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How to buy a dryer

Updated on January 6, 2018

Types of dryers

Dryers are available in two types, electric and gas. Both electric and gas dryers contain a small electric motor that turns the drum (tumbles the clothes) and a fan that distributes heat. They are both equally effective. However, gas dryers cost more initially (about $50 more than the electric model) but will cost less to operate over their expected 10 to 15-year life span.

Electric dryers
These dryers have heating coils that supply heat for drying your clothes. Most of them operate on a 240-volt current, which is twice the strength of an ordinary household current for lighting and using small appliances. Your laundry area must have a 240-volt outlet. Electric dryers are easier to install than gas dryers are and there is no gas hookup or combustion-exhaust vent required. An electric dryer also presents no potential health hazards from combustion byproducts such as carbon monoxide and has a lower purchase price than the comparable gas dryer. However, they usually do have a higher operating cost than the gas dryer, depending on your local electric rates.

Gas dryers
These dryers use a gas burner to supply heat for drying your clothes, otherwise, their parts and operation are the same as an electric dryer. Usually, installing a gas dryer is economical only if your house already uses gas or if you plan to have gas supplied to your house for other reasons like central heating and cooking. Gas dryers also require professional installation to insure that you have proper connections, flame adjustment and safe venting of combustion exhaust. These dryers have lower operating costs than electric dryers, due to lower energy costs but installing one is sometimes difficult and requires a gas hookup, electric outlet and combustion-gas venting. There is also a potential health hazard from combustion byproducts and gas dryers have a higher purchase price than the electric dryer.

Cost of a clothes dryer

Clothes dryer prices range from around $200 to around $1500. Most people spend between $400 and $600 and eighty percent of the dryers are between $250 and $550.

7 things to consider when buying a dryer

Space - Measure the space available for a new dryer and do not forget to measure the widths of any doorways leading to the location of your new dryer.

Size - Choose a dryer that is adequate for the amount of laundry you do per load. Match the dryer's drum capacity to the tub capacity of your washer to avoid having to divide single wash loads into multiple dryer loads.

Types of clothes washed - Choose a dryer with cycles that match the types of fabric and clothing that you will be drying frequently.

Number of Cycle Selections –This represents the number of preset cycles the dryer has. They usually include delicate, permanent press and regular cycles. You are likely to pay more for a dryer with several cycles. However, you will be able to handle special fabrics easily. Generally, there are 1-10 cycles on a dryer.

Number of Temperature Selections - Dryers come equipped with different temperature levels. The number indicates how many temperature settings the dryer has. The better models may feature additional temperature selections and options that are specific to the type of clothing being dried.

Color – this refers to the exterior color of the dryer (if you care). Most dryers are available in white or almond. However, some manufacturers have been expanding the color selections to include black, bisque, and graphite.

Controls for clothes with special ironing requirements – these leave cottons damp for immediate ironing, cools permanent press clothing to prevent wrinkles and more.

End-of-cycle alarm — A beeping signal to annoy you until you attend your clothes.

Moisture sensors — These are expensive but they are the most efficient way to dry your clothes and the easiest on fabrics. When the moisture level drops by a specified amount, indicating the clothes are dry, a signal from the sensors automatically triggers the drying cycle's cool-down phase. Moisture sensors control drying more accurately than thermostats and are found on most dryers.

Key features of dryers

Capacity – This is measured in cubic feet by the size of the dryer drum. A larger capacity means the dryer is capable of drying more clothes than a smaller capacity dryer. It is very important to double-check the actual cubic foot capacity when shopping for a dryer. These are some general dryer capacity levels:
compact: 2 to 4 cubic feet
medium: 4.1 to 5.8 cubic feet,
large: 5.9 to 6.9 cubic feet
extra large: 7 cubic feet and higher.

Controls -- Controls are either mechanical or electronic. Mechanical controls feature rotary knobs and push buttons. Dryers with electronic controls offer additional conveniences such as easy to read displays and custom cycles. Generally, electronic controls are found on top of the line dryers. On mid- to upper-end models you will find push-button switches hidden behind smooth one-piece plastic console covers. Choose a dryer with controls that are easy to read especially if the machine will be located where lighting is poor, such as in a basement or an enclosed room.

Auto-Dry Control –This feature automatically stops the dryer when clothes are completely dry. This prevents you from over drying your clothes and wasting electricity. Some dryers with auto-dry control have a thermostat to measure the humidity of the exhaust coming from the dryer. Other models use electronic moisture sensors to measure the moisture inside the dryer drum.

Drum light – This illuminates the interior of the drum and is essential for seeing inside the dryer to locate all of your laundry. Drum lights are standard on midrange and top-of-the line machines.

Drying rack – These are installed temporarily in the drum for drying items that do not require tumbling, like sneakers. A drying rack is an optional item that is available on some dryers.

Exhaust vent – This conducts moist exhaust air from the drum to the outside through an exhaust duct.

Lint filter – This filter traps fabric lint that is generated during drying. The lint filter is usually located on the dryer top or inside the door. To get the best performance from your dryer, clean the lint filter after every load.

Lint signal – This signals when the lint filter needs cleaning. A clean lint filter insures energy efficiency and better drying performance.

Temperature selector – this allows proper drying of a variety of fabrics. Most dryers offer three heat settings: high, medium and low. Most dryers can also tumble clothes without heat.

Timer/cycle selector -- Cycles are the various combinations of time and air temperature used to dry laundry. Standard drying cycles are for cottons (long duration/high temperature), permanent press (moderate duration/medium temperature) and delicates (short duration/low temperature).

Other cycles to choose from:

Air fluff — tumbles dryer contents with no heat.

Damp dry — short, timer-controlled intended to leave fabrics slightly damp for easy immediate ironing.

Easy care — includes cool-down so fabrics wrinkle less.

Press care or wrinkle guard — tumbles clothes irregularly without heat for up to 45 minutes after the end of a drying cycle. Prevents dry clothes from settling in the drum, which can cause wrinkles.

Wrinkle release or touchup — tumbles on low heat and then cools down. For smoothing synthetic and permanent press fabrics that are clean but wrinkled from storage or packing.

Venting safety

Dryer vent exhaust, as well as some lint, through a duct that attaches to the machine. Different types of ducts are available but only two are really safe.

Flexible ducts made of plastic or foil may sag over time and cause a build up of lint. This is a fire hazard.

Sturdy metal ducts, flexible or rigid, will not sag and are much safer.

Do not confuse the flexible foil with a flexible metal. Foil looks crinkly like the wrap you put on leftovers and when held in your hand sags. Metal holds it in shape when bent.

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