Saturday, January 7, 2012

High Efficiency Washer Woes and How to Prevent Them.

Shopping for a washer and dryer used to be pretty simple. There was only one type of washer and two of the dryers. Sure, there were lots of bells and whistles to be had, but for the most part the plain vanilla set served the purpose for couple of decades before being replaced with a newer set. Before my time, wringer washers were common and saved water by not having a timer. By the 1970's though, the main choice was a washer with an agitator that moved the clothes and a timer that automatically cycled wash, rinse and spin modes. The one doing the laundry could save time by doing something else or just enjoy a soap opera. The problem was that those washers used 45 gallons of water and lots of electricity per wash. Sure, there was a water level setting. However, most consumers chose to leave it on high for all but the smallest of loads. Another issue is that the dryer would need to work longer to remove the water the spin cycle didn't. This is why laundromats sometimes have a couple extractors; to remove the water and shorten the time running the dryer.
The agitating arm is also hard on clothes; that lint in the dryer screen is from the agitating arm wearing against them. One the other hand, there's very little of any lint from a high efficiency washer. Any that does show up is from the clothes rubbing against the drum and others in the machine and that wear is minimal.

These washers also sense the water level needed and use less water and electricity. Because they remove more water on the spin cycle, are a lot easier on the dryer. The downside is their cycles tend to be longer, but this made up with shorter drying times. Another huge plus is that shorter people can reach into the washer and it's no more inconvenient to anyone else than putting or removing clothes in a standard dryer. Sure, there are pedestals, but these are expensive and for the most part, unnecessary. A decent front loading, high efficiency washer and dryer will cost no more than a decent top loading washer and standard dryer and will save money almost immediately. Depending on the purchase price and how much you use them (as well as repairs) will determine when the pay back time is. Don't just buy one to save energy.

Last night, one of our friends showed up and told us about the horrible experience she had with her GE washer. I'll spare you the rest of the story, but there was nothing positive to say.

In the case of this technology, there are trade offs. Whether you buy a toaster over or washing machine, you need to do maintenance on it or it'll quit on you. You also need to use the right detergent AND fabric softener. The high sudsing stuff will confuse the sensors and cause the control board (this is NOT a mother board) to fail. This is what happened to our friend's washer. Needless to say, it wasn't the fault of the equipment, as these things are tested for hundreds of hours. These are also designed to work with a door on the side instead of the top AND hold the water in; not a mean feat.

So use the right detergent and fabric softener; look for the h.e. or high efficiency label. Every month, you'll also need to use a washer cleaner and run on the cleaning cycle. To stop the mold and mildew smell that everyone bellyaches about, remember to leave the washer door open between uses AND wipe out the seal behind the door and drum with a clean rag. If it starts acting up, call a technician and don't wait. If there's something wrong, the problems can only get worse and more expensive with time. As with any piece of high precision equipment, follow the direction to the letter and don't try to fudge in your own interpretation. This means giving the regular laundry soap to a friend or neighbor, and not trying to use it "this once" to save money. As far as saving money goes, the "h.e" stuff isn't any more expensive than the regular soap. You can get Purex for $2 or $3 bucks that won't wreck your machine, for example. This is one set of defects that are more attributed to operator error. Maranatha!

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