Heat Pump Tumble Dryers
Are they any good or is it a waste of money, we look in depth at heat pump dryers
The latest fad in tumble dryers and, we don’t see it changing anytime soon, is what are known as heat pump tumble dryers which is a term that most people are probably not likely to be familiar with nor will many people understand what this technology is.
What you will see is marketing hoopla and blurb that will promise a nirvana of drying laundry at much lower energy costs. This can be wrapped up with a “green” bow very often telling you that you’re being “green” by using less energy.
But, is that true?
Does a heat pump dryer cut it in the real world for people in general? Are heat pump tumble dryers worth it or, even any good?
We will try to explain what they are, how they work in reality and give you the information to decide if, for you, that a heat pump dryer is worth the extra cash outlay.
Heat Pump Tumble Dryer Pros
The pros of a heat pump dryer are fairly simplistic with the major benefit being that they do indeed use far less energy than a normal tumble dryer would do. However, do not stop reading just yet as it isn’t all sweetness and light or, as simple as that.
Other than that there’s not really a lot to offer over a normal condenser tumble dryer.
Heat Pump Tumble Dryer Cons
We have more cons than pros!
First up is the additional expense in the first place.
Heat pump dryers use a heat exchange in much the same manner as a refrigeration product would or, air conditioning and as they need a compressor, gas and so on they are much more expensive to produce. Add to this the lower volumes sold due to the higher cost and the cost ramps up quite considerably, expect to pay about double what you would for an equivalent “normal” dryer.
For most, this will be £300-400.
That’s an awful lot of electricity you can buy with the difference.
Heat Pump Dryer Electricity Use
If you’re considering buying a heat pump tumble dryer to save loads and loads of electricity then read this section very carefully, we’ll tell you what the marketing people won’t.
The best you will get (using current figures we can find) is an normal average annual cost of use around £23 for a heat pump tumble dryer but, it costs £800.
The best normal condenser dryer, about £59 by comparison but, it only costs £380.
You don’t have to be a math genius to work out that to save a bean on electricity you’d have to own that heat pump dryer for more than eleven years, with no unforeseen extra costs to save a single penny.
Given the life expectancy is usually about 5-10 years these days, that really doesn’t make much sense does it?
If this is the sole reason you’re looking at a heat pump dryer is to save money on electricity we would strongly advise you to think very, very carefully about that choice.
The Green Argument
Often we see these kind of products being branded as “green” or “eco friendly” simply as they use less electricity.
As you might expect, it’s not that simple.
What no manufacturer will want to talk about is the extra use of materials (which need energy to make), the extra build time (again, more energy use) or the additional weight (more energy use to move them about) or extra packing and so on. It is convenient to forget this.
Whether the additional energy used in production and shipping can ever be recovered in the lifespan is open to debate but, we’d expect not.
You will see all kinds of fudged figures giving you the cost per kilo of laundry and so on but a lot of these are marketing garbage. They take the maximum capacity that you can never use as it’s a theoretical maximum and divide that to give a cost per kilo but, back here in the real world, that number will often prove to be almost double that.
Trouble is, most people wouldn’t have a clue let alone the equipment to verify this and, unless you happen to scrutinise your electricity bill to the Nth Degree, you’d be none the wiser. Most people won’t.
Heat Pump Tumble Dryer Perfomance
Not as good as a normal dryer in most users’ opinions or feedback we’ve had.
Heat pump tumble dryers do not get as hot as a normal dryer, by the nature of the technology they cannot do so therefore, they will almost always take longer to dry laundry. In some cases, a lot longer and, we do mean a lot!
Figure on what might take an hour in a normal dryer taking twice as long or more.
Added to which you will need to be extremely vigilant and ensure that the filters and condenser are almost religiously cleaned and maintained or the performance will suffer yet further as good and proper airflow are absolutely critical to the performance. Of course this is good practice (read, essential) for any tumble dryer but, on a heat pump dryer it is even more critical than normal.
Given the lower levels of heat and that these types of tumble dryer are all electronically controlled they cannot be used in low temperature environments in any way whatsoever. Most will have a minimum operating room temperature of 10˚C at best but, even that’s a bit cold for some.
You also cannot use them in environments that are too warm as they need cool, but not too cold air to condense.
In other words, forget using a heat pump dryer in your garage, outbuilding or conservatory etc and they simply will not work for a good bit of the year.
Then there’s the addition of all those extra electronics (that do not work well in damp areas either) which are expensive and sensitive. This makes the dryer far less tolerant of operator error from overloading, too little load and so on.
After this there’s a compressor fitted that is essentially the same as you would find on a fridge or freezer, the heat pump coils etc to form the heat exchange and all the electrics for that.
All this adds up and, should you choose to split one of these machines open, you’ll find that they are, compared to more normal tumble dryers, much more complex and have far, far less room to work with inside.
Service engineers mostly hate them due to this and that they often need completely stripped down to get to anything to repair them. This makes any service costs considerably higher as well obviously as, they take longer to repair.
By way of an example of this, the like of the Samsung heat pump tumble dyrers to do much of anything to them at all, are a complete stripdown that many repairers will struggle to do in under an hour. This is not a critisism of Samsung at all as many are the same deal when it comes to servicing but it is a good example of why the guys look at a call for one and think, "oh no" or words to that effect as they know what's involved.
Aside which, service engineers aren’t familiar with them. They’re fairly new and low volume so they don’t see too many.
Therefore, expect a premium on normal service rates to repair a heat pump tumble dryer.
This will change in time as these dryers become more commonplace of course however, they are still harder and more involved than a bog standard tumble dryer would be.
Let's demonstrate, here's what a service engineer has to do in order to do most common repairs to a Samsung heat pump tumble dryer:
We think you'll agree, that's a bit much to change a drive belt!!
But isn't the diamond drum pretty.
Where A Heat Pump Dryer Makes Sense
Commercially, even perhaps light commercial use where time is not a problem and the people using the machine will actually take care of it then there is a case to be made for the heat pump tumble dryer.
Domestically, unless you tumble dry an awful lot of laundry then we would think that the argument really doesn’t stack up for most people.
Heat pump tumble dryers and gas tumble dryers for that matter have been used in commercial operations for a number of years and, given the cost savings that can be had on a large commercial tumble dryer this makes complete sense.
But, when you bring that down into a domestic setting we cannot see how it makes much sense at all. Unless you dry a lot, then it might do.
If you insure against breakdown, it costs more as well so you’d have to factor that in as well.
It is very unlikely that, for most people, they would dry enough to justify the huge initial outlay even if we completely ignore all the other foibles so, we cannot recommend these tumble dryers to other than a very small niche of people.
Our recommendation, if you hadn’t guessed it already, is to pass on buying heat pump tumble dryer unless you dry a lot as it's only then that it will make sense financially.