Top or front load? Solving the new clothes washer conundrum
Choosing a new washing machine starts with a fundamental choice: front load or top load. There are highly rated, energy-efficient choices available in both styles.
The average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If you're looking for a new washer, keep an eye out for the Energy Star label.
Energy Star certified clothes washers use about 20 percent less energy and 35 percent less water than regular washers. They also have a greater tub capacity, which means you can wash fewer loads to clean the same amount of laundry.
There are Energy Star-rated washers in both top- and front-load configurations. What's the difference?
The top-loading or vertical-axis washer is the most common washer. There are still machines available with a central agitator that cleans by swishing clothes back and forth in a tub full of water. These are typically lower-cost machines that may not meet Energy Star standards.
The high-efficiency top-load machines use a similar type of washing-tub configuration as the front loaders. Instead of a single vertical agitator, there's a series of impellers in a washplate in the bottom of the tub that circulate the water and detergent. A top-loader may not be quite as energy efficient as a front loader but it often costs less to purchase.
The front-load or horizontal-axis washers save water by tumbling clothes in a small amount of water, lifting them up and dropping them down like a dryer. Horizontal axis clothes washers also require less detergent. They have faster spin cycle speeds that remove more moisture from clothes than vertical axis machines; therefore, less time and energy is required for clothes drying.
Some studies show front loaders are easier on clothes than a top-loader with an agitator.
Typically machines are rated as High efficiency (HE) clothes washers have smaller tubs than typical washing machines (2.0 cubic feet vs. 2.7 cubic feet). Studies have shown that users do not see a significant effect on load capacity; however, the typical household may need to do an average of one more load a week with an HE clothes washer.
Research has also shown that HE washers get clothes just as clean or cleaner than standard washing machines, and they are gentler on fabrics. One study concluded that residents were actually more satisfied with the cleaning performance of HE machines.
For an HE rated washer you have to use high-efficiency detergent with these machines because regular clothes soap creates too many suds.
If you stick with an Enery Star rated machine and go with a brand that you trust, you can make the right choice for a new washer.
Read more about energy-efficient appliances.