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LET'S DO LAUNDRY!
(You may click most of the pictures here for the high resolution original. Consider yourself warned--some of the originals are 1.2 Megapixels and therefore may be quite large! Please plan your visit accordingly.)
This page seeks to answer the question as to which type of washer (top or front loading) is more efficient.
Our old Maytag washer finally gave up the ghost. After nearly 30 years, two basement floods and the frequent sounds of the brake screeching or the tub thumping around, the tub finally gave it up with a hole in its side. Even then the machine continued to limp along, but it was using copious quantities of water to get the job done. While I was of the opinion that the old machine could be fixed given some time and parts from a donor washing machine, the mother of all laundry related jobs (who is, coincidentally, my mother!) decided that a new machine was in order.
This left only one question to be answered...front or top loader? A front loader was selected, much to my dismay. (Front loading machines, despite having been around for a while, just aren't what I'd call a washer.) This was done because supposedly front loaders are much more efficient than even the best top loading machine ever made.
Many sales drones at different stores (including Lowe's, where this "washing machine" was purchased...) stated that the new front loaders did indeed offer vast energy savings over their more conventional top loading counterparts. Coincidentally, every sales drone that my parents talked to stated that they owned one and loved it.
So, are they really more efficient?
To determine this, William (me) and brother Eric set out with some highly advanced test equipment in the form of a P3 Kill-A-Watt meter and a five gallon bucket. (This bucket once contained Nulomoline -- the standardized invert sugar! Whatever that is...)
We began our test by hooking the new washer (a Frigidaire Model GLTF1670) up to the Kill-A-Watt meter and putting the drain tube in the 5 gallon bucket. Then we ran a load of average wash--pants, shirts, a throw rug or two...that kind of thing on a COLD/HOT wash cycle and a seemingly "normal" washing "program". We let the machine run, making some not-so-careful notes on the power being drawn when various things happened in the machine, and recording how many times the bucket had to be dumped.
In the end, according to our Kill-A-Watt meter, we used .13 kilowatt hours worth of electricity. Our equally high tech bucket showed that we had used 21 gallons of water for one seemingly average load of laundry. That's not too bad, even if I don't like the new machine. The only drawback was that the new machine took almost an hour to do its job.
At this time we also noticed that the new machine seemed to spin enough water from the clothes that drying them took a lot less time in our nothing-to-write-home-about Whirlpool gas dryer.
Now you're asking "How does that compare to a regular machine?". To get that answer, we had to go to our grandmother's house and use her older Maytag "Large Capacity" top loading machine, as our old Maytag A) could not provide an accurate result because of the hole in the tub and B) it was already gone before I got around to doing this.
Crazy Scientist David and myself drove the 1994 Rumble King pickup truck over to Grandma's with a hamper full of clothes that hadn't seen the inside of a washing machine or sunlight for a length of time that was entirely too long. This time Eric stayed home.
We proceeded to load the Maytag with a mix of clothes as similar to the first test run as we could manage. This was at least the theory...the reality was a little different because the clothes condensed a bit inside the machine as it ran. A "normal" washing "program" was selected and the machine was started with all the testing gear hooked up to it. Load size was assumed to be "Extra Large" and we used a hot/cold water temperature selection...the exact opposite order of the Frigidaire machine.
Here's the part you care about. The "conventional" Maytag machine clocked in at .17 kilowatt hours worth of electricity and it used 40 gallons of water to do pretty much the same work. The clothes also took longer to dry. The Maytag seems to have taken about 40 minutes to wash our test load of laundry.
Morals Of The Story
So what's the verdict? As far as water usage goes, there is no comparison. The front loading machine used a LOT less water, and for those dealing with an expensive water bill, it is probably "the ticket" that will take you toward solving your water bill woes. We did not test the optional "extra rinse" cycle to see how much more water this would have used.
Electricity usage is not much different between the two machines, and probably won't be a factor in your choosing one over another. Bear in mind that the conventional top loading Maytag used here dates from 1985, and so it may well be possible that newer top loading machines of conventional design may well have more efficient motors that don't require as much energy to operate.
It should also be noted that the Frigidaire spent a LOT more time on its final spin and throttled itself up to a very high rate of speed when confronted with the comforter from my bed. This would result in more energy use on its part, but we didn't measure it to find out.
Time it takes to run a load of wash is certainly worth considering, but is far from straightforward because of all the factors involved. Some clothes dryers work faster than others do, so yours may work more quickly or slowly than ours did. Your washer could be the same way. I don't know how "fast" Maytag top loading washers are as compared to other brands, so that is another possible variable. Some washers are also much more effective at removing the water from their loads at the end of the wash cycle. There are, of course, other variables to keep in mind. You will have to find out what the relation between loads of wash that can be done and how long it takes them to move through your dryer in order to have some kind of "baseline" measurement.
Yes, this page is written with a "tongue in cheek" style of humor. However, the results of the test are absolutely correct and as accurate as we could possibly make them. (You can be assured that we had some water escape from the Frigidaire when we drained the bucket and that the Maytag's power usage rating may have been artifically high as we had to stop and then restart it to drain the bucket.) It isn't really a buyer's guide or a recommendation (other than to say that buying a Maytag machine new or used can be a very good idea, as you will have it almost forever and the insides are very simple and have changed little over the years...) but it could help you figure out what might be best for your needs application.
If you try this yourself, I'd be interested in knowing the results and can publish them here if you'd like. Drop me a line if you'd be interested in that. (Author's note in 2016: in the eleven odd years it's been since this page went up, not one person has written about this.)
Disclaimer: Not responsible for damaged washing machines or dryers, electrocution, basement floods or any other disaster that may occur as a result of your performing this experiment on your own. Your mileage
may will vary.
There are some other various pictures to look at.
