Front-Load Washers


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Front-load washers may look similar to the more common household top-load machine, but they are considerably different. Front-load washers operate without an agitator, the large paddle-device in the center of the wash tub.

Front-load washers have been in use for many years, most often in commercial laundrys. Appliance manufacturers have more recently developed new models of front-load washers which are smaller, more affordable and designed for domestic use.

Front-load washers are also desirable from an environmental point-of-view. They require less water, hold larger loads and save energy in reduced water heating. They also save you time with fewer loads to wash, and will keep your clothes looking better longer.

  • Larger capacity because of no bulky agitator. The average load increase is 30%. The extra space improves washing of bulky items like sleeping bags, bedspreads and throw rugs.
  • High-speed extraction. Front-load washers spin at over 1000 rpm in American-made machines, and higher on European models. This is considerably faster than the 600-700 rpm spin cycle on top-load washers. Clothes come out drier and thereby reduce drying time. This saves energy, and helps the dryer keep pace with the washer during multiple-load washing.
  • Gentler on laundry items. Gentler wash action, with no agitator.
  • Quieter. No clunky sounds, just the whir of the spin cycle.
  • Cleans better. Front-load washers clean many stains bettter than conventional top-load washers.
  • Stackable. The dryer can be stacked on top of the washer for space savings. ( Not all models have this feature.) Models with controls mounted on the front can also be installed under counters.
  • Energy conservation. Front-load washers can easily save over $100 per year in energy costs, and they use 1/2 as much water. Because they use less water, they also require up to 68% less electricity to heat the water, resulting in more energy savings.
This graphic showing the amount of water it is possible to save, per load, with frontload washers. (image courtesy of Frigidaire)
A recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy shows that consumers can save money for themselves and communities may reduce the need for costly new power plants and water supplies by switching to water- and energy-efficient clothes washers, dryers and dishwashers.

This study demonstrates that consumers seeking water and electricity savings should look to the kitchen or laundry rooms in our homes. When consumers in the study switched to a combination of the front-loading washer, a water and energy-efficient dishwasher and an energy-efficient clothes dryer, they attained a 38 percent reduction in water consumption and a 37 percent reduction in electricity. (The study used Frigidaire-brand appliances provided by Electrolux Home Products.)

Because these models are still relatively new, there are a few limitations which manufacturers are working to address:
  • Initial Cost. Front-loaders cost more than top-loaders because the suspension is heavier-duty and the drive is converted from vertical to horizontal axis. The front-loaders cost an average of $300 - $400 more per machine than the top-loaders. This cost is recouped over time, however, in savings in water and energy costs.
  • Bending over. The front-load machines require you to bend over a bit to attend the load. Some models, such as Maytag's Neptune (pictured above), come with an angled, cut-away door which pretty much eliminates this problem, but the Maytag is also more expensive than other models.
  • Limited color and design options. Most models are available in white or almond. Color availability is increasing, however, as the front-loaders become more popular. Some models such as Kenmore and Frigidaire offer stacking washer/dryer units. Maytag's Neptune model is only available as a side-by-side unit.
  • Washing single items, such as a sweater, towel or jeans is not recommended. As the machine tumbles the load prior to final spin, it may sense an out-of-balance load. The machine will stop, and re-start, and will complete the load, but the items will feel wet at the end of the cycle because of reduced water extraction. This can be corrected by adding items to balance the load. This does not apply to single bulky items like sleeping bags, blankets or throw rugs.


These money-saving tips from Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor for Consumer Reports:

-- Don't buy a matching dryer unless your dryer is broken. "Dryer technology hasn't changed much," Lehrman says. And there are no standards for energy-saving dryers. If you spend the money you'd use for a dryer on a more efficient washer, your dryer will use less energy because high-efficiency washers remove more water from clothes.

-- Don't buy a washer with special cycles, such as steam cleaning or allergen removal. "They appear on the most-expensive products," Lehrman says. "We've seen only a slight improvement with steam, but not to justify the extra cost."

-- Forgo the extended warranty. "Most washers and dryers won't break during that time, and for those that do, repairs cost the same as the extended warranty," she says.

-- Buy white or almond. Okay, those are boring. Yes, that cayenne red could really spice up your laundry room. But buying a plain-Jane machine is one of the easiest ways to add to your overall savings. Also, unless you have back problems, do without the matching pedestal. "Those are all things you can forgo so you can save money and spend it on a better machine," Lehrman says. "That's going to save you money in the long run."

-- Use a rebate. Utility companies and manufacturers offer rebates for high-efficiency machines. To find rebates in your area, use Energy Star's Rebate Locator (linked from the home page under "Products"), which allows you to search by Zip code.

Related Pages:

.......Energy-Efficient Appliances - increasing appliance efficiency; how to buy new appliances

.......Tips for Sustainable Wear - selecting and caring for clothing and the environment

Sources: manufacturers of frontload washers

- 3 models, including a compact model. Standard model $949
- 2.7cu.ft. frontload washer, top console: $779

Maytag - Maytag Neptune frontload washers; four models, $1029 - $1909
Whirlpool - the new Duet is the largest capacity frontloader on the market; stackable, with matching large capacity dryer. $1399
Kenmore - 10 frontload models, with prices ranging from $649 - $1399
Miele - 5 models under the Novatronic name; Europe and North America
GE - 2.7 cu.ft. frontload washer, front console (stackable). $699 - $749
  eartheasy  ideas for environmentally sustainable living
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