Front load vs. top load washers & dryers

Written by anne madison
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When you're ready to buy a new washing machine or dryer, the array of choices can be dizzying. Front-loading washers have got a lot of hype, but don't buy one until you've compared all your choices and made sure a front loader is really right for you. You may find a conventional top loader is better suited to your needs.

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Identification

Top-loading washing machines come in two varieties. A conventional top-loading washer has a vertical drum for loading the clothes with an agitator in the middle. Newer, high-efficiency top loaders utilise the technology from front loaders to wash clothes in a vertical drum without the agitator.

Front-loading washing machines use a horizontal drum and no agitator. Instead, gravity helps to tumble the clothes, or a wash plate may be used to turn them.

Almost all dryers are front loading, but Fisher and Paykel make a line of top-loading dryers. These function the same way as their front-loading cousins but eliminate bending over. Fisher and Paykel's line also has a lint bucket and self-cleaning filter rather than the traditional lint filter.

Benefits

Traditional top-loading washers offer the benefit of simple, time-proven technology, making these washers less of a maintenance hassle. They are also the cheapest alternative.

High-efficiency top loaders combine the ease of use of a top loader with the energy efficiency of a front loader. They are also gentler on clothes than a traditional top loader, since there is no agitator.

A front-loading washing machine is very energy efficient, using about half the water of traditional models and saving on electricity. It removes more water from clothes than a top loader, so it saves on drying time, too. A front loader will do a better job of cleaning your clothes while treating them more gently. Many models make it possible to stack your washer and dryer, conserving space.

The major benefit of a top-loading dryer over the common front loader is not having to bend over. Many users report liking Fisher and Paykel's lint bucket as well.

Drawbacks

A conventional top-loading washer uses a lot of water and energy, and the agitator can be rough on clothes.

A high-efficiency top loader sometimes suffers circuit board failure. Some people complain it leaves their clothes wrinkled. It also requires special high-efficiency detergent.

A front-loading washer uses new technology, and thus tends to need repair often. It can sometimes be hard to find a service technician who knows how to repair your machine, and replacement parts can be expensive. A major problem with front loaders is that water left standing in the gasket can cause mildew to grow. You'll also need to buy high-efficiency detergent. These machines can be harder to load and unload, since you have to bend over.

Top-loading dryers haven't performed as well in tests as traditional front loaders. They also need repair more often.

Cost Comparison

Conventional top-loading washers are the cheapest alternative, with well-rated models available for under £325. In general, high-efficiency top loaders are the next step up and front loaders are the most expensive, though there are a few budget-friendly front loaders available for under £650.

Up front purchase price is only part of your cost, though. High efficiency machines, both top and front loaders, will save you money on water and electricity bills over conventional top loaders. However, you'll probably also have more repair bills.

Top-loading dryers fall in the mid-price range compared to traditional front-loading dryers.

Considerations

If you suffer from back problems, you may want to consider combining a top-loading washer with a top-loading dryer. This eliminates most of the bending associated with doing laundry.

If you're interested in a conventional top-loading washer, you shouldn't wait too long to purchase one. High-efficiency top loaders are gradually causing traditional models to be phased out.

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