Tumble Dryers


The original tumble dryer was a metal drum with holes which was rotated over an open fire. M Ponchons’ 1799 machine had obvious disadvantages – the clothes could be smoky, sooty and sometimes burnt. A hundred years later (1892) George Sampson, an American, created a rack to move the drum a little further away from the heat and worked with a stove, thus solving the problem with the smoke and odours.

Automatic (rather than manually turned) gas and electrically heated versions became popular in the USA in the 1940s whilst further features such as timers, dryness sensors and delay timers were added as the appliances became ever more sophisticated.

The UK tumble dryer market

Tumble dryers are used by just over half of all UK households (56%)[1], and are particularly useful for households that cannot dry their clothes outdoors.


Tumble dryers use heat to dry clothes with the ‘tumbling’ action helping to ensure that the clothes don’t crease and are equally dried throughout. The more efficient the action of the drum the less heat is needed.

The use of heat pump technology has made a big  impact on the sector with significantly reduced energy consumption compared with dryers that only use direct heat.


There are three different labels – one is for gas-powered vented dryers and the other two for electric powered dyers – vented and condensing.

Each displays the energy efficiency rating on a visual scale D to A+++. The average energy use for a typical cycle is shown in kWh (electricity units). For condensing dryers the label also shows an A-G rating for the condensation efficiency.

The label also shows:

  • fuel source (gas or electricity)
  • total capacity of the appliance (kg)
  • the cycle time for the standard cotton programme at full load (minutes)
  • noise level in operation (dB)


[1] ONS – Family Spending 2013 – Table A45 – Percentage of households with durable goods – 1970 to 2012

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