Friday, May 4

What to Expect with HE Washers

If you've meandered through your local big box retailers appliance showroom, you may notice a lacking in options when it comes to the washers and dryers your familiar with.  The technology is changing, and with that, what is available is also changing.  I help clients with selecting the right washer and dryer for their families a lot, and often have to give them a "How-To" class before they make their final selections.  Husbands are typically scared by all the buttons, options, and features, while wives are apprehensive that the new technology will clean as well as their fifteen-year-old hand-me-down that just died.

When shopping for a new unit, yes, there may be one or two of the standard old fashioned units you may be used to.  However, these units are typically the least expensive units with the smallest capacity.  Typically, clients I talk to would rather have larger capacity to avoid trips to the laundromat to wash the larger bedding, and want to get laundry done, instead of having to waste an entire day doing a ton of smaller loads in a smaller machine.  I often have to explain to clients, that if they want the larger capacity, they are going to have to switch to High Efficiency machines, many consumers want to know why.

Maytag Bravo's
Top Loading HE Pair
Due to the demand for more water efficient machines by consumers and the government, as well as larger capacity demands, the manufacturers have responded with these new units.  They take up the same space as traditional machines, give or take depending on the specific unit.  The come in both top loading and front loading styles, and a wide range of colors and features.  One of the first things that was eliminated, in order to increase capacity, but not foot print, was the agitator.  By removing the agitator, the entire washing cycles had to be changed.  There are now hybrid washes which has a completely different agitation, and uses up to 60% less water.  This video by General Electric shows how the top load units work greatly, and is a great educational tool, showing you how to load the machine for the best wash performance.  Many consumers feel as though the lower amounts of water with higher quantity of clothing, that their load won't get clean.  This video shows how the modified agitation and movement of the drum will result in clean clothes.  Typically, the top loading HE units have a larger capacity than front loading styles.

Electrolux Front Load Washers
Now lets take a look at the front loading styles. They wash very similarly to the top loading styles, just tilted on it's side.  Here is another video by General Electric that shows you how these styles wash, and some of the product features available not only from GE, but other manufacturers.

Some other Frequently Asked Questions about HE Washers:

  • Q: "What's that smell coming from my unit?"
    A: Many people report a smell coming from their High Efficiency unit, and some people have reported it from their non HE units.  All washers have a little bit of water remaining under the tub between cycles.  That water can then build up bacteria.  It is a good habit for all washers to leave the door open over night after doing laundry, and once a month use a washing machine cleaner such as Afresh. By performing these good habits, you shouldn't ever have a problem.   
  • Q: "Do I have to use special soap?  How much more is that going to cost?"
    A: Yes, you do have to use the special soap with the HE logo (Shown above).  It is available by all manufacturers of laundry soap, and is typically located on the same shelves as the soap you are already buying.  When HE units first came out, the soap did cost a little more, however now that there is such a higher demand, the pricing has gone down.  You can get HE soaps at all major retail outlets including Costco, Target, Walmart, even the grocery store.  
  • Q: "My daughter has really bad allergies and sensitive skin, will I be able to find soap?"
    A: Absolutely.  Many of the "Green" brands produce only HE detergents that are dye and perfume free.  I personally use a Tide version that I picked up at Babies R Us for about $15. 
  • Q: "If I get a front loader, don't I have to purchase the pedestals?"
    A: Of course not, and a lot of people don't.  Yes, this creates more bending over and such, but with pedestals typically starting at $199 each, I'll bend over!  Many people come back and purchase them later if they truly want them, but the budget doesn't allow.  Actually, the openings of a front load washer and dryer are no lower than a typical dryer, and actually, the bottom of a front load washer tub is a little higher than a top loader.  You are still bending over, no matter what unit you get.  If you have a bad back, or bending is an issue, then the pedestals are the only way to go, but if you can hold off on them, by all means, go ahead and do so.  I personally didn't get them, as I didn't want to have to pay the added expense, and I also preferred having the folding surface along the top of the units, which is too high with the pedestals.  

These are just some frequently asked questions.  If you have more questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments section.  I have worked with thousands of families over the past few years selecting the best washing pair for their family, and would be happy to give advice, pointers, and answer questions.