LAURA T. COFFEY
Has the time come for you to buy a new clothes dryer, or replace one that's on the fritz? The following tips can help you navigate the array of product choices you're about to encounter.
1. Gas is good. It costs less money to operate a gas dryer than an electric dryer. The savings amounts to about 15 to 20 cents per load of laundry, which may not sound like much, but it really adds up over the life of your dryer. That makes it worth it to spend the extra $50 or so for a gas model.
2. Pay extra for a moisture sensor. A dryer that has one will cost an extra $30 to $50, but it's also worth it. A model with a moisture sensor can accurately sense when your laundry is dry and shut off automatically, saving on energy costs and protecting your clothes from unnecessary wear and tear.
3. Is a full-size model right for you? You'll need enough space to house a dryer that's 27 to 29 inches wide. Such dryers range in price from about $200 to $800 for an electric model and $250 to $850 for a gas model.
4. Or do you need to save space? Compact models are generally 24 inches wide, have smaller drum capacity and rely on electricity to operate. It's possible to stack such a dryer on top of a washing machine. Some operate on 120 volts, while others operate on 240 volts. The price range is about $380 to $1,400.
5. Listen before you buy. The noise level of the dryer can really matter, depending on where you need to put it in your home. Some dryers are quiet; others are very loud.
6. Look for an extended tumble setting. Sometimes called Press Care or Finish Guard, this setting helps minimize wrinkling when you can't remove clothes right away.
7. Cool down. Opt for a model that features a cool-down period, sometimes called a "perma-press" cycle. In the last few minutes of the cycle, cool air is used to finish the drying process instead of heated air. Also, be sure to choose a model that lets you use lower heat for delicate fabrics.
8. Consider the controls. Once you learn how they work, touch-pad electronic controls can be more convenient to use than mechanical dials. Such controls are typically found on more expensive dryers, though.
9. The lint filter matters. To reduce fire hazards, look for a lint filter that uses metal ducting instead of plastic or flexible foil, and clean the filter often. A top-mounted lint filter can be a bit easier to clean than one housed inside the drum.
10. Your washer and dryer don't have to match. Don't be swayed by sales pitches to buy a matching washing machine and dryer as a set. The only reason to go that route would be cosmetic. And if your washing machine has conked out but your dryer is still working, you don't need to buy a new dryer.
- Sources: Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org) U.S. Department of Energy (www.eere.energy.gov/consumerinfo)