October 21, 2014

Is Steam the Thing? – Washers and Dryers

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.

New From Whirlpool – Duet Steam Washer – FanFresh

Have you ever left your laundry in the washing machine by accident, only to find it smelly and wrinkled when you finally remembered to put it in the dryer? Whirlpool brand has heard consumers’ call, and in response, is arming consumers with the best defense — a washer with the ability to keep clothes smelling fresh for up to 10 hours after the cycle ends with the industry-changing FanFresh option.

The Whirlpool Duet steam washer’s FanFresh option intermittently tumbles clothes in the wash drum for up to 10 hours after the cycle ends. Meanwhile, a quiet fan draws out moisture through a vent to help keep clothes smelling fresh and prevents wrinkles from setting in. According to a 2007 online survey conducted by Whirlpool brand, 72 percent of respondents said it is important that their clothes never smell sour when left in the washer, yet only 47 percent are satisfied that their current washer completes this task.

“Whirlpool brand is focused on offering consumers the flexibility to live their lives rather than plan around their laundry,” said Brandon Buckingham, senior brand manager, Whirlpool laundry. “The FanFresh option provides consumers with the opportunity to load their washer, run errands and go to the movies, and not worry about getting back in time to switch the wash.”

While the FanFresh option solves one of consumers’ biggest laundry problems today, the new Duet steam washer garners one of the most efficient energy ratings available from the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) -Tier III – meaning the machine features advanced water and energy savings for the consumer. In addition, the new Duet® dryer is the first in the front-load category to offer an Eco cycle that uses 40 percent less energy than a conventional dryer’s normal cycle when paired with a Duet® washer.

According to Whirlpool Corporation research conducted by Harris Interactive in 2008, nearly three quarters (72 percent) of adults actively look for the ENERGY STAR label when making purchasing decisions. With advanced water and energy savings for the consumer, the Whirlpool Duet steam washer is ENERGY STAR qualified and can save consumers more than $1,000 in lifetime water and energy costs when compared to a pre-2004 conventional washer, based on a 10-year life cycle. Couple this with the money saved in the dryer, and the savings of the Duet washer practically pays for the cost of the dryer. In fact, the new Duet pair is the industry’s most efficient laundry care system available based on time and energy usage.

The Whirlpool Duet steam washer has a capacity of 4.5 cu. ft., giving consumers the ability to wash up to 18 pairs of jeans in a single load. The Delay Wash setting can be used to set the washer to begin up to 18 hours later, perfect for timing during off-peak hours when utility rates may be lower or when unloading the washer is more convenient.

In addition, the Whirlpool Duet steam washer comes with the industry-first NightQuiet option, which further reduces operational sound and is great for those whose laundry rooms are close to living areas or bedrooms.

The Whirlpool Duet steam wash system adds the power of steam to select wash cycles to steam out tough stains, virtually eliminating the need to pre-treat, and removes up to 95 percent of tested allergens, including dust mites and pet dander. The Whirlpool Duet steam wash system received the highest rating for water efficiency, cleaning and capacity from a leading consumer magazine.

And steam is not just for the washer. The Duet steam dryer utilizes the power of steam to eliminate 99.9 percent of common household bacteria, ideal for those items that should not be washed such as backpacks, stuffed animals and pillows. And for those who want to avoid ironing and cut down on dry cleaning costs, the dryer offers a Quick Refresh steam cycle that tumbles small loads and uses steam technology to break down odors and smooth out wrinkles. In just 15 minutes, clothes are ready-to-wear.

The Whirlpool Duet steam washer (WFW9750W) will be available in White, Cranberry and Lunar Silver with an MSRP starting at $1,599, and the Whirlpool Duet steam dryer (electric WED9750W or gas WGD9750W) will be available in the same colors with an MSRP starting at $1,599 later this fall.

LG Electronics Newest Laundry Collection for 2009

It seems there are always changes to be made to our washers and dryers. Sometimes it’s just the color as with LG’s vibrant Riviera Blue and a Graphite Steel finish that offers the look of stainless steel. Other times it might be shapes – the square-door design across its washer/dryer line.

LG’s 2009 performance enhancements include the LG MotionCare(TM) Technology, which uses new cleansing motions to care for clothes and save time and energy; the unique LG TrueBalance(TM) system, to significantly reduce vibration; and an expansion of the company’s pioneering TrueSteam(TM) technology, which offers advanced functionality including the ability to reduce allergens and wrinkles from fabrics.

