As dorky as it sounds (haven’t we established I’m a bit of a dork by now?), I was secretly excited at the prospect of buying a new washer and dryer when we moved into our new house. I wasn’t excited about the hit on my wallet, mind you. But I was thrilled at the prospect of having a brand-new washer and dryer that actually dried my clothes without leaving them musty.
My excitement quickly turned to trepidation, however, when I realized just how many options there are out there for washers and dryers. As with any appliance buying, I’ve come to discover, purchasing a washer and dryer can be a bit intimidating.
So, to help you get the most spin cycles for your buck, I present a brief guide to washer and dryer buying.
Let’s cut to the chase. You’re probably wondering what components and features are most important. And, unfortunately, I’m going to throw a very muddy answer your way: It depends. It depends on how much laundry you do, how you do it, and what your needs are. But asking these five questions can help make things a bit less murky.
1. Do I want a top- or front-loader?
Front-loaders making loading laundry easier (particularly from a seated position), are typically more energy-efficient, and may be gentler on clothes—plus many front-loading models look stellar compared to boring top-loaders. Front-loading washers in particular can be pricey though, so you may need to consider what’s most important to you before you choose. (Plus there are high-efficiency top-loaders now too, which conserve more water and have higher performance than standard top-loaders but are much pricier, of course.) Not sure which is best for you? Lucky you, there are plenty of product guides out there than help explain what you get with each model. Check out this consumer guide from HowStuffWorks.com to get started.
2. What size is best?
Washers are available in a variety of capacities—and it’s important to get one that fits your needs. If you have a large family, a super-capacity washer will save you valuable time because you can tackle larger loads at once. But if there are only two people in your household (and you don’t expect that to change anytime soon), a smaller, stackable washer-and-dryer unit may do the trick. One caveat: Make sure the capacity of your washer matches that of your dryer—a super-sized washer won’t save much time if your dryer can only handle half that much!
3. What options does it offer?
For some, a bare-bones washer and dryer does the trick. I wasn’t looking for a lot of fancy bells and whistles when I went shopping, but I knew there were a few must-have options. Look for a washer that allows you to select the water level that best fits the size of your load and adjust the water temperature (even if, like me, you wash pretty much everything on cold). For my dryer, at the top of my list was a model that allowed me to select the right temperature for what I was drying and that had an automatic sensor so the dryer would shut off when the clothes were dry.
4. How quiet is it?
If your laundry room is hidden in the basement this might not be quite as much of a concern, but if your laundry unit is located near your bedroom or the main living areas of your home you’ll want to consider noise level. Look for models with additional insulation and reinforced frames.
5. How energy-efficient is it?
This is a big one—making the right decision in this category can save you money and lessen the impact your clothes washing and drying as on the environment. For washers, look for the Energy Star label, which indicates that a washing machine uses 35 to 50 percent less water and 50 percent less energy than other machines. Learn all about the environmental impact of washing machines and how to ensure you’re buying the least resource-intensive model from The Green Guide. Energy Star does not label dryers because there is little different in the energy use between models, but if you want to save in this category, remember that gas models may cost a bit more upfront but may be more efficient and can save you money in the long run. Or, better yet, air dry as many of your clothes as possible to reduce the amount of energy you use drying.
A special note from The Home Know-It-All: I’m a green girl to the core (or at least I’m on my way to becoming one), but I have to admit: I didn’t buy an Energy Star washer and dryer. Oh the horror!
I can guarantee you that my next set will be Energy Star and energy saving all the way. But this set wasn’t. And I’ll tell you why. One: I’m on a budget (a very small budget). And Energy Star appliances still cost considerably more (let’s just say I purchased my washer and dryer for less than it would’ve cost just to buy an Energy Star washer). Yes, in the long run Energy Star washers can yield major water and energy savings, and I highly recommend that you look into purchasing one. But there are only two people in our household, and we don’t have all that much laundry between us. So while an Energy Star washer and dryer makes sense for a household of four or five or twelve, I did some math and discovered it would take use quite a long time to save all that extra money we’d be spending on Energy Star models—probably a lot longer than we’ll be occupying this house. So it just didn’t make sense. Plus, I’m pretty conscientious about my laundry anyway—I wash everything on cold, only wash full loads (on the lowest water level possible), use the automatic sensor on the dryer so I minimize how much water and energy I consume, and air dry as much clothing as possible.
But if you have more than two people living in your household, do a ton of laundry, or plan on living in your home for longer than, say, five years, please buy Energy Star. It makes a difference—in the amount of money you’ll save in the long run and on your impact on the environment.
Want to learn more about washers and dryers before you head to the store? Before I went shopping, I spent a considerable amount of time perusing the Consumer Reports website to learn about their recommendations for washing machines and dryers.
Oh, and once your lovely washer and dryer is installed and it’s time to organize your laundry room, I can help you out with that too!
The Home Know-It-All