Personal Finance

Is it cheaper to dry clothes with a heated airer or a tumble dryer?

The cost of electricity has caused households to look at their energy usage, with many considering investing in appliances that could save them money in the long run. But which is cheaper when it comes to drying clothes - a tumble dryer or heated airer? NimbleFins put them to the test to find out.

How much does electricity cost?

The average cost of electricity for January 2023 is 34p per kWh, NimbleFins estimates.^

This is double the price of electricity in 2018, and a 60 percent increase since 2021. (You can check out our full breakdown of electricity costs here.)

It's no wonder households are looking for efficiency savings, with products like air fryers and heated clothes dryers soaring in popularity. But we wanted to know if they are really worth the investment.

On one hand, tumble dryers do consume a lot of energy, but heated clothes dryers are slow, and users are also advised to purchase a dehumdifier as the evaporated water can cause damp and mould. So the initial outlay could be quite large.

The tumble dryer v heated clothes airer experiment

We looked at three highly-rated and popular appliances from Argos for our research:

Although it's an extra cost, the energy needed to run this dehumidifier is very low, using just 22.5 watts an hour compared to 230 watts per hour for the heated dryer and 2,006 watts per hour for the tumble dryer.

However, remember dehumidifiers can vary hugely, with larger options using much more power and costing much more in the first place. We've gone for a budget, low-power option assuming the property is otherwise damp-free.

This is where it gets interesting: The heated dryer and dehumidifier would need to stay on for eight hours to dry a load of laundry. Meanwhile the tumble dryer we used for the research only needs to operate for two hours and five minutes for a full load on the standard cotton function. And much less for a couple of items - this appliance boasts drying three shirts in 12 minutes, or eight items in under 30 minutes.

Heated dryer vs. tumble dryer: which is cheaper?Heated DryerDehumidifierTumble Dryer
10 kg drying capacity7 kg drying capacity
Cost to run
Watts per hour23022.52006
kW per hour0.230.02252
Run time (hours)882.1
Electricity consumed per full load (kWh)1.840.184.18
Electricity cost per load (£)£0.63£0.06£1.42
Cost to buy£55£50£190

The best option? That depends on you

Despite the heated clothes airer’s extended run time and its reliance on a dehumidifier, it is still much cheaper to use a heated dryer over a tumble dryer.

It would cost 63p in electricity for a full load on the clothes airer, plus 6p for the dehumidifier (69p in total). This is compared to £1.42 for the tumble dryer.

This means using a heated clothes airer and dehumidifier would save 73p for every use.

"If someone already had a tumble dryer, but needed to buy the £55 heated dryer and £50 dehumidifier, the user would need to do 143 full loads of laundry before they started saving money,” Erin Yurday, CEO and co-founder of NimbleFins said.

"But, the time it takes to dry laundry on a heated airer may be inconvenient for busy families with lots of washing or those used to tumble dryers.

“Overall, if you can afford it, it would take about six months to a year to repay the cost of investing in a heated clothes airer and dehumidifier depending on how much laundry someone does. This isn’t too much time in the grand scheme of things, but it could take longer if you go for more expensive products, or if you don’t always use a tumble dryer. On warm sunny days, it may be just as fast to hang laundry outside, for free."


^The cost of electricity NimbleFins used in its research was calculated by Ofgem using the October 2022 price cap. Estimates were based on the typical usage of a customer with a dual electricity and gas bill paid by direct debit.

Because this is for a direct debit customer, those on prepayment meters or not paying by direct debit may find the appliances cost slightly more to run, as these tariffs are usually more expensive. Prices also vary by region.

Read more

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


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