Just in time for Mother’s Day- a photo I found recently that I liked for its quaint look back in time. This woman seems so pleased with her new washer and dryer. I imagine that the family had saved for a while to acquire the set and ease her workload. Her daughter writes that it is probably 1953 and this is the family’s first automatic washer and dryer. “Before that she used a wringer washer and we either hung the clothes in the basement, or outside if the weather was good.”
Is bigger always better? Maybe not, when you are talking about washing machines.
Just how many clothes can effectively be washed and rinsed in a single load is covered by new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) guidelines—and the answer may surprise you.
“Due to new Department of Energy regulations regarding clothes washer capacity, consumers may hear a lot of conflicting information about whether size really matters when it comes to laundry,” said J.B. Hoyt, director of regulatory affairs for Whirlpool Corporation. “The common belief is that bigger is better, but that is only true if your clothes still get clean.”
The Imperial Valley News writes that as part of the guidelines, manufacturers including Whirlpool, Maytag and Amana will voluntarily report new capacity measurements based on DOE test procedures in order to provide accurate measurement of all clothes washers across all brands.
For those in the market for new laundry appliances, Hoyt shares the dirt on capacity, cleaning and, most importantly, what to look for when shopping for a new washer.
• When making a new purchase, ask about capacity as it relates to cleaning versus just how much the machine will hold. What is the largest maximum capacity that will get your clothes clean?
• No matter how big the machine is, do not overload. Clothes will get cleaner when given room to move freely.
• Thanks to high-efficiency washing machines, you don’t have to stuff everything into one load just to save energy and water. Today’s high-efficiency washing machines use only enough energy and water to properly clean your clothes, which means you can do small loads when you have time, rather than waiting for the basket to fill up.
If you are a retiree building a new home, you can plan your kitchen and laundry areas to accommodate your aging body. For those of us who plan to stay right where we are, some simple adjustments and purchases can make daily tasks easier.
So, let’s start with the easy ones, like the Washer & Dryer. Front loading models are very popular today, but bending over and getting inside for the very last sock can be a problem for those with mobility issues. Most brands, including Bosch, Whirlpool and Frigidaire make pedestals for all their newer models, and can retrofit them to older models.They range from 11″ to 17″, depending on the brand. The other solution is to pull the machines out, and have your contractor frame in a raised platform at just the right height for you, cover it with linoleum, and your washer and dryer will be much more accessible.
Another place to ‘right height’ appliances is in the kitchen. Here are more tips from HB Building and Design: One popular solution is a lowered cooktop with the controls on the front. If you have room to make this modification, and lower this part of the countertop with the adjacent required landing space, it really makes things easier for shorter people, or someone sitting in a wheelchair or using a walker.
The second kitchen appliance that should be considered is the refrigerator. A side-by-side refrigerator freezer is a much better choice, giving access to both the freezer and the refrigerator from a sitting position. In a more extensive remodel, a wall oven can be installed at a lower height as can the microwave oven.
A final consideration are countertops which should be smooth to allow you to slide rather than lift heavy pots and pans. Cabinets can also be prepared for someone with a progressive illness by specifying removable base cabinets for future wheelchair access.
In this, the fourth and final segment on steam appliances, we discuss steam washers and dryers.
In a washing machine, steam and water form a dynamic duo. Steam complements water in the cleaning process by keeping the fabrics soft and wrinkle-free. One patent filed by LG Electronics, the company that put out the first home steam washer, explains the different advantages that steam can offer when applied in three different stages of a washing machine cycle:
* Pre-wash phase: While the water loads into the wash tub, the steam works with the water to help soak the fabrics more thoroughly.
* During the washing phase: If added while the detergent is mixed with the water, the steam increases the temperature of the wash tub to improve the cleaning power, which also helps to activate the detergent. It does this by dissolving the detergent more effectively, to get the most out of it as possible.
