The Ultimate Washer and Dryer Buying Guide
In the market for a new washer and/or dryer? Whether you’ve owned laundry machines in the past or are used to toting your clothes to the laundromat, you know that doing “the wash” is not many people’s idea of fun. That doesn’t mean that shopping for a washer and dryer can’t be!
And, with a little planning ahead, you can be sure to purchase the machines that best meet your family’s laundry demands, which can actually make laundry day quite a bit easier (if not more fun).
Today we’re offering an in-depth look at what you need to know when shopping for washers and dryers in 2019, from understanding the basics to choosing between the dizzying array of features and tech now available.
What to Figure Out Before You Even Look at a Washer or Dryer
Many people begin their hunt for a new washer and dryer by researching retailers in their area that have the best deals, or they start by looking at individual brands they’ve heard are good. While this approach may lead to a quick purchase, it may also lead to disappointment with the appliances.
Maybe the new washer doesn’t seem to hold enough clothing per load, or maybe the set together doesn’t perfectly fit into the space where you envisioned it. Even if your dissatisfaction isn’t enough to drive you to return your new machines to the store, you still feel just a twinge of annoyance every single time you do your laundry – who wants that?!
Instead of living with buyer’s remorse, take some time in your shopping process to consider a few major points about laundry machines and match them to your needs and expectations.
Washers and dryers come in an array of capacity options, which relates to how much clothing or other washable textiles (sheets, towels, etc.) the machine will hold. Capacity is measured in cubic feet (often abbreviated as cu ft), and average capacities for washing machines range from about 3.0 – 5.0 cu ft today.
But what does that really mean?
You’ll need to understand how much demand your household has for loads of laundry during a given week (or however often you plan to run the machines), which usually matches your household size. Have multiple adults and children at home? You will want larger capacity machines. Is it just you and your dog? You may not want a huge capacity machine that you don’t necessarily need, but remember – you may not be able to wash larger, bulky items such as comforters and bedding in smaller machines.
Consider where you plan to locate your laundry machines in your home. Do you have a dedicated laundry room on the main floor of your house, or will your machines need to fit in a closet on an upper level? Many people also choose to locate laundry machines in an attached garage or in their home’s basement, and sometimes those areas are oddly configured.
Be sure to measure your space, so you know the machines you choose are going to fit. Some washer and dryer sets are stackable, so if you have more vertical space than floor space, these machines might be perfect for you. If you have some room to spread out, though, you may want to consider machines meant to work side by side.
Once again, knowing where you will locate your laundry machines in your home can help you determine whether you need to shop whisper-quiet models versus ones that produce more decibels as they work. Also think about how much noise you’re personally willing to tolerate from any appliance, and read online user reviews to check on whether manufacturer reports about sound levels tend to be true or not.
Remember, though, if you plan to locate your laundry setup in a basement or other out-of-the-way space in your home, you may not want it to be too quiet, or you’ll never know when a cycle is done!
Main Washer and Dryer Types
As you’re shopping, you’ll begin to notice certain keywords used to describe washer and dryer configurations and types. Understanding your family’s laundry capacity demands and space requirements, as we talked about above, will allow you to shop the machine styles that best fit your home and life.
Stackable Washer and Dryer Sets
We’ll talk more about front-loading and top-loading washing machines in the next section, but it’s important to know that if you plan to stack your washer and dryer on top of one another in a vertical configuration, you will be considering front load washers only. (Dryers are almost always front-loading, so it’s more about the washer with these stackable sets.) You also need to double-check specifications and product information to ensure that the particular models you’re interested in can definitely be stacked, as not all are designed for this.
One drawback with stackable sets is that the controls for the dryer when stacked will be located rather high up. For shorter individuals, reaching these controls, or even loading the stacked dryer could mean standing on a stepstool.
Apartment-Sized Washer and Dryers
Space is often at a premium in apartments, and that’s why the smallest washers and dryers are often called “apartment-sized.” These units are also typically designed for a vertical configuration, but unlike stackable sets, which can also be separated and used side by side, apartment-sized washer/dryers are often simply “stacked” and cannot be separated.
Apartment-sized washer/dryer units are space-saving, and many don’t have to sacrifice capacity to fit in a smaller area. They can more expensive, depending on the features you want, than comparable individual machines, however.
These unique little machines are meant to be used in the smallest spaces, and often don’t have a large capacity. They’re also designed for frequent moving, so if you’re the type of person who doesn’t stay living in one place for long, portable washers and portable washer/dryer combo machines might be a great solution.
Models are typically not high-priced because they don’t have tons of weight-adding features, but if you need clean clothes in your RV or tiny house, portable machines may fit the bill.
Popular in other parts of the world where people don’t have a lot of dedicated space for doing laundry as we do in our big American homes, all-in-one washer/dryers are combo machines that do it all in one convenient (but not necessarily portable) package.
Combining washing and drying into one device instead of two has some advantages, especially for people who prefer to hang their laundry to dry and rarely use a dryer. While they take up less physical space and may save energy compared to separate, purpose-built washers and dryers, all-in-one machines tend to be expensive and relatively slow at getting clothes from clean to perfectly dry. Before investing in one of these units, it’s wise to check in with independent testing organizations like Consumer Reports and read online reviews about others’ experiences to learn more about whether they’re right for your household.
Front Load vs. Top Load Washers
As we already mentioned, front-loading washers are sometimes stackable with compatible dryers to give you different configuration options and allow you to fit your laundry center in more potential places in your home.
