what is a condenser tumble dryer

Laundry Tech: What Is a Condenser Tumble Dryer?

If you’re in the market for a new tumble dryer, you’ll need to consider choosing the right design and getting one with a suitable capacity.

Historically, there was only one type of tumble dryer – the vented tumble dryer with a large hose to blow the generated damp air outdoors. However, there is a relatively new machine on the block for you to consider, the condenser tumble dryer.

We’re going to look at condenser tumble dryers. And amongst other things, we will learn that condenser dryers collect the water into a tank instead of using an external vent hose.

So, read on, and you’ll have an answer to ‘what is a condenser tumble dryer?’ We will compare condenser vs vented and heat pump dryers to give you everything you need to know to choose.

How Does a Condenser Tumble Dryer Work?

The easiest way to understand what a condenser dryer is and what it can do for you is by determining how it works.

A condensing tumble dryer removes moisture from your clothes by heating air and blowing it through the tumble drum as it spins. The warm air is vented out of the drum with a high moisture content taken from the material.

The warm, moist air from the drum passes into a condensing chamber to be condensed, similar to how a room dehumidifier works. Unlike vented tumble dryers, water from the air is collected in a storage reservoir. Finally, the dried air is reheated and pumped back through the drum to continue drying the clothes.

Many modern condenser tumble dryers have sensor technology that detects when your clothes are dry. Unlike a traditional basic timer system, the sensor system is energy-efficient because it only runs the dryer for as long as needed. 

It’s good to install a condenser tumble dryer in a well-ventilated room. Although they don’t emit much hot, damp air themselves compared to a vented dryer, they generate heat that could cause a little condensation on cold surfaces if the room isn’t ventilated.

Do Condenser Tumble Dryers Need to Be Plumbed In?

Many condenser tumble dryers do not need to be plumbed in. In some units, the water is collected in a tank that you must manually empty.

The dryer will have an indicator to tell you when the tank is full. Usually, it’s a good idea to empty it after every load simultaneously with cleaning the lint filter. If the tank gets too full, the machine will stop mid-cycle, delaying your clothes from getting dry if you’re not there to empty it.

The advantage of this kind of condenser tumble dryer is that you can install them wherever you like so long as there is an electric system. You’re not limited to needing an external wall as you would be with a vented machine.

However, manually emptying the reservoir can be a chore. And in this case, you can get condensing dryers with a pump to empty the tank. This design is standard in washer dryers that need a drain and water supply for their washing functions.

Other Types of Tumble Dryer

Now that we’ve looked at what a condenser tumble dryer is, we can compare them with the other available types of dryers so you can choose which is best for you.

Vented Tumble Dryers

So, what is a vented tumble dryer? They are the more traditional designs. The main difference between condenser and vented tumble dryers is how they get the water out of the machine once it’s been removed from the clothes.

Vented tumble dryers also blow hot air into the drum to dry your clothes. However, once it’s passed through the tumble drum, the moisture-filled air is blown out of the dryer through a long flexible hose and vented outdoors.

This vent hose needs to be connected through an external wall to a small vent, or the vented dryer needs to be located close enough to a window that the hose can temporarily hang through.

So, if you are considering a vented vs condenser dryer, a large part of your decision will depend on where you want to locate the machine. A condenser tumble dryer will be the best choice if you don’t have an outside wall or a suitably nearby window.

Vented tumble dryers are usually cheaper to buy when compared to condenser dryers. They are also typically more energy-efficient as they only heat and blow the air instead of using power to condense it.

Vented tumble dryers are also often more reliable as they have fewer parts. Finally, they require lower maintenance as you don’t need to empty the water tank.

Do Condenser Dryers Take Longer to Dry?

The answer is yes; they can. Because the condenser dryer is recycling the air, it is less efficient at drying than a vented tumble dryer which introduces fresh air continuously. This is another reason why condenser dryers usually have lower energy efficiency.

Heat-Pump Dryers

a woman attending to her laundry

Heat-pump tumble dryers work in a similar way to condenser tumble dryers. Like condenser tumble dryers, a heat-pump tumble dryer also has a water reservoir and doesn’t need to vent hot air outside.

However, they differ in how these dryers generate and reuse the heat used to dry the material. Unlike condenser dryers which have a heating coil, heat-pump tumble dryers generate and reuse the heat with a technology similar to air-conditioning units and refrigerators. 

Once the hot air has passed through the drum and collected moisture, it is compressed by the pump and passed through the evaporator to remove the moisture.

The heat-pump technology makes these dryers more expensive to buy initially. However, they are the cheapest to run as they are the most energy-efficient. Many people choose eco-friendly heat pumps and regard them as an investment that will pay off in time by using less energy. These efficient dryers are excellent if you frequently tumble dry your family’s clothes.

Which Should You Choose? A Condenser Dryer, a Heat-Pump, or a Vented Tumble Dryer?

So, if you want to pick the right tumble dryer for your home, what do you need to consider to get your clothes dry?

Suitable Location

You can place condenser or heat-pump electric tumble dryers pretty much anywhere. Vented dryers need to be installed close to an external wall or near a window to vent the hot, wet air.

Drying Performance

Vented tumble dryers will dry clothes the quickest. Condenser and pump units will take a bit longer. Although heat-pumps, in particular, with the latest technology, are becoming more efficient and are only slightly slower.

Water Tank

With a condenser or heat-pump dryer, you may have a water tank to empty unless it is connected to a drain. A vented dryer doesn’t require emptying.

Cost to Buy

Vented dryers are the cheapest to purchase, followed by condenser tumble dryers and, finally, the more expensive heat-pump dryers.

Running Costs

A heat-pump dryer has the lowest running costs as they use the least energy, followed by vented dryers and condenser dryers which use more energy.

The Ideal Tumble Dryer for You

So there’s the answer to the question, “what is a condenser tumble dryer?”. We’ve seen that they are appliances that can efficiently and practically dry your wet clothes at home.

Condenser tumble dryers use warm air to remove the moisture from the clothing material. Unlike more traditional vented dryers, a condenser dryer stores the removed water from the drying process in a tank. This means that you can install a condenser dryer pretty much anywhere without needing to route a vent house outside.

When choosing between the condenser and the vented tumble dryers, you may consider the initial purchase cost and energy efficiency. Although they can be more versatile to install, condenser models tend to cost more and may use more electricity. New dryer designs use technology to reduce energy consumption, although these are usually more expensive to buy.

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