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What is a condenser dryer and is it worth getting one?

We blow away the confusion and tell you how condensers work and if they're a good option for you.

Condenser LEAD 1
Last updated: 24 April 2023


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Need to know

  • Unlike traditional vented dryers, condenser dryers store moisture instead of sending it out as exhaust
  • This means they can be a good choice if you want a dryer, but don't have a well-ventilated space to keep one in
  • Condensers are cheaper to buy than heat pump dryers, but are less energy efficient

Once upon a time, all tumble dryers were simple beasts – metal boxes with a drum, fan, heater and motor. Now, new iterations with names like condenser and heat pump are out in the market, but what sets each apart?

Essentially, the main difference is what they do with the water they get out of your clothes. Traditional vented dryers use a fan to blow it out of the machine as moist air, while condenser and heat pump models use more sophisticated technology to collect it for storage or funneling into a drain.

In this guide, we'll be breaking down condenser dryers and showing if they could be the right choice for you. For info on other types of dryers, check out our dryer buying guide and heat pump dryer explainer.

What are they and how do they work?

Like their vented counterparts, condenser dryers rely on blowing hot air to get your clothes dry. But instead of simply releasing all this moisture into your home, the machine collects it for storage or disposal, releasing only dry, warm air.

This makes condensers a sort of dryer middle-ground between the traditional vented varieties and heat pump models, which use more advanced technology to hold onto or reuse both the water and air from the drying process.

The condenser dryer's ability to collect moisture means that having a well-ventilated room isn't nearly as important as it would be if you were installing a vented dryer, which can leave walls dripping wet and at risk of mould if not given proper breathing space.

The condenser dryer's ability to collect moisture means that having a well-ventilated room isn't nearly as important as it would be if you were installing a vented dryer

Of course, a condenser dryer is limited in how much water it can hold and you will have to empty the storage unit every so often. CHOICE director of reviews and testing Matthew Steen says exactly how often depends on the clothes you're drying.

"If your washer has poor spin speed performance, then it's likely you'll be emptying it more often, but if your washer is extracting as much moisture as possible, it might be a number of dryer cycles before you need to empty the container."

Their extra tech means condenser dryers are also more likely than vented models to have advanced features like woolen and anti-crease programs.

How do they compare to vented and heat pump dryers?

As outlined above, the main differences between vented, condenser and heat pump dryers is that each has a more sophisticated method than the last to get your clothes dry. A condenser dryer is more advanced than a vented model, but not as refined as a heat pump.

But variations between the three breeds also become apparent when you compare their purchase price, energy use and running times. Here are the averages for each type from our latest dryer test:



Heat pump

Cost (RRP)




Cycle time (for 3.5kg test load)

123 minutes

115 minutes

138 minutes

Energy use (per 3.5kg test load)




Are they energy efficient?

As illustrated above, condenser dryers are not particularly energy efficient and like vented dryers, use around three times the energy of their heat pump counterparts.

That being said, there are still ways you can boost your condenser unit's efficiency and cut the time it takes to dry your clothes. 

"You can speed this up by making sure your dryer is well maintained and by cleaning the lint filter," Matthew says.

Heat pump dryers, meanwhile, with their inclusion of refrigerant gas and ability to reuse the heat that other dryers send out as exhaust, soar to the top of the efficiency stakes, but with a price tag to match.

Can they be stacked or wall mounted?

Because they contain a larger number of heavy components than vented dryers, neither heat pumps or condensers can be hooked up to a wall mounting.

Wall-mounting a dryer also usually means inverting it in order to keep the controls within reach and this will cause issues with the onboard water storage tank included in condenser and heat pump machines.

Therefore, stacking the unit on top of something else is going to be your only option if you want to save space. Most condenser dryers we've tested come with advice regarding whether they can be stacked on top of a front loading washing machine and some even include a stacking kit to help you do this.

Are they better than vented and heat pump dryers?

A condenser dryer won't be the best option for everyone, but might suit you if your laundry is not well-ventilated and you don't want to spend extra on a heat pump model.

"Because condenser dryers don't expel moisture into the air, they don't explicitly need a duct to exhaust moisture from wherever they are located," Matthew explains. 

 If you're going to be running it often, you'll be able to recuperate the higher purchase price of a heat pump model through its cheaper running costs

"This makes them much more suited to apartment living than vented dryers, as they can be placed anywhere. The downside is that they're quite heavy compared to vented dryers and they still expel heat from their vents."

It's also worth considering how often you'll be using any dryer you buy. If you're going to be running it often, you'll be able to recuperate the higher purchase price of a heat pump model through its cheaper running costs – something not necessarily possible when running a condenser.

Pros & cons


-Doesn't vent moist air, so less need for ventilation.

-Stores water that you can re-use, for example, to water plants.

-Cheaper to buy than a heat pump dryer.


-Less efficient than a heat pump dryer.

-More expensive to buy than a vented dryer.

-Weight makes it harder to store than a vented dryer.

-Have to empty stored water.

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.