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For the past 50 years, top-load washing machines dominated the consumer market. While they were less efficient, they were relatively inexpensive and boasted high load capacities.
As energy costs soar, homeowners have become conservation conscious and front-load washers have experienced a resurgence in popularity. New technology has brought about machines that are much more efficient, and they clean clothes better as well.
Advantages of Front-Load Washers
Front-load washing machines are easier to use with clear access to the machine. Rather than having to stretch over the top of the machine, petite or disabled homeowners, can now reach the bottom of the tub of many washers.
- Space Saving Features
Most front-load machines can be mounted under a counter. This configuration allows for the area above the washer and dryer to be used for folding clothes, storing detergents and stain-removers, or even creating an air-dry station.
- Accessible Controls
The washer controls are typically mounted on the front of the unit where they are convenient and accessible.
- More Usable Drum Space
There is no center agitator in front-load machines, so more clothes fit into a smaller space. Larger items like blankets and rugs can be easily washed in most front-loaders. Top-loaders may have difficulty handling such bulky items.
- Use Less Water
Front-load washing machines typically use 40 percent less water than top-loaders. Their tumble action uses water movement to clean, and this requires far less water than an agitator. Over the course of a year the average family could save enough water to fill a backyard pool.
- More Effective Spin Cycle
Spin cycles extract 35 percent more water due to higher spin speeds. Clothes come out damp, rather than wet. This greatly reduces the wear and tear on the clothes dryer, thus extending its life expectancy.
- Energy Efficient
These washers use up to 75 percent less electricity to run because continuously rotating action requires less energy than alternating agitation, as is found in top-load washers.
- Reduces Wear and Tear on Clothing
They are much gentler on clothing. With less twisting, tugging, and wrapping, clothes will last longer when washed in a front-loading machine.
- Cleaner Clothes
Clothes come out noticeably cleaner than with a standard top-load unit.
- Longer Life Expectancy
These appliances tend to have a longer life expectancy that typical top load models. Many units are still running strong after 20 years. Agitation is not only hard on clothes, but on the moving parts of the machine as well.
Disadvantages of Front-Load Washers
- More Expensive
Generally speaking, front-load washers are more expensive to purchase than top-loading machines. Prices typically range between $800 and $2500. However, it is important to remember their savings in water, energy, detergent, combined with their longer life expectancy, make up the price difference.
- Must Stoop to Remove Clothes
For tall individuals, the bending and stooping may be uncomfortable. Manufacturers have recognized this and most can be mounted on a raised platform to relieve stress.
- May smell if not cared for properly
This is probably the most common complaint about front-loaders, and it is entirely preventable. Between loads, keep the machine door open to allow it to dry out. Occasionally run a hot wash cycle (clothes free!) with a cup of bleach or two cups of vinegar. Another important note, use the appropriate amount of detergent. Excess detergent can create too many suds, which may leave a film residue inside the machine, causing mold.
Features are abound in front-load units. Many high-quality models have stainless steel drums and multiple cycles for various laundry conditions. These cycles may control wash time, water temperature and volume, spin speed, and more. On some models, these factors adjust automatically by sensing the type of load. Some models offer automatic detergent and bleach dispensers, and a few even have internal heaters to raise the water temperature to 200 degrees or more. This high temperature water can remove stains without the use of bleach.
With an abundance of features and improved energy efficiency, front-load washers have become the standard for many homeowners.