As much as we'd like to simply bring in our wet washing from home and return with it freshly dried (and folded), there's a lot more to our testing of clothes dryers. We use material as used in the International Standard, weigh items precisely, wet them till they're at a certain mass and then use the dryer till the load reaches what is considered dry, or 6% moisture content.
We use calibrated scales to weigh the material and we measure ambient conditions to make sure humidity isn't adding to the moisture content. When we measure the difference between wet and dry, we also measure the energy it takes to get to the material dry. Using this we can assess how much per kilo it costs you to run your dryer.
Most of our testing is done according to the Australian Standard, however our program selection for electric vented machines takes into account consumer use as well, and we're always asking you, our members, what programs you use, how much you put in and how often you use your dryer. You drive how CHOICE tests products.
Our expert testers have more than 30 years' experience in the laundry lab. Many of them sit on international and Australian standards committees, which helps us stay in touch with how labs and manufacturers are changing the standards, and also gives you a voice in this forum, where sometimes only government and industry are represented.
Why do we choose one clothes dryer over another? There are a number of reasons, but our priority is to test what you'll see in the stores, which means we tend to focus on the big brand models. We check current market figures to see what's selling well, and we'll also include models that you've requested – if a lot of members want it, we'll test it.
When we know what you want us to test, our buyers go out and use your member fees to buy the clothes dryers from a variety of retailers, then bring them in as is. This means we get what you'd get so we can be sure the results are what you'll find rather than potentially 'tweaked'.
We use set loads of cotton materials that are specified in the International and Australian standards for testing clothes dryers – these are made up of bed sheets, small towels and pillow cases. Why? Because if you want to compare clothes dryers fairly, you have to use the same conditions for all of them and minimise variables. Where we can, we use the Australian and International standards, then temper these with real world responses from you, our members. This means we don't use the dryers at a full load, because we've discovered that generally consumers don't. We generally use a dry 3.5kg load (which gets a lot heavier when wet to 90% moisture content), which mirrors our washer method as well.
Because of the load selection, you'll sometimes see differences between what the energy label says on the dryer and our results. This is because manufacturers try to get as good an energy and water label as possible, as the more stars they have, the better the chance a consumer will buy their product. Unfortunately, often this means the load the manufacturer selects is not what consumers will choose at home. It's also because the registration testing is done using the full capacity of the dryer, whereas our test uses a smaller, 3.5kg load. Again this is so our testing will better reflect how you use your dryer at home.
- Drying time (50%)
- Energy efficiency (50%)
- Noise measurement
- Brand reliability and loyalty
If the dryer has a sensor (determines when the clothes are dry and automatically turns the dryer off), we use it, otherwise we test using the timer.
We put a standard 3.5kg wet load of washing into the dryer and measure how long it takes to dry and how much energy is used. Note that when we say 3.5kg, this refers to the dry load, and it ends up being wet to 90% moisture content so ends up at >5kg when we put it in the dryer. The energy efficiency and drying time scores are based on the amount of energy and time used per kilogram of clothing.
The maximum noise level is recorded during the cycle, measured one metre away from the dryer and one metre above the ground. Typically, the noise level of dryers is similar to that of a quiet conversation (about 55dB). It's not an absolute noise measurement – the acoustics of your home will determine exactly how a dryer sounds in use – but it's a good comparative measure.
Brand reliability and loyalty
Durability testing is a very long and costly process, so by the time we get results for a model it will probably be off the market. Instead, we ask our readers whether they've had any problems with their dryers, and whether they'd buy the same brand again. To see which brands fared best, go to the reliability and loyalty scores in our clothes dryer review.
We maintain a NATA accredited laboratory that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.