Whether you love it or hate it, doing the laundry is one of those chores you just can’t avoid. So, if you’re in the market for your first dryer or considering an upgrade, it’s time to do a thorough evaluation of what’s available.
As you might imagine, new machines are more energy-efficient than ever before. They’re available in high-capacity sizes, include intuitive smart features and special functions, plus come in a variety of attractive designs and styles. You can be sure that your new dryer will be very different from the one your mother owned.
Interestingly, there is one similarity to those old-style workhorses; they are still available in both electric and gas.
You may be inclined to purchase the type your family used because of familiarity or comfort level, but buying a clothes dryer is an investment that will impact your family for years. Take this opportunity to understand the pros and cons of each type before making a decision.
This is what you need to know:
Both gas and electric dryers are equally capable of drying your clothes, so there is no clear cut advantage with either power source. The key differences involve operation, cost, energy efficiency, installation, drying time, safety and fire risk, durability and maintenance.
The act of drying clothing is actually quite scientific, so both electric and gas dryers work in a similar fashion:
As air is pulled into the dryer, it passes through a heating coil to warm it. An electric fan circulates the heat throughout the dryer so when the clothes tumble, they are constantly being heated. The molecules from the water in the garments heat up and turn into steam through the process of evaporation. The steam is then vented out of the machine through the dryer’s exhaust tube.
Electric dryers are powered with a 240-volt current (twice the power needed for most household appliances) to run the electric heating coils and motors.
Gas dryers use both natural or propane gas and electricity to operate. A burner converts the gas into heat through a dedicated gas line and a 120-volt electrical outlet powers the drum and blower motors.
According to Consumer Reports, electric dryers generally cost between $500 and $1,400, depending on features. Gas dryers can run between $50 and $150 more than the comparable electric model.
Must-have features available on both types will be contributing factors on how much you spend:
Moisture Sensor—this is a huge improvement over thermostats in previous models. This detects how much moisture still remains in the dryer and will automatically turn off the machine when the laundry is dry. This helps reduce shrinkage and can extend the life of your clothing by preventing over-drying, plus it saves energy.
Extended Tumble—how often have you forgotten to take your clothes out the dryer only to find them a wrinkled mess? This new ingenuity intermittently tumbles the apparel up to three hours after the cycle has stopped so you can avoid dragging out the iron.
End-of-Cycle Signal—even if you don’t have the extended tumble feature on your new dryer, you can be alerted when your clothing is dry with a series of beeps or chime. Removing your clothes promptly when the dryer stops will save ironing time or alert you to clothes that need additional drying time. No fear of disturbing the baby as most signals have a volume or on/off switch.
Capacity Size—it’s very important to “pair” your dryer with your washer or you won’t be able to fit a full washer load into one cycle. The general rule is your dryer should hold twice the capacity of your washer. Go too small and there won’t be enough room to tumble the clothes or dry them efficiently.
Compact units for those with limited space or light laundry needs are available at 3.4 cu. ft. “Full-size” dryers are most common and range between 5.8 cu. ft. and 8.3 cu. ft. “Mega-capacity” units are capable of handling heavy-duty loads and come as large as 9.0 cu. ft. Be careful searching only by dryer terminology as manufacturers don’t always identify their units the same.
Electric dryers are pretty easy to install as most laundry areas are equipped with a dedicated 240-volt circuit. Many models don’t require venting either which makes them a perfect choice for an apartment or home with limited space. Be careful, though, that your electric model has some type of lint catcher or you’ll find lint and dust strewn all over your laundry room.
Gas dryers are more complicated and require additional space. In addition to a 120-volt electrical outlet, they need a separate gas hookup. If you don’t have one, you’ll want to hire a professional plumber to ensure it meets all safety codes. In addition, all gas dryers require outside venting to disburse harmful fumes.
Plan about $100 for a simple installation or several hundred dollars to hire out a gas line and vent system.
Energy Consumption Costs
As the second least energy-efficient appliance in your home (only the refrigerator tops it,) dryers make up approximately 10-percent of all energy costs. As we identified earlier, electric dryers are less expensive for the initial purchase, but that savings may be eaten up with electricity costs and the length of time needed to run the machine.
Gas dryers can be pricier up front, but even with the addition of a gas line and vent system, may be the more efficient choice. Gas prices are often lower than electricity and faster drying times may make a gas dryer the least expensive to operate over its lifetime.
Regardless of the power source you choose, make sure it is Energy-Star certified for the most efficient features available. Boasting they are “20 percent more efficient than standard models,” Energy-Star electric and gas dryers both include moisture sensors to reduce dry times and lower heat settings to reduce power. These features can increase efficiency and cut down on usage costs.
Both gas and electric units with comparable features will dry clothing in about the same amount of time. However, gas models heat up faster so have the edge for speed over electric.