* Post-wash phase: Steam added after washing lends more high temperatures to the tub to sterilize the clothes. It also softens the clothes to remove hard wrinkles that formed while the clothes tossed in the tub.
Steam washing machines use less power and consume less water than conventional models. A little bit of water can produce a lot of steam, which expands to take up more volume.
Nebraska Furniture Mart salesman Scott Price wanted to replace his own top-load washer and dryer, so he chose Whirlpool models that were each $150 more than machines that don’t use steam. He likes how the steam cycle on his washer gets out tough stains . He uses the steam dryer to de-wrinkle his clothes.
“I’m the type of person who throws a load of clothes in the dryer overnight,” Price says. “So the de-wrinkling cycle touches them up in 10 to 20 minutes in the morning.” The dry clothes look better, he says, when he de-wrinkles one item at a time. Price’s observations are in line with Consumer Reports’ test results.
“We found that with washers, the steam does improve the performance somewhat,” says Emilio Gonzalez, senior program leader in the appliance division at Consumer Reports. “With dryers, it’s mixed. They’re great at alleviating odor buildup, so you can freshen up clothes. But they’re not always great with wrinkles.”
Not all steam dryers are the same. They apply different steam in different ways. Maytag models don’t release a stream of pure steam, but rather a fine mist to the clothes. The heat in the dryer then raises the temperature of the mist to turn it to steam. Other dryers use a steam generator to release pure steam to the clothes.
Steam can potentially dry fabrics too. An advanced drying technique involves using superheated dry steam, which is steam that doesn’t contain any liquid water. This kind of steam is purely gas and invisible to the human eye, as opposed to wet steam, which suspends visible water droplets. By super-heating dry steam to a high enough temperature, machines can use steam to dry items. The very hot steam effectively heats moisture to the evaporation point . Then, the dryer circulates the resulting evaporated moisture out of the system and repeats the process. Though intended for industrial dryers, perhaps the technology of super-heated steam dryers will eventually make its way into mass-produced home dryers.
Top appliance makers Whirlpool and Electrolux are raising prices to pass soaring raw material costs on to customers, but their attempts may not pass muster with bargain-hungry shoppers.
According to Reuters, both companies reported quarterly profits that fell short of estimates as they grapple with tepid demand in major markets like the United States and Europe.
Many analysts questioned the timing of the move, especially since consumers in the developed world continue to look for incentives to buy expensive goods like appliances.
Korean manufacturer Samsung has not announced increases and appears to be planning to hold existing prices. Still, Whirlpool’s chief executive, Jeff Fettig, insisted it was not “economically feasible” for Whirlpool to remain indefinitely in the promotional mindset it adopted for the holiday season and last year in general. “For 2011, we expect positive but uneven demand levels around the world,” Fettig said, adding the company still hoped to expand operating margins in the year through price increases and boosts in productivity.
LG Electronics does plan an increase as well. The planned price increase matches moves announced earlier by Whirlpool and Electrolux.
Whirlpool has shut plants, cut jobs and moved some manufacturing to lower cost centers like Mexico. It has also started using common parts across its lineup of dishwashers, refrigerators and washing machines.
Electrolux, which sells under its own name as well as the Zanussi and Frigidaire brands, is planning to raise prices by 8 percent to 10 percent in North America starting in April and gradually in Europe and other markets. The move comes as manufacturers around the globe plot price increases to offset higher materials costs and regain ground lost in the recession. Electrolux Chief Executive Keith McLoughlin said the rise in raw materials’ costs had been across the board.
It is the late-night dilemma of many busy Americans — keeping their eyes open another hour or so to wash and dry clothes they just realized they needed the next morning. GE has an answer that’s much better than staying awake through another late-night talk show: the GE Profilefrontload washer with Steam technology that cleans clothes and gets them ready to wear by morning — right out of the washer.
