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Why heat-pump tumble dryers cost less to run and use less energy

From saving money to helping the environment, there's plenty of reasons to swap your inefficient vented or condenser tumble dryer

Why heat-pump tumble dryers cost less to run and use less energy

At Which?, we care about products that do their job well while using energy sustainably, which is why we’ve changed the way we score energy use for tumble dryers.

Heat-pump tumble dryers slash the energy needed to dry clothes and these machines score more highly in our tests.

On the flipside, much less efficient vented and condenser dryers have lower scores because of the increased importance of energy use in our assessments of each dryer that we test.

The result is that only heat-pump tumble dryers now score highly enough for us to recommend them as Best Buy tumble dryers.

In this article we’ll explain the positive impact owning a heat-pump tumble dryer can have in terms of the money and energy it’ll save as you do the laundry. And we’ll answer all of your heat-pump tumble dryer questions.

If you’re in the market for a new tumble dryer now, head straight to the best heat-pump tumble dryers we’ve tested in our lab.

Which tumble dryer is best?

For years, which tumble dryer to choose has been a straightforward one.

If affordability and fast-drying mattered most, you’d go for an energy-hungry vented or condenser machine. If you wanted to dry in a more sustainable way, using much less energy, you’d be likely to opt for a heat-pump machine.

But heat-pump tumble dryers were just as famous for high prices as they were for energy saving, and drying has been known to take a long time.

However things are changing – heat-pump dryers are becoming cheaper, faster and even more energy-efficient, and soon vented and condenser tumble dryers could become a thing of the past.

This is due to their high energy use and plans to make the new tumble dryer energy label tougher.

The new energy label for tumble dryers will rank machines from A to G, rather than from A+++ to D (see below). We expect it to be launched in mid 2022.

New washing machines energy label showing the coloured scale from A to G.

The changes to the new UK energy label (and the EU version) for tumble dryers haven’t been announced yet, but it’s likely that the bar will be raised significantly in terms of the amount of energy that tumble dryers are allowed to use when drying clothes.

As vented and condenser dryers use too much, they’re unlikely to qualify for even the lowest rank on the new A to G ranked energy labels.

Your energy-saving heat-pump tumble dryer questions answered

Graphic of a man in a lab coat standing by a tumble dryer. he's holding a clipboard and is observing the machine.

If heat-pump dryers are new to you, we’ll explain the key information that you need to know before you buy.

How much money do heat pump dryers cost?

Prices start at around £350 and go all the way up to £1500. At the lower end of the price range, drying performance can be mixed, but we’ve seen excellent heat-pump dryers from between £400 and £500.

With changes to the energy label likely to signal the end of the end of vented and condenser tumble dryers, we expect to see prices for heat-pump machines fall further soon.

How much money will a heat-pump dryer save me in running costs?

Heat-pump dryers cost £51 less per year to run than condenser dryers.

On average, the heat-pump dryers on our site will cost around £39 per year to run, based on drying three loads per week every week for a year. But the most energy efficient heat-pump dryers will cost just £26 per year.

In contrast, vented and condenser dryers cost on average £81 and £90 a year to run, with the most energy-hungry of each type costing more than £120 per year.

So owning a heat-pump dryer will save you on average between £42 and £51 per year, compared to a vented or condenser dryer.

Learn more about how to buy the best tumble dryer.

When will a heat-pump dryer pay for itself in saved energy costs?

With the average price of a heat-pump dryer (£678) being much more than that of a condenser dryer (£310) it will take some time for those energy savings to add up.

But using these average prices you’ll see your extra investment start to pay off in the seventh year of ownership.

Tumble dryers are one of those products with a long expected lifespan – our most recent survey shows that a tumble dryer should last you around 20 years.

This means if your machine lasts this long, it will add up to a £663 saving on your energy bills compared to a condenser dryer over the machine’s lifetime.

Check out the top-five energy efficient heat-pump tumble dryers.

Is a heat-pump tumble dryer worth it?

Man using a tumble dryer - he's standing up and looking inside.

Yes. They dry in an energy-efficient way, which means the high purchase price will be paid for over time by savings on your energy bills.

And with environmental issues being so important, if you need to dry clothes in a tumble dryer rather than drying them on a washing line or an airer, it makes sense to do this in a sustainable way.

Are heat-pump dryers slow and is that why they save energy?

Vented and condenser dryers dry clothes more quickly because they both use hotter temperatures in the drum. Heat-pump dryers use cooler air to dry with, which traditionally took much longer to get the job done.

But new heat-pump machines are getting quicker, and we’ve seen machines that take less than 20 mins per kilo of clothes, which is about five minutes slower than a really speedy condenser.

For an average-sized 8kg capacity machine, this would mean the heat-pump dryer would take around 40 minutes longer to get the job done.

How do heat-pump dryers work?

Diagram showing how a heat pump dryer works

Rather than going to waste, heat is reused and pumped back into the drum, so it can continue to dry the clothes in the dryer.

Less energy is needed to heat this already warm air, which is why they tend to be so efficient to run.

What’s the difference between a heat-pump and a condenser tumble dryer?

Heat-pump tumble dryer from AEG

The difference is heat is reused by a heat-pump dryer but not by a condenser dryer.

However they both dry clothes and remove moisture from warm air leaving the drum in a similar way.

Does a heat pump tumble dryer need to be plumbed in?

No. You can connect a waste pipe to most heat-pump or condenser dryers to let the water drain away.

All heat-pump dryers also come with a water tank, which collects water and will need to be emptied regularly, unless you set your machine up to drain water away.

How we’ve changed the way we evaluate energy use

Energy now accounts for at least 20% of the test score for all tumble dryers (20% for heat-pump and condenser dryers and 22% for vented dryers), previously this was set at 10% for heat-pump and condenser dryers and 11.1% for vented dryers.

We have also made it harder for tumble dryers to be awarded four and five stars for energy use.

Finally, the score needed for condenser and vented tumble dryers to become a Best Buy has increased to 72%, to match that of heat-pump dryers.

The result of the changes:

  • 13 heat-pump tumble dryers have become new Best Buys.
  • 13 mostly condenser and vented dryers have lost their Best Buy status.
  • 12 condenser and vented tumble dryers have become Don’t Buys.

For more on this, check out our how we test tumble dryers page.

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