Another determining factor is if the appliance is vented or non-vented. Gas dryers must be vented to eliminate toxic fume build-up, but electric-styles are available with and without vents. Vent-less units typically use a condenser to heat the air, then it evaporates the water, it drains into a chamber, and then reheats it to start the process again. While this method eliminates the need for an outdoor exhaust, it slows the drying process.
Safety & Fire Risk
We’ve talked about the toxic fumes that can build up on gas dryers, but now it’s time to identify the real risk factors associated with poor ventilation for your dryer.
- Building Code restrictions—some local laws prohibit dryer use without an exterior venting system. The concern with gas dryers is the possibility of carbon monoxide build-up, especially in a confined area. This is a colourless, odourless gas that can cause dizziness, dull headache, weakness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, blurred vision, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness or death.
- Humidity—approximately two litres of water evaporates from every load of laundry. If you allow that water vapour to be released back into your room (as is the case with some electric dryers), the humidity will rise and the excessive moisture in the air can lead to mold and mildew.
Approximately 10 to 20 percent of the world’s population are allergic to mold. Reactions range from congestion and wheezing to red eyes or skin rashes. Continued exposure can lead to dizziness, fever, shortness of breath or flu-like symptoms. They’ll also been known to cause attacks for people suffering from asthma.
You can run a dehumidifier in your laundry area to reduce some of the extra moisture in the room, but keep in mind the extra electricity that will be used to run it.
- Lint—this seems harmless enough, especially when there are just a few pieces stuck on your clothing. Unfortunately, the accumulation of lint in your dryer or dissipation around your room can be hazardous.
A U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report on dryers indicates that most dryer fires are caused by highly flammable lint build-up. Electric dryers pose a greater risk of fire than gas as they produce more heat. With more than 15,000 fires causing injury, death and millions in property damage, this is a significant concern. Make sure to clean out the lint filter after every load and annually clear out lint from the exhaust pipe to the outside.
There are numerous common problems reported with both gas and electric dryers, so it’s difficult to determine a clear winner in this category. FIX Appliances CA offers affordable, same-day service so you’ll be up and running in no time.
Common Symptoms and Problems:
- Too Noisy—bearings, seals or worn belts.
- Won’t Start—heating element, high-limit thermostat or cycling thermostat.
- Little or No Heat—heating elements or fuses.
- Drum Won’t Tumble—switches or belts.
- Broken Timer—timer motors or cycling thermostats.
- Slow Drying—heating elements, thermostats or coils.
- Won’t Shut Off—door switches or timers.
- Shuts Off Too Soon—fuses, heating coils or thermostats.
- Too Hot—fuses or thermostats.
While the most environmentally friendly method of drying clothes is to hang them outside to air dry, the convenience and practicality of using a dryer makes this the most popular option today.
Buying an Energy-Star certified appliance with its eco-friendly features will help you be efficient and conserve energy. Of course, if you use renewable energy sources like wind or solar power, you’ll be helping the planet even more.
Smart Use Tips
Both gas and electric dryers can be energy-efficient and cost-efficient by using some of these smart-use tips provided by the Consumer Energy Center:
- Heat the room—the dryer will need to work harder to maintain the proper temperature for drying clothes, so you must use it a heated space.
- Clean the filter—as mentioned above, cleaning the lint filter regularly will help reduce the risk of fire. In addition, a clean filter will help with air flow and allow the clothes to dry faster.
- Dryer sheets leave a film on the lint filter, so if you use them regularly, clean them once a month with a toothbrush. This will remove any left-over residue and keep your machine working at its best.
- Don’t overload—it’s important to have a full load for your dryer to work perfectly. Always keep in mind that overloading it will take more time to dry the entire load and reduce the life of the clothes.
- Check the outside dryer vent—this should be done occasionally to make sure there are no outside air leaks and that it is free from lint build-up.
- Separate clothes—try to dry similar types of clothing together. When you mix heavy denim jeans with a lightweight synthetic, your clothing will take longer to dry.
- Dry several loads consecutively—it takes less time to heat up the dryer after it’s already been running, so be sure to dry several loads one after the other.
- Use the moisture sensor—this new feature automatically shuts the machine down once the clothes are dry.
The Final Verdict
Now that you understand the pros and cons of gas and electric dryers, you can make an informed decision about which type will work best for you. Gas is more budget-friendly than electricity overall, but the extra cost of the machine and installation of a gas line may limit the savings.
Follow the tips for using your machine properly, and you’ll not only save energy, you’ll save money.
Whenever you have a question about the proper use of your machine or if you need service for an appliance breakdown, contact FIX Appliances CA. Our skilled technicians are available for immediate service whenever you need them, and every dryer repair is covered by a service and parts warranty for your peace of mind.