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New technology saves time, energy

New washers and dryers have extras that offer consumer convenience

Posted: May 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Kyle Kennedy describes the features of a Whirlpool 4.6-cubic-foot top-loading washer at Lowe’s in Saugus.

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    If your clothes washer has begun to walk across the laundry room during its spin cycles, and your dryer “dries” about as well as a moist ocean breeze, it might be time for some new appliances. And, assuming you’ve been out of the washer/dryer game for a few years, you will be amazed at all the convenient and energy-saving features that are now available. With the help of Lowe’s and some added insights from Kyle Kennedy, appliance specialist at our Saugus Lowe’s, here is the news:

Washers

Washers have advanced significantly over the past 10 years. These days, selecting the right washer is all about personal preference. Front-loading and top-loading washers offer similar water and energy savings.

Top-loader

 No bending or kneeling necessary. Kennedy noted that there are no pedestals needed with top loaders, and that can save you hundreds of dollars.

 Largest capacity

 Traditional look

Front-loader

 Extra storage space: Pedestals not only raise your washer and dryer to a more ergonomic height, they also offer more storage for detergents, towels and other laundry supplies.

 Sanitization: Steam washers are used to pump extra hot steam into your laundry for a deeper clean. Steam also helps remove stains and prevent wrinkles.

 Special cycles: Some front-loaders have cycles that can wash and dry a load in the washer.

Modern look: The front-loaders of today offer a sleek and stylish complement to your contemporary home.

Kennedy said that people are often leery of purchasing a front-loading washer because they think it might leak. But he said he has not seen this happen.

“In my five years, I’ve only seen one gasket issue, and that was straight out of the box,” he said. “Front-loaders have come a long way.”

He added that stale air and mildew can sometimes be problems with front loaders, as their seal is air-tight. But newer versions have cleaning cycles, which you can use, maybe, once a month —– and you can always leave the door cracked open when you are not using the washer.

Washer basics

Capacity: A large-capacity washer can lessen the burden of doing multiple loads of laundry. This is a great option for large or growing families. Washers come in various sizes with tubs measured in cubic feet. You can fit about 25 to 50 bath towels in a 4.5-cubic-foot washer.

A traditional washer might need five loads to go through a large wash while the larger capacity washers might only need two and half loads for the same amount of clothing, Kennedy said.

This saves water in itself, and he said newer washers use 45- to 50-percent less water than older models to begin with.

Kennedy noted that many of the newer top-loading washers do not have pedestals in the center of their tubs. This increases the volume of the tub and reduces the friction on clothing. (The video is located at http://bit.ly/IJqbkK.)

Washer cycles

Delicates: Washing takes its toll on your clothing, especially lightweight garments and loosely woven fabrics. Make them last longer with a cycle that uses cold water and mild agitation to gently clean fabrics that need special care.

Wash now, dry later: With this feature, you won’t have to rewash a load that you forgot to move to the dryer. A fan will vent fresh air into the washer, while clothes tumble intermittently. Say goodbye to musty-smelling clothes, even if they sit in the washer for hours.

Add-a-garment: Most front-load washers now offer an add-a-garment feature so you can stop the machine to add that dirty sock, dirty towel and anything else — whenever you want.

Quick wash: Many washer brands offer cycles that let you wash and dry a small load in about a half-hour. It’s perfect when you need to get a uniform ready for a game or want to quickly wash your favorite outfit.

Cleaning: Everyone wants a washer that cleans clothes thoroughly, but some families have specific cleaning needs. Whether you’re challenged with allergens or grass stains, today’s washers have never done a better job of doing the dirty work.

Sanitization: If you have a baby or a pet in the home, you may be interested in washers equipped with next-generation technology that can sanitize and eliminate bacteria and allergens.

Steam: If you battle tough-to-remove stains and dream of stain-free clothes, a steam feature will free you from needing to pretreat your laundry.

“The steam option is big in washers and dryers,” Kennedy said. “In the washer you can use it to pre-treat stubborn stains, such as wine or ketchup. It will loosen up the soil and allow the soap in the wash cycle to penetrate and clean better.”

Advanced cleaning technology: Many washers have advanced-cleaning technology that eliminates the need to pretreat stains. You can also find models that release oxygen-based cleaners into the wash water to brighten clothes without bleach.

Noise: Some washers have sound-dampening material that reduces noise. If your laundry area is near a living room or bedroom, consider a quiet washer that offers vibration reduction.

Energy-saving

Saving energy and water saves you money. You may pay a little more up front for washers with high efficiency ratings, but you’ll offset that cost over the life of your washer by conserving energy and water — up to 7,000 gallons a year (enough water to take 3,000 showers).

Energy Star-qualified washers meet government standards to conserve resources. They can save about 30 percent on energy use without sacrificing features or style. HE (High Efficiency) washers are Energy Star-qualified and have higher spin speeds to remove more water from laundry — saving drying time, too.