PERFORMANCE AND DESIGN INNOVATIONS

MotionCare Technology – LG’s advanced MotionCare technologies offer consumers something better in clothing care in addition to a way to save time, water and energy. Until now, washers only used one cleansing motion – tumbling – to clean clothes. LG developed a method to care for clothes with four new washing motions – rolling, stepping, swinging and scrubbing – using LG’s Direct Drive motor to increase efficiency and reduce noise and vibration.

Using various combinations of these washing motions, three MotionCare wash cycles improve clothing care performance and are gentler on fabrics:

* Cold Care cycle uses cold water to clean clothes as effectively as a normal cycle with hot water. Using a combination of tumbling, rolling, scrubbing and stepping motions, cold water in the laundry equals energy savings, gentler care of fabrics and enhanced washing performance.
* Heavy Duty cycle uses a combination of tumbling and stepping to remove the toughest stains in less time, saving both water and energy.
* Enhanced Hand Wash/Wool cycle uses the swinging motion saving consumers time, water and energy while being gentler on delicates.

MotionCare Technology will be available in two models beginning in the third quarter of 2009. The steam technology version has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $1,499 for the washer (Model: WM2901HVA), $1,399 for the electric dryer (Model: DLEX2901) and $1,469 for the gas dryer (Model: DLGX2902). The non-steam model has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $1,199 for the washer (Model: WM2701HV), $1,199 for the electric dryer (Model: DLE2701) and $1269 for the gas dryer (Model: DLG2702).

TrueSteam Expansion – As the first company to introduce steam in residential laundry products, LG will extend this popular technology to additional laundry models in 2009, including an all-new washer/dryer pair with an LED display panel. This LED display takes the guesswork out of cycle selection. The laundry pair also incorporates the unique and high-performance features consumers have come to expect from LG’s TrueSteam technology, including the exclusive Allergiene(TM) cycle, designed to reduce common allergens such as dust mites and pet dander on fabrics. With an ultra large 4.5 cubic-foot capacity (IEC), the SteamWasher(TM) saves consumers a significant amount of time and energy. Like all LG laundry systems, the new models are Energy-Star rated.

The models are available at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price ranging from $1,399 to $1,499 for the washer (Model: WM2801) and $1,299 to $1,399 for the dryer (Model: DLEX2801/DLGX2802).

Anti-Vibration Technology – LG extends its TrueBalance Anti-Vibration system to all premium laundry models in 2009. The TrueBalance system helps to offset unbalanced loads in the washer drum, which may produce vibration and noise. The system is designed to minimize overall washer vibration – even in unbalanced loads – allowing for a quieter operation, making LG laundry pairs ideal for placement anywhere in the home, including the second floor.

Is a Steam Appliance Right for You?

Steam is hot right now.  It is showing up in a variety of appliance and is touted as the way to sanitize, freshen and even shorten cleaning times. Consumer Reports weighed in on steam use in appliances at abclocal.go.com sharing their opinion of steam’s usefulness.

One thing to be aware of before even considering a steam unit is the cost:

Kimberly Janeway from Consumer Reports, says “Some cost twice as much or even more than the best buys we recommend, which don’t have a steam feature.”
The steam feature not only adds to an appliance’s price, it also adds time to wash cycles. For example, for the clothes washers, it added as much as 25 minutes. For the dishwashers, it added up to 45 minutes.
Consumer Reports’ Emilio Gonzalez just tested two washing machines with steam modes from Kenmore and Whirlpool. Both companies claim their steam features boost cleaning performance and remove stains better.
“While the washers did better at removing stains when using the steam setting, they still cleaned very well even without the steam,” says Gonzalez.
Consumer Reports also tested the steam settings of Kenmore and Whirlpool dryers. Testers used wrinkled shirts exposed to cigarette smoke.
“The dryers got rid of most of the odors and wrinkles from the shirts, although there were wrinkles still left on the sleeves. So it’s a refresher, but not a replacement, for going to the dry cleaner,” says Janeway.
New dishwashers made by Jenn-Air, LG, Maytag, and Kenmore also have a steam-cleaning feature. Consumer Reports put them through one of its toughest food cleaning challenges: removing baked on brownie batter.
Janeway says “Steam only improved cleaning slightly on all four dishwashers.”
So while steam may be the hot new trend in appliances, Consumer Reports says it’s an extra feature that’s not worth the extra money.

So, depending on your opinion of Consumer Reports, you have the beginnings of an answer to the question- Is a steam appliance right for you?