Drying clothes is easy with an electric dryer

As the complexity of modern technology increases, once-simple appliances like clothes dryers are appearing with exciting updates that make doing laundry an effortless task. Beyond basic heating, manufacturers are equipping their products with sensors, racks, steam drying and other features to enhance performance and convenience. When shopping for high-quality appliances, knowing what you want will get you the best deal, so read on for tips on choosing clothes dryers.

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Dryer Options

The main factors to consider when buying a dryer are the fuel type, size, design and features. Traditional tumble dryers can be electric or gas (propane or natural gas), depending on your home's accommodations (a 220-volt dryer outlet for electric or a gas line and 120-volt standard outlet). Electric dryers are initially cheaper, ranging from $250 to over $3,000, but will cost more to run. Due to the limited variance in efficiency, Energy Star does not publish dryer ratings, but many manufacturers produce high-efficiency series — with the corresponding higher starting prices, of course.

Depending on desired placement, dryers can be front or top-loading. Front-load dryers are more expensive, but they can be placed under counters and are stackable if you purchase a washer dryer combo. Similar to washers, dryers come in standard widths of 27 to 30 inches, along with convenient 24-inch compact models that can be fit into smaller spaces, such as pantries. For very large families or heavy washing, consider high-capacity dryers (7 cubic feet) with a larger drum. If you plan to locate washers and dryers near bedrooms, look for units with adequate suspension, as well as anti-vibration and noiseless options.

Purchasing high-end dryers may get you a more appealing design, but it won't necessarily get you the best performance or features. The average buyer shops within the $350 to $700 price range and can get great value for their money. Nowadays, dryers can include sensors that adjust the cycle to the needs of the clothes, drying racks for items like shoes, indicators lights for the lint trap and automatic shut-off, all at a reasonable cost. Many LG, Maytag and Whirlpool dryers also include steam drying to remove wrinkles, while other products, like Kenmore dryers, use "touch-up" features to prevent wrinkling by spinning clothes periodically after the cycle is finished.

For interior durability, stainless steel drums are most reliable and damage-proof. For exterior looks, color options such as red and ocean blue are typically available on models above $600, while basic models are typically limited to black, white, biscuit (beige) and stainless steel.

Things to Consider

Convenience features are definitely important, but the right cycle options are essential. If you typically use standard heating, a simple dryer with 2 to 3 settings will be adequate. If you wash a variety of clothing or are concerned about energy costs, focus on models with special care features and More Dry or Less Dry options in addition to timed drying. However, avoid overpaying for overly specific settings, such as jeans settings, since you can adjust the heat accordingly without the customization.

The largest dryer manufacturers — Whirlpool and GE — also produce affordable models for the popular Sears Kenmore brand. If you're concerned about the cost of buying a dryer for a large family, both Kenmore and GE dryers have received favorable reviews for their Super Capacity lines, which have features to rival high-end units and prices as low as $400.

Remember to focus only on the features you need most and ask about extended warranties for longer coverage. If you create and stick to a purchasing plan, you won't have to worry about going dryer shopping again anytime soon.