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How Do Heat Pump Tumble Dryers Work?

working a heat pump tumble dryer

When it comes to switching to environmentally friendly and energy-efficient household appliances, the heat pump tumble dryer tops the list. These appliances are relatively new to the UK market, first gaining popularity across Europe. 

If you’ve only just discovered them you may be wondering how they work. Let’s walk through the ins and outs of heat pump dryers, as well as the technological foundations upon which they are built.

What are Heat Pump Tumble Dryers?

heat pump dryer function

The heat pump dryer is an evolution of the well-known condenser dryer. Both dryers operate on the “drying laundry with condensation” principle. Heat pump dryers, on the other hand, use more complex and energy-saving technologies.

Unlike traditional condenser dryers, heat pump dryers use a heat pump and closed circuit rather than a heating element and vent.

Dryers with a heat pump are efficient and cost less to run than conventional dryers, plus they don’t require a vent. The dryer uses the same air to heat, cool, and condense all within the same unit. 

In the same way as an air-source heat pump has a closed circuit of refrigerant pipes and two sets of coils, an evaporator (cold) and a condenser (hot), a heat pump dryer has these same components (hot). 

The air is heated by the condenser coils and then circulated through the drum, where it becomes hot and dry. After leaving the drum, the warm, humid air is pushed over the evaporator coils, where the air is cooled and the moisture is condensed out. 

Moisture evaporates or accumulates in a tray that may be removed and emptied. When the drum is empty, the condenser coils heat the air and blow hot, dry air back into it.

It sounds complex, and it is compared to a traditional vented tumble dryer, which is basically like a box with a heater and fan that blows your clothes dry. Heat pump dryers are more sophisticated and work like a refrigerator, except in reverse. 

If you can imagine the refrigerator in your kitchen – it cools and freezes food, but this process also creates heat. You can feel the heat across the heating element at the back of the fridge, Well, heat pump dryers utilise the byproduct of heat from cooling as a way to form warm air for drying. 

The benefit of this heat pump function over a standard condenser drier is that the air is not solely heated by a heating element. Warm air is not drawn to cold air from the outside during the heat exchange. 

As a result, the standard condenser drier wastes energy and raises the ambient temperature. The heat pump dryer, on the other hand, operates on a closed heat circuit and is thus far more energy-efficient and, in some cases, quieter.

How Long is a Heat Pump Drying cycle?

Tumble dryers with heat pumps take substantially longer to dry. Depending on how much washing you put in and how wet it is, a drying cycle can take 1 to 2 hours when it’s dry enough to store away. 

The drying cycle in a heat pump dryer takes longer than traditional dryers because it drys with less heat.

How Heat Pump Dryers Compare to Condenser and Vented

Electric tumble dryers come in three distinct configurations: vented, condenser, and heat pump. Vented tumble dryers draw air from the environment and warm it using an internal heating element. 

This warm air is then blown into a rotating drum where it removes moisture from fabrics, then the air is blown through a wide hose to the outside of the building. 

In condensation dryers, the warm, moist process air is cooled by passing through a heat exchanger, causing the moisture to condense as condensation and is collected as excess water in an onboard tank. 

Heat pump dryers function similarly to condensation dryers, with the exception that an incorporated heat pump turns the heat created back into energy. A heat pump can be run in an entirely closed circuit.

This saves electricity and reduces energy bills. Furthermore, the warmth of the room in which the tumble dryer is situated is minimal, and the drying temperature is in the low-temperature range, which is gentle on the laundry.

Advantages of Heat Pump Dryers

Heat pump dryers provide numerous advantages. The benefits of a heat pump dryer are obvious as they use substantially less energy than vented air or condensation dryers. As a result, heat pump dryers are typically classified as in the A to A+++ range in terms of energy efficiency.

Depending on the model, power savings of up to 50% are possible when compared to an equivalent condenser or vented dryer. This is a quantum leap that can save money and presents a compelling case for eventually replacing obsolete dryers.

In theory, the heat pump dryer can be placed in any room of the house. The moisture recovered from the clothes is not released into the room. Instead, the moisture is collected in a container after remaining in a closed circuit, so there’s less possibility of condensation on walls and windows.

Disadvantages of Heat Pump 

Heat pump dryers have no technical disadvantages when compared to conventional dryers. So far, the sole negative is increased acquisition cost for the machine, but this will eventually pay for itself with the saving in power usage.

Most devices that operate on the heat pump principle require slightly longer drying durations. Because it does not use high temperatures, drying times can be up to twice as long.