Tumble dryer buying guide

Tumble dryer buying guide

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

Guide written by:

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

Tumble dryers are a must-have in any home. The main benefits are that you can put on dry clothes straight from the machine and you save time on hanging out or ironing your clothes. You can choose between a condenser tumble dryer, heat pump tumble dryer or vented tumble dryer. The particular needs of your home will determine the capacity of the dryer you choose. If you're not sure where to start, read on to find out more.
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How do tumble dryers work?

How do washing machines work?

A tumble dryer looks very similar on the outside to a washing machine, especially today with dual function washer-dryers.

A tumble dryer also has a spinning drum driven by an electric motor. It has an inlet for air, which is heated by various mechanisms, and this air, together with the spinning from the motor, absorbs the moisture from clothes and dries them.

The chosen temperature and time of the drying programme will depend on the type of fabric and amount of clothes to be dried.

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Types of tumble dryer

The differences between tumble dryer types come down to two main points: capacity and which type of drying technology they use. Depending on the needs and preferences of whoever will be using it, one type will prove better than another.

Vented tumble dryers

Vented dryer

Vented dryers are also known as electrical resistance dryers. They use the most basic technology of any tumble dryers and have been the most common type in use since the invention of this household appliance.

Few manufacturers continue to produce them and they are increasingly being replaced by newer models.

How do vented dryers work?

Ambient air is heated by means of electrical resistors. This hot air dries the clothes as it passes through the spinning drum these are held in and the air is then expelled via a hose attached to an outlet in the home. Therefore, this type of dryer needs to be installed in a ventialted room with an outlet to attach the air vent hose to.

They are cheaper but less efficient, so better suited to smaller households, second homes and infrequent use. The major drawback is the need for an exterior vent; if the steam is not properly expelled, it can create damp in the room where the tumble dryer is installed.

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Condenser tumble dryers

Condenser dryer

More sophisticated than vented dryers, condenser tumble dryers feature improved technology. The main tumble dryer brands only produce a few different versions because they have continued to develop improvements to their machines during the drying process, such as heat pumps.

How do condenser tumble dryers work?

In this case, the collected air goes through a condenser or condensation unit to be heated before moving into the drum. Unlike vented models, condensers don't expel the air outside. Instead, this is condensed and becomes liquid again, being collected in a tank inside the machine.

Some condenser models come with the option to send the water through a hose permanently connected to a drain, or to a fixture with a drain such as a wash basin or sink, a drain in the patio or garage, etc. This limits where it can be installed.

As with vented tumble dryers, they are affordable but less efficient. The programmes are faster because the clothes are dried at a higher temperature, they can be installed anywhere and don't need an outlet for the hose. However, if you want to connect it to a drain, it will need to be installed nearby.

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Heat pump tumble dryers

Heat pump tumble dryer

Designed with the most advanced drying technology, this system achieves better drying times and reduces consumption to the minimum.

How do heat pump tumble dryers work?

These dryers draw air from outdoors and reuse it. They work in a similar way to condenser dryers, with the use of a heat pump. Pushed by a fan, the air passes into the drum to dry the laundry and then completes the circuit, drops in temperature and heats up again to repeat the process until the clothes are completely dry.

The steam produced in contact with the damp clothes passes through the condenser where the water goes into a tank, and the air returns to the drum to continue drying.

Some of these dryers feature brushless inverter motors which are more efficient, quieter, and also last longer.

Heat pump tumble dryers are more expensive but are also the most energy-efficient. They also use lower temperatures for drying than the other 2 types, and are consequently more gentle on your clothes.

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Tumble dryer comparison: pros and cons

Tumble dryer type



Suitable for

Vented dryer


High consumption

Requires a hose to vent the air

Small households with infrequent use

Condenser dryer


No water outlet required

Medium consumption

Households with 1-4 members and average use

Heat pump tumble dryer

Low consumption (the most efficient)


For households with 4+ members and frequent use

Tumble dryer capacity

Tumble dryer capacity

When it comes to choosing a tumble dryer, the smart option is to combine your chosen technology with the most suitable capacity for your household needs.