Front-loaders are also made differently than top-loaders, as they do away with old technology – the agitator – that was common in all washing machines several decades ago. Without the agitator inside the washer drum, there is naturally more room for laundry, and front-loaders often have larger capacities, too.
Now, it’s important to note that newer top-loading washing machines don’t necessarily have an agitator either. Agitators simply are not needed to achieve excellent cleaning in high-efficiency machines that use much less water. This means that your choice between a top-loader and a front-loader is typically more to do with what you prefer and where you plan to locate your machines than what capacity you need or whether you want high-efficiency washing.
Gas vs. Electric Dryers
If your home is located where residential natural gas service is available, or if you already use propane for heating and/or cooking, you can choose whether you want an electric-powered dryer or a gas dryer.
Gas dryers typically cost much less to operate than their electric counterparts, and many people find they’re gentler on clothes. The higher upfront cost is often the reason people skip the gas dryer, though. They also should be installed only by professionals to ensure safety.
Key Washer Features and Technology
As with just about every other home appliance you can buy today, washing machines and their corresponding dryers are available in more individual models with longer lists of features and options than ever before. As you step up from basic models that have just a few settings and cycles, you’ll find washers with tons of convenience features. These are a few you’ll see most often.
This cycle assures that detergent is thoroughly removed from fabrics after a wash cycle.
A steam setting is one of the newest high-tech features in washing machines, and it’s touted as being able to get especially tough stains out of fabric. If you often wash very dirty clothes or are concerned about killing bacteria, steam might be a good investment. This feature often adds quite a few dollars to the price tag, though, so you won’t find it on budget models…yet.
NSF Sanitizing Cycle
Need assurance that your clothes aren’t just clean, but sanitized of 99.9% of bacteria and microorganisms? Washers (and dryers, too) can now be certified by NSF International (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation) to guarantee this extreme level of clean.
This feature allows you to load your clothes and detergent hours before a wash cycle will take place. Want to load the laundry up before you head to work in the morning and then switch the load to the dryer when you get home? Delay the wash cycle so that it’s just getting finished up as you walk through the door. That way, your wet clothes won’t sit for hours until you can pop them in the dryer.
Many washing machines now have detergent dispensing systems that keep detergent, bleach, and fabric softener separated from your clothes until the precise moment it’s needed in the cycle. No more waiting around to add these different substances at different points in the wash cycle. Simply add them all to the machine at once and select the appropriate cycle to have them dispensed automatically.
Load Sensing Controls
Newer high-efficiency machines don’t waste water or power/fuel they don’t need even if you don’t choose the appropriate cycle for what you’re washing. Load sensing features can tell how much is in the machine and select the perfect amount of water and the appropriate wash time for the load.
Heavy Duty Cycle
This might go by different names, but washers with heavy duty cycles mean you can wash larger, bulky items like comforters and coats without worry. With a heavy duty cycle option, gone are the days of taking your “big laundry” to the laundromat even if you have perfectly good machines at home!
Even your coffeemaker and your light bulbs can be controlled by your smartphone or interconnected with other items in your home thanks to WiFi connectivity, why not your washing machine? While not everyone sees the point of networking all of their appliances together, knowing that you can might be worth it, right?
Using less of everything required to do laundry – power, water, and detergent for washers and power/fuel (electricity or natural gas) for dryers – while still achieving great results is the point of energy efficient machines. Since 2015, many are also Energy Star-certified, too. Look for the “HE” logo on specific models, which designates the best efficiency.
Key Dryer Features and Technology
As with washing machines, dryers are also loaded with great tech features that help you care for your clothes. Be on the lookout for these common options.
Does your high-efficiency washing machine do a good job of wringing excess water out of your clothing? If so, your dryer shouldn’t have to work so hard. With moisture sensing capabilities, the dryer can tell just how much effort is needed to completely dry fabrics.
This may actually incorporate steam to help keep wrinkles from forming in fabrics that are prone to them, and this feature helps assure that you can retire your iron.
Stainless Steel Drum
Some dryers have enameled interior surfaces that can become discolored over time. Stainless steel doesn’t absorb odors or pick up weird tints from fabrics, which make it a popular material in dryers now.
Don’t want to tumble your delicate clothing that tells you it should be dried flat? Machines with drying racks allow you to accommodate these fabric care instructions inside your dryer.
Washer and Dryer Installation Considerations
As we’ve already touched on, thinking about where in your home your new washer and dryer will be located before you actually begin shopping is a smart move. Another point that buyers sometimes don’t consider and then wish they had is installation.
For instance, if you purchase a gas dryer, but don’t have gas service at your house, you won’t be able to install that dryer. Or, what if you didn’t thoroughly measure, and there is just no way your new machines are fitting up the stairwell to the existing laundry closet on your 2nd floor? These kinds of errors happen all the time, and especially if you ordered your machines online, you might not be able to send them back to the retailer easily.
Always measure before you shop!
Top-Rated Brands We Sell
Here at K&A Appliance, we carry the widest variety of brands in the Lancaster, PA-area. In laundry appliances, these include the biggest names, like LG, Samsung, Whirlpool, Maytag, Speed Queen, Kenmore, GE, and more!
Save up to 70% on Washers and Dryers at K&A Appliance
Part of the reason we can offer so many top brands is because we only sell scratch & dent inventory. Manufacturers partner with us to help bring customers brand new appliances that can’t be sold in traditional retail outlets for a variety of reasons. Some of these have cosmetic defects, but all of our appliances carry their original manufacturer warranties! And our significant discounts off MSRP can’t be beat! Learn more by contacting us today, or just stop in and visit our showrooms in Lancaster and Willow Street, PA!