Since we compared front load washers and top load washers in last week’s mini lesson, it only makes sense that we cover dryers this week. We’ll talk about gas versus electric dryers and cover some of the more popular dryer options, such as steam dryers and dryers with moisture sensors. Plus, we’ll go over some best practices for installing the dryer vent system— what you can request that will decrease your risk of a dryer fire.
Alright, let’s get on with it. Starting with the 2 main categories of dryers— electric and gas.
ELECTRIC VERSUS GAS DRYERS
All dryers, both gas and electric, use electricity to rotate the main chamber, or drum. Electric dryers also use electricity to power a heater and a fan to produce the hot air that dries the clothes.
In contrast, gas dryers use natural gas or propane to power the heater and the fan. Gas dryers tend to cost about $100 more than comparable electric dryers, but, in general, electric and gas dryers dry laundry equally as well. Gas dryer, though, warm up faster, so they’re typically more energy efficient and cost a little less to operate.
Until 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy did not rate clothes dryers for energy efficiency. Older dryers showed little difference in energy use between models.
But that changed as some dryer manufacturers worked with the Dept of Energy to develop advanced features to save energy. Features like sensors that detect when clothes are dry and automatically shut the dryer off.
Energy Star certified dryers are available as gas, electric and compact models and they deliver superior efficiency and performance.
There are dozens of dryers that have earned the Energy Star label and they’re at least 20% more efficient than older, inefficient models.
To even more save energy and money with your dryer, run dryer loads one after another to take advantage of the already heated drum.
PRICE AND SPECIAL FEATURES
Dryers range from about $300 to more than $1,400, depending on their capacity and features. Stylish dryer models with fancy glass doors, electronic control panels and numerous cycles will cost the most.
Dryers with stainless steel drums will also cost you more than those with porcelain drums. Although there’s no difference in performance between porcelain and stainless steel drums, stainless steel eliminates the risk of rust and some people think stainless looks a little more high end.
Dryers with steam cycles have become very popular in the last few years. They incorporate water vapor to freshen clothes by removing odors and removing wrinkles. Steam dryers are more expensive than standard models and some require the installation of a water line to the dryer.
Steam dryer cycles will even allow you to sanitize items that are difficult to wash like decorative pillows and children's toys.
Here are some other dryer features that you might want to consider:
Moisture sensors detect the laundry’s dampness and shut off the machine when clothes are dry. This makes the dryer much more energy efficient, so you’ll save money and your clothes are less likely to shrink from being in the dryer too long. You can even find dryers under $500 with moisture sensors.
Auto-Dry cycles allow you to stop the dryer either when laundry is completely dry or damp, or points in between. This is helpful if you like to iron some pieces of clothing while they are still slightly damp, or if you want to only partially dry certain items in the dryer, like sweaters or lingerie.
An extended tumble setting continues to intermittently tumble clothing when you can’t get the laundry out of the dryer right at the end of the cycle. This decreases potential wrinkles. Some models intermittently tumble for up to three extra hours.
Some dryers signal you with music or beeps at the end of the dryer cycle. This signal can be turned off or have its volume lowered if you don’t want the sound to bother nearby sleepers.
Other special features include detachable racks that are designed to rest horizontally within the dryer drum. You can use these racks for delicates or clunky items like sneakers.
The last feature we’ll talk about today is a detangling feature. This is particularly helpful if you wash a lot of large, bulky bedsheets and comforters. The detangling feature allows the drum to slowly spin backwards at the end of the cycle to help untangle large pieces of laundry.
Should you buy a washer and dryer of the same brand or is it okay to mix brands?
It’s perfectly fine to mix brands, but If you want to be certain that your washer and dryer will be compatible size wise, you can buy a washer/dryer combination set of the same brand.
If you buy your dryer separately from your washer, you’ll have to pay attention to the capacity of each. If you choose a dryer that’s too small for the washer, you won't be able to dry a full washer load of laundry in one dryer cycle. But, if you go too big, and you'll waste electricity or gas, and money (on your utility bill) because you’ll be heating a large drum that you’re not totally utilizing.
An easy rule of thumb is that the capacity of your dryer should be about twice the capacity of your washer. So if your washer has a capacity of 3.5 cu. ft., then look for a dryer with a capacity of 7.0 cu. ft. This 2:1 ratio gives a full load of wet laundry enough room to dry efficiently without wasting energy. By the way, a washer with a capacity of 3.5 cu ft along with a 7.0 cu feet capacity dryer can accommodate a queen sized comforter.
