Washers and Dryers
Whether you're upgrading from older laundry equipment or purchasing your first washer/dryer set, the U.S. Department of Energy's ENERGY STAR label on the washer is your first key to long term savings. Here's a remarkable fact: ENERGY STAR washers use about half the energy and half the water of many models without this rating. Since this is a machine that you'll probably keep for years, that's a lot of energy and water saved. Since most dryers use a similar amount of energy, they aren't ENERGY STAR rated. But if you buy a same-brand set, as most people do, the set can save on utilities in several ways:
- ENERGY STAR washers may spin more water out of washed clothes, reducing drying time.
- Dryers with moisture sensors (as opposed to thermostats) turn off the heating element when enough moisture is removed to finish the job with residual heat. Some dryers tumble sporadically when clothes are dry to reduce wrinkling. These measures save utility costs over timed drying settings. It also prolongs clothing life by not overdrying or shrinking the fibers.
- Gas appliances can cost more to purchase and less to operate.
Habits that add to savings
- For all but oily stains, using cold water and laundry detergents designed for cold water can save energy costs. Pre-treating smaller oily stains may still let you use cold water. Since 90% of the cost of operating a washer is in heating the water, switching to cold water makes sense and cents!
- Keeping your dryer's lint trap clean improves air circulation, maximizing efficiency. Check it after every load.
- Full loads make the best use of both washer and dryer energy use. Dry heavy items like towels and jeans together, even if you wash them separately.
Styles, colors and materials
Styles include compact, standard, stackable, and all-in-one washer/dryer units. Compact laundry appliances are 24" wide and have about half the drum capacity of standard units. If front-loaded, some are stackable. Standard units are 27 to 29 inches wide. Only front-loaders are stackable. All-in-one units usually have a dryer on top and a top-loading washer below. They can be compact or standard widths.
Colors include white, black, red, blue, turquoise, silver and tan porcelain or stainless exteriors. The inside tubs or drums are usually porcelain or stainless steel.
Optional features? Oh, yes!
Remember that tests of many no-frills machines have shown that they clean and dry every bit as well as those that have multiple options. Match your choice to your lifestyle. A busy, outdoorsy family with kids and working parents may need more options than empty-nesters. You can make a printout of this article and highlight feature of interest, then compare them with washer/dryer models available.
Washer options (besides the standard ones) include speedy foam washing, which takes special detergents; steam setting; overnight wash and dry for small loads. Some have noise and/or vibration dampeners; stainless steel drums, soak or pre-soak cycles; a buzzer loudness control; settings for numerous fabrics, soak cycles, special agitation methods, and more.
Some dryers also have a steam setting to minimize wrinkling; stainless steel drums, a top-opening door that can hold folded laundry, a lint filter light, a duct blockage monitor, a moisture sensor, a removable rack for flat drying, a sanitizer cycle, bi-directional tumbling, ventless models, and more.
Be aware that some front load washers have had mold problems, so airing or drying off the tub or drum can be a good practice. Stainless steel tubs can get rusted from metal items left in clothing and can also require special care for removal of detergent residues. Also, you may need a 240V outlet for an electric dryer.
Brands, prices, and experts
Most kitchen appliance brands also make clothes washers/dryer sets. Amana, Bosch, Frigidaire, GE, Kenmore, LG, Maytag, Samsung, Whirlpool and others will dizzy you with models at different price points. A rough range of prices is from $125 to over $1,000 for compact models, and from around $200 to over $1,600 for standard models.
It's a lot of info to digest. Visit showrooms, ask friends and neighbors for washer and dryer recommendations, and complete the simple form on this site to reach local experts for product information, advice and installation.