Load capacity refers to how many kilograms of washed clothes can be dried at once. The most common tumble dryer capacities are between 6 to 9 kg, and deciding between one or another depends on how much laundry you do and how often.

6-7 kg dryers

Bearing in mind that 6 kg is a very common capacity for washing machines, the load capacity we can consider standard for tumble dryers is 6 - 7 kg.

These are most suitable for 1-3 member households using the dryer mainly for clothes. If you dry a lot of bed sheets, it's better to separate them or consider a machine with a bigger capacity.

8 kg dryers

8 kg tumble dryers are suitable for homes where the laundry is done frequently (several loads per week) and to dry any type of item, including clothes, bed sheets, etc.

These are the most in-demand machines because they suit all needs. They can handle any type of laundry and volumes that will save time in an average household.

9 kg dryers

9 kg dryers are most suitable for large households where lots of laundry loads are done every week and there is a need for clean, dry clothes on a regular basis, e.g. a household with lots of children.

They are also ideal for drying large amounts of linen, such as bed sheets, towels, dressing gowns and so on.

Comparison of tumble dryers by load capacity

Dryer load

Suitable for

7 kg

Households of up to 3 people and infrequent use (mainly clothes)

8 kg

Households of 3-4 people with average use (several laundry loads per week)

9 kg

Households with 4+ people and/or very frequent use (all types of clothes including kids')

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Additional tumble dryer criteria

How much space do you have at home?

Space at home for a tumble dryer

Tumble dryers have similar dimensions to washing machines as they're normally installed next to one another, under the kitchen work surface or in a laundry room.

Space isn't normally a problem because the dryer can be installed next to the washing machine or stacked on top of it. Therefore, these appliances usually come with a stacking kit to allow you to put one on top of the other without it sticking out, and ensuring stability when in use.

There are also washer-dryers that incorporate both functions in one machine.

Tumble dryer dimensions

Tumble dryer dimensions are standardised like front-loading washing machines, meaning the most common sizes are around 60 cm wide and deep, and 85 cm tall.

As with other appliances, you can also find tumble dryers in special sizes. For example, freestanding dryers which can be installed anywhere such as a laundry room, without needing to be fitted into a space.

Remember that the real size will be slightly less than the given measurements, as they need to fit into standard spaces designed for them.

Freestanding, integrated or under a worktop?

Freestanding dryer

Tumble dryers, like washing machines or dishwashers, can also be integrated into the rest of your furniture and hidden behind a door or under a worktop.

When they're installed in a kitchen or laundry room, freestanding models are a good option as they can be fitted next to the washing machine, if needed.


It's vital your tumble dryer has enough preset programmes to dry all different types of fabric. Specific programmes for cotton, wool or delicate garments help to look after your clothes, because they make it easier to control the drying time and temperature. Some machines even feature moisture sensors.

They also prevent the clothes from becoming excessively wrinkled, including garments made from delicate fabrics such as silk, saving time and effort on ironing.

Sorting laundry for the tumble dryer

The labels on each individual garment feature symbols for care instructions when washing and drying. Before drying your clothes, you need to check the instructions on each garment to make sure that it is fine to be put in the tumble dryer, and choose the most appropriate programme.


Low noise levels can be a deciding factor when it comes to choosing one model over another. Especially when you need to do several drying cycles or you have more than one appliance going at the same time, such as the washing machine or dishwasher. Noise is noted in dB (decibels) on the product labels and specifications.

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Tumble dryer features

Tumble dryer features

Beside the normal functions, such as a choice of a preset programme according to fabric and temperature control, tumble dryers may come with a range of features that make them easier to use or improve the chore of drying clothes.

Quick dry

Many machines come with an optional quick dry mode that offers you clean, dry clothes in record time. It's not suitable for delicate garments because the drying process is completed at a higher temperature.

Pause and load

This function lets you open the dryer, even when it's already halfway through a drying cycle, to add clothes you forgot about or to take out a garment you'd prefer to dry outdoors.

