Front-load washing machines may be the super stars of the laundry room right now, but that doesn't mean top-loaders are down for the count. Top-load washers have improved right along with their front-loading counterparts, and boast some improvements you should know about. Let's take a look at five efficient features new style top-load washing machines offer the discriminating consumer. You'll be surprised at how far these stalwart laundry room fixtures have come in the last few years.
We have to make a distinction here between high-efficiency top-load washers and conventional top-load washers. One of the most visible differences between the two is that high-efficiency top-load washing machines have generally eliminated the center-post agitator. Instead of whacking clothes clean by roiling them around, the clothes are lifted and tumbled employing any of a number of manufacturer-specific techniques. It's amazing how much room that center post uses up; without it, a high efficiency top loader can hold up to 20 more pounds of laundry.
A Convenient Design
Once you start a front-load washer, any forgotten socks or other items will have to wait until next time. After that door closes, you're locked out for the duration. With a top-loader, you can collect items dropped on the stairs or down the hall and just lift the washing machine lid and add them at your discretion. It might be a long wait between loads using a front-loading machine, too. A front-load washer can take over twice as long to finish a load as a high-efficiency top-loader. If you want to keep laundry day down to a few hours between shopping chores, 80 to 100 minutes per load may start to feel like an inefficient use of your time.
Less Water Consumption
About 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes goes into heating the water. Using less water in the process saves energy dollars as well as the wet stuff, which makes it one very important element in efficient washing machine design. A conventional top-load washer uses a huge amount of water -- around 40 to 45 gallons for every load. Water slapping the agitator pummels the clothes clean using a process that hasn't changed much in decades. High-efficiency top-loaders use half the water of conventional top-load machines -- and still manage to get clothes as clean or cleaner.
Better Water Extraction
Old style top-load washers can leave as much as 2 gallons of water in a load of freshly washed laundry. That's after the spin cycle! All that moisture has to be extracted in the dryer, which translates to longer drying times and higher energy costs. High-efficiency top-loaders and front-load machines, on the other hand, use higher velocity in their spin cycles. High speed spinning removes more water per load and is another important feature that distinguishes high-efficiency washing from conventional clothes washing. There is one small downside to improved water extraction, though. It can set in wrinkles that won't shake out as easily in the dryer. Oh well, no technology is perfect.
Top-load washing machines can be a little noisy sometimes, but they rarely have the window rattling potential of front-load washers. A front-load washer can cause lots of vibration and noise during the spin cycle. Some manufacturers even go so far as to recommend their equipment be installed on concrete flooring to keep the shaking to a minimum. Noisy operation may not seem like a deal breaking proposition, but if you have a baby in the house, or your spouse sleeps during the day, the prospect of having a washer that sounds like it's about to taxi down the runway may not be your idea of cutting-edge technology. After all, if manufacturers can use quiet operation as a selling point for dishwashers, shouldn't consumers be able to expect a little peace and quiet in the laundry room, too?
HowStuffWorks looks at the ins and outs of bathroom exhaust fans, including what they do, how to use them and what to watch out for.
- California Energy Commission. "Washers." Consumer Energy Center. (10/11/11). http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/appliances/washers.html
- CNET. "Washer Buying Guide." 10/10/09. (10/11/11). http://reviews.cnet.com/washer-buying-guide/
- Consumer Guide. "Top-Loading Washers: High Efficiency, Low Price." 7/23/07. (10/11/11). https://products.howstuffworks.com/top-loading-washers-high-efficiency-low-price-article.htm
- Consumer Reports. "Washing Machine Buying Advice." (10/11/11). http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/appliances/laundry-and-cleaning/washing-machines/washing-machine-buying-advice/index.htm
- Consumer Reports. "Washing Machine Guide." (10/11/11). http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/appliances/laundry-and-cleaning/washing-machines/washing-machine-buying-advice/washing-machine-getting-started/washing-machine-getting-started.htm
- Energy Star. "10 Tips for Renters." (10/11/11). http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.es_at_home_tips_renters10
- Energy Star. "Buyer's Guide." (10/11/11). http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=clotheswash.pr_tips_clothes_washers
- Energy Star. "Clothes Washers." (10/11/11). http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=CW
- Energy Star. "Frequently Asked Questions." (10/11/11). http://energystar.supportportal.com/link/portal/23002/23018/Article/19769/My-new-ENERGY-STAR-qualified-clothes-washer-runs-much-longer-than-my-old-clothes-washer-How-is-that-saving-energy
- Net Worx. "Choosing a Washing Machine: Top-Loading vs. Front-Loading." 1/25/11. (10/11/11). http://www.networx.com/article/choosing-a-washing-machine-top-loading
- Old and Interesting. "History of Washing Machines up to 1800." 4/14/11. (10/11/11). http://www.oldandinteresting.com/history-washing-machines.aspx
- Saving Electricity. "How much does it cost to run a washing machine?" 5/2011. (10/11/11). http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/laundry.html
- U.S. Department of Energy. "Laundry." 9/17/11. (10/11/11). http://www.energysavers.gov/tips/laundry.cfm
- Water Wise. "Washing Clothes." (10/11/11). http://www.waterwise.org.uk/reducing_water_wastage_in_the_uk/house_and_garden/washing_clothes.html