Electric vs. Gas Dryer Hookups: How to Tell Which One You Have

updated Sep 6, 2023
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When we moved into our new house in January, we knew we’d have to replace the old washer and dryer at some point. That time came in March when I realized I was avoiding laundry because the washer was so small and dirty. The dryer worked fine, but we figured we may as well buy a set. 

Quick Overview

How to Tell if Your Dryer Hookup is Electric or Gas

The simplest way to find out if you have an electric or gas dryer is to look behind it, specifically the type of cord you have. Electric dryers have a distinct four-prong plug while gas dryers have a three-prong plug. Read on to learn more about the differences and how to tell which one you have at home.

I didn’t think twice about the $1600 electric washer-and-dryer set we ordered from Best Buy until the delivery arrived at our house a week later. The two delivery people hauled the appliances out of the truck and lugged them down to the basement, only to bring them right back up. Turns out, the electric dryer we picked wouldn’t work in our house because we actually have a gas dryer hookup. I’m no appliance expert, but until that day, I had never even heard of a gas dryer. 

According to Uncle Harry Raker, an appliance pro of more than 50 years, electric and gas dryers do the exact same thing — draw moisture from the wet clothes with heat and air. The difference is in how they’re powered, similar to a gas and electric oven. While an electric dryer is fully fueled with only electricity, gas dryers are powered by both gas and electricity — the gas is what heats the dryer, and the electricity powers the control panel, light, and drum.

How to Tell if Your Dryer Hookup is Electric or Gas

The simplest way to find out if you have an electric or gas dryer is to look behind it. An electric dryer will have a heavy cord that plugs right into a normal outlet, without connecting to a gas line. A gas dryer, on the other hand, plugs into an outlet and connects to a gas valve, which is usually right behind the dryer. Gas dryers also have to have an exhaust pipe, Raker says, which usually exits to the outside of your home. Both types of dryers have an accordion-looking duct that blows hot air and lint to the outside.

Electric Dryer Hookup

Every dryer, whether it runs on gas or electricity, has an electric cord for its control panel. But just because you see a cord doesn’t automatically mean you have an electric dryer, says John Carey, co-founder of Designer Appliances. “If it’s an electric dryer, it will have a distinctive four-prong plug because these dryers connect to a high-voltage outlet,” Carey says. These dryers, he adds, are usually cheaper up-front than gas options, but they might cost more monthly because electricity is usually less expensive than gas.

Gas Dryer Hookup

Gas dryers sport a regular three-prong plug, but instead of connecting to electricity for power, Carey says these appliances have a gas line in the back that connects to a gas shut-off valve on your wall. Usually, these gas lines are stainless steel or painted yellow. Gas dryers are generally more efficient than their electric cousins, so they tend to be friendlier on your monthly bills. “But they tend to sell for a bit more at the outset,” Carey says.

If you’re looking to replace your dryer and need to know what you have before making a purchase, Carey recommends finding the model number on your unit and looking it up on the manufacturer’s website. 

Fortunately, the folks at Best Buy were kind enough to refund us for the dryer so we could buy a new one that would actually work in our house. (We got it last week, and it’s working beautifully!) But if you’re in the market for new appliances, hopefully, you can learn from my simple mistake and do your research before hitting the “order” button. A little bit of recon on the front end could save you time, money, and frustration.