“Good Housekeeping is proud to honor GE Profile’s Frontloader Steam Washer with Overnight Ready Cycle with a 2011 Very Innovative Products (VIP) Award. This represents an outstanding achievement, as the winners of our VIP Awards are chosen from thousands of products,” says Miriam Arond, director of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, “Our VIP Award winners are products that are ingenious breakthroughs and solve everyday problems in new and exciting ways. The fact that GE’s product performed so well is extremely impressive.”
The washer’s innovative “Overnight Ready” cycle washes clothes, then removes so much moisture that clothes are comfortable to wear without transferring to the dryer. It’s the first unit in the industry with the ability to wash small loads on an overnight cycle. The cycle even helps prevent clothes from wrinkling compared to clothes that are left sitting in the washer overnight. The “Overnight Ready” cycle keeps clothes moving gently up to eight hours to remove moisture content. Two easy-to-clean filters trap lint for excellent results.
The GE Profile frontload washer and dryer with Steam and SmartDispense technology is white (PFWS4600LWW, PFDS450ELWW, EST: $1,399* each). Additional frontload models include the GE Profile frontload washer and dryer with Steam and SmartDispense technology in champagne (FW4605LMG, PFDS455ELMG, EST: $1,499* each). Optional SmartDispense pedestals in white (SPBD880JWW, EST: $499*) and in champagne (SPBD880JMG, EST: $599*).
*Resellers determine their own resale price.
Beginning January 13th, GE is running an eight week sweepstakes, with weekly $250 VISA card giveaways and a grand prize of $20,000. You can enter each day for a chance to win. Here’s the link to get you there: GE Sweepstakes
Appliance repair is something people generally like to avoid. Break downs never occur at a convenient time. Appliances fail when they are being used or are needed. In addition to not being able to use the appliance, people now have to find an appliance repair service and schedule an appointment. Continental Appliance, a San Francisco appliance repair and sales store, offers advice for working with an appliance repair service.
Below are some guidelines for working with an appliance repair service:
1. Gather necessary information before calling the appliance repair service, including availability, warranty information, brand name, model, and serial number of the appliance.
2. Be home when the appliance repairman shows up. Though it can be frustrating to be given a two to four hour time window, this is often the best they can do. The appliance repairman cannot always be expected to know exactly how long each job is going to take.
3. Don’t put off appliance repair when something is going wrong. If the appliance is making a grinding noise but still seems to work ok, chances are the repair will be relatively inexpensive if addressed right away. Ignoring the problem could lead to a more expensive problem.
4. Owners often like to watch the technician at work, but be considerate. Keep pets and children out of the way. The repairman doesn’t need a dog licking his face or children playing with his tools.
5. Payment is expected at the time of service. Do not wait until the job is complete then tell the appliance repairman to send a bill.
As expensive as it seems, appliance repair fees are generally reasonable when considering the time and money it takes to travel around fixing appliances, to keep up with advancing technologies and new products, and the convenience afforded. Imagine if the appliance has to be taken to the shop.
Here are some handy tips to consider if you really want to save money on your next appliance purchase:
1. Buy Last Year’s Model
If you don’t mind owning last year’s model, you can shave hundreds of dollars off of your appliance purchase. Best time to shop: September and October when stores are under pressure to clear space for the new arrivals.
2. Shop the Scratch and Dents
A small scratch or dent could become your best friend if you’re on a tight budget. Ask the sales associate if they have any damaged appliances for sale. Then, survey the damaged models to decide what you are willing to live with – even the smallest blemish can net big savings.
3. Buy What You Need
Have you ever noticed how the most expensive appliance models are typically the first that you come to in the store? No coincidence, I assure you. To keep yourself from falling for the latest bells and whistles, make a list of what you need before you venture into the stores. Then, buy the cheapest model that meets those needs. Just remember: that refrigerator with the built-in TV isn’t going to keep your food any colder.
4. Do a Trade-In
It’s no secret that trading in your car can save you money on a new car purchase, but did you know that you can sometimes do the same thing with your appliances? Check with appliance dealers in your area to see if any accept trade-ins. Then, find out how much your current appliance is worth. It could just be your ticket to a bargain.
