Thursday, 19 June 2008

For most of us, a clothes dryer is a necessity. We find out from an expert repairman whether itís important to spend a lot of money on a dryer, and what to look for when shopping at the appliance store.


The Basics

  • There are two main energy choices when it comes to buying a dryer.

    • The electric dryer is easy to install and accounts for most of the dryers on the market. The electric dryer usually needs a 240-volt outlet and has heating coils that supply the heat for drying.

    • The natural gas dryer is essentially the same as an electric only it uses a gas burner to supply the heat. A gas dryer is fairly expensive both to buy and to install. (It has to be professionally installed.) But on the plus side, it is often less expensive to dry each load. Repairs can also be expensive because of the extra hardware that is required.

  • The most common brands of dryer are GE, Whirlpool, Maytag and Kenmore and all work in essentially the same way. A rotating, perforated basket holds damp clothes, a fan blows air through the load, and a heater keeps the air stream at the desired temperature.

  • Most dryers are the same basic model. What sets them apart are the extra features. Here are some tips to look for:

    • Most controls are dial or push-button. Higher-end models may come with electronic touch pads. While mechanical controls are easier to repair, electronic controls offer more settings. Make sure the controls are easy to use and understand. Sometimes more settings means confusion!

    • Dryer cycles are usually timed or automatic (regular and permanent press). The more cycles it has, the more expensive it will be.

    • The permanent press cycle has a 5 minute cool-down period in which the clothes are tumbled with no heat to minimize wrinkling.

    • Delicate or tumble-dry cycles run on reduced or no heat.

    • Quick or express dry cycles are good for small loads or heavy fabrics because it uses high heat. Be sure you don’t use it for items that can shrink!

    • The way the door opens can make it easier on how you load. If you’re against a wall, a drop-down door might work better. In a closet (dryer on top of washer), you’ll want a side-opening door.

    • Most dryers have the capacity to handle regular size wash loads. If your washer is large capacity, then you’ll want an equally large capacity dryer to match so you can launder comforters and other bulky items.

    • The drum material can make a difference to cost and the life of your dryer:

    • Porcelain drums are economical and durable, but they can chip (from zippers, etc.)

    • Stainless steel drums resist chipping, rusting, and deep scratches, but they’re the most expensive option.

    • Plastic-based finishes over steel are popular because they are low cost.

    • An extra feature of some dryers is a removable drying rack that doesn’t rotate with the drum. This is great for sneakers, stuffed toys, or delicates that need to be dried flat, and helps protect the drum from impact (sneakers).

    • Most dryers are finished in white or almond, but these days more colours are becoming available, including black, red, stainless steel, and even blue.

    • A porcelain top tends to resist chips and rust better than painted metal, but it’s often more expensive.

    • The lint filter is a very important feature and should be easy to access. Look for a large, sturdy trap, which will capture more lint and help your dryer last longer. (Note: lint traps should be cleaned after every use.

    • A moisture sensor is a newer feature now available and can add to the cost, but may save your clothes from over-drying and also use less energy since they can shut off sooner than a timed dry.

    • Most dryers shut off if you open the door during a cycle, an important safety feature with children in the home.

    • A wrinkle protection feature alerts you when the cycle is done and keeps tumbling the load on no-heat (with the buzzer sounding every few minutes) until you can take the clothes out. Be sure you can change the buzzer volume. This feature is also not very energy efficient.

  • The noise level of dryers varies greatly among models. At the store, start the dryer up so you can see how loud it is, especially if you plan to put it near bedrooms or high-traffic areas. Models with dampening material inside the dryer have reduced vibration and noise.

  • The size of your dryer is important if your space is limited:

    • Full-size dryers are between 27-29 inches wide and between 5-7 cubic feet of drum capacity. Some full-sized models can stack on top of a front-loading washer.

    • Compact dryers are good for small homes, apartments, etc. They are typically 24 inches wide with a drum capacity around 3.5 cubic feet. They are usually stacking and don’t have to be vented to the outside.

    • Laundry centres are another space-saving option and are a washer/dryer combined in a single unit, either full-size or compact. They will have a smaller capacity than the free-standing units, and are typically more expensive.

  • Most full-sized dryers use a 240 volt heavy duty plug and outlet. Some compact dryers may work on an optional 120/240 volt connection or plug into a grounded 120 volt outlet. 120 volt dryers take longer to dry clothes.

Other Considerations

  • The annual operation cost of a dryer is about $130 ($85 US). Over the dryer’s lifetime, operations costs can top $1700 ($1,100 US). Energy-efficient dryers are less expensive to run and can actually produce cleaner, fresher clothes.

  • Make sure you get a warranty and find out what parts and services are covered.

  • Dry only full loads of laundry. Don’t overload the dryer (or washer). Avoid over-drying clothes to save electricity, and your clothes.

  • Dryers vent exhaust and some lint through a duct. Some are considered safer than others. Flexible ducts of plastic or foil may sag over time and cause a build-up of lint, which is a fire hazard. Sturdy metal ducts, flexible or rigid, won’t sage and are safer.

  • Once-a-year preventative maintenance is enough if you follow these helpful tips:

    • Read the instruction manual to understand how your dryer works and the care it requires to operate efficiently.

    • Wipe inside the dryer regularly

    • Vacuum the inside of your dryer to get rid of lint that escaped the lint catcher!

    • Never dry foam rubber or fabrics with glass or metallic fibres in dryer. Articles with rough edges can damage the interior of dryer.

    • Never dry items treated with dry cleaning solvents or flammable fluids.


We found a neighborhood of new homes and found 4 people who agreed to let us put their new dryers to the test. We tried:

  • Swedish Asko: $1,329
    • It doesn’t use high heat so takes longer to the job, but electrical bills should be smaller.
  • Maytag Performa: $539
    • Features an extra large door opening.
  • Frigidaire: $469
    • Like all the others, it does have auto dry settings so the laundry should only tumble as long as it needs to.
  • Kenmore: $599
    • With a 7 cubic feet drum, large enough to dry bulky items like quilts.

Drying Test

We dried four loads of laundry in each with eight towls of the same brand and three pairs of socks on the auto-dry cycle to see how long it would take.

  • The Kenmore and the Frigidaire did the job in under 40 minutes.

  • The Asko took much longer, 1 hour and 15 minutes, but it dries the clothes at a far lower temperature. Average savings on your electrical bill, $25 a year, and easier on your clothes.

  • The Maytag took an hour and twenty minutes. Everything was hot and over dry. We looked into it and found the dryer was just too close to the wall, which affected the moisture sensor. We moved it away from the wall – did the test again and the Maytag clocked in at 41 minutes.

  • All socks were present and accounted for. (No sock-eating dryers in the bunch!)


The least expensive solution, the Frigidaire did the job for our towels, and our bank account.



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