By August 11, 2005

When that blood splatter won't rinse off easy

When I lived in Oregon I owned a Kenwood Elite HE4T frontloading washer and dryer. Frontloaders are very common in Europe, but have just starting making inroads here in the US. I bought my Kenmores in 2002 (or was it 2001, I forget), and with the optional pedistals they came out to $2400, delivered. Then the place I worked for in Oregon closed out unexpectedly and I had to move — leaving my beloved front loaders behind.

Fast forward to the future — June 2005! Lady Jaye and I have returned to Virginia and bought a house. No more top loaders in rental units!! But my how the front loader market had changed. Instead of only a few makes on the market (Whirlpool, Kenmore, and Maytag were the big three when I bought my original Elites), there were many! In addition to the first three, companies from Siemens to Fridgidaire to Haier and LG. LG Electronics is a Korean company that, like Daewoo of old, makes everything from cell phones to refridgerators to washers and dryers.

I really like front loaders for a variety of reasons. First, like most of the other stuff you’ll read about here, front loaders appeal to my appreciation of gadgetry. The front loaders use less water and less electricity than their top loading counterparts. According to this site, traditional washers use about 40 gallons per load. The LG we purchased uses 12.9 gallons. The LG is skimpy on electricity, too — even with an integrated water heater, it costs an average of $12 a year to run. Front loaders also require less detergent than top loaders. When I was in Oregon I went through one (super large) container of detergent. I use HE detergent now (see below) and I only use half the recommended dose. The clothes still smell a little over-detergented/flowery.

Here’s a shot of the washer:

A rundown on the specs:

  • 3.7 gallon capacity — only a few front loaders have a larger capacity than our LG.
  • Internal heater — this is an important feature because otherwise the washer doesn’t pull enough water out of your house’s system in order to get hot water.
  • A bunch of other stuff that might be important if we didn’t own hardy clothes, like a 5-speed selectible washing cycle and all sorts of crazy sub-programs.
  • Our particular model is a little bit cheaper than the highest-end LG washer. We opted for the above noted 5-speed washing cycles instead of a 7, and we didn’t need to stack the units so we opted for the LCD display on the top instead of the front of the unit.

Now we don’t have a clothesline out back, so we had to buy a matching dryer. Luckily the LG dryer is also Energy Star compliant and a real miser on electricity usage. The dryer, thanks to the long washing cycles (and the crazy spin cycle is something to watch through the port-hole), doesn’t run for much longer than 20 minutes at a clip, depending on the density of what’s being dried. The card in the dryer estimated that it will cost less than $20 a year to run the dryer.

Some tasty tidbits about our dryer:

  • 5 temperature options, from “mildly toasty” to “omfg hawt!”
  • 9 cycles, randing from “panties” to “thick ass towels and comforters
  • Super quiet
  • Short run time — normally 20 minutes or less for normal shorts and tshirts, up to 30 for towels and bedsheets

There are a few things worth noting about front loaders. Not the least of which is that they must be level or they will be loud as fuck and may even shut down due to too much vibration. Our washer and dryer sit on the second floor of our house, and I was really worried about the vibration. My previous Kenmores really spun up and wobbled a lot. In retrospect, they may not have been completely level, or maybe the floor in the laundry room in Oregon was a little weak. Our LG units are SUPER quiet. I have really good hearing and I can barely hear them working when I’m in my office, which is just down the 10′ hallway.

One minor thing that I haven’t experienced but other people have is a mildew smell from their front load washers. There are a few theories on why this happens. One theory, and this is certainly true of the first gen Maytags and their ilk, is that excess water gets trapped in the stainless steel washer drum and just sits there. Yum. Another theory is that people use too much detergent. Like I said above, front loaders don’t need as much detergent as top loaders; I believe this is due to using less water. Anyway, the washer compensates for oversudsing by dispensing more water. Too much water = mildew smell. Maybe, but who knows. I use HE (HIGH EFFECIENCY SUPA WASHIN’ POWAH) detergent and don’t have this problem at all. Some people just leave their washer door open for the rest of their laundry day. Whatever, YMMV.

Lastly, and this is my only gripe against front loader dryers, my Kenmore included, is that clothes of differing densities can throw off the moisture sensor inside the dryer. For example, if I have socks, tshirts, and towels in the same dryer cycle the dryer will detect when the socks are dry and then stop the cycle, leaving the towels passably damp but the tshirts unsatisfactorily wet. This is a big motherfucking thorn in my craw because I bought the washer and dryer to be efficient. Adding 20 minutes or whatever to the drying cycle is still cheaper than a top loader, but not efficient. There’s a driver download for my dryer on the LG site, I wonder if I should try it. Anyway, I get around this problem by not putting towels and tshirts together any more :).

Good points

  • Very thrifty on water and electricity. Yay!
  • Cool lights!
  • Very quiet
  • The startup tones for the washer and dryer are just slightly different, which makes a really neat little song when you turn them both on right after another. Yeah that’s lame, but it’s the kind of shit I pay attention to.
  • Short drying time

Areas for improvement

  • Spendy — we paid about $1900 for our W&D
  • Need to be levelled carefully
  • Loads of differing densities may cause drying abnormalities
  • Longer washing time, due to a long “dry” spin cycle where the washer tries to wring out every last bit of water it can. This doesn’t bother me, but does come up in other reviews.
  • Mildew smell if you have a sensitive nose or can’t follow directions.

Bottom line: After two months of use, the LG 5-cycle washer (model #WM0532HW) and 9-cycle dryer (model # DLE0332W) is hereby granted:

Four and a half out of five STFU mugs

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