Need a clothes dryer – here is what you need to know (guide)

Need a clothes dryer? There are three different types of clothes dryers – heater, condenser, and heat pump. All have their place, and your choice depends on your need for drying speed, room type (vented or closed), energy use, and clothes care.

These days the choice is overwhelming. Harvey Norman lists 135 ranging from the Simpson vented ($399) to the Miele 9Kg Heat Pump at $4599. There are also combo washers and dryers, Pidgeon pairs and LGs unique Washtower at $4999. Or you can hang the clothes on the line as your mum and grandma did. That is free!

Prices are from Harvey Norman and are current on 29 March 2022.

Heated dryers

A rotating drum with a fan-forced heating element. Hot, moist air is front vented to the room, or some have the option to vent through the wall or window to outside. Most have a rotary clockwork timer and two heat settings. Use low heat unless you are drying a load of towels or sheets.


  • Fastest drying – a 6kg load can dry in under an hour, so you can wash one load while drying another
  • Cheapest to buy
  • Stackable on front load washer or attach to a wall
  • Prices vary from 4Kg ($399) to 7Kg ($849) with ten fabric care programs


  • A little harsher on clothes as it tends to remove some of the fabric ‘bulk’ and deposit it in a filter that needs frequent cleaning.
  • Energy use – most are one-to-two stars, but it has shorter drying times
  • Venting into the room can result in mould and moisture build-up – open a window or door at least

A variation on the heated dryer is a sensor dryer that can measure the load weight and the dryness of the expelled air. I have been using a Fisher and Paykel 7Kg sensor ($719), perfect for beach towels (we live waterside).

Condenser Dryers

These are a closed system. Air is blown over a heating coil and into the tumble drum. It expells to a condenser chamber, water is extracted, and the dry air is heated and goes around again. The collected water reservoir needs frequent emptying. They are also far slower and usually found in washer/dryer combos.

My experience with combos is not good. The washer may be able to wash, say 8Kg, but the dryer can only handle 5Kg. Hey, it is the same drum, so you end up washing smaller lots that the dryer can handle. Drying time is about double that of a heated dryer.

Pro (finding it hard to find many)

  • Closed system – no venting but not for confined spaces as it generates heat
  • A little gentler on clothes
  • Convenient if you have limited space in an apartment


  • Mismatches between combo washing and drying capacity
  • Frequent water reservoir emptying
  • It can be very slow – at least twice that of vented dryers
  • A lot of weight – cannot be wall mounted
  • Poor energy to drying time ratio – may be lower cost to use, but you need more time
  • Not suited for small spaces or non-vented areas

Heat Pump Dryers

Think of these like a reverse cycle air conditioner. It extracts heat from the outside air and fan-forces the air through the drum. Like any air conditioner, the by-product is water that goes to a reservoir for frequent emptying.

A compressor is more energy efficient (usually 6+ stars) than a heating coil or condenser, but heat levels can be affected by the ambient air temperature and relative humidity. They are gentlest on clothes using far lower temperatures, but they can take even longer than condenser systems.

Heat Pumps start at around $1200, and there are options like steam for added hygienic cleaning.


  • Low energy use but longer time to dry, so it may even out
  • Gentler on clothes using lower heats
  • Larger capacities up to 9Kg
  • Dry air is vented as water goes into a reservoir first
  • Quieter
  • Ideal for smaller non-vented spaces


  • A lot of weight – cannot be easily wall mounted
  • Frequent water reservoir emptying
  • A lot of tech to go wrong
  • Some require three-phase power

Other dryer types

Town gas is an option, but it works on the same principle as a vented dryer. It is important to get one with many fabric care programs to precisely control the heat.

CyberShack’s view – Need a clothes dryer – we have done your homework

It’s a little too easy to be swayed by salespeople espousing the virtues of the latest $2K heat pump dryer.

If you have an open laundry, the vented type is the best, cheapest, fastest, and can be wall-mounted. Most will offer front or rear venting options and a builder to make a permanent external vent. How long should a cheapie last? Five years is a good life for a <$500 product.

But it is worth spending a couple of hundred dollars more for the vented sensor models and larger 7-8kg capacity (these will dry two pillows).

Condensers are out of favour. Heat pumps are best for confined spaces if you don’t care about extended drying times.

But for all dryers, air-dry (hang) your cotton shirts, blouses, t-shirts, pants, wool and delicates to avoid creases. Dryers are superb for sheets, towels, and underwear – rough and tumble.

If you need a washing machine red Need a washing machine – here is what you need to know (guide)

Need a clothes dryer