Washing Machine Buying Tips

A washing machine is one of the longest-lasting appliances in the house — and one that can make the most difference in energy bills. Select your new washer carefully, taking into account how often you wash clothes, what kind of laundry you do, and your space constraints.

Types

  • Front load - people are used to seeing front load washers in laundromats, many brands are now available for home use.
    • Can be stacked with a dryer on top to conserve space.
    • Spins clothes faster than a top-load, extracting more water. This saves energy (and money), because it allows you to dry a load of clothes in a shorter amount of time.
    • Uses less water, which lowers utility bills.
    • May require special detergent - model dependent
    • Initial cost is approximately 30% more than top load
  • Top load - includes a wider variety of available models, colors and features as they have been on the market longer.
    • Costs less initially, but is less energy-efficient.
    • Offers easier access to the wash tub.
    • Uses regular detergent

Sizes

Washers can be purchased with different capacities, but not all brands use consistent labeling. An extra large for one brand might be different than an extra large in another. Use cubic foot measurements to help compare different brands. Then try and match the washer capacity to your dryer.

Features

  • Tub Material: The top end models have stainless steel tubs. Plastic tubs are also an option that will last the life of the machine. Some tubs are made of porcelain-coated steel, which can deteriorate if the porcelain chips.
  • Water levels: The most efficient wash uses only enough water to cover the clothes. A washer with several water level settings allows you to use small amounts of water for small loads of clothes. Front loaders will use less water than top loaders.
  • Cycles and Water Temperature: Different fabrics and colors require different cycles and water temperatures. Many models include permanent press, delicate and extra soak or extra rinse cycles. Using the correct water temperature will allow your detergent, bleaches and fabric softeners to work their best and make your garments look better and last longer. Look for machines with a variety of cycles and temperature combinations. Newer models also have temperature regulators as an option.
  • Noise level: New construction homes sometimes feature laundry rooms on the second floor near the bedrooms. For these types of location noise from the washer will be a consideration. Some newer models offer additional insulation and reinforced frames to reduce operating noise.
  • Safety: Front-load machines include an automatic lock function that prevents the door from opening while the drum is spinning. The same feature is available on certain top-load models.
  • Energy Star rating: A label conferred by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency — indicates that a washing machine uses 35 percent to 50 percent less water and 50 percent less energy than a non-labeled machine. That makes the machine better for the environment and better for your wallet.
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