Best type of clothes dryer - heat pump or condenser?

a nice laundry complete with a dryer

Danny Baggs

Posted April 19, 2022

Heat pump dryers and condenser dryers both dry your washed clothes. But which type of clothes dryer is better for your home, your wallet, and the environment?

Sustainability Victoria reports that over half of Victorian households own a clothes dryer (also known as a tumble dryer), with around 74,000 new dryers purchased in the state every year. Since clothes dryers are a major electricity consumer when used regularly, it’s important to understand which type of electric clothes dryer is the best choice for your household.

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Guide to buying a clothes dryer

Types of clothes dryers

Condenser dryer

A condenser dryer is a tumble dryer that uses high temperatures to dry your clothes. It pushes air over a heating coil, then into the tumble drum that holds your clothes. The hot air extracts moisture from clothes as vapour, which is deposited into a container and condensed into water. The water container is usually connected to plumbing via an outlet hose and automatically emptied, though older models may require manual emptying.

Heat pump dryer

A heat pump dryer also extracts vapor from your clothes, but it uses a coolant on the vapor to remove the condensation and preserve the warm air. This air is reheated and recycled back into the tumble drum, making it the eco-friendlier option. “This means heat pump dryers use a lot less electricity than condensers and traditional dryers,” said a spokesperson for the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER).

a clothes dryer with a basket of laundry

There are two main types of clothes dryers: condenser and heat pump. Image: Getty

Which clothes dryer is cheaper to buy?

When you walk into a home appliance store, you might only consider a dryer’s purchase price. Condenser dryers are cheaper to buy than heat pump dryers, making them an attractive option for lower budgets or households who will only use their dryer occasionally.

Which clothes dryer is more energy efficient?

Heat pump dryers, however, are the more energy efficient option, since they recycle the hot air needed to dry your laundry. Although they are more expensive to initially purchase, their running costs will be lower, saving you money on every electricity bill. DISER has found that heat pump dryers cost you 50% less per load compared to condenser dryers.

To find out exactly how much a clothes dryer will cost to run, check its Energy Rating Label. “The rule of thumb is the more stars, the more efficient the appliance or product,” said a spokesperson for DISER.

If you are likely to use your dryer once a week or more, you might find that a heat pump dryer will be less expensive over its lifetime as compared to a condenser dryer. In fact, the Australian Government’s Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) program has found that 10 years is the typical lifetime of a dryer before it is replaced. That’s a lot of washes to consider.

“If you can afford the upfront cost for a more efficient product, like a heat pump dryer, you will be rewarded with lower running costs in the longer term,” said a spokesperson for DISER. “Consumers should purchase within their means, getting the highest star rating they can for the appliance.”

Which clothes dryer performs better?

Condenser dryers are heavy-duty workhorses that handle large loads and dry your clothes fast with minimal noise. Heat pump dryers work more slowly (and loudly), taking around 30 minutes longer to dry the same amount of laundry. 

On the other hand, condenser dryers are more likely to shrink or wear out your clothes due to their higher drying temperatures. Heat pump dryers are much better at preserving your clothes, since they avoid putting your laundry in close contact with high temperatures.

Heat pump dryers also have no need for ducted venting, while condenser heaters need to be placed in a room with good ventilation to prevent mould.

fresh laundry being taken out of a dryer

Heat pump dryers are better at preserving your fabrics because they use lower temperatures. Image: Pexels

How can I use my clothes dryer more efficiently?

If you have an outdoor clothesline, dry your clothes outdoors during the dry season. Fresh air and sunlight are great at eliminating dust mites and bacteria: they can even help fade stains and save you money.

When you use your dryer, make sure to thoroughly spin-dry your laundry in the washing machine first. Spinning out water takes much less electricity than heating it out. You should also clean out the lint filter after each load to keep the dryer working as efficiently as possible.

Finally, if you’re going to purchase a new dryer, look for an auto-sensing feature on the models you’re interested in. Auto-sensing means that the dryer senses when your clothes are dry and stops drying them. For example, if you have set the dryer for 60 minutes but your clothes are dry after 30 minutes, the dryer will stop at 30 minutes and save you 30 minutes of needless electricity. This feature also helps protect your clothes.

What clothes dryer capacity do I need?

Think about how much laundry you wash (and how often) when deciding on a dryer size or capacity. The kilogram (kg) amount listed as a dryer’s capacity refers to the weight of dry clothes that the model can dry in one cycle. A 10kg dryer can therefore dry 10kg worth of dry clothes.

Here is a rough guide to what size dryer you might need:

  • 4-6.5kg dryer – dries 4-5 towels or outfits in one cycle: ideal for 1-2 people

  • 7-8.5kg dryer –dries 7-8 towels or outfits in one cycle: ideal for 3-4 people

  • 9+kg dryer – dries 9+ towels or outfits in one cycle: ideal for 5+ people.

Make sure to measure the space that your dryer must fit into to ensure that you don’t purchase a dryer that’s too physically large. Remember to leave room for the dryer door to open, for the cables, vents and hose to come out at the back, and a few centimetres around the sides for optimum air circulation.

air drying laundry on an indoor clothesline

Air dry laundry when possible to cut costs and preserve your clothes. Image: Pexels

The bottom line: which clothes dryer is best?

There’s a reason why both condenser and heat pump dryers continue to exist: each excels in different areas. Consider your circumstances – for example, whether you live in an apartment, whether you dry large loads at once, or whether you’d prefer a cheaper outlay or running cost – and choose the dryer that best suits your needs.

Condenser Dryer

Heat Pump Dryer

Cheaper to buy

Cheaper to run

Handles larger loads

More eco-friendly

Faster at drying

Better at preserving clothes

Quieter to run

No need for ducted venting

Which clothes dryer should I buy - condenser or heat pump?

Still unsure whether you should purchase a condenser or heat pump dryer? Take the below quiz and take note of whether you choose more a) or b) answers.

  1. Which cost is more important to you?
        a) Cheaper to buy
        b) Cheaper to run

  2. Do you live in an apartment or a house?
        a) Apartment
        b) House

  3. How large are your washing loads on average?
        a) On the larger side
        b) On the smaller side

  4. What is more important to you?
        a) A quieter design
        b) An eco-friendly design

  5. Will you be washing more delicate fabrics?
        a) No
        b) Yes

If you counted more a) answers, consider purchasing a condenser dryer.
If you counted more b) answers, consider purchasing a heat pump dryer.


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