Clothes Washers and Dryers can be pretty cool...

On Tuesday, September 27, 2011 1 comments

On a regular basis my wife talks about how her old clothes washer and dryer (probably when she is doing a load of laundry) were lightyears better than the new ones we have today. So that has lead to me on several occasions to research what types of washer and dryer options exist and is there a clearly better solution for us that justifies us upgrading.

Washers come in two primary configurations; Front-loading and Top-loading.

Clothes Washer - Front-loading (left)  and Top-loading (right) 
In an area of full disclosure, my wife is missing her top-loading washing machine versus the front-loader we have today. There are other variations on the theme that I am not looking at like Combo units or Compact washers and the like. For this write-up I am just going to stick with the two main segments.

Front-loading washers seem to have increased in popularity of late. Data indicates that the average household does 400 loads of laundry a year. With a conventional top-loading washer using 40 gallons of water to fill the basin whereas the front-loader uses a 1/3 of that water, so by the end of a year if you get one of the High Efficiency (HE) front-loading washing machines you can save roughly $850 a year in water and detergent. While the front-loaders have enjoyed High Efficiency and Energy-Star ratings, a new breed of Top-Loaders are starting to get this level of certifications. Though the more efficient top-loaders get these efficiencies through their load management features and water temperature options and not necessarily through the efficient water utilization in the front-loaders. So "more efficient" is clearly been a selling point of the front-loaders.

Capacity? The new ilk of front-loaders seem to look so massive but most have a storage stand they sit upon to raise the door to prevent too much bending over to look and reach inside. But front-loading washers also typically provide additional load capacity. This can lead to more efficiency IF you are filling it up with each load. But most top-loaders floor footprint is similar and is some cases smaller than their top-loading competitors. Of course, there are a wide range of you can't really call a winner here.

Less space? There is an obvious benefit that front loaders can for the most part be stacked whereas the top-loading door gets in the way. If you have limited space...stacking is a great option.

Gentler? The agitator mechanism in a top-loading machine is pretty aggressive and can put your clothes through a tough workout. The top-loading washer has an agitator that cycles at 650 revolutions per minute (RPM), compared to the 1,000RPM of the standard front-loader where a tumbling motion cycles the clothes around in the water. In theory, the front-loader is more gentle on your garments.

Convenience? The top-loader may have a bit of an edge here. Don't like the bending over to feed the clothes in and out of the front-loading washer versus dropping them into a top-loader? What about dropping something in after the cycle has started? For the most part, this is not an option with a front-loading machines...yes, there are a few that let you open for a bit but those have limited versatility.

GE Top-Loading Washer
Price? This is where is gets a bit more complicated. Out the door a comparable front-loader can cost double what a top-loader costs. A solid, conventional top-loader like the GE GTWN3000 that can be found online for under $400. Whereas a good, front-loader like the Whirlpool WFW9750 can cost over $800.

GE GTWN3000 is your standard top loading washing machine. It has a 3.7 cubic foot capacity. Like most top-loaders, it is not Energy Star rated. Its agitator runs at 630RPM spin speed. The washers strength is its overall cleaning ability and is rather gentle with regular clothes but it is lacking a "delicate cycle" mode. At the end of the day, this one is mentioned here due to its price. It is a very good product at the bottom end of the scale if you are not fixated on an efficient device.

Whirlpool WFW9750
Whirlpool WFW9750 is a solid performer in the front-loading category for the money. It actually has a very nice 3.9 cubic foot capacity. The WFW9750 is Energy Star rated as well as CEE Tier III qualified (the most efficient level). This level of efficiency may qualify you for local utility company rebates! Due to its 1,400RPM spin speed, the clothes get rather dry at the end of the wash cycle. Like other front-loaders, the Whirlpool can be stacked with the dryer. A slight area of concern, is that Consumer Reports did comment in their write-up that this Whirlpool can have maintenance issues but nothing online vets this out. The reviews are very positive. Another negative is that the wash cycle can run long with certain options activated like the Sanitize feature.

If your heart is stuck on a top-loader but you want some of the benefits of a front-loader, consider this...

