Gas vs. Electric Dryers: What Are the Main Differences?

Gas dryers may not be around for much longer, but while they are, you may want one. Here's how to choose between a gas and electric dryer.

Virtually all the major appliances in my off-grid home run on gas, including the refrigerator.

Our gas dryer has been a workhorse since we purchased the property in 2006, and it wasn’t new when we moved in. It uses just enough electricity to spin the tumbler and operate the blower, an amount easily supplied by our 3kW solar array. It can handle a large load and dries clothes quickly.

We don’t expect it to last forever, of course. And if California makes good on its promise to phase out gas appliances in the near future, we may be forced to replace it with an electric model when it finally does give out.

We look upon that eventuality with some trepidation for two reasons: A standard electric dryer uses more electricity, which may force us to increase our battery storage. And we’ll have to install a 240-volt outlet, which we don’t have.

The hammer hasn’t fallen on gas appliances yet. Until it does, most dryer manufacturers offer both gas and electric models. If you’re a homeowner with access to grid power and you don’t have to worry about battery storage like we do, your choice depends on other considerations. Here are some of the main ones.

Upfront and Operating Costs

On average, a gas dryer costs about $100 more than an electric model from the same manufacturer. Gas appliances should be professionally installed to guarantee proper venting and minimize the possibility of leaks, which adds another $150 to $250 to the cost.

Installing an electric dryer, on the other hand, is an uncomplicated DIY task, assuming the electric receptacle and exhaust vent (which only carries hot air, not combustion gases) are in place.

On the flip side, gas dryers run more efficiently than electric ones and cost less to operate — typically about $40 less a year. You should recoup the higher cost of the appliance and its installation in less than 10 years.

Existing Dryer Hookups

A conventional electric dryer runs on 240-volt power, requiring a dedicated circuit and a four-prong dryer receptacle. A gas dryer also needs electricity, which can be supplied from a standard receptacle on a 120-volt circuit.

But the dryer also needs a gas hookup. If you’re like us and don’t have natural gas, you’ll need to place a propane tank somewhere outside the house in addition to running new gas pipes. That can get expensive.

When replacing an existing dryer, it’s cheapest to utilize your existing hookups. That means replacing gas with gas and electric with electric. If you’re remodeling and installing a dryer for the first time, your home may already have the necessary gas infrastructure, and your electrical panel may have the capacity for a dryer. In that case, you can choose gas or electric.

Day-to-Day Operation

Gas dryers get hotter than electric ones and take less time to dry your clothes. If you’re a busy person, that’s a perk you’ll probably appreciate as much as the people in my household do.

Our dryer typically handles a full load in 45 minutes or less. The shorter drying time also contributes to fuel savings and lower energy bills.

With maintenance, the advantage goes to electric dryers, because it’s possible to DIY repairs like servicing a malfunctioning heating element or blower. When a gas dryer breaks down, you usually need to hire a licensed technician to fix it because of the potential dangers of a gas leak.

Environmental Concerns

The main motivation behind proposed gas appliance bans is improved air quality. With stoves, there’s a real danger of indoor air pollution. But a properly vented gas dryer only releases emissions outdoors.

Electric dryers, on the other hand, release no emissions. At first look, that makes them cleaner, but the big picture is more complicated.

An electric dryer consumes two to six kilowatt hours (KWh) of electricity, which comes from a power plant that could be hundreds of miles away. A significant portion of the energy the plant produces is lost in transmission.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 60% of U.S. power plants burn fossil fuels. So while the dryer itself emits no combustion gases, it still contributes to atmospheric pollution unless it gets electricity from solar panels or another clean power source.

Chris Deziel
Chris Deziel has been active in the building trades for more than 30 years. He helped build a small city in the Oregon desert from the ground up and helped establish two landscaping companies. He has worked as a carpenter, plumber and furniture refinisher. Deziel has been writing DIY articles since 2010 and has worked as an online consultant, most recently with Home Depot's Pro Referral service. His work has been published on Landlordology, and Hunker. Deziel has also published science content and is an avid musician.