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Efficient Clothes Washer 

Q

I need a new clothes washer. I’ve heard about quiet, efficient, new front-loader models, but since they use less water, I worry about ineffective rinsing. Do they really wash and rinse well?
– Peg J. 

A

Front-loading clothes washers (horizontal axis) are superior in most ways to the typical top-loading ones that are most popular in the U.S. In Europe and most of the rest of the world, efficient front-loaders are predominantly used.

By design, front-loaders wash and rinse much more effectively than top-loaders. By using less water, less detergent, and less energy to heat the hot wash water, the annual savings of operating a front-loader as compared to a top-loader can be as much as $100. Also, the gentle tumbling washing action minimizes damage and premature fading of your clothes. 

Instead of filling a tub with water and using a plastic agitator to move the water as in a top-loader, a front-loader uses gravity. As the tub spins on a horizontal axis, the clothes gently tumble through the sudsy water. An automatic sensor determines the proper water level for the size of the load. 

Since the tub is only partially filled with water, the clothes actually fall through the air from the top of the tub as it spins. This allows them to fan out before they reach the water and swish through it again. There is very little clumping of clothes so they are thoroughly cleaned. 

Many of the models have built-in adjustable water heater elements that can raise the wash water to as high as 200 degrees. This improves cleaning and is ideal for washing childrenís clothes and washing during cold and flu seasons.

With a horizontal axis and no agitator, a front-loader can spin several times faster (up to 1,600 rpm) than typical top-loaders to rinse out more detergent residue. Most of the models include special shock absorbers and suspensions to minimize noise and vibration. An electronic brain senses if the load is unbalanced. If so, the tub automatically stops, rotates back and forth to even out the load, and then spins again. 

Other than the improved washing and drying effectiveness, a front-loader design allows the washer and dryer to be stacked on top of one another to save floor space. This is important in today’s more efficient, compact houses. Also, the ease of access to the clothes in a front-loader for the physically impaired is a consideration for the elderly. 

There’s a new front-loader design that uses a lifting washing motion instead of using an agitator. It uses a wash plate to create a unique wavelike motion to gently lift and bounce the clothes through a waterfall of sudsy water. It fluffs up the clothes for very effective cleaning and rinsing. By eliminating the agitator, there is also more room for a larger load of clothes. It offers many of the same features and cost savings as other front-loaders.

There are also combination space-saving front-loader washer/dryers that do both the washing and drying in the same unit from start to finish. You put in the dirty clothes and take out clean dry clothes. Most of these use a condensing-type of dryer so they do not have to be vented outdoors. They just need an electrical outlet and a cold water faucet. Portable models on casters are available that have small built-in heaters to warm the wash water.

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