Whirlpool Duet WED99HEDW Ventless Heat Pump Dryer Review
The Prius of dryers not only saves energy, it saves your clothes.
It's no understatement to say the Whirlpool Duet WED99HEDW (MSRP $1,699) is the most exciting dryer to hit the market in decades.
While it may look like any other high-end dryer, this one hides some unique technology. The 7.4-cubic-foot Whirlpool is the only full-size ventless dryer on the market, and it's the first dryer in America to use an energy-saving heat pump.
Unlike traditional dryers—which pull room-temperature air in, heat it up, and vent it out—a heat pump dryer recirculates hot air while removing moisture from clothes. It's a novel design that can cut the cost of drying clothes by as much as 50 percent. Because heat pump dryers don't get very hot, it means you can also use it for delicate garments that you might not normally machine dry. It also means you'll save your clothes from premature wear regardless of fabric type.
We were curious to see how the new technology performed, so we put the WED99HEDW through our tests. We're holding off on scoring it for now, until we can compare it to the new LG model that's due in stores later this year.
Still, we can confidently say that this new technology is worth checking out. The most efficient settings and cycles may run a bit longer than you're used to, but the WED99HEDW's energy savings are unmistakable. Its ventless design also opens it up to consumers who might not have been able to consider installing a dryer in their home. True, this Whirlpool is definitely more expensive than comparable traditional dryers in terms of style and feature selection, but the manufacturer expects utility companies to offer significant rebates in the near future.
For now, early adopters and green living aficionados should take note. If you've got solar panels on your roof and a Tesla in the garage, you should probably have a WED99HEDW in your laundry room.
Design & Usability
Everything you know and love... plus a few extras
The Whirlpool heat pump hybrid looks and feels like any other regular electric dryer. In fact, it’s very much akin to the Whirlpool Duet WED97HEDBD… minus the Black Diamond finish, of course.
It’s a typical white dryer with reflective metal trim on the door and underneath the control panel. The easy-to-read touch controls, with the digital countdown timer and bright blue indicator lights, are just what you’d expect from a modern mid-range or high-end dryer. It does still require a 220 volt plug, though. Keep in mind that, with its 7.3-cubic-foot capacity, this is the only full-size ventless dryer on the market. Any other ventless dryer you've seen is likely a 24-inch, European-style condenser model.
Comfortable familiarity aside, you might notice some unusual differences in the back: Namely, the lack of a vent and the inclusion of a hose. Since you don’t need to vent the heat pump dryer outside, you can put it as close to a wall as the l-curve in the hose will allow. The hose, which is used to drain the water that comes out of your clothes, can simply hook into whatever drainage pipe you already have installed for your washer.
There’s also a secondary lint trap built into the front of the dryer. Since the Duet recycles air, the double lint trap system is used to catch as many particulates as possible. While you'll want to wipe off the regular lint trap after each cycle, you’ll only need to clean the secondary screen every five cycles or so. Incase you forget, an indicator light on the control panel will let you know when it needs attending to.
Using the Dryer
As fast as you want it to be
Unlike the heat pump dryers that are popular in Europe, which don't use any external heating elements, Whirlpool included a 1300W heating element in the WED99HEDW to keep drying time as close to what you'd be used to as possible.
In total, there are three different settings available to use that offer different efficiency levels. Each uses a different combination of the machine's heat pump and heating element.
Speed mode causes the dryer to behave more or less like a conventional model. Cycles take about as long as users might be used to, and energy savings—while still present—aren't as significant as they could be.
Eco mode keeps temperatures low and energy savings high, but also extends cycle length. That said, the new cycle times are surprisingly reasonable: On Eco, the Normal cycle only took an hour and 28 minutes, while Casual took just an hour and 9 minutes. The longest Eco cycle we tested was Delicates, which ran for an hour and 46. Compared to many 24-inch condenser dryers—which can run for over two hours on a single Normal cycle—that’s actually not that bad.
Balanced is exactly what it sounds like: a blending of Speed and Eco, for consumers who want clothes sooner but not so quickly that they’re willing to sacrifice all of the energy savings.
Manual cycles, like Timed Dry and Quick Dry, default to Speed, while all other sensor-based cycles default to Eco. Keep in mind, though, that all three energy settings are available on every cycle, placing the choice of what to use entirely in the hands of consumers.
Performance & Features
Dry clothes, every time.
Every single cycle we tested with standard loads of laundry performed perfectly. Each time, our test loads came out between 99% to 96% dry, whether on Normal, Casual, Delicates, or even Quick. A little leftover dampness is actually ideal, as it cuts down on wrinkles and reduces the risk of damaging clothes by overdrying.
In terms of bells and whistles, the WED99HEDW is on par with a traditional mid-range dryer—surprising for such an expensive machine. Three dryness levels and four temperature settings—an air dry only option is, of course, absent—actually means less customization than other dryers in this price range. There are no overly fancy features like steam, either. All you get is a control lock, a wrinkle shield, and a damp dry signal with two volume levels.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
Pros & Cons of a Heat Pump
Direct and indirect energy savings galore
The most obvious perk behind a heat pump dryer is reduced energy consumption. Compared to a traditional dryer, a cycle with the heat pump model could use anywhere from 25-50 percent less energy, depending on what you're drying and which cycle you’re using. Whirlpool says the most efficient cycle is Casual in Eco mode, which took an hour and nine minutes to get our test load 96 percent dry at just 117ºF.
You get indirect energy savings, too. Conventional dryers suck air out of your laundry room, heat it, and then pump the used air outside. If you live somewhere with extreme weather, whether it's Duluth or Death Valley, you're pumping heated or air conditioned air outside whenever you do laundry.
Since the heat pump dryer only uses a little bit of external air for an entire cycle, heaters and air conditioners won’t have to work as hard to make up for all the climate-controlled air that's sucked outside, further reducing your seasonal electric bill.
A heat pump dryer is better for your clothes, too. Consistently lower temperatures on the Balanced and Eco settings mean you’ll be able to dry more delicate items like dresses or blouses without having to worry as much about fabric wear or shrinkage.
The only downside we can see at the moment is the price. On sale for $1,525, the WED99HEDW costs almost double what you’d pay for a low- to mid-range conventional dryer. Whirlpool is working with utilities to offer rebates for early adopters, however, which should bring down the price considerably.
It's easy being green
If you're an early adopter with an eye for green tech, a condo-dweller with a need for a full-size ventless dryer, or a builder of zero net-energy buildings, the Whirlpool Duet WED99HEDW heat pump dryer is just what you're looking for.
At the end of the day, we simply couldn’t find any major drawbacks in terms of performance, design, or functionality. True, the feature list and level of customization could use some beefing up, but that will undoubtedly come with time.
Even if you aren't planning on buying one, the WED99HEDW is worth keeping an eye on. It's the first wave of a laundry efficiency revolution. This might be the first heat pump dryer to hit the market in the U.S., but it's unlikely to be the last.
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