Choosing a clothes dryer, costs, delivery, installation and more
Because of the clothes dryer, we no longer have to hang out clothes out on lines in between our houses or out in the backyard and hope that the sun dries them in a day. Instead we throw them into a machine that creates man-made sunlight and gets our clothes nice and toasty warm in about an hour. There are even ones that do it without using that much energy, decreasing our electric bills without compromising the drying of our clothes.
There are a wide variety of clothes dryers out there, and choosing the right one for you means knowing exactly which one fits the needs of the household, your budget, and your energy concerns.
Choosing the Right Dryer
How often do you use your dryer and what type of clothes do you dry weekly? If you have a family of four or more and regularly tackle jeans, sneakers and heavy work clothes, you may prefer a heavy-duty dryer and one that offers a long warranty.
Where is your dryer located? If it's in a utility closet beside a bedroom, consider a unit with sound reduction or an adjustable end-of-cycle signal volume, allowing you to lower the chime or buzzer at night when you're sleeping. If your clothes dryer will be installed in a dimly lit basement, scout for a console that includes indicator lights and has large, legible type or a bright digital readout.
Do you often juggle wash with other chores? If you're a multi-tasker on wash day, check out clothes dryers with moisture sensors and automatic/sensor drying. If you can't immediately remove clothes when they're dry, these features automatically stop the cycle when your clothes are done--reducing wear and tear on garments. Extended tumbling is another option worth shopping for. It lets you dial up to a two-hour unheated tumbling period to keep wrinkles from setting until you can unload the dryer.
How long do you plan to keep your clothes dryer? If you're buying the appliance for a temporary home you plan to sell, you may not want to shell out a lot of money on a machine. Or will this be the unit you're installing in your remodeled utility room? In that case, consider a high-end model with all the frills.
If your clothes are kept in tight storage-or you frequently travel, check out the touch-up cycle. This feature gets the wrinkles out. If you tend to pop clothes into the dryer in the morning before work, the favorite cycle lets you quickly set your most-used dryer cycles with one touch. Another notable dryer feature is damp dry. This is a 25- to 30-minute heated period on the timed-dry cycle that leaves clothes damp for easy ironing.
Dryers range in price from $250 for a bare-bones model to $550 and up. If you shop carefully, you can pick up a reliable unit for $350. Most manufacturers in this price range offer white or almond exteriors, mechanical controls and three temperature settings. You will also find timed dry, a cycle that lets you control the length of drying time.
A few low-end and many $400 to $500 models boast the no heat/fluff feature and adjustable end-of-cycle signals. Features multiply as you climb the price ladder. Several dryers boast stainless-steel drums and extended tumbling cycles, which keep clothes tumbling-sans heat-if clothes aren't immediately unloaded when a cycle ends.
For $500 and up, dryer manufacturers offer quiet operation, electronic controls, more than three temperature choices, and drying racks. Most high-end models come with drum lights, making it easy to spot those inevitable stray socks hiding in the back of the drum.
Electronic controls are spiffier looking than push buttons and dials. But electronic controls can be expensive to service because of their circuitry. Dial controls are less expensive than electronic but can be difficult for some users to turn. If you're shopping for a dryer with push buttons, be aware that the start buttons on certain models we tested were so light to the touch that it was easy to assume the dryer had started—when it hadn't. This can be frustrating when you're juggling several loads.
Freestanding dryers range in width from 25 inches to 29 inches. The major difference in dryers is how they're powered, either by natural gas or electricity. Although you won't notice a difference in how thoroughly they dry, there are price considerations. A gas dryer costs roughly $20 to $50 more than its electric sibling. A gas unit is generally less expensive to operate, tends to dry a bit quicker, and will often pay back its higher cost in energy savings within the first year, depending on usage and utility rates. Check out the lint filters. The sturdier and wider the lint filter, the longer it will last and the more lint it will capture. Also keep in mind that plastic drums can discolor and may cause certain clothes to become staticky.
You generally get a one-year parts and labor warranty included in the sticker price.
Delivery & Installation
Before buying your clothes dryer, consider the logistics. When will someone be home to accept delivery of your clothes dryer? Do you need your old unit hauled away-or does your town allow curbside pickup of appliances?
For starters, consider what energy source you already have. To keep overhead to a minimum, it's best to stick with the source you've got. All electric clothes dryers require 240 volts and an electrician to hook up the appliance. To connect a new gas dryer, you'll need a 120-volt outlet and a plumber to connect the gas line. If you plan to remodel your utility room or move appliances around, you'll have to call in a professional to change your utility hook ups.
Measure your space. Also, know where you plan to ventilate your dryer. All clothes dryers—except for ventless models—require a ventilation system to the outside of your home. In many states, the law requires you to install aluminum or rigid steel duct. Plastic duct or flexible metal duct is considered a fire hazard.
Clothes Dryer Glossary
Adjustable end-of-cycle signal: A feature that lets a user change the volume of the buzzer or chime signaling the completion of the cycle.
Air fluff: A heat-free cycle for drying such items that can be damaged by heat, such as plastic shower curtains or foam pillows. Also known as no heat/fluff.
Automatic/sensor drying: A device that measures the moisture level in clothing and runs the machine until the dryness set by the user has been reached.
Child safety feature: A switch or pin that shuts off the dryer's heating element-not just the rotation of the drum-when the door is opened.
Controls: The knobs, buttons or electronic touchpads that regulate drying functions. The most common types of controls are: rotary, which offer control by turning a dial; pushbutton, which are controls that invert at the press of a finger; electronic, which are low-profile press pads; or a combination of the three options.
Cool down cycle: An option that continuously tumbles without heat, to prevent hot material from wrinkling. Also serves to cool down hot metals like buttons and zippers.
Cotton/regular cycle: A drying cycle of varying length that accommodates rugged clothes.
Cycles: The methods of drying clothes. See Air fluff cycle, Auto dry cycle, Cool down cycle, Cotton/regular cycle, Damp dry cycle, Energy Saver cycle, Extended tumbling cycle, Extra dry cycle, Heavy duty cycle, Knits/delicate cycle, Normal cycle, Permanent press cycle, Wrinkle free cycle and Timed dry cycle.
Damp dry: A 25- to 30-minute heated period on the timed-dry cycle that leaves clothes damp for easy ironing.
Drum capacity: The size of the interior of the dryer measured in cubic feet.
Drum light: A light in the dryer's interior to let users see clothes easily.
Drum material: The material of the interior of the drum and lid, typically stainless steel, porcelain or plastic.
Drying rack: A stationary wire or plastic framework that can be placed horizontally in the dryer drum to let users dry items such as sneakers with heat but without tumbling.
Energy saver cycle: A drying cycle that only runs until sensors indicate laundry load is dry and shuts off.
Extended tumbling cycle: An option that continuously tumbles a completed load without heat every few minutes to prevent the items from settling inside and wrinkling.
Extra dry cycle: A drying cycle that’s best for heavier items like denims or blankets.
Heavy duty cycle (see cotton/regular cycle): A drying cycle of varying length that accommodates rugged clothes.
Knits/delicate cycle: A cycle designed for special-care fabrics that's generally set at lower temperatures than normal.
Lint filter: A screen that catches the fuzz, loose threads and other fine pieces of fabric that are released by the drying action. Some models feature a lint sensor that prevents operation of the dryer when the filter is full; others have a light or indicator that the filter needs cleaning.
Normal cycle: The most common drying cycle, best for mixed loads of varying materials.
Permanent press cycle: A cycle designed to reduce wrinkling in clothes.
Sound reduction: Insulation features in some dryers that reduce noise.
Timed dry: A cycle that lets you control the length of drying time (generally 60 to 80 or more minutes).
Venting: The means by which air is exhausted from the dryer through a metal duct.
Wrinkle free cycle: A feature in the timed dry cycle that removes wrinkles from dry clothes.
Wrinkle guard cycle (see extended tumbling cycle): An option that continuously tumbles a completed load without heat every few minutes to prevent the items from settling inside and wrinkling.