How to Buy a Washer and Dryer
Buying a washer and dryer is somewhat like buying a car—it can be an enjoyable process or it can be an exceedingly painful process. The type of experience you have depends mainly on your preparation. Here are the questions you need to ask yourself to ensure that you end up with the right washer and dryer for your family.
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Set Your Budget
How much money are you willing to spend on a washer and dryer? The least-expensive front-loading washers cost more than the lowest priced conventional top-loading machines. But as you move to large capacity front-loading machines and add more features, the prices skyrocket. So plan on spending between around $700 for a front-loading 4.3-cubic/ft. washer and up to $1,800 for the larger 5.8-cubic/ft models with more features. Add another $225 for a pedestal. High efficiency top-loading machines cost between $500 for 4.3-cubic/ft. models and $1,200 for larger 6.2-cubic/ft. models with all the features. High-efficiency washers use more water than most front loading machines, but significantly less than conventional top loaders. They don't require maintenance, but cost more to repair than conventional top-loading machines. All dryers (with just a few exceptions) are front loading, with either a drop down or side swing door. They're available in three versions: natural gas, propane and electric. Electric dryers cost about $100 less than gas models, but you'll spend the difference in just a few years because of longer dry times and higher electric rates in some areas. Electric dryers make the most sense for homes without access to natural gas or in areas where electric rates are low.
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How Much Space Do You Have?
Once you have a budget figured out, you need to examine the space the new machines will occupy. Is it wide and deep or is it narrow and tall? Is there room to load the washer and dryer from the front, or do you have to focus solely on top-loading machines? And measure your laundry area so you know how much space you've got and keep those measurements handy as you look at washers and dryers.
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Top Load or Front Load?
Deciding between top-loading and front-loading washer and dryer is both a personal preference and related to how much space you have in your laundry room. And maybe you've got low cabinets where the machines will go so you'll need machines that load from the front. Or, your laundry area may have plenty of vertical space, but not much width, meaning a top loader will be a better choice for you.
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To Stack or Not to Stack, That Is the Question
Is your laundry room tiny? Is it narrow and shallow but tall? If so, you're a perfect candidate for a stackable washer and dryer combo. And these units fit in spaces that are less than 36 in. wide, as long as you've got 6 to 8 ft. of vertical clearance.
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Examine Your Capacity Needs
How many people will be using this washer and dryer and how much laundry do they create in a week? Washing machine capacity is rated as either cubic feet or pounds/kilograms. And on the small side are the compact units with tub capacities of about 2 cubic ft., which will accommodate a few bath towels and a few pairs of pants. On the large side are those with capacities of about 6 cubic ft. which will fit between 15 and 20 bath towels.
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Do You Have Forgetful People In Your Household?
Many more washing machines today lock the loading door and take quite a while to unlock so you can't easily throw stuff in that was forgotten once the cycle has started. And are there people in your house who always forget that last sock or decide once the machine is running that they want one more item washed? If so, make sure you get a washing machine that will accommodate them and is easy to open the door after you've started the cycle. Also, there are new machines that have a smaller door built into the main door that allows you to toss in forgotten articles while the cycle is running.
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Do You Often Need to Pretreat
If you've got little ones or athletes in the house, a washing machine that lets you prewash/pretreat badly stained clothing can be a lifesaver since many laundry rooms don't have a deep sink or other water source nearby. And an example of this type of machine is the Samsung WA52J8700AP. It has a built-in sink that lets you shoot a jet of water directly where it's needed on the badly stained clothing before tossing it in the tub with the rest of your clothes. Image courtesy Samsung
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Do You Often Wash Extra-Small Loads?
If you have mountains of colors and very few whites, some newer machines feature a "twin washer." And these washers have a 3 to 4 cubic ft. front-loading machine on top of a smaller machine of about 1-cubic-ft. capacity. Better yet, you can run both cycles together because they utilize separate water inlets.
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Should Your Washer Have an Agitator?
One thing about a top load washer and dryer is that they have an agitator sticking up in the middle of the tub. The agitator is what helps to move the clothes around so they get clean. However, it makes the capacity rating quite misleading as the capacity rating the manufacturer gives the machine doesn't take the agitator into account. Also, some people claim that washing machines with agitators are harder on your clothing. Photo: Mike Aguilar
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Or an Impeller?
Standard thinking on the subject of washing machines used to be that an agitator was required to get dirty clothes clean. Newer machines that move the clothes around with an impeller at the bottom of the tub have changed this way of thinking. And removing that agitator in favor of an impeller also gives you back almost a full cubic ft. of capacity.
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Gas or Electric Dryer?
If you're building a new home or completely remodeling your laundry area, you'll have the option of choosing a gas or electric dryer. If you're remodeling and decide to switch from electric to gas, you'll have to add in the cost of running the new gas line. If starting from scratch isn't an option, you'll have to stick with what's there already—a gas line or a 240-volt electrical outlet. Consider up-front cost (for example, electric dryers are usually less expensive than gas) versus energy efficiency.
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Consider an All-in-One Washer and Dryer
Is your laundry room really just a closet? If so, consider one of the all-in-one machines that combine a washer and dryer in the same unit. Front-loading, these are great for laundry spaces where the height and width is restricted but there's plenty of space in front of the machine to allow for a front loader. Toss your clothes in, set the cycles, and let it go until your clothes are dry. Many of these machines also have an internal heater to give your clothes a shot of steam during the wash cycle to help dissolve the detergent better and get your clothes as clean as possible.
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Check Electrical Consumption
Nobody wants to be hit with a massive electricity bill the month after they install a new washer and dryer. To make sure this doesn't happen to you, check that the washer and dryer you choose are both Energy Star-compliant. Most manufacturers will have this prominently displayed on the unit's specifications page. If you're not sure, check the Energy Star site.
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Check the Dryer's Gas Consumption
Most clothes dryers heat the air being pumped into the dryer with a gas heater similar to the furnace in your house. Inefficient models may dry your clothes a little faster, but they will consume more gas as they do so, which will cost you more. And check the specification labels on the machines and the spec pages online to ensure that the machine you buy is the most efficient one you can afford.
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Especially in California and Arizona, how much water a washing machine uses for a full load is almost as important as how much power it consumes and how clean it gets the clothes. Make sure that as you shop you check this specification so you don't receive a nasty surprise when the first water bill arrives. Typically, front load machines consume more water than top loaders for the same size loads.
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Make Sure the Available Cycles Fit Your Needs
There is nothing worse than buying an expensive product and finding out that it doesn't do everything you need it to after you get it home. Thoroughly go over the specifications and features of both the washer and dryer before making your decision. Check the manufacturer's site for FAQs that might be helpful.
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Look at Online Reviews
You've narrowed your choices down to three or four washers and a couple of dryers. The washing machines are all within less than $100 of each other. Electrical, gas, and water consumption are also fairly close. So, how do you decide on which machines you're going to buy and where to buy washer and dryer? Check out customer and professional reviews. Some of the manufacturers, such as Maytag, have customer reviews right on their site.
Originally Published: November 27, 2018