Your standard "full-size" dryers typically range from about 7.3 cubic feet (cu. ft.) to 8.3 cu. ft. But don't be fooled by terms like "extra-large," "king-size," and “large-capacity." These terms have no standard definitions.
One brand might claim that an 8.3 cu ft dryer is a large capacity dryer while another brand might call an 8.3 cu ft dryer a standard sized dryer. So, when choosing a dryer to pair up with your washer, stick to the numbers. Remember, the dryer should have about twice the capacity of the washer.
Let’s end our lesson today with some tips about instilling the dryer vent system.
DRYER VENT DUCTS/DECREASING RISK OF DRYER FIRES
A dryer vent system is designed to remove heat, moisture and lint from your dryer, and it also exhausts carbon monoxide from a gas dryer. Improper venting can cause a dryer fire and could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Lots of us have a thin, white plastic, or silver foil flexible dryer duct, or hose. Those flexible hoses are not only not ideal, but they actually increase our risk of a dryer fire.
Dryer lint is flammable and the more lint that accumulates in the dryer and the duct, the greater the risk for fire. Plus excess lint hinders your dryer from drying your laundry completely.
Improperly installed dryer vent systems are common. Those thin flexible plastic and foil ducts kink and sag and lint can easily accumulate in the sags and ridges of those flexible ducts. In addition, that thin plastic and foil won’t contain the flames if a fire does start.
So, when you’re talking to the crew who will be installing your dryer, make sure you request a rigid metal dryer vent duct with a smooth interior surface, that’s at least a 4 inch diameter. Thicker flexible galvanized metal ducting can be used for corners and transitions between rigid metal duct runs, but the majority of the dryer vent system should be comprised of rigid metal ducts. There are also rigid metal elbow joints that can be used for transitions (see below).
The entire duct system needs to be supported and secured, but no screws should go through the ducts to connect duct joints because screws inside the duct can catch and accumulate lint. Instead, ducts should be connected with metal tape, not duct tape, but metal tape.
It’s also important to ensure that dryer ducts vent to the outdoors and not into attics or other enclosed areas. Moisture and hot air coming from the vent system can cause mold growth if it settles in an attic or some other indoor space. So you want the duct system to run to the outside, and preferably end in a place that would be easily accessible to you or a handyman so the duct can be regular cleaned out. In other words, try not to have the duct exit on the roof or high up on a wall, if at all possible.
Wherever the dryer duct vents to the outside, it needs to have a backdraft damper. A backdraft damper is a hinged or slotted duct cover that goes over the exterior duct opening. It allows dryer air to exit, but hinders outside air from coming in. It also keeps animals out when properly maintained.
You should periodically go outside and check the damper to make sure it's clean. When lint accumulates at the damper, it will eventually cause the damper to stay open.
Also inspect behind your dryer to check for build up of lint. And the dryer duct itself needs to be regularly cleaned.
There should be no screens included at the end of the dryer exhaust vent. When screens are installed, they can easily get clogged with lint. This will obviously reduce your dryer's effectiveness and create a blockage which can become a potential fire hazard.
If for some reason you can’t vent your dryer to the outdoors, you can opt for a ventless dryer. Ventless dryers can function any place in the home. Ventless dryers are very popular in Europe, but are not used as often in the US. All ventless dryers are powered by electricity because natural gas dryers require venting so carbon monoxide can escape.
While all dryers require maintenance to prevent lint build-up, ventless dryers need a bit more maintenance to prevent moisture problems.
No matter what type of dryer you have, keep in mind that if your dryer duct is full of lint, not only is that a fire hazard, but it will also keep your dryer from drying properly. Homeowners have been known to replace their dryer because they think the dryer is broken, when many times it’s the dryer vent system that’s the problem.
It’s obviously a lot cheaper to clean, repair or replace a dryer vent system than to replace a dryer. So, it’s important to check and clean our vent systems regularly, but especially if start experiencing poorly dried laundry.
One final thought: If you have one of those plastic or foil flexible dryer ducts in your current house, you should seriously consider replacing it with a rigid metal vent hose before you even move into your new house.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.