Lowe's was offering a mail in rebate on the normal $10 fee assessed to remove old appliances from your home. We took advantage of this and sent the old washer to "washer heaven". Where it will end up now I have no idea, but the guys who hauled it away said that it wasn't uncommon for a lot of the appliances they collected to be rebuilt and resold later on. So maybe our old Maytag will resurface somewhere. I do wish I had taken the opportunity to write down the serial number on it.
I would have liked to rebuild the machine by finding a good tub from another one. It was completely functional and actually worked quite nicely except for the leak. The only trouble is that this would have been a big job, and I'm not sure I could have dedicated the time to doing so without the machine becoming a "basement ornament".
We were also able to sneak an old freezer that suffered refrigerant loss onto the Lowe's truck and they did not complain or charge us anything extra, which was nice. Getting this outdoors also turned out to be a great deal easier than the old washer was. I simply turned it on its end, spun it around to face the door and pushed it down the stairs. It kind of slid outdoors and came to a stop at the end of the stairs. Then I had to clean up all the years of accumulated crap from the floor underneath the freezer...but that's another story...
And A Few Months Later
(March 2005) A few more experiences with the new washer have made me feel that it was necessary to update this page.
1. I have used this machine a few times and discovered that it seems to be a lot easier to cause color bleeding with red or other strongly colored clothes. I have so far managed to make not only "red" laundry, but also green when my brother James came home from school and brought his large green bed comforter with him. While this was indeed rather Christmassy (guessing at the spelling there), it didn't do much for my liking of this new washer or my self-confidence when it comes to doing laundry.
2. The High Energy detergents recommended for use in this machine are (thus far) only available from the name brands. In smaller grocery stores and other small stores that carry laundry detergent, you don't see the HE detergent for sale. Fortunately, the washer seems to work just as well with regular stuff, so you don't have to give up your discount store detergent. (Note that I have not tried and do not know about powdered detergent. The design of this machine suggests it is best suited to liquid detergents.)
3. If you collect or use old radios, or enjoy listening to the AM band, one of these washing machines may not be for you. It appears that a DC motor with solid state speed control is used as the main "drum" motor and this simply trashes the AM radio band for most intents and purposes. You end up hearing a lot of motor and "hash noise" on the radio. I was unable to rectify this problem even by using a very high end noise filter box with the radio.
4. Yes, I did manage to get the floor under the freezer cleaned up. You would not know it was ever there now.
5. Our utility bill (electric, water and sewer) was about $70 cheaper with the new washer.
Over One Decade Later
...or I'm finally updating yet another grossly neglected article many years after I intended to have done so!
As it happens, the Frigidaire washing machine
selected by my mother was an incredible flaming piece of crap.
(Figuratively speaking. It never actually did catch on fire.) Over
time, the door latch failed to work correctly, all of the drum
suspension failed at some point, it utterly decimated any form of
amplitude modulated broadcast reception when running, it didn't get
clothing clean at all, and finally it had the decency to die in 2010
when the plastic drum shell developed a huge hole. This in turn drowned
the motor and its control electronics. The machine was out of warranty
by this point and Electrolux (parent of Frigidaire) refused to stand
behind it in any way.
Since that time, we've had three more washing machines on the premises. First came a very basic GE/Hotpoint machine moved over from a house I only half-jokingly refer to as The Roach Palace. This machine served for a few years until the transmission started leaking grease. The second, a very conventional Roper model with regular mechanical timer controls, was selected by my late grandfather as a replacement. It was a good machine in every way, except for my mother's considering it far too small. This went on for a few years until our long suffering scratch and dent (more dent than scratch, believe me) Whirlpool dryer died with a shorted motor. My mother took the opportunity to buy a matched set of Maytag Bravos XL machines and we moved the still-working-to-this-day (late summer 2016) Roper machine to another house.
The Bravos XL dryer is great. It's of very conventional design apart from having electronic controls and really gets stuff dry quickly. I'm still undecided about the washing machine side of the combo. At least it's a top loader, as is right and proper here in the United States. It has fairly reserved styling unlike many other machines and genuinely does seem to get stuff clean. Only it suffers from firmware that could have used a bit more time in the oven and has had to be repaired once. (To Whirlpool's credit, even though the washer was out of warranty, they not only paid for the part but also paid for the technician to come in and install it. And we didn't even have to beg, wheedle or plead for this kind of thing to happen. We simply called them up and voiced our dissatisfaction with the failure. Anyone with Electrolux who happens to see this article ought to take that into consideration.)
It's also worth noting that the Bravos XL washer and
dryer do NOT destroy radio reception. I haven't even noticed any
interference when they're running.
The good old 1985 Maytag is now in the hands of my third brother and still chugging along perfectly to this day. It's also got speed all over any high efficiency washing machine I've used to date: start to finish it'll do a load of laundry in about a half hour, maybe a little more or less depending upon circumstances. The HE machines all perform tests to determine load size and they fart around for a very long time. It can realistically take over an hour and twenty minutes for one of them to finish! I think that's ridiculous!
All the marks that had been left on the linoleum
where the freezer used to be are long since gone. It's a wonder that
some of them came up, believe me.
Copyright ©2005-2006, 2016 by William R. Walsh. Some Rights Reserved. (Don't steal the pictures or hotlink them.)
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The "Let's Do Laundry" title is an extension on an inside joke. The original phrase was "Let's Make Coffee" and was expressed when my little brothers (and myself) had an insane interest in watching a Farberware coffee maker operate. Other funny sayings in this vein include the hilarious-in-context "I feel like the Hindenburg" that was heard after my mother had some digestive difficulty following the consumption of some rather lively chili. Please note that it isn't our intention to make light of the Hindenburg disaster. Lighten up a bit.