Kennedy pointed out that you need to use an HE-formulated detergent in these machines, but these detergents are widely available.

He also noted that here, in the SCV, you can get great rebates on HE washer purchases. Rebates of up to $200 are available through our local water providers for washing machines with a “water factor” of 4.0 or less, which is the number of gallons of water needed for each cubic foot of laundry. (Contact your water company for details.)

Dryers

All dryers use an electric motor to tumble clothes and an electric fan to distribute heated air.

The difference is how heat is generated: with natural gas or electricity. The decision to purchase gas versus electric depends on whether you have a gas line in your laundry area.

If you want to change your dryer’s fuel source, you’ll need the help of a professional contractor.

Electric: Generally, they’re slightly more expensive than gas dryers to operate and use twice the strength of an ordinary household electric current. Most run on a 240-volt current to heat up coils and require a 240 outlet in your laundry area.

Gas: The initial cost of gas can be slightly higher than that of an electric dryer, but it’s typically less expensive to operate. It usually takes only a year or two to make up the purchase-price difference due to energy savings.

Dryer basics

When you’re ready to shop for a new dryer, remember the three Cs — capacity, controls and cycles.

Capacity: The more you can dry in a single load, the less time and money you’ll spend doing your laundry. Also, clothes tend to wrinkle less in larger drums because there’s more tumbling room. You should look for a model with about twice the capacity of your washer — it will dry more in less time — and it can keep up with the pace of your washer.

Controls: As with washers, controls on dryers are more sophisticated and easier to use. Digital displays and one-touch selections can be programmed and preset to meet your drying needs. For a more traditional look, choose dial or push-button controls.

Dryer cycles

Sensor dry: A moisture sensor knows how wet your laundry is and adjusts the drying time accordingly.

This not only saves you time and money on energy costs, it can prevent overdrying (which can cause shrinkage) and extend the life of your clothes. And you can set a moisture sensor to your desired level of dryness — whether that’s damp or completely dry.

“Moisture sensors are much more accurate these days,” Kennedy said. “When the clothes are dry, the dryer will stop.”

Eco-cycle: Dryers with an eco-cycle use significantly less energy than normal cycles by accurately monitoring the dryness of clothes, saving you money on energy bills, and helping your clothes last longer.

Some models even have a monitor on the console that displays the energy use and efficiency of different drying cycles.

Dryers with an eco-cycle can use up to 35 percent less dryer energy when paired with a matching washer compared to a conventional top-load pair.

Steam: Steam is one of the newest dryer innovations that makes doing laundry easier.

A steam cycle can refresh an outfit you’ve worn, relaxing wrinkles and removing odors. During this cycle, a small amount of water is sprayed into the dryer drum after several minutes of tumbling with heat.

It can also be set to periodically tumble, rearrange and fluff the load to help keep wrinkles from forming. The setting can be adjusted based on the number of garments.

“The steam option in a dryer provides great wrinkle release,” Kennedy said. “Toss something in and, in 10 minutes, the wrinkles are gone.” He added that this is perfect for taking the wrinkles out of such things as jeans, which you may not need to wash every day but want to look nice over several wearings.

Delicate: Many dryers have a delicate cycle that uses an ultra-low temperature to safely and gently dry lightweight garments and loosely woven fabrics. Your clothes will last longer and keep their color if dried using the correct temperatures.

Wrinkle: Wrinkles can set in to clothes that sit in the dryer for too long after a cycle, especially if they’re warm.

A wrinkle-prevention option is great if you can’t always empty your dryer right away. It continues to tumble clothes without heat to avoid creating set-in wrinkles.

Sanitization: Bacteria and germs can easily find their way into fabrics.

A dryer with a sanitizing cycle can help provide some relief to children and adults with frequent allergies by using high heat or steam to sanitize items that can’t be easily washed. A sanitization cycle eliminates up to 99.9 percent of common household bacteria.

Energy-saving dryers

According to Energy Star, clothes dryers aren’t rated in the government program because there’s little difference in the energy use between models. If you’d like to reduce energy in other ways, try the moisture sensor cycle in the dryer or a high spin cycle in your washing machine. Both will reduce the amount of drying time needed and ultimately use less energy.

Colors

And, finally, you have a lot of choices in washer and dryer colors these days, from traditional white, to blues, red, stainless and more. These attractive looks can even be used as décor statements. Kennedy said one couple he worked with purchased beautiful red appliances so that, when placed in the garage, they would complement the family car.

Laundry tips
1. Wash full loads. Washers operate most efficiently with full loads. As a general rule, most front-loaders function better with larger loads and most top-loaders function better with smaller loads.
2. Use the proper dryer setting. Many dryers have a delicate/permanent press cycle to protect lighter fabrics. These settings use less energy since lighter clothes don’t need high heat.

jwalker@the-signal.com

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