Gas vs Electric Dryers: The Lowdown on Shopping for Laundry Room Appliances - Bob Vila

Choosing a New Appliance: Gas vs. Electric Dryers

Which is cheaper to run? Dries your clothes quicker? Lets you do DIY troubleshooting? Read on to get a load of the differences between these two types of must-have machines!

Shopping for Laundry Room Appliances? The Lowdown on Gas vs Electric Dryers

Photo: istockphoto.com

As you no doubt know, dryers operate by either electricity or gas. An electric dryer (which has a lifespan of about 14 years) employs an inner coil to generate heat, which is then circulated by a fan as the clothes tumble in a rotating drum. A gas dryer (life expectancy: 13 years) works on the same principle, except the heat is produced by a gas burner. An electric dryer requires a 240V outlet to provide enough juice to produce heat and tumble the clothes. A gas dryer requires both a gas supply line and a 120V electric outlet; the lower, 120V outlet is used only for tumbling the clothes and running the fan—the gas burner produces the heat.

One of your home’s hardest working appliances has got to be the clothes dryer, so if yours is about to conk out, you’ll soon be in the market for a new one. While the type that’s best for you may ultimately come down to the existing utility hookups in your home, there are several notable differences between gas and electric dryers. Consider the following key distinctions in the question of “gas vs electric dryers” while shopping for the right replacement.

Electric dryers are more common. You’ll find more electric than gas models on the showroom floor because virtually all homes have electricity. In many communities, however, homes have both electric and gas lines, allowing a choice between appliances. Most gas dryers are designed to run on natural gas, as that’s what runs through community gas lines, but rural dwellers might not have access to it. In that case, a natural gas dryer can easily be made to run on propane via a conversion kit that costs between $30 and $40.

Gas dryers must always be vented. When gas dryers operate, the combustion that takes place inside produces carbon monoxide, which must be vented either outdoors or into a suitable HVAC ventilation system. Most electric dryers also require venting to keep from blowing hot, moist air into the home. Some newer electrical models, however, eliminate the need for venting. Similar to the process that takes place in an HVAC unit, a ventless dryer recirculates hot moist air through a loop system that cools the air, removes the moisture, and recirculates the air back through the dryer. A ventless electric dryer is a good choice where there’s no suitable way to install an exhaust vent.

Shopping for Laundry Room Appliances? The Lowdown on Gas vs Electric Dryers

Photo: istockphoto.com

Gas dryers cost more than electric dryers. A mid-range electric dryer runs around $400 to $600, while a mid-range gas dryer will set you back $500 to $750. On average, a gas dryer will run approximately $100 more than an electric dryer of the same style and quality. When it comes to high-end dryers, however, price differences between are less. A top-end dryer, gas or electric, runs $1,200 to $1,600. At that range, added costs have less to do with the power source and more to do with such bells and whistles as whisper-quiet operation, delayed start modes, and even steam cycles that dry clothes virtually wrinkle-free. All ventless dryers are electric and if you want one, you’ll pay on average, $75 to $125 more than a standard vented model.

Gas dryers are pricier to install. While a handy homeowner with some DIY skills can often install an electric dryer just by plugging the dryer in a 240V outlet and connecting its vent hose to an in-wall exhaust hookup. A licensed plumber, however, is required to hook up a gas dryer, because gas line connections must be carefully fitted and then tested to ensure that no gas leaks will occur. This can add $75 to $125 to the cost.

Maintenance and repair costs are higher for gas dryers. A DIYer can often troubleshoot operating problems that occur with an electric dryer, such as replacing worn belts or a faulty switch or even installing a new heating element if the old one goes out. But repairs to gas dryers usually require the services of a qualified technician. A typical service call, excluding any necessary replacement parts, can run $75 to $125, and if the technician must make more than one trip, costs can add up quickly. During the warranty period for either type of dryer, you’ll want to contact the manufacturer and have them set up the service call, which will often be free.

Gas dryers cost less to operate. If by now you’re wondering why anyone would wish to dry with gas, it’s this: In most areas, natural gas and propane are less expensive than electricity, so it costs approximately half as much to dry a load in a gas dryer versus an electric one. Gas dryers typically cost 15 to 25 cents per load to dry, whereas it may cost 30 to 40 cents per load in an electric dryer. While you will pay more initially for a gas dryer, the operating savings over time will often make up the difference.

Gas dryers work faster. On average, a gas dryer can dry a load in about half the time of an electric dryer. Gas dryers heat up more quickly because their burners fire immediately producing instant heat. Electric dryers dry slower because their heating elements take longer to warm up, and they never get quite as hot as a gas burner, so you’ll be waiting on those jeans and sheets quite a bit longer (though there are a few things you can do to help your appliance dry clothes faster).

Gas and electric dryers present different safety concerns. Gas-powered appliances always pose a concern because ill-fitting gas line connections can lead to gas leaks in the home—a potential fire hazard. Improperly vented gas dryers also increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have any gas appliances, it’s a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector located nearby. Electric dryers also pose a small risk of fire, or electrocution, due to improper installation or faulty wiring. Don’t let that scare you, however: When installed correctly, and maintained properly, such as emptying lint filters after every load, not overloading the dryer past its approved capacity, keeping the area around the dryer free from lint and dust buildup, and not using an extension cord, both gas and electric dryers are very safe household conveniences.