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Condenser tumble dryers

By Alice Williams

Our complete guide to condenser tumble dryers includes how they work, the features to look out for and how much you need to spend

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Condenser tumble dryers are the most popular type of tumble dryer, according to Which? members. But is a condenser dryer the right choice for your home?

This guide answers all your top condenser tumble dryer questions:

See all the condenser tumble dryers we’ve reviewed.

What is a condenser tumble dryer? 

 

All types of tumble dryer share a common purpose: getting your clothes dry. The differences come in how they dispose of the damp air created in the drying process. 

Condenser tumble dryers collect water vapour in a container, which means they don’t need to be installed near a vent or window, unlike vented tumble dryers.

They tend to be a fairly inexpensive option compared to other types of tumble dryers, although they’re not as cheap as some vented models. 

Most have a humidity sensor to cut off the program at just the right time when your washing is dry, though cheaper condenser dryers use a manual timer. 

Condenser dryers usually have quick programs, but they aren’t the most energy efficient option.

How does a condenser tumble dryer work? 

Condenser tumble dryers move the hot air created in the drying process into a unit and condense it into water. 

The water is collected and stored in a water tank. This needs emptying regularly unless you choose to plumb in your dryer and pump the water out through a hose (as you would do with your washing machine).

Because of this, condenser dryers need an ambient temperature to work effectively. Most manufacturers state that their dryers need to be in a room that never drops below 5°C or goes above 30°C.

Condenser dryers need regular maintenance. You should clean the lint filter which you'll usually find inside the door and empty the water tank each time you do a load. Clean the heat exchanger every few months and wipe down the sensor bars inside the drum if your dryer has them.

The condensing process uses a lot of energy. If you’re after a more efficient machine with lower ongoing costs, you should consider a heat pump tumble dryer.

How cheap are condenser tumble dryers? 

Condenser tumble dryers tend to be less expensive than dryers with heat pumps, but not as cheap as vented dryers. 

We've found you can get a good condenser dryer for less than £300.

 

The pricier condenser dryers tend to have more features. Look out for a child lock to keep your settings from being tampered with, digital displays that countdown to the end of your program, a light in the drum to help with unloading. 

Smart condenser dryers are rare at the time of writing, so if you’re keen to operate your dryer through your smartphone you might need to consider a heat pump tumble dryer instead.

Which condenser tumble dryer is best? 

We've pulled out our top picks below from all the condenser tumble dryers we've tested.

Best cheap condenser tumble dryer

68%
£179.00
Reviewed

If price is your main concern, this bargain dryer is a solid cheap option. It’s fast, dries accurately and evenly across the load and doesn’t leak damp air. However, it is noisy and doesn’t tell you exactly how long your program has left to run.

Best mid-range condenser tumble dryer

71%
£399.00
Reviewed

You get slightly more for your money with this condenser dryer: a light in the drum, an anti-odour function and a reversible door to help with installing. It’s also fast, great at drying and easy to use. It does leave your clothes a little creased, though.

Best top of the range condenser tumble dryer

68%
£619.99
Reviewed

This pricey condenser dryer has some tricks up its sleeve, with 13 drying settings and a display that tells you how long your program has left and when you should empty your condensation tank. Drying is impressively quick and accurate and it’s user-friendly, too.

Top scoring condenser tumble dryer

73%
£359.99
Reviewed

An excellent tumble dryer that's currently the best condenser dryer we've tested that's still on sale. Its massive 10kg drum can cope with lots of laundry at once and it whizzes through it all. You'll also love its great drying results and user-friendly controls.

Our testing proves that a high price doesn’t always guarantee a good condenser tumble dryer. Here are three things you should look for to buy the best for you:

1) Energy use

None of the condenser tumble dryers we’ve tested score full marks for their energy efficiency, but some do cost more to run than others. We have a handy tumble dryer running costs calculator where you can compare the costs for all the most popular models before you buy.

2) Effective condensation unit

We test all condenser and heat pump tumble dryers on how well they keep damp air inside the machine. A dryer that does this well shouldn’t leave your walls damp or, worse, cause mould to grow in the room it’s in.

3) Drying performance

There are huge differences between how well condenser dryers can dry your clothes. The worst will mean you’ll have to hang up your laundry after their spin in the dryer, but the best can dry typically tricky jeans and even manage to get synthetic items dry on a cotton load, great news for those who don’t separate out their laundry before drying.

What's the difference between vented and condenser tumble dryers? 

The main difference is how they deal with the damp air from drying. Vented dryers vent the air through a hose. You will have to drill a hole through a wall or place your dryer near a window so the hose can let the air outside.

With condenser dryers you'll need to empty the water container nearly every cycle (unless you plumb it in).

But because you're not tied to using a hose with a condenser tumble dryer it's easier to site it in your kitchen or utility room.

Vented tumble dryers also tend to be slower at drying than condensers. The quickest vented dryers we've found are almost as fast at drying as condenser models, but the slowest can take more than double the time.

The two tumble dryer types also differ slightly on price. Vented tumble dryers are the cheapest you can buy, with some costing less than £150. 

See our guide to vented tumble dryers.

Can you turn a vented tumble dryer into a condenser?

Technically, you can. Tumble dryer condenser kits are available to buy online from as little as £5 up to around £20. But bear in mind they'll invalidate your warranty.

How do tumble dryer condenser kits work?

 

Most tumble dryer condenser kits include an exhaust hose (which fits over the steam outlet on your dryer), a condenser unit and a container where the water collects.

You’ll need to put water, or sometimes blocks of ice, in the condenser unit, to keep the temperature down and help the water vapour to condense. You’ll also need to empty the container after each use.

These boxes won’t be nearly as effective or efficient as a proper condenser dryer. They don’t recover heat in the same way, so your dryer will have to use more energy getting your clothes dry, and there’s a risk of damp air leaking out and causing condensation to build up in your kitchen or utility room.

Can you get integrated condenser tumble dryers?  

Integrated tumble dryers are a neat solution for a streamlined kitchen, hiding your appliance behind your counters. But you’ll struggle to find an integrated dryer that’s also a condenser. 

That's because condenser dryers need ventilation and space around them to work effectively, so they’re not best suited to being boxed into a kitchen unit.

We’ve tested several heat pump and vented integrated dryers, some costing as little as £200. If you’re set on one, see all our integrated tumble dryer reviews.

Who makes black and silver condenser tumble dryers? 

There isn’t a huge choice for those who want to add a colourful twist to their condenser dryer, but we have tested black, silver and graphite models from Beko, Hoover and Indesit.

You don’t necessarily have to splash the cash for an alternative finish. Most black and silver dryers we’ve tested come in at under £300.

How to clean a tumble dryer condenser 

As well as cleaning the lint filter and emptying the container after each use, you must also undertake another regular maintenance task: cleaning the condenser (or heat exchanger). Here’s how to do it:

  • Locate your condenser. It’s usually on the front of the machine behind a vented panel.
  • Make sure your machine is turned off at the mains and has cooled down before you remove the condenser.
  • Rinse it in a strong jet of warm water, making sure that all the lint and debris comes off.
  • Let it air dry completely before you replace it in the machine.
  • Look in your manual for manufacturer guidance on how often to do this. We recommend every few months.

For more tips and tricks on getting the most out of your dryer, see our tumble dryer maintenance guide.

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