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By James Dulley, Published October 09 2009

Front-loading washers, dryers efficient, effective

Dear Jim: Our old clothes washer is leaking, so we need to buy a new one. We have a large family and do a lot of laundry, so efficiency is important. What are the most efficient designs, and do they clean well?

– Candi G.

Dear Candi: You are in luck. The most efficient clothes washers also are the best-cleaning ones. To attain high efficiency, these clothes washers must minimize the amount of hot and cold water used. This is quite an accomplishment by the product designers. It is much easier to design a washer to clean clothes well with a large volume of hot water, as previous washers used to do.

In general, the most energy-efficient clothes washers use a front-loading design. I use a first-generation Frigidaire front-loading clothes washer in my own home. In addition to being very efficient (both water and energy), it cleans and rinses my clothes very well. The only drawback I have found is it is slightly more difficult to load and unload than with a top-loading washer.

Although a clothes washer uses electricity to operate the motor and, to a lesser extent, the controls, much of the energy used is for warming the wash water. For all but the grimiest, greasy clothes, like my coveralls from the garage, use cold or warm water for the wash cycle. Always use the cold-water setting for the rinse cycles.

Front-loading clothes washers use an intuitively logical wash concept. Since the wash drum rotates on a horizontal axis, the clothes are tumbled through a small volume of soapy water at the bottom of the drum. Vanes inside the drum carry some water up as it rotates to also shower the clothes with water.

In contrast, a typical top-loading washer (on a vertical axis) must fill with much more water to get all the clothes wet. Also, in a front-loading washer, the fabrics are not beat against an agitator, so there is less wear. Miele washers use a unique honeycomb drum design with very tiny holes. This keeps the fabric from protruding out the holes as the drum spins to even further reduce damage to the fabrics.

Just as the tumbling wash action cleans better, it also rinses the clothes better. Another key rinsing advantage of a front-loading washer is it can spin much faster during the multiple rinse cycles. This gets more dirty soap residue out of the clothes and greatly reduces drying time for even more energy savings.

If you really do like a top-loading design, Whirlpool offers an efficient Cabrio design. Instead of using an oscillating agitator in the drum, it uses a wash plate that moves and flexes clothes in a fountain-like motion, providing good cleaning while minimizing water use. Still another option is a combo washer/dryer that both washes and dries clothes in the same unit.

The following companies offer efficient clothes washers: Asko, (800) 898-1879, www.askousa.com; Equator, (800) 935-1955, www.

equatorappliance.com; LG Appliances, (800) 243-0000, www.lge.com; Miele Appliances, (800) 843-7231, www.mieleusa.com; and Whirlpool, (866) 698-2538, www.whirlpool.com.


Dear Jim: I have an enclosed light fixture at the top of the stairs. It is difficult to reach to change the bulbs. I would like to use one of the long-life compact fluorescent bulbs. Will it get too hot for the fixture? – Jane F.

Dear Jane: Replacing the standard incandescent bulb with a CFL (compact fluorescent light) will be fine. In addition to the bulb life, which is about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb, it uses 75 percent less electricity.

With every type of light bulb, nearly all the electricity it uses ends up as heat. Since CFLs use so much less electricity, heat generation is seldom a problem. The only drawback is some of them take a few seconds to attain full brightness.


Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com