When it comes to choosing the best clothes dryer, consumers have two choices: gas or electric. Electric clothes dryers, which require a 240-volt wall plug, are less expensive than comparable gas dryers by anywhere from $50 to $150 on average. However, gas dryers are generally cheaper to operate because natural gas rates are cheaper than electricity in most areas, according to the California Energy Commssion.
Despite this, about 80 percent of clothes dryers sold today are electric, according to ConsumerReports.org, and there are far fewer user or professional reviews for gas dryers. Tests show little difference in performance between gas and electric versions of the same dryer, so we include the corresponding gas dryer for each model covered in our report.
ConsumerReports.org offers the best information on clothes dryers, with comprehensive and credible ratings. Editors test about 75 electric dryers and rate them on drying performance, noise, convenience and capacity. The gas-powered versions of each top-rated dryer are also recommended (if they exist).
The Good Housekeeping Research Institute also conducts thorough tests of both gas and electric dryers, but their results are less detailed than those at ConsumerReports.org. Although each dryer is rated with a letter grade, the write-ups accompanying these grades are brief. The editors list pros and cons for some of the tested dryers, but others have only a short paragraph listing their highlights.
Professional tests can evaluate a dryer's performance, but not its long-term reliability. To gauge customer satisfaction, we consulted the 2011 Laundry Appliance Satisfaction Study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. While this survey records the opinions of more than 5,500 consumers on numerous dryer bands, evaluating each on such factors as performance, features and price, it doesn't compare specific dryer models.
A host of retail and user-review sites give owners a chance to weigh in on their clothes dryers. While such reviews rarely approach the depth and knowledge of the pros, many offer insights into usage over time and sometimes delve into practical matters that the experts overlook. Retail sites such as HomeDepot.com, BestBuy.com, Lowes.com and Sears.com all have a good number of user reviews. Some owner feedback can also be found on Viewpoints.com and Epinions.com.