Delay feature

If you want your clothes to be ready to take out the dryer the moment you get home, or if you prefer to make the most of off-peak electricity rates, you can set the operating time and end time.

Child lock

This function keeps the door locked to ensure children can't open it and climb inside the dryer.


This mode simplifies machine maintenance, automatically removing the lint produced when drying clothes. This self-cleaning condenser is normally built into heat pump models, which reuse the condensed water in the tank.

Moisture sensors

This option lets the machine set the clothes drying needs and adjust the cycles to save time and energy, leaving your clothes in a better condition.

Anti-crease or airing function

A handy function that makes the drum continue to spin slowly after drying, to loosen fabrics and thus ensure your items crease as little as possible.

Smart home

Nowadays, technology lets you connect appliances to your smartphone so that you can easily control them over the internet. You can even connect your dryer to your washing machine so that it knows what type of laundry is being done, ensuring optimal drying settings.

Check the technical characteristics of your appliance to see all the functions, optimising use of your dryer and improving its performance.

Tumble dryer energy ratings

The energy label shows the energy class for each household appliance, according to certain preset parameters. This goes in a scale from A+++ to G, where A+++ means the appliance is more energy-efficient and G is the least efficient.

In order to provide consumers with greater transparency, the EU and UK changed this scale for some types of appliance in March 2021, the scale now being from A to G. In the case of tumble dryers, this label remains unchanged.

Tumble dryer energy labels include:

  • energy efficiency class;

  • energy consumption in kWh/yr (for 160 standard drying cycles per year);

  • sound power expressed in dB(A) re 1 PW;

  • maximum load capacity;

  • time;

  • energy source;

  • condenser efficiency class.

The best tumble dryers by energy consumption

As you might imagine, technological advances in tumble dryer design, as with other appliances, translate into improvements in efficiency and reductions in consumption.

If we compare consumption for an average household with an 8 kg load-capacity dryer, depending on the type of dryer, this would equate to:

  • Vented dryers - 4.8 kWh.

  • Condenser dryers - 4.2 kWh.

  • Heat pump dryers - 2.2 kWh.

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6 money-saving tips for tumble dryers

Money-saving tips for tumble dryers
  • Choose the dryer capacity most suitable for your household needs. This will reduce the number of times you need to use it.

  • Choose the most suitable programme for the fabrics to be dried (duration and temperature). If your dryer has one, use the ECO mode (the one that uses the least energy and water).

  • Properly spin dry the washing before moving it to the dryer to avoid excess moisture.

  • Only fill the dryer to where the manufacturer indicates (normally 20% of the drum should be empty) so that the dryer doesn't need to over-work itself. It can prove cheaper to put on several smaller loads than one that's packed full.

  • If you can, use the dryer at off-peak times.

  • Regularly maintain your dryer, and clean the filter periodically to remove lint and fluff. It's best to do this after each use.

Tumble dryer installation

Tumble dryer installation

In general, installing a tumble dryer is easy because all you need is an electrical socket to plug it into. Depending on the type chosen, it will require an outlet for the water pipe (vented dryers), or an air inlet for ventilation (heat pump dryers).

Condenser dryers, with or without a heat pump, can be connected to a drain so that you don't need to constantly empty the water tank.

How to dispose of an old tumble dryer

How to dispose of an old tumble dryer

If you are replacing an old tumble dryer, always try to recycle by taking it to a local household waste recycling centre or contact your local council to have it collected.

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Guide written by:

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester

After years of DIY, renovation and designing, I decided to turn my passion into a career. Starting in 2006, in the South-West, I helped people with renovation or construction projects. My expertise and curiosity led me to look further into innovative ideas for myself and my clients. Indeed, to live your passion is also to transform the space you live in and the objects you use daily. My family love my creations and ideas that I bring into their lives! My favourite thing to do: use colour to brighten up interior space. But also tips to hide away clutter. Your home is just never big enough, is it? It is therefore a great pleasure to share my tips with you, so that you also can take as much pleasure as I do when starting up your next project!

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