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What are high-efficiency washers?

High-efficiency Washer Construction

Does doing laundry make you agitated? It shouldn't if you have a high-efficiency model, because this type of washer doesn't have an agitator -- a large protrusion shaped like a pillar or post in the center of the basin. When the tub of a traditional washer is filled with water, the agitator spins, moving its contents in a circular motion and against each other to create suds and clean the clothes.

Instead of using an agitator, high-efficiency machines spin and rotate the load in both clockwise and counterclockwise motions and at high and low speeds, so that garments rub against each other. In many front-loading washers, the centrifugal spin of the tub lifts clothes above the water level, and then drops them back into the water.

Most high-efficiency washers don't have to fill up with water for the rinse cycle, either. Instead, reports The Washington Post, they rinse fabric using high-pressure sprays, saving even more water.

When high-efficiency washers began hitting the market in the mid-1990s, they were all front-loading, meaning that they operate on a horizontal axis, much like a standard drying machine. Today, most major manufacturers offer both front- and top-loading high-efficiency washers. Most top-loading high-efficiency washers use a combination of spin cycles and either a wash plate at the bottom of the tub or a small agitator to create friction and clean the load.

Many newer models of high-efficiency washers also utilize cutting-edge "smart" technology, enabling the machines to detect the size of a load and the type of fabric, so they can run at optimal temperature and water levels. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Kenmore is currently developing diagnostic technology for the company's high-efficiency washers that will enable customers to hold a cell phone up to the machine so it can connect with a technician's phone, telling the repairman what's wrong.