Washing Machine Buyers Guide

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Overview

Washing machines, nowadays, have long lives and are highly efficient in their use of energy and water. A typical brand new model uses around 50% less of both than a comparable model from 10 years ago. Modern machines employ a degree of AI or "Artificial Intelligence" to improve washing performance. The amount of water, electricity and detergent consumed is carefully adjusted to match the capacity, absorbency, etc. of a load in such a way that many washing machines now use less than 50 litres of water per wash. The popularity of the washing machine is reflected by the fact that ownership in the United Kingdom has risen by roughly 20% in the last 30 years or so with some 95% of households now owning a washing machine.
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Washing Machine Features, Benefits and Considerations.

One of the most important factors in determining your choice of washing machine, of course, is the amount of space that you have available. Typical front loading washing machines are likely to measure approximately 850mm x 600mm x 600mm (H x W x D), whereas top loading machines are typically taller and narrower at 900mm x 400mm x 600mm. Do bear in mind that these dimensions vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so it is important to compare the specifications of individual washing machines with your available space.

Positioning

When considering the positioning of a washing machine, remember that it requires connection to the mains water supply and in some cases to both hot and cold water supplies, mostly nowadays the washing machines available are cold water supplied due to the fact that this is a more efficient source - and its waste pipe needs to be connected to a special inlet on the U-bend of a sink or waste pipe, or placed inside a stand pipe. In addition, washing machines need to stand on a level surface for correct operation: a solid, even footing will also prevent vibration and noise, particularly at high spin speeds and will ensure that the machine does not have a dance around the kitchen.

 

Capacity

Another important consideration is the volume of washing that you need to do, in total and on a "per load" basis. A single person or a couple, for example, is likely to do less washing and in smaller loads than a large family which may easily fall into the "heavy user" which is categorised as that of more than five washes per week. A single person, therefore, may be able to make do quite happily with a washing machine of 5kg or less in capacity, while family buyers may be looking for capacities of at least 6kg and perhaps up to 10kg or more. Bear in mind that a higher load capacity washing machine can accommodate bulky items such as duvets, blankets and other bedding which may save on dry cleaning or washing service bills.

Front Loaders vs Top loaders

In terms of washing machine type, front loading washing machines with a front "port hole" opening generally offer higher load capacities and are shorter and wider than so-called "top loaders". Front loading machines are designed to be free standing or to fit neatly beneath a kitchen work surface. Top loading washing machines, on the other hand, are more space saving in terms of width but may typically be 50mm or so taller than an average front loading machine. Top loaders usually offer a smaller load capacity at around the 5kg or 6kg mark - although 8kg, 9kg and 10kg models are also available.

Efficiency

Efficiency - the total amount of energy and water consumed "per kilogram" of washing. This may be greater for larger capacity washing machines but remember that this is dependant on operating with a full load for every wash. Operating a high capacity machine half full may be wasteful in terms of energy and especially water. Many modern washing machines provide energy saving "economy" or "half load" programmes, which reduce washing times or reduce temperatures and increase washing times, to allow a machine to operate at maximum efficiency at all times. Some machines also make automatic adjustments based on the size of the load. It may also be possible to delay the start of a wash to take advantage of cheaper electricity available overnight in some cases.

Energy Rating

The European Union (EU) Energy Label system provides clear, easy to interpret information regarding energy efficiency and performance of washing machines. As with any other electrical appliances, washing machines are colour coded and labelled "A" (the most efficient) to "G" (the least) for energy efficiency. The EU Energy Label also includes an indication as to how much electricity is used per washing cycle - measured in kWh ("kilowatt hours"), together with the amount of noise produced in dB ("decibels") and a rating ("A" to "G") for washing performance. The difference between an "A" rated washing machine and one rated "C" amounts to a saving of roughly £10 per annum in purely monetary terms but also reduces carbon emissions.

 

Spin Speeds

The higher the spin speed of a washing machine, the more effectively water is removed from clothes and other items and the more quickly washing will dry. A lower spin speed, on the other hand, can be useful for the protection of woollen, or other delicate items and to reduce the degree of creasing generally caused to clothes during the spin cycle. Most modern washing machines, therefore, have a minimum of two spin speeds: typically 1000-1600 rpm for cottons, for example, and 400-800 rpm for delicates. The efficiency with which water is removed from washing depends upon the number of holes in the washing machine drum and the length of the spin cycle as well as the spin speed itself. The EU Energy Label, once again, can provide a useful source of information for comparing one model with another. Bear in mind that faster spin speeds place more stresses and strains on a washing machine and may reduce its durability and longevity. They are also likely to generate slightly more noise, although not vastly so. Models with spins speeds of 1400 rpm or 1600 rpm typically generate between 50 and 60 db, roughly the equivalent of a boiling kettle at a distance of half a metre.

Extended Rinse Cycles

Some washing machines also offer the facility for an extended rinse cycle which removes more detergent from laundry than the standard rinse cycle. This can be useful for the removal of excess detergent, especially for sufferers of eczema, allergies, or other skin complaints.
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