When shopping for a dryer it can be easy to get caught up on metrics like capacity or dry time, forgetting all the while that ventilation is one of the most overlooked necessities of the entire appliance category. No matter how many different cycles it sports, nor how cavernous its interior, nearly every dryer has the same requirement: a 6-inch diameter articulated duct that connects the machine to an exterior wall. Whirlpool is aiming to cut that tether with the HybridCare Ventless Duet dryer, but with an MSRP starting at $1,800, ventless freedom may still cost a pretty penny.
Stately and unsurprising
From the front, the HybridCare looks like a fairly typical mid-to-high-end appliance. It sports an almost entirely steel construction, with the exception of the plastic control panel, and the viewport is one layer of tempered glass and one layer of transparent acrylic. Evidence of Whirlpool’s HybridCare technology can be found on the front of the cabinet in the lower right corner is an ancillary hatch that houses the HybridCare filter.
The Duet is a bit on the large side at 27 inches wide, 32 inches deep, and 39 inches high. It’s worth noting because it limits some of its placement options, and the control panel might be too high for some to comfortably access when stacked atop a washing machine.
The model is currently only available in classic white (WED99HEDW), but has previously been produced in a dark grey (WED99HEDC), which costs an extra $100.
Cavernous for its class
The interior of the dryer offers fairly few surprises. In addition to its generous dimensions, it sports a fourth baffle, which the manufacturer claims offers more balanced tumbling.
The lint trap is housed just inside the hatch at the six-o’clock position. it’s a unique unfolding taco-shape that opens along its spine. The closure tab on our unit’s trap has a sharp burr on the mold line that tore up some thumbs, but this could easily be solved with a file or a scrap of sandpaper. Unfortunately, it’s also easier than it should be to re-insert the trap backwards, which can cause some rather stubborn jams. One thing we didn’t have to worry about was emptying a tray after each cycle, because an attached hose drained the water from the machine.
The aforementioned HybridCare filter is beneath the main hatch to the right, just along the bottom edge of the machine. The filter itself is an asymmetrical box that’s about 12 inches wide, 6 inches deep, and 6 inches high. It slides out and in with the aid of a hinged handle. Sadly, one overly enthusiastic tug on the filter’s door actually broke the closing mechanism, so it’s standing open permanently on our model.
The control panel is bright and futuristic, emitting a cool blue light from its LEDs and segmented LCD. Eight cycle settings are available for selection from the primary radial knob, flanked on the left and right respectively by the power and start/pause touch-keys. Further to the right is a wider control bank of touch keys that supports options for temperature, dryness level, signal volume, and “wrinkle shield.” Just below this bank are keys to operate the speed, balance, and eco HybridCare energy options — and separate light, signal, and lock options. The tones on the interface are musical and pleasant, ascending and descending scales as higher or lower settings are selected.
The cycle control knob features the standard array of automatic cycle modes: heavy duty, normal, bulky, casual, delicates, and towels, along with quick dry and timed dry. When selecting a mode, the knob only produces audio feedback when passing the “normal” setting at the 12-o’clock position.
The control panel is bright and futuristic, with cool blue LEDs.
Beneath the LCD and the dry time adjustment keys is a small graph called the Eco Monitor, which allows the user to see how the selected settings affect energy usage within the cycle chosen. The scale for the Eco Monitor only varies between “good” and “best,” with the quick dry and timed dry modes both coming in at merely “good,” and bulky and towels dipping down to somewhere just shy of “best.” The heat pump is reusing air that’s recirculated through the machine instead of releasing it outside, like vented dryers do, meaning it’s not wasting already-heated air.
Once started, a cycle can’t be adjusted or switched unless the machine is completely powered down. This can be frustrating if you’d like to add more time, or if you realize too late that you selected the “delicates” mode when you should have selected “bulky.”
No Frills Performance
The ventless Duet dries thoroughly and gently, but not exactly rapidly. The quick dry cycle was estimated at 45 minutes, and it came in at that on the dot. The normal dry mode was much slower, estimating 1:35, but clocking in at 1:55. One DT staffer mentioned that his comforter required two complete cycles on medium heat before it was completely dry – but to be fair, that bulky item isn’t something you’d be able to even attempt in a regular ventless dryer.
It operates quietly at an average of 65 decibels and seems to be very well balanced with no rattling or wobbling. If you select the Eco Mode, it will also be gentler on your clothes. This is because it’s using less heat to dry your clothes, which takes longer but won’t damage your fabrics with over-drying. The dryer features “Sensor Drying,” which uses sensors to detect moisture levels inside the dryer. On some of the cycles, we found this actually kept the machine going despite already dry clothes.
The proprietary HybridCare filter requires cleaning and emptying once per every five cycles. Doing so is as trivial as emptying the lint trap, though the filter does collect a bit of moisture that will have to be purged. It’s a simple operation that any user should easily be able to complete.
Warranty and Support
The DT Accessory Pack
Whirlpool offers a one-year limited parts and service warranty. This is fairly standard, but a few competitors do offer some slightly more generous options. For example, LG offers a 10-year warranty on its drum in addition to its one year of parts and labor coverage, and Electrolux offers an additional year of coverage on parts alone.
While among the most expensive of the ventless options on the market, the Whirlpool HybridCare Ventless Duet Dryer also offers almost twice the capacity as the models by Bosch, LG, and Electrolux. Its looks, performance, and build are all above average, but it may be a while before you see a return on its high sticker price with your electricity bill.
The versatility offered by the HybridCare Duet’s ventless technology and capacity could be a game changer for your apartment, but unless you don’t mind sacrificing speed for energy-savings, you may be better off sticking with a more traditional alternative.