Tumble dryers buying guide
Hanging out our washing to dry gently in the sun is easier said than done in Britain. And clothes horses can take up a frustrating amount of space around the house. That's why so many homes now have tumble dryers, which allow you to simply put your damp laundry in, set the time, and come back to warm, dry, and fresh smelling clothes. There's a huge choice of tumble dryers on the market, many of them made by big appliance manufacturers such as Bosch, Hotpoint, Indesit, and White Knight, as well as some cheaper budget buys.
Vented vs condenser
Tumble dryers fall into two categories – vented or condenser – and both kinds have their own pros and cons to consider.
Vented tumble dryers
If you choose a vented tumble dryer, the appliance will come equipped with a hose where the damp air from your washing is dispelled. Therefore, it'll need to be installed near a window where you can hang out the hose, or you can have a permanent vent installed which is a little neater. Some people get around this issue by attaching a box to the end of the hose to collect water, but this isn't always effective, and can lead to damp.
The main advantage of vented tumble dryers is that they're usually the cheaper option, and they often have better energy efficiency ratings. Unfortunately, they're only suitable if you have a practical place to install them, so if you don't have a spot close to a window, or can't have a vent installed, then they might not be the best choice.
Condenser tumble dryers
Condenser tumble dryers are much easier to install, as they don't need to be close to a window. Many of the newer models simply need to be plugged into the wall in a well-ventilated room, so they can be used in garages, utility rooms, or anywhere you have the space. Instead of pumping out the moisture, water is collected inside a box, which you can then empty into a sink. Another option is to have your condenser tumble dryer plumbed in next to your washing machine, so excess water can simply be drained away.
Generally, condenser tumble dryers are a little more expensive than vented models, although there are a few simple, budget models on the market, but they're not as energy efficient.
Heat pump dryers
If you're looking for condenser tumble dryers, you'll notice that some newer models have heat pump technology. While older tumble dryers would pump out the warm air used in the dryer, these models re-circulate it, meaning less energy is used. This means they can be much cheaper to run, and more environmentally sound.
Tumble dryers aren't just for large families anymore. On the market you'll find appliances of all sizes, from mini-tumble dryers which hold 3kg of laundry, ideal for small households or those with limited space, right up to 12kg capacity dryers which would be for the most demanding home users. Most tumble dryers fall into the 6-7kg category, which is roughly the same as the average washing machine, and it makes sense for most buyers to choose machines that are around the same size.
Tumble dryers don't have a great reputation for energy efficiency, but newer technology has meant they're becoming more environmentally friendly and cheaper to run. Under EU law, appliances now have to carry an energy efficiency rating between A+++ and D, with the former being the most efficient. Tumble dryers will have a label with the efficiency rating, the average annual energy consumption, and details such as capacity and cycle times, all information that'll help you work out how much it'll cost to run.
Another concern for many first time tumble dryer users is how much noise the unit will make. Older tumble dryers can be very loud indeed, and if you live in a space such as a flat then you might be worried whether you'll end up annoying the neighbours. Luckily, tumble dryers are generally getting quieter, and most retailers will advertise the noise level in decibels (dB), allowing you to compare it to your other appliances. If noise is a big issue for you, then look out for tumble dryers that boast the Quiet Mark.
While washer dryers are great for space saving, some consumers can find them disappointing when it comes to drying their clothes. Firstly, the drying load capacity will be less than the washing capacity, so you have to take out some of the damp washing before you switch to the drying cycle. Washer dryers use a condenser system, so they can take a long time to dry clothes, and they often don't get them as dry as lone tumble dryers. However, they can be useful if you just want to partially dry clothes before hanging them outside.