Get the Lowdown on Compact Washer and Dryers

Is a compact washer and dryer right for you? We size them up against standard units.

By now, most of us have heard of front load, top load and even steam washers, but there's a whole other class of washer and dryer units that you may not be as familiar with. I’m talking about compact laundry units. While there are certainly many similarities between compact washer and dryers and standard ones, there are also some pretty big differences that you need to know about before you decide to go small.

Kitchen With Hidden Laundry Room

Kitchen With Hidden Laundry Room

A stacked washer and dryer are within reach but can also be easily hidden in this gorgeous white kitchen.

From: Dresner Design

Photo by: JIM TSCHETTER IC36O IMAGES

JIM TSCHETTER IC36O IMAGES

I’ve owned a compact washer and dryer for over a year now, so I’m going to share everything I’ve learned about these guys with you.

They're Smaller Than Standard Units

This one seems super obvious, but it still took me a bit by surprise. Standard washer and dryers are typically at least 26 inches wide or, oftentimes, even wider. Compact units are 24 inches wide, so you do save a couple of inches. And in a small space, those couple of inches might mean the difference between being able to fit a laundry unit in your home.

But those two inches also means you can't wash as much as you may have been able to before. So if you have a large family or special laundry circumstances (like a newborn baby), it’s something to keep in mind.

They Don't Necessarily Need to Be Vented Outside

Most compact dryers are electric and not gas. The great thing about a compact dryer, is that it doesn’t necessarily need to be vented outside like a typical gas dryer. These types of dryers are often the go-to solution for apartment-dwellers who simply don’t have an outside venting option. Instead, there are special indoor venting kits that you can use.

Indoor Ventilation = A Lot of Heat

The tricky part about not having your dryer vented outside means that all of that heat sticks around in your space. For some people this isn’t that big of a deal; however, if you genuinely have a tiny space, it can get REAL hot REAL fast when the dryer is on. This means that on a summer day, the AC needs to do double-duty when the dryer is on. And in fact, I sometimes choose not to do laundry, because I just can’t handle the heat that the dryer generates.

Doing a Load of Laundry Takes Longer

For my former standard dryer, a typical dry cycle was 40 to 60 minutes. For my compact dryer, the standard dry cycle is 1 hour and 40 minutes. Yep, that’s a lot longer.

So, while wash cycles seem to last the same amount of time as a standard washer, dry cycles take a lot longer. And for something bulky like a blanket, be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting around. In fact, I’ve mostly decided to take larger items like blankets and comforters to the local laundromat.

You Can Use Pedestals

The good news: you can use pedestals with compact washer and dryers, and I absolutely love mine. It helps keep the units at a more manageable height (so there's less bending), and it’s a great spot to store all of your laundry supplies.

There Aren't As Many Options

Because this is considered a specialized category of washer and dryers, you definitely don't have as many options to choose from. Most brands don’t offer a compact option, so you're definitely choosing from a smaller pool. For those of you who feel overwhelmed by too many choices, this could be a good thing.

They're a Bit More Expensive

Even though these laundry units have a smaller footprint than standard models, they unfortunately don't have a smaller price tag. Again, because they're more specialized and aren't as readily available, they do cost a bit more. Sometimes up to twice as much as a standard washer and dryer.

The Verdict

Compact washer and dryers are an awesome option for those of us that simply don’t have the space for standard models or live in an apartment building. When my choice was either a compact washer and dryer or no washer and dryer, I’m definitely happy that we went for a compact model. However, if you have space for either a standard unit or a compact unit, I would definitely recommend sticking with a standard.

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