5. Shop the Sales
Find something you like, but not thrilled with the price? Ask a sales associate when your pick is scheduled to go on sale. Waiting a week or two could be all it takes to reduce your purchase price by 25%. September and October are the best months to make major purchases but the second-best time is during the holidays. Merchants offer deep discounts at Christmas, when consumers want to spiff up their homes for the holidays. Also keep an eye out for sales on the less-celebrated weekends, like Memorial Day, Mother’s Day and Labor Day.
6. Look for a Package Deal
Need a washer and dryer or all new appliances for your kitchen? If so, an appliance package could be your biggest source of savings. Retailers frequently bundle appliances to boost sales, and these packages can offer significant savings over the price of purchasing each item individually.
7. Buy a Floor Model
Do you mind if your new appliance comes without a box? If not, consider purchasing a floor model. You’ll enjoy the same warranty that you’d get with a new-in-box item, without the new-in-box price. Sacrifice a little cardboard and save a lot.
8. Shop Box Stores
Shopping warehouse and box stores can be hit or miss. Sometimes you get a great deal and other times you may pay more. When it comes to appliances, however, you may be surprised at the bargains you can find. Such stores don’t usually honor price matches so what you see is what you get. Before hitting these cut-rate stores, research prices and quality online.
9. Avoid Rentals
It’s tempting to pay just $20 a week for a new refrigerator, but the interest you’ll pay for a rent-to-own appliance means you end up paying much more than the purchase price. These retailers thrive on consumers who pay the minimum amount each month or end up reneging on payments and losing the appliance.
10. Surf Craigslist
Keep an eye on the appliances section for low prices on brand new appliances. Dealers sometimes advertise their overstocks on Craigslist. Look for “dealer” notations to know if you’re working with a store and not a private seller. Realtors and remodeling contractors also offer new or nearly new appliances. You’ll likely have to manage your own delivery and installation, however.
One of the ways that dryers can start household fires is by igniting the excess lint that accumulates around the motor, burner shroud (for gas dryers) and cabinet interior. Lint is composed of very small, dry clothing particles which includes cotton and polyesters–both very good fires starters. Polyesters are particularly pernicious fires starters and are very difficult to extinguish once they ignite. Polyesters, vinyl in particular, pose another fire hazard when used as vent hoses, which we’ll talk more about later.
There are three things you can do to prevent the threat of fire from accumulated lint inside your dryer. First, clean your lint filter before every load. This will minimize the lint blow-by around the filter and save energy by helping the dryer run more efficiently.
Second, inspect your lint filter each time you pull it out. If you see any rips or distortions in the screen, replace the filter immediately.
Finally, have your dryer professionally disassembled and cleaned annually. A thorough professional cleaning removes accumulated lint and dirt from the dryer cabinet interior, motor, and burner or heating elements. In addition to substantially reducing the risk of dryer fires, this type of regular cleaning will help the drum bearings and rollers last longer, preventing or minimizing future service calls.
Many dryer installations use the common, cheap white vinyl vent hose for the dryer exhaust. These hoses were never UL-approved for dryer installations and are increasingly being recognized by local building codes as fire hazards. The American Household Appliance Manufacturers Association (AHAM) recommends the use of either rigid aluminum or steel duct or spiral-wound aluminum flex hose–NOT the white vinyl hose. For any dryer, but especially gas dryers, white vinyl vent hose should never be used and if yours has this installed on it, replace it ASAP with UL-approved materials.
One of the biggest causes of vent hose fires is the ignition of accumulated lint inside the vent hose. Lint gets caught in the folds and creases and sticks there because of the humidity. Over time, the lint builds up to such a degree that the dryer cannot exhaust properly. This results in increased drying times initially and, ultimately, in a fire. Once a fire starts in a vinyl vent hose, the hose itself ignites and burns vigorously creating a fire that is very difficult to extinguish.
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