Buyers' Guide to Washers and Dryers
Sunday, 15th August 2010
If you haven't bought a new washer or dryer for a few years, you may be surprised at all the whizz-bang features that the new ones offer. They're gentle on your clothes, have a range of different functions to suit your washing needs, and are kinder to the environment. And while some of the highly energy-efficient models might seem like an extraordinary outlay initially, they're sure to save you money in the long run.
The Low-Down on Washing Machines
Washing machines on the market range from about 5kg to 10kg, so there's something to suit everyone from singles to a family with kids.
New technology gives you far greater flexibility than ever before, with machines offering everything from a 'pre-set' function that lets you fill the load the night before so that it automatically starts the next morning to an 'automatic sensing' function that measures the size of the load and adjusts the water accordingly.
It's easy to get confused by all the impressive features the different washing machines offer, so it's important to work out exactly what you need, and what you can live without, before you hit the shops.
What to look for in a washing machine
First, make sure you choose a machine that offers the right load size for your household. A 5kg machine will probably be large enough for one or two people, while a busy family that does several loads a day might find a 8-10kg machine more practical.
Read the energy-efficiency labels on the front of the machine. The WELS (Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards) rating will tell you how water-efficient the machine is, while the energy star rating will indicate how much power it consumes. Some of the more efficient machines may cost you more initially, but will probably work out far cheaper to run over time.
Look at the programming options each machine offers. Some of the most useful ones include the auto-sensing function that means you don't over-use water or energy; half-wash for smaller loads; delayed start times; and delicates/wool cycles.
If your washing machine will be located anywhere near a living room or bedroom, also be aware of the noise levels as they vary greatly, and the last thing you want is a noisy machine keeping you awake at night.
Front loader or top loader?
They each have their pros and cons, so you need to decide which is better suited to your lifestyle.
Front loaders are generally slower than top loaders, and they take smaller loads. On the plus side, they can be more space efficient as they'll fit under a benchtop or can be stacked with a separate dryer, and they can also handle different-sized loads. They're best-suited to smaller households where space is an issue.
Top loaders are the fastest machines, and they're often better at removing stains. However, they can be tough on your clothes and use more water. If you doing several loads a day, a top loader will probably be your machine of choice.
These double-duty machines are ideal if space is at a premium, but they don't tend to perform as well as separate washers and dryers.
What to look for in a washer-dryer
The dryer capacity in a combination washer-dryer will always be around half the washer capacity, so make sure you choose a large enough drum.
A combination machine with a continuous wash-dry cycle will mean that you don't have to remember to switch it over to dryer function every time you run a load. But be careful not to over-fill it or your clothes won't dry properly. Look for a fast spin cycle, such as 1600rpm, which dries clothes as quickly as possible.
The Low-Down on Dryers
Dryers are the biggest energy-guzzlers in the average household, so it pays to look for one that scores top marks for energy efficiency, and to only use it on chilly or wet days.
There are two main types of dryers: vented and condenser. Vented dryers blow out moist air as the clothes dry and condenser dryers extract water from the load, which is then drained away. If you're considering a vented dryer, make sure that you position it somewhere the exhaust can be ducted outside.
If you plan to stack your dryer on top of your washer, make sure it's a model that's designed for stacking, and that you can still reach inside the machine comfortably.
Again, look for a dryer with an auto-sensing feature so that it won't waste energy and over-dry your clothes.
Some great new models to look out for:
Whirlpool's WFS1055CD has a respectable 5.5kg capacity and measures just 45cm depth, so it's ideal for small spaces.
Ariston's AQXXD149H Aqualtis washing machine is perfect for those with little storage - it has a generous 8.5kg capacity, a neat built-in drawer to store your laundry supplies, plus it's super-silent.
LG's 'Direct Drive' washing machine is one of the few front-loaders that allows you to pause mid-cycle to add more laundry. It also has auto-sensing and a 30-minute quick wash for lightly soiled clothes, and 'Steam Refresh' that allows you to deodorise shirts.
Bosch's Logixx8 'Vario Perfect' displays the correct detergent dosage based on load weight, and has an automatic stain removal system.
Miele's W3725 has a special HoneycombCare system that pushes laundry away from the drum to ensure a gentler wash - great for delicates.
Fisher & Paykel's AquaSmart 8kg top loader is the only one of its king to receive a four-star WELS rating for water efficiency, and it also uses up to 30% less power than the average top loader.
Ariston's ASL700CX condenser dryer has five different drying options, including extra dry and cupboard dry, as well as a half-temperature option and delayed timer.
LG's TD-C809E bright red dryer is sure to be the talking point of any laundry, and it has a range of useful functions.
Electrolux's EDH97950W Energy Star condenser dryer has a 7kg capacity and an impressive 5.5 star energy rating.
Rinnai's Dry-Soft 6 gas dryer claims to dry clothes in around half the time as condenser or vented models, and produces around half the greenhouse gas emissions.