From the time Maytag introduced the agitator-based washing system in 1922, the top loading washing machine did not change much until front loading machines were introduced toward the end of the century. Initially made popular in Europe, front loading machines introduced a process that uses a tub on a horizontal axis which turns the laundry load through a relatively shallow pool of water and high-efficiency detergent, resulting in less energy and water usage. Top loading HE washing machines sit between these two designs with a traditional look combined with an agitator-free washing system. Here are the basics of these three categories:
- Traditional top loading, agitator-based machines – Long the standard for washing machine designs, traditional washing machines are the least expensive of the three categories but use greater amounts of electricity and water while yielding only average results. Generally designed with less features and computerization, these machines have a slightly longer lifespan and generally lower repair costs than the other categories.
- Top loading, high efficiency washing machines – These machine present a familiar layout for the setting of controls and operation while using an agitator-free washing system that uses less water and energy than traditional top loaders. The absence of the agitator results in more room in the basin to enable bigger wash loads, which can speed up the time it takes to finish laundry chores. The use of high efficiency (HE) detergents in these machines can increase savings further by delivering clean loads without the need for hot water cycles.
- Front loading washing machines – Front loading washing machines offer many of the same advantages of top loading high efficiency machines with the efficient use of water and electricity, as well as a cleaning process using HE detergents that provides optimal results with cold water cycles. Front loading machines increase energy savings further with high speed spin cycles that remove a high percentage of moisture from each wash load, which shortens the duration of energy intensive drying cycles via heat and evaporation. These units are also stackable, which presents an opportunity to put a standard sized laundry pair in a tight space. These washers typically require more maintenance due to their sealed doors, which can trap moisture. In most cases, leaving the door open between wash cycles and running an empty load with a small amount of bleach or white wine vinegar can keep these issues in check.
Assessing the attributes of each of these categories can help to determine the best washing machine for any set of circumstances. Regardless of budget concerns or space limitations, the variety of available washing machine types and features means that the right machine will be available to suit the specific needs of any household.
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