Maytag Bravos X HE
Maytag Bravos X HE (MVWX600XW) is an efficient top-loader that is Energy Star rated and CEE Tier III qualified (check for local utility rebates). It has a 3.6 cu. ft. capacity and advanced features like a stainless steel wash basket, 800 RPM spin speed, low water wash cycle with EcoConserve...all for around $600 retail. Very strong consumer feedback online and definitely worth a look.

If your looking for "my recommendation" on the right price and feature front-loader, consider this...

Electrolux EWFLS70JRR is the clothes washer I would buy and not just because it comes in this very cool red hot color! You can get it in a ton of shade, so you can find a color to match your decor. But Electrolux really appears to make a spectacular product based on the consumer dialog online. Solid, dependable and feature rich. It's not cheap ($1,600 range) but as long as you see a washer as a many year proposition...this makes up for the cost in a history of proven reliability. Also keep in mind that the front-loader will save you on water and energy like discussed earlier. The Wave-Touch interface is well laid out and easy to use. You have access to 65 different wash cycles, a 1,400 RPM spin speed, "My Favorite" configurable settings, Energy Star/CEE Tier III certification and NSF-certified sanitation cycle options. can change the end-of-cycle chime to your own personal liking. :-)

If price is not a concern and you are looking for a top-loader...

King of the Top-Loaders
Whirlpool Vantage WTW7990XG
This high-tech marvel includes a 7-inch full-color touch-screen that allows you to fine-tune the types of fabric are in the wash cycle for great levels of control/care of the garments. It has a substantial 4 cu. ft. capacity and 1,100 RPM spin. The built-in USB port allows for future upgrades to the firmware and programming. And for those that want to showoff their clothes washer, it features a self-lifting automotive glass lid! Yes, this is product is Energy Star rated and CEE Tier III rated.

Special detergent? Many front-loading HE washers recommend using an HE low sudsing detergent. They are pretty easy to get nowadays but worth keeping in mind.

King of the Front-Loaders
Miele W4842
Miele W4842
Miele has been in business since 1901 making laundry equipment for commercial applications. With the introduction of the Miele SuperCapacity series based on their commercial units, Miele brings there years of experience to the home. This is a substantial product, well engineered with a beautiful stainless steel honeycomb drum that is designed to provide gentle care of fabrics. While some manufacturers are going high-tech with a wide assortment of configurations, Miele is sticking with quality and ease of use. That's not to say they don't have some of the most sophisticated technologies inside their units like an Intelligent Wash Action, custom wash programs, delayed start functions, a SpinClean mode that accelerates the drum on bulkier items to ensure they are properly cleaned and an on-board water heater that can ramp up the water temperature to 158F which is well beyond your home's hot water for a "Clean Machine" cycle. Another unique feature is the RemoteVision wi-fi connectivity to Miele's quality monitoring service. Should a fault be detected, Miele will contact you to schedule a service repair. One item of note, this model is not stackable. And yes, it is Energy Star and CEE Tier III rated.

Looking for high-tech clothes washing? Check for these next-gen technologies...

STEAM - Many new front-loading washers include a steam wash that in theory is even more efficient, helps permeate the clothes and loosen up dirt. This is a common, high-end feature for brands like LG, Whirlpool and Samsung. While in a way it makes sense...I have seen too many reviews where washers without steam clean the clothes better than the steam versions. So I'd say the jury is out on this feature???

QUIET - Almost every manufacture is focused on making their units as quiet as you are willing to pay for it. It seems that as you move up the price scale, the more noise dampening the product gets. Just something to keep in mind.

INTELLIGENCE/SENSORS - Washers are getting so smart sets of sensors and advanced programs that track water usage based on the load size. Programming that allows you to set when the cycles will run. And a range of features and multi-cycles treatments to handle the type of load from "bed comforters" to "delicates".

TOUCH-SCREENS - No longer do you need to turn a clicking dial! You can punch in a whole mess of parameters to your delight and even save favorite configurations.

ANTI-BACTERIAL - Manufactures are starting to use materials and technology to further sanitize your garments. A benefit of this is that you can use colder water to product your delicate clothing but still get them clean.

CONNECTED - There are washing machines with USB ports,  and others coming out that feature wi-fi connectivity to track quality/fault issues or to even make sure you know when your clothes are dry!



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