Condenser vs vented tumble dryers: what's the difference?

Condenser and vented tumble dryers both offer a great dry, but there are some really important differences between them – we'll explain all. Drum roll, please…

Tumble dryers
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to buying the best tumble dryer, you'll need to give some thought to whether it’s a condenser or vented dryer. While both get our laundry crisp and dry in record time, condenser and vented tumble dryers work very differently, and so your home setup can affect the overall drying performance. 

So w what exactly are the differences between the two? And which one would suit your home? We take a look at how they work, and their pros and cons. Either way, they can both save us from hanging the laundry out to dry.

We've also got a separate guide on how to buy a tumble dryer, plus don't forget our guides to the best washing machines and best washer dryers.

Condenser vs vented tumble dryers: How do they work?

Condenser tumble dryers work by essentially condensing the moisture collected from your wet clothes during the hot air drying process. Instead of venting outside, this water is collected in a reservoir or water tank located inside the machine. You will need to empty this out when it’s full (sorry!), but some machines alert you when the tank needs to be emptied. A general rule of thumb is to empty the tank after every wash cycle, though (a good habit is to do this along with the lint filter each time).

Vented tumble dryers, on the other hand, need to vent or empty the water/moisture outside a property during the drying process. This is usually done via a long, flexible hose leading from the tumble dryer to a small vent or grill that goes through the wall. 

Condenser vs vented tumble dryers: efficiency & effectiveness

Generally, condenser tumble dryers are the newer type and more popular choice. This is partly down to the easy installation and convenience (you don’t need to arrange the venting outside). Typically, these machines produce less condensation from the way they circulate hot air around, too. 

In addition, condensers often come with the latest technology and have advanced settings and features. These range from special drying settings for different fabrics to adjustable drying speeds. 

However, the downsides are that they use more energy and can take longer to dry clothes, making them less efficient. Condensers are also known to be more expensive than vented tumble dryers, so you’ll need to weigh up the suitability and costs.

That means that vented tumble dryers will dry your laundry quicker, yet use less energy. Also, since they remove all the moisture and damp outdoors, there won’t be much risk of trapped moisture or odd smells inside the machine. 

But while they are much cheaper than condensers, they are prone to breaking down and needing repairs over time. The culprits are usually things like a damaged or loose vent hose or fixtures. As they are considered ‘older’ dryers, you’re less likely to have all the mod-cons or features you would normally get on a condenser.

Condenser vs vented tumble dryers: location requirements

Perhaps the most important and practical thing about a condenser dryer is that it can be placed anywhere around the home due to its internal water tank. Plus, you don’t have to worry about finding an external vent or window to empty the moisture outside. The downside of course, is the chore of emptying out the water tank once full. In any case, this dryer is ideal if you live in flats or a compact space, or want to put a dryer in a new spot not originally designed for it.

A vented tumble dryer would need to be installed close to a window or external wall for the vent hose to reach outside. This is also limited to where you live, as you’ll need easy access to outdoors. However, you won't have to worry about mildew or damp build-up inside the machine caused by trapped moisture.

Condenser vs vented tumble dryers: conclusion

Whether you buy a condenser or vented tumble dryer really depends on where you live and where you’d like to place it. If you live in a small apartment or want to store it in a compact space like a utility cupboard, the condenser is your best bet. If you don’t mind emptying out the internal water tank once full, it’s convenient, practical and the handy settings can serve you well. Bear in mind, that your clothes will not dry quite as quick as a vented dryer, and you may be splashing out a bit more for it  – but the results from condenser dryers we've used have always been impressive, and certainly not too slow.

Vented tumble dryers on the other hand, will quickly get your laundry dry and are more cost effective. However you’ll need a suitable location to run the vent hose outdoors which may not be possible for certain properties. 

We would say that a condenser dryer is the more versatile and practical winner for most households, but vented options can certainly be the right choice for a lot of people.

Cynthia Lawrence

Cynthia Lawrence is a freelance lifestyle journalist and digital editor for national publications. She also has a rather unhealthy obsession for Homes & Interiors, and loves a good bargain.