Which is better, a heat pump dryer or a condenser dryer?

Clara V.
Clara V.Published on 17 Mar 2022

With wet weather and high humidity levels looking like they’re here to stay, it’s understandable why many Aussies are on the hunt for a new clothes dryer to keep their laundry dry and refreshed.

Those who can’t air dry their laundry outside at the moment aren’t the only potential dryer buyers right now - many people are turning to dryers for the convenience that they offer, particularly when it comes to apartment living. Plus, there’s nothing quite as comforting as putting on warm clothes fresh from the dryer - that’s a pretty convincing cherry on top.

We look into the differences between a heat pump dryer and a condenser dryer to compare factors like performance, energy efficiency, and cost, to help you see which dryer is better suited to your laundry needs.

A man removing a variety of coloured towels from a white dryer.

What is the difference between a heat pump dryer and a condenser dryer?

Both dryers operate in a fairly similar way.

A heat pump clothes dryer uses a pump to heat air and absorb moisture from your laundry. This water is collected inside a tank, which you’ll have to empty regularly (unless you connect it to plumbing). After each drying cycle it recycles the heat energy, making it more energy efficient.

A condenser clothes dryer works by blowing air over a heating element into the drum. The hot, damp air is then pushed into a container (which you’ll need to empty regularly) where it condenses into water.

Heat pump dryers vs condenser dryers: how do they compare?

Energy efficiency

One of the main selling points of heat pump dryers is their energy efficiency. These dryers reheat and recycle heated air, and usually have the highest energy rating of any dryers you can buy, using less than half the energy than their condenser counterparts. That’s a win for the planet and for your wallet.

Drying temperature

The low drying temperature of heat pump dryers wins here. The temperature at which a dryer dries your laundry is important because higher temperatures can shrink, distort, or wear out your clothes.

Condenser dryers operate at higher temperatures than heat pump models, so your laundry will probably endure more wear and tear in one of these than it would in a heat pump clothes dryer.

Drying times

A condenser dryer will dry your clothes more quickly than a heat pump model, as a condenser dryer uses a heat element rather than the heat pump and coolant that a heat pump dryer uses.

Drying a full load in a heat pump dryer can take up to 4 hours - that’s up to an hour slower than a condenser dryer would take. If you need to dry multiple loads per day, then drying times may be a dealbreaker.

Programs

Both heat pump and condenser dryers often come with a variety of drying programs and features, so there’s no obvious winner here - it all depends on the specific model you buy.

If energy efficiency is a concern, look for sensor technology that senses when your laundry has dried and stops the drying cycle - this prevents over-drying and helps you save on electricity bills. You should also compare not only the number of drying settings on any machine you look at, but whether these drying settings are actually useful for the type of laundry you need to do.

A woman adjusting the temperature dial on a white clothes dryer.

Build

Both heat pump and condenser dryers don’t need to be vented, so they’re suitable for those living in apartments or those who aren’t able to position their dryer near a window. Both tend to be quite heavy, so they generally can’t be mounted on a wall.

Heat pump dryers do have a bit more of a complex design than condenser dryers, which means there’s more technology that can go wrong. That means that should things go wrong, you should expect a higher repair bill.

Cost

Heat pump dryers typically cost more to buy upfront than condenser dryers, however the energy savings of a heat pump model will offset this difference fairly quickly if you’re using it regularly.

For an 8kg heat pump dryer, you’re looking at forking out somewhere between $850 to $3000 for a heat pump model, with the average price being around the $1500 mark. For a condenser dryer with the same capacity, expect to pay between $800 and $1900, with most going for around $1100.

In a nutshell: the dryers compared

Heat pump dryer pros and cons

Pros

More energy efficient, and therefore cheaper to run.
Gentler on laundry.
More environmentally friendly.

Cons

Longer cycle times.
Often have smaller capacity.
Expensive to buy.
Repairs can be costly.

Condenser dryer pros and cons

Pros

Cheaper to buy outright.
Dries laundry quickly.
Can take larger laundry loads.

Cons

Less energy efficient, so more expensive to run.
Can be harsh on laundry.
Less environmentally friendly.

The bottom line

Those looking for energy savings and a dryer that’s nicer to their clothes will probably find more luck in a heat pump dryer, while those needing to do larger or more frequent loads may find that a condenser dryer better suits their needs.

Whether you’re set on which dryer is right for you or you want to keep your options open, you can read our Clothes Dryers Buying Guide to see what to look for when buying a dryer. You can also read heat pump dryer or condenser dryer reviews to see what others have had to say.