How Washer Dryer Combos Work

The LG All-in-one Washer and Dryer is one of the space-saving combinations available.

Laundry may be your least favorite chore, or you could be one of those people that think doing laundry is fun and productive. Regardless of your feelings toward it, however, for most people doing your own laundry is a necessity. The average family does about 400 loads of laundry a year [source: Energy Star].

Luckily, there are many different options, from steam cleaning to different spin cycles, so you're sure to find a washer and dryer that fit your individual needs. If one of your top priorities is space, then one of the most compact units for cleaning clothes is a washer dryer combo, or an all-in-one washer-dryer combination.


"They're not really brand new to the market, but they have become more popular as people move into smaller apartments or condos," says Michael Lee, vice president of marketing at Thor Appliance Company.

Already popular in Europe and Asia for their space-conscious dimensions, all-in-one washer-dryer combinations are units to consider for loft dwellers, apartment residents or just those that are concerned about space [source: Creative Laundry Systems, Inc.]. These units are also popular with those having larger boats or recreational vehicles like mobile homes. Many of these units are around the size of an average dishwasher [source: Lee].

Besides just being small, some all-in-one washer-dryer units are constructed a little differently than their stand-alone counterparts. We'll look into how these units work next. Then we'll look at the advantages and disadvantages for choosing these versions instead of a separate washer and dryer, including how you might be able to save some energy.

Let's start by taking a closer look at the inner workings of a washer dryer combo system.


Types of Washer Dryer Combos

A washer dryer combo takes up the space of just one of these.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

There are two types of all-in-one washer-dryer combos -- vented and ventless. "We have a vented version that we sell mostly to our marine and RV markets, but our ventless version is the one that is most common for use in high-rise apartments and condos, that type of thing," says Lee.

A vented unit basically works like a regular front-loading washer and a regular dryer. The wash cycle includes tumbling the clothes with water and soap until they're clean, then spinning them to help remove some of the excess water [source: LG Electronics]. For this drying system, the unit takes in air from the surrounding room and heats it up [American Gas Association]. This heated air is then spun with the clothes. The air picks up moisture, producing steam, which leaves the house via the vent. The system then takes in new air from the surrounding room and heats it up again to restart the process.


Alternatively, a ventless unit is a unit that doesn't require an outside exhaust. "There really isn't any washing difference; the main difference is on the dry side," says Lee. "The machines use a condensing drying system, and it works like a dehumidifier."

In a ventless system, wet clothes start in the drum. A condensing chamber, which can be plastic or metal, is cooled. Then the air inside the dryer drum is heated. As the drum spins, the interior heated air takes up moisture from the wet clothes. This moisture-laden air is then circulated through the cooled condensing chamber, which produces condensation, or a change of the moisture in the air into its liquid form of water [source: Lee]. The condensation then leaves the unit by the water drainage tube. The dry, hot air is then recirculated with the clothes, and the process repeats itself [source: Creative Laundry Systems, Inc.].

Whether you choose a vented or ventless unit, all-in-one combination units offer a range of program options to best fit your fabric care needs. You can wash and dry your clothes in one process, or you can also set the units for a "dry only" or "wash only" cycle [source: Equator Advanced Appliances]. Units also offer a range of settings, including delicates, timed drying and extra rinse [source: Creative Laundry Systems, Inc., Equator Advanced Appliances, Summit Appliance].

So how efficient are washer dryer combos?


Washer Dryer Combo Efficiency

This set from 1955 might be connected, but it's about twice the size of a current washer dryer combo.
Tom Kelley/Getty Images

When choosing between a separate washer and dryer or an all-in-one combination, there are some advantages and drawbacks that should be considered. One of the most obvious advantages of an all-in-one unit is the space savings. Since many of these units are about the size of a standard dishwasher and can fit under a countertop, they offer those with limited space a laundry option [source: Lee]. Since you don't have to run a vent outside, the ventless versions offer even more flexibility of positioning.

Along with space savings, there is also an element of time savings. Since these units have settings to let you both wash and dry at the same time, you don't have to worry about remembering to switch over the laundry. This may also alleviate the need for a second wash if you forget to switch over those wet clothes and they start to smell moldy.


Finally, all-in-one units can be energy savers. First off, the washing portions of these machines work much like front-loading washing machines. Front-loading washing machines typically use less water than traditional top-loading units; for this reason, these units also use less energy to heat the reduced amount of water [source: Federal Trade Commission, California Energy Commission]. Front-loaders also can spin more quickly and usually produce drier clothes at the end of the cycle, meaning less time in the dryer [source: Federal Trade Commission, California Energy Commission].

All-in-one units do have their drawbacks, or at least qualities that you should consider before purchasing one. While washer dryer combos are space-saving, that can mean a reduced capacity when it comes to load size [source: Lee]. Maximum load sizes for a combined wash-and-dry cycle can range from 6-10 pounds depending on the unit [source: LG Electronics, Ariston]. A cycle for an all-in-one unit can also take a longer time than stand-alone machines, ranging from about 2-3 hours [source: Lee, LG Electronics].

With both advantages and disadvantages, a washer dryer combo must be evaluated as any other appliance before making your final decision on the laundry system that's right for your needs. For lots more information on home appliances, see the links on the next page.


Washer Dryer Combo FAQ

Are combo washer dryers any good?
A washer dryer combo is one of the most compact units for cleaning clothes. Over the years, they have become popular among people who live in smaller apartments or condos. Some people also like that these units let you both wash and dry, so you don't have to worry about remembering to switch over the laundry.
Are ventless washer dryers good?
If you prefer to dry your laundry indoors but you can't install a vent, a ventless washer dryer is a good alternative. Apart from their ventless advantage, they also have other program options to best fit your fabric care needs. You can wash and dry in one process or you can also program it to a "dry only" or "wash only" cycle as well.
How does a ventless washer dryer combo work?
The washing function of a ventless washer dryer combo is the same as that of a vented unit. The only difference is in the drying function. In a ventless unit, wet clothes start in a drum. As the drum spins, the heated air inside takes up moisture. The moisture-laden air is circulated through the cooled condensing chamber where the moisture condenses back into liquid and leaves the unit by the water drainage tube.
Do ventless dryers cause mold?
If your laundry space is an enclosed space where light and air seldom passes, your ventless unit might put off humidity, making the room feel muggy. In some cases, this can cause mold and mildew issues.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Gas Association. "Dry Two Loads of Laundry with National Gas for Same Cost as One Load with Electricity." (Feb. 10, 2010)
  • Ariston. "Washer Dryer." (Feb. 8, 2010)
  • California Energy Commission. "Consumer Energy Center: Clothes Washers." (Feb. 8, 2010)
  • Creative Laundry Systems, Inc. "Combination Washers and Dryers." (Feb. 8, 2010)
  • Deco. "DC 3720 CEE White Deco Combo Washer Dryer." (Feb. 8, 2010)
  • Editors of Time-Life Books. "How Things Work in Your Home (and what to do when they don't)." Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1985.
  • ENERGY STAR. "Clothes Washers for Consumers." (Feb. 8, 2010)
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  • Federal Trade Commission. "Buying a Washing Machine? It's a Loaded Question." June 2000. (Feb. 12, 2010)
  • "Fix-It-Yourself: Major Appliances." Time-Life Books. 1987.
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  • San Diego Gas & Electric Company. "Facts about Clothes Washers and Dryers." (Feb. 8, 2010)
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