Though you can hang wet clothes to dry indoors or even outdoors on a sunny day, most consider a clothes dryer to be an essential home appliance even if it only gets partial use during the year. Whether you are replacing an existing dryer or setting up a home for the first time, a dryer is one of the most affordable home appliances to buy and it requires much less maintenance than some other large appliances. But before you go shopping, be informed of what's available in terms of dryer types, features and prices, as well as what to expect when it comes to caring for one.
1. Types of Dryers
Though electric dryers are the most common, your first decision when buying a dryer is to decide on fuel type if you happen to have natural or propane gas readily available to your home. There will be a smaller selection of styles and features available for gas dryers and expect prices to be higher, but depending on the cost of electricity in your area, this type of dryer might save you in operating costs so it's worth given it some consideration. Please note that not all features listed may be available on gas dryers and installation will vary with the fuel type.
Dryers are front-loading in operation, but there are two basic styles - traditional dryers and those that have a more stylish design typical of front-load high-efficiency laundry teams. Either style can be efficient and there are similar features in terms of fabric care, but their looks are quite different. Most traditional dryers have a solid panel door, while high-end stylish models have a viewing window and may have more advanced electronic features and sensors. If you already have a front load washer or one with a similar style. On the other hand, if you prefer the traditional type of laundry appliances, you'll be looking for that style of dryer.
As for dryer types there are basically four kinds - standard freestanding models; dryers that are included as part of a stacked laundry unit; smaller portable models with simpler installation; and dryers that are part of an all-in-one washer dryer combo appliance. Your available laundry room space may dictate your choices when it comes to buying standard sizing or compact laundry appliances, and you should confirm that you have appropriate space to accommodate the dryer you chose. We'll look at each of these types of dryers and their pros and cons.
Standard Dryers - Traditional or Front Load Styling
•Pros: Best for family loads in terms of drying efficiency and capacities; more drying cycle variety, features and prices; best value; some models have stacking options
•Cons: Higher priced; requires professional hook-up (220V or other fuel type)
Stacked Washer Dryer Unit
•Pros: Space saving style - dryer is on top of the washer in one tall unit
•Cons: Units cannot be separated when one needs repair or replacement; tall units need height clearances; limited brands, capacities, features
Combo Washer Dryer Unit
•Pros: One appliance for both functions saves space; ease of installation; best for RV's, condos
•Cons: Small capacity; limited cycles and features; pricey
Compact Portable Dryer
•Pros: Usually designed to place on a counter or table; no installation - standard plug; best for small residences or cottages where installation is not available
•Cons: Small capacity; limited fabric care features; limited cycles; bulky to store
2. Important Dryer Features
A dryer's best feature is certainly capacity and that should be one of your first considerations when buying a dryer. Since you'd expect to have a dryer operate for several years, you should buy a sufficient capacity to meet your current needs as well as those in the not so distant future. On the other hand, there are small households that love to have the room to dry large and bulky comforters or blankets and this may something to think about. You can also reap some energy savings drying more small loads together, if there is sufficient capacity. Dryer capacities vary but the most common sizes range in the 3 to 7 cu. ft. of drying space, with combo and portable units having much less.
Important dryer fabric care features include those that allow you to chose various temperature settings, timed cycles so you can shorten or lengthen the drying time, slow or fast spin and permanent press or press care settings that provide a cool-down period at the end of the cycle to reduce wrinkles and ironing time. Any combination of these features so you can chose the appropriate drying time, spin speed and heat to dry your wash load, are the very minimum that you need in a dryer. I also consider a interior light to be an essential dryer feature, though some might consider it merely a convenience.
3. Dryer Bells and Whistles
It's nice to have such a wide variety of fabric care and other drying features but some might find it overwhelming and confusing. These are some of the best dryer features available, but keep in mind that some of these will influence dryer pricing.
