Evaluating washing machines is a multi-step process that involves 1) understanding the types available to you, 2) looking into the different brand and model options, and 3) making a decision based on the previous steps and your individual household needs.
Home washing machine sizes range from full-size, to compact and portable units. A washing machine may sit side-by-side with a dryer, or the dryer may be designed to stack on top of it, leading to a vertical arrangement ideal for smaller spaces or closet installation. Portable washers require no permanent water hookup. They are equipped with casters and a sink adapter and connect to the kitchen faucet while draining into the sink. But the major two styles are front-loading or top loading washers.
Washing Machine Types
The types of washers available to you include front load washers, top load washers, full-size, compact and portable washers. Front load washers used to be found solely in laundromats, but nowadays many homeowners opt for this distinct style over top load washers.
Front load washers feature up-front controls and a see-through glass portal door mounted in front. Instead of being situated on a vertical axis, the wash drum rotates along a horizontal axis. This increases the speed at which the spin cycle may run, leading to less moisture-soaked clothes at the end of a wash.
Top load washers feature the classic washer design. With a vertical axis tub, traditional top-mounted lid and set-back controls, top load washers are still a very popular and affordable choice among homeowners. Top load units are also used commercially when outfitted with coin-op banks.
Full-size washers measure 27 or 28 inches wide, while compact washers measure 24 inches wide. Portable washers are even smaller and come with casters for mobility.
Front Load vs Top Load
Aside from the many brands, the biggest choice you will make when selecting a washer is between a front load and a top load unit. You already know the main differences between the two, but the distinction does not end with their external features. Front load washers are, in general, pricier than top load units. However, the most expensive top load units come with a higher price than lower-end front load washers.
One feature you should definitely look at is wash capacity. Measured in cubic feet, this indicates how much wash space an appliance possesses. Portable units come with as little as .91 cubic feet of space, while the biggest units feature a 5.0 cubic foot capacity. Front load washers come in compact sizes with 2.1 cubic feet of capacity. LG makes them as large as 4.8 cubic feet. Top load units average about 3.5 cubic feet, but both Maytag and Whirlpool produce a super capacity top load washer with 5.0 cubic feet, bigger than all home front load washers.
Another primary distinction is the axis. Because front load washers rotate the drum around a horizontal axis, the spin cycle can reach a maximum speed of 1400 RPM. Compare this to the average speed of top load washers, which is roughly 650 RPM. Consequently, front load washers can wring more moisture out of clothes, leading to reduced dry times and energy usage. Front load washers are also stackable, meaning with the appropriate stacking kit a matching dryer can be set directly atop the washer. This saves space and puts the dryer at eye level.
Washer Dryer Combos
Another type of washing machine is the very innovative washer dryer combo. Instead of having two appliances in your kitchen, basement or laundry room, a washer dryer combo gives you two appliances in one.
This type of washer is ventless, meaning that it uses condensing dryer technology. Rather than heat up the clothes as they spin in the dryer, the moisture is drawn out, condensed and drained into a sink. These units save space, cut down on energy use and work in homes that lack standard W/D hookups.
Features found on all types of washing machines differ from brand to brand. You can usually expect to find some combination of the following features: multiple wash programs and options such as rinse only, steam, energy saver, rapid cycle and sanitizing cycle; automatic temperature control; detergent dispenser; 3 to 5 wash/rinse temperatures; multiple spin cycle speeds; one-touch electronic controls with an LED or LCD display; and stainless steel wash drum.
Brands include special features to set their products apart. Depending on the brand, you may find low-decibel sound insulation for reduced noise, anti-vibration technology, sensory systems that adjust water levels and temperature and innovative sanitizing cycles that are NSF-certified to remove certain harmful bacteria.
Brands and Models
The brands that manufacture washing machines read like a laundry list of well-known companies. Maytag, Amana, GE, Whirlpool, Frigidaire, Kenmore, Summit, Speed Queen and Avanti are some of the most familiar manufacturers. Makers of high-end washers include Bosch, LG, Samsung, Equator, Miele, ASKO and Ariston.
Washing machines can cost as little as $300 or as much as $2,500. Each brand typically offers several models of washing machine. LG features 20 washer models. Maytag and Whirlpool each offer 17 different models, while GE has 28 from which to choose.
In addition, brands offer both standard units as well as higher-end product lines that come with more features. Whirlpool has its Cabrio line of spacious top load washers, and Frigidaire has its Affinity line. GE Profile units are known for their energy efficiency and extra features, while Bosch has several series including the 300, 500 and 800 which consist of extremely high-end washers.
Accessories and Parts
Accessories for washing machines are few. Front load washers often can be combined with pedestal stands with or without a storage drawer for added height. Stacking kits are available to place a dryer atop a washer.
All washing machine manufacturers provide aftermarket parts when a repair is needed. These parts may be purchased through the manufacturer, an authorized retailer or repair facility or online through a third-party parts catalog.