Gas dryers vs. electric dryers: Everything you need to know before making a purchase

Woman Loading Dryer Utility Room
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If you own a home or condo, odds are you have a washer and dryer. Those who rent may also have a washer and dryer in their house, but probably have never really thought about the pros and cons of electric versus gas dryers. Most of the time, if you are in the market for a new dryer, you are forced to get the type of dryer that your house is set up for. If you are building a house or happen to have both hookups in your home, you will be able to choose which type you’d like.

Regardless of your current dryer situation, the differences between the two types are interesting to examine. Which is cheaper to run? Which is easier to troubleshoot or work on yourself if repairs are needed? Which dries clothes faster? We’ve outlined the significant differences between the two for you below.

All dryers have an inner coil that is heated and utilize a fan to move the heat around your wet clothes. All dryers also have an internal drum that rotates, and in turn, tumbles the clothes around. All dryers require an electrical outlet because electricity runs the tumbler and fan regardless of the heat source. These are the similarities that all dryers share. Now, we examine the major differences.

Gas Dyers

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Gas dryers use a gas burner to generate the heat that dries your clothes. When you push the on button, a sensor on the motor lights the ignitor, which then opens the gas valve. This completes the heating part of the system. The electric fan, as mentioned above, circulates the heated air, and once the desired temperature is reached, the gas valve shuts off. The internal thermostat checks the air temperature throughout the cycle, and if the temperature drops, the gas valve and ignition process start over. The process of ignition creates combustion, which produces carbon monoxide. This is why gas dryers must be vented either outdoors or into an HVAC ventilation system.

Gas dryers typically cost more than electric dryers. On average, a gas dryer will cost about $100 more than the electric version of the same model. However, when you get into higher-end dryers, the cost difference between the two decreases, and increased cost becomes more about features than the type of energy you are using. Gas dryers are also more expensive to install than electric dryers. Gas dryers must be installed by licensed plumbers because the gas-line connections must be carefully fitted and then tested to ensure there are no gas leaks. Maintenance costs can be higher for gas dryers, as well, due to the fact that many require a professional technician. 

Although many of the factors above make gas dryers more expensive, gas dryers actually cost less to run than electric dryers. In most areas, natural gas (or propane) is less costly than electricity, which makes running the dryer cost less. Gas dryers also work faster than electric dryers. Not only will you save money on the energy bill because gas is cheaper than electricity, but you will also save money due to the amount of time it takes the dryer to dry your clothes. Typically, it takes a gas dryer about half the time of an electric dryer to dry a load of clothes.

Electric Dryers

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As stated above, all dryers use a heating coil to heat up air and move that air around your wet clothes. Electric dryers heat up the coil using electricity via a 240-volt current. You can find out if you have a 240-volt plug by looking at the outlet. If the outlet looks a regular outlet but oversized, you have the correct hookup. These outlets can be three-prong or four-prong, though most new construction will have a four-prong head.

Most electric dryers require venting just like their gas counterparts. However, you can get ventless electric dryers, and they are commonly used in compact areas such as apartments. Ventless dryers use a method called condensation dry, which means that instead of exhausting the heated air, the dryer uses a heat exchanger to cool the air and condense the water created by doing so into a drainpipe or collection tank. Dryers that utilize the non-vented method require routine maintenance to ensure they are performing correctly. Also, though termed non-vented, these dryers need to be placed in an area that has proper ventilation because they expel hot air back into the space that they occupy.

In terms of overall cost, electric dryers are cheaper on the low end than gas dryers. However, as we mentioned above, when you get to higher end dryers, there is little price difference between a gas dryer and an electric dryer. Ultimately, features such as quiet operation, steam cycles, and energy-saving mode end up costing you more regardless of the type of energy your dryer uses. However, ventless electric dryers do cost a bit more than vented electric dryers.

Electric dryers are simple to install, and thus are cheaper to install than gas dryers. All you have to do to install an electric dryer is plug it in. There is no need for a licensed professional like there is when you are installing a gas dryer. The maintenance of electric dryers is typically more straightforward than it is with gas dryers, so this saves money, as well. Replacing a belt or switch on a gas dryer usually requires a service call from a technician. In contrast, the same maintenance on an electric dryer can generally be completed by a handy do-it-yourselfer.

While electric dryers may be cheaper to buy and install, they do cost more to operate. Typically, electricity is more expensive than natural gas or propane, so running an electric dryer is going to cost you more monthly. Also, electric dryers take longer to dry clothes than gas dryers do, so the total cost to operate an electric dryer is much more than a gas dryer.

The Bottom Line

Overall, the costs to purchase and operate both types of dryers ends up pretty much even. There are mild safety concerns with both gas and electric dryers: Gas dryers could have an improperly fitted gas line and pose a fire hazard. Gas dryers also emit carbon monoxide and must be adequately vented or pose a poisoning risk. Electric dryers also can start a fire due to faulty wiring. Regardless of the type of dryer you choose or have to get because of your current setup, there are pluses and minuses to each.

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