads - for example thick denim jeans and thin cotton pillowcases - can confuse the sensor.

I've read stories about fires starting in tumble dryers, how can I avoid this?

Some manufacturers, such as Beko and White Knight, have recalled tumble dryers because of potential fire risks. 

Clean all lint filters every time you use the machine

It’s also a fire risk to let fluff build up in your dryer, so regular maintenance is a must.

You should clean all lint filters every time you use the machine to maintain good airflow. Wipe the drum with a damp cloth regularly, and check the vent outlet and hose of vented driers for fluff.

The heat exchanger in condenser models needs washing out about five times a year, more often for heavy users. Some machines have a light that shows when this needs to be done.

Any tips for drying clothes?

  • Separate out fabrics and dry similar clothes together. This reduces the drying time and increases the evenness of drying.
  • Loosen your laundry when you take it out of the washing machine. This prevents lengthy running times and creasing.
  • Don't dry large objects, such as duvets, because there won't be enough space for air to circulate. This can overheat the dryer.
  • Clean the lint filter after every drying cycle - not doing so will mean your dryer will not be as efficient and will cost you more money.
  • If you're washing your bedclothes, remember to fasten the duvet cover. This will stop smaller items like pillowcases from getting inside and staying damp.

How can I prevent tumble dryer accidents?

Avoid children or pets being injured in a tumble dryer by following these precautions:

  • Unplug your dryer when it's not in use.
  • Turn the program dial to the off position if you remove your clothes mid-cycle.
  • Many older dryers restart automatically if you interrupt the cycle - choose a machine that doesn't do this if you're concerned about children or pets playing near the machine.
  • Ensure that your dryer has a door that can be opened if it's pushed from the inside. Some driers require too much force.
  • Avoid dryers with a handle-operated catch on the door, as these can not be opened from the inside.
  • Choose a dryer with a child lock. A mechanical child lock can be engaged after each cycle. It prevents the door from closing, so a child can't become trapped inside.
  • Electronic child locks prevent children from turning dryers on or changing the program settings.

Is a washer-dryer a better idea?

Buying a washer-dryer may seem tempting if you want to save space or money.

Bear in mind, though, that they have to repaired more frequently than separate washing machines and tumble dryers – possibly because you're asking them to do twice as much work.

Our recent reliability survey showed that about 30% of up to six years old needed a repair, compared with about 20% of washing machines.

Washer-dryers can usually wash more clothes than they can dry, meaning a single washing load may need to be dried in two or more loads.

Can I stack a tumble dryer on top of my washing machine?

If both your appliances are made by the same manufacturer, you should be able to buy a stacking kit to fix your dryer on top of your washing machine. These kits can be bought from manufacturers or department stores, and are an alternative to a washer dryer if you're short on space: you two appliances with the footprint of one.

You can also buy universal stacking kits if you have a washer and dryer from two different brands. These kits are designed to fix any dryer on top of any front-loading washing machine - though a brand-specific kit may fix them more firmly.

It's not advisable to simply place a tumble dryer on top of your washing machine. Any jolts or the vibration of a high spin could dislodge the tumble dryer and cause damage.

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