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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Spin city: ratings of washing machines and clothes dryers.(LaundryAppliances: Test)(Evaluation).

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLCAppliances at Sears.ca

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Several new clothes washing machines are evaluated based on price, washing ability, load capacity, efficiency and noise. Among the top models are Kenmore, Frigidaire, and the General Electric Spacemaker.


Full Text :COPYRIGHT 1999 Consumers Union of the United States, Inc.
A lot of people--at least 30 percent of purchasers, by one estimate--buy a washer and dryer together. Such a joint purchase can ensure that the two appliances match in size and style. If both are front-loading machines, you may be able to stack them to save space. You could also get a better deal if you buy a matched pair--either a package price from the manufacturer or a discount from your retailer for buying two machines.

Of course, replacing a washer and dryer at the same time may mean discarding at least one appliance that's still in working order. Consider trying to donate a still-useful washer or dryer to a family member, friend, or nonprofit group (look in the yellow pages under "recycling" or "charities").

Washing machines.

What's new

Top-loaders that claim to be frugal with water and energy. This year, some top-loading washing machines qualify for the Department of Energy's Energy Star certification, once awarded exclusively to front-loading models. But our tests of two certified top-loaders revealed some tarnish on their stars.

More rebate programs. Where once such programs were mostly in the West, now some utilities in at least 15 states across the country offer rebates of $50 to $300 to consumers who buy a washer that bears the Energy Star certification.

"Hand washing" cycles. There's more emphasis on cycles described as being gentle as hand washing. (We test the regular washing cycle only.)

What matters in a washer

Here are the key features and attributes that matter the most in a washing machine:

Washing ability. Front-loaders get clothes