•More or less dry sensors - continues the drying process as needed
•Drying sensors - adjusts drying time to dampness
•Temperature sensors - adjust to the type and/or size of load
•More than two spin speed choices - to reduce wrinkles and be gentle on clothing
•Wrinkle free setting - keeps turning on the dryer periodically to reduce wrinkles
•Steam feature - handy to freshen clothing, remove wrinkles
•Air fluff/dry - gentler on certain fabrics that should have no heat
•Lint filter position - some prefer it on top, while others like it in the door
•Quiet operation - depends where you place it
•Dryer rack - handy for drying sneakers
•Pedestal storage - available with some models
•Stackable option - so you can save space in the laundry room
•Audible cycle ending signal
•Reversible door - available on some traditional models
4. Energy Efficiency - A Must to Save Money
Although dryers are more energy efficient today than they were decades ago, this laundry appliance still uses the most electricity to operate and though some have better Energy Guide ratings, there are no Energy Star models. Dryers are not included in national energy efficiency programs.
When buying a dryer, consumers should review and compare Energy Guide labels to find a model that will be more efficient for their needs. That being said, there are simple ways that you can save energy using a dryer, such as monitoring dryness and using just enough drying time as needed for your wash loads. That's where a dryer sensor feature can help, so there's less wasted energy drying a load that is already dry. Some consumers will also dry more than one small similar load together to reap further energy savings. Other factors that help you save energy when it comes to dryer use:
•Ensure that the washer is spinning out the most water possible
•Hang good clothing or large sheets, blankets on a nice day
•Avoid drying one or two pieces of clothing - plan your loads
•Upgrade old dryers; a 10-year old dryer will not be as efficient as a newer model
•Clear the lint filter after each load
•Clear the exterior lint vent regularly
5. What Not to Buy
Avoid buying a capacity that does not meet your needs and chose a dryer style that's appropriate for your budget and laundry area. Colored appliances are very striking and may look great in the showroom but once in the home, may not look as delightful. Colors can also date appliances. If you're the type that tires quickly of color schemes, buying a brightly-colored appliance may not be wise; choose instead a neutral finish or color. It's often difficult to replace an appliance with the same color to match your laundry team, should one break down.
Choose an installation option carefully; it may dictate the size of dryer you can have and will also impact the convenience of loading and unloading your dryer load. If you're short in stature, a stackable model may be more difficult to reach. For this reason you may also want to carefully decide whether or not to buy optional storage pedestals.
6. Price Ranges and Compare Prices
Dryers vary considerably when it comes to prices, but generally you can find a traditional dryer under or around $500, while higher-end stylish models can be twice that much. Compact models or combo units though they may be your only choice when space or installation is not an option, don't give the best value and prices tend to be high. You can often reap some savings by buying both a washer and a dryer, rather than buying them separately. This may be something to consider if your washer is due for replacement.
When comparing prices of dryers, keep in mind that certain set-up costs for delivery or hook-up may be required to get your new dryer ready to use. And depending on your purchase cost, you may also want to consider buying an extended service contract for your new dryer. If you're replacing a dryer, you may need to look at appliance disposal or donation options, or negotiate removal with the purchase of your new dryer.
7. Dryer Reviews
Along with comparing dryer prices, you should read dryer reviews to be better informed. Some consumers will include important care and use tips in their appliance reviews, along with information on durability, reliability and dryer performance. This information is valuable to those shopping for a dryer.
8. Dryer Care, Use and FAQ's
A dryer requires a small amount of care and maintenance to keep it working efficiently and this care also reduces fire risk and helps to keep your home safe. You'll also reap some energy savings by maintaining your dryer's efficiency. Learn how to care for your new dryer and what handy accessories are available.
9. Dryer Accessories and Other Laundry Appliances
Improper sorting of clothing can often lead to pilling and other unfavorable fabric concerns which can often be remedied with a clothing shaver or lint remover. You can also protect very small items or keep extra long cloth belts from being tangled during drying and making your clothing look wrinkled, by placing these items in laundry mesh bags. A sorting hamper can help reduce the risk of combining fabrics or colors that are best laundered separately and it can also save time in the laundry room.
10. Related Appliance - Washers
When washers are old, they tend to slow down with the spin and not fully extract the water from the washload, making it a much wetter load that takes a lot longer to dry. Upgrading your washer may lead to better energy savings because efficiency will be improved. Dealers often offer discounts when laundry appliances are purchased in pairs. For this reason, you may want to consider upgrading your washer when purchasing a dryer.
11. General Appliance Tips
What to do if your appliance has been recalled or you've upgrade to a new model. And there are reasons why it's a good idea to inform manufacturers of problems or areas where appliances could be improved. Remember to review your product manual and keep it handy - it has lots of use information, as well as key tips on how to properly care for your new appliance.