Kenmore 81383 Dryer Review
A great bargain, especially if you stick to the Normal cycle
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The Kenmore 81383 (MSRP $1,179.99) is one of many high-end electric dryers on the market today, and with so many available, it takes a lot to rise above the pack. If it weren't for the incredible discount offered at Sears—it retails for about $800—there wouldn't be much about this machine to sway consumers from superior models.
Retail prices are suitably discounted, but even so, you can easily find a machine with better performance for even less, including some with steam capabilities. The catch is, many of those models are paired with top load washers. If you're a fan of front load laundry but are on a tight budget, this machine may be worth tolerating the somewhat spotty performance on its more specialized cycles.
By the Numbers
Despite its responsive controls and high-end design, the Kenmore 81383 (MSRP $1,179.99) simply didn’t do all that well in our tests—compared with other models of similar price and style, that is. Clothes were too damp to wear at the end of all but the Normal cycle, make this dryer difficult to recommend if you plan to use more than that basic, workhorse cycle.
Design & Usability
Hard edges and bright lights
The 81383 isn’t stainless—Kenmore describes this finish as metallic silver. Depending on the bulbs in your laundry room, it could indeed look silver or gray, but under certain lights, it almost has a bit of a brown sheen to it. Whether that’s good or bad is entirely up to you. The identical 81382 is available in white for the same price.
Bright green lights clearly indicate which cycle is selected and what options are active. The cycle select dial is almost too loose for our taste, but not enough to really detract from the user experience.
To the left of the cycle knob, you’ll find the steam tray, a blue bucket you can fill with water to power the steam-based options. A small filter in the lid of the bucket keeps any junk from flowing into the dryer.
The brushed steel drum is a mark of higher-end units, and should resist rust or flaking over time.
Normal & Delicate
The Normal cycle was the only one to fully dry our test loads 100% of the way, and it did so in about 58 minutes—a perfectly average run time. Unfortunately, it got a bit too warm, peaking at 155.6°F. That’s about 10° too warm, meaning less hardy fabrics may start to wear out or fade.
Delicates did a decent job staying cool, with peak temperatures of just 108.6°F. Cycles lasted about 58 minutes on average, making this a perfect cycle for fragile garments... except for the fact that it only got clothes 87% dry. A little extra moisture is great for ironing or to finish on a clothesline, but 87% dry doesn't quite cut it.
Performance & Features
A little too damp on specialty cycles
Spend an extra $150 or so to buy the 81383 instead of a less expensive dryer, and it's reasonable to understand that you'd expect more. Indeed, the 81383 adds additional features like steam and specialty cycles.
Unfortunately, this dryer works best when you stick with the basics. The Normal cycle was very good, and managed to get everything completely dry—a fact that accounts for the majority of this machine's high score. It did get a little warmer than we’d recommend, but if you're wardrobe consists of mostly hardy fabrics it shouldn't be a huge issue. If you've got thin cotton shirts, though, we'd suggest turning on the energy saver mode to keep them from overdrying.
All other cycles tested—Delicates, Bulky/Comforter, and Express Dry—failed to get all the moisture out of our loads. Sometimes, that can be good; a delicate cycle will often leave a little moisture behind for optimal ironing or line drying. However, enough moisture was left at the end of each cycle that clothes would come out too damp to be wearable, regardless of how high temperatures would reach.
With a Sanitize and Steam Refresh cycle bolstering all the traditional modes, the 81383 is actually a somewhat versatile machine. Small Load is simply a sensor-based version of the manual Express Dry cycle, which feels like padding the list.
Extra features are rather limited. You’ve got a traditional wrinkle guard and control lock, as well as a Static Shield option that uses steam to cut down on—wait for it—static. Aside from a trigger for the chime, that’s about it.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
Quick Dry & Bulky
This Kenmore has both a sensor-based Small Load cycle as well as a manual Express Dry. For our Quick Dry test, we went with the latter, which defaults to 25 minutes. After that much time had passed, and with temperatures peaking at 151.1°F, our clothes were only 86% dry. We’ve seen machines do almost as well in as little as 18 minutes. The Express Dry isn't bad, but it could be better.
While not perfect, the Bulky/Comforter cycle did a commendable job. After just 55 minutes, it got our large comforter 73% dry with temperatures only reaching 149.3°F. That’s too damp to use, but proportionally better than many other machines regardless of price. If you’re available to fluff the comforter—or other bulky items—mid-cycle, the sensors should be able to take care of the rest.
Stick With the Basics
Even though it's got extras, the Normal cycle is the standout
For the right buyer, the Kenmore 81383 could be a decent dryer. It’s relatively affordable, does well on Normal, and has a fair variety of cycles and features. While not outrageously remarkable, it’s certainly better than a $500 bargain-basement hot box.
Nevertheless, inconsistent performance results in specialty cycles paint a less than flattering picture. Sure, the Normal cycle did a good job, but if that’s all you’re ever going to use, you might as well go for the less expensive Kenmore 81182 and save yourself a few hundred dollars. As for other products in this price range—this model retails at Sears for about $880—you can do better, even if you’re determined to get a Kenmore.