Gas vs. electric washing machines: Know the difference

May 1, 2012 at 8:18 a.m. ET

When you're getting ready for a new washer and dryer, it helps to come armed with the knowledge of what you have, what you want and what you really need. SheKnows breaks down the difference between gas and electric when it comes to cleaning your clothes.

Woman shopping for washing machine

The bottom line

Gas washing machines have gone the way of the dinosaur and in their place have come high-efficiency (HE) washers, which use less electricity and less hot water. Gas dryers are used with electric washing machines.

Gas dryers are more costly… at first

Purchasing a high-end gas dryer can put your pocketbook out to dry out a bit faster than the purchase of an electric dryer. Most gas dryers will cost more than similar electric dryers initially. However, the payback is that gas dryers cost less to run over the course of their lives, saving you green on your electric bill. The cost breakdown is about a 20-cent difference per load, with a gas dryer costing about 15 cents per load and an electric one costing you 35 cents per load.

Know before you go

Before you go shopping for a washer and dryer, check your laundry room to see if it has gas or electric hook-ups (or both). This is a big determining factor as to which type of machine to purchase.

Review your options

Each gas and electric machine has unique features and amenities. Instead of basing your dryer decision solely on whether or not the machine is gas or electric, consider other factors as well.

If efficiency is high on your list of priorities, look for a dryer that comes equipped with an automatic moisture sensor that will stop when clothes are dry instead of simply completing the preset dry cycle you've chosen.

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Chose a dryer with a large capacity drum, even if you don't think you need all that space. Clothes will actually dry faster in a large-capacity dryer.

Make sure the dryer you select has a permanent press (or perma-press) cycle to give clothing a cool down time before you take them out of the dryer.

Other dryer setting options are important, too, so look for a dryer that has a variety of temperature settings such as more dry, less dry, cotton, no heat, etc. These options will come in handy when protecting clothes from wear and tear.

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Bells and whistles

If you are looking for the finest in modern looks, electric washers and dryers tend to lead that category with digital displays and buttons versus old-school rotary knobs more common with gas dryers.

More on washers and dryers

How to make a smelly washing machine smell good again
How to go green in the laundry room
Top tools to build an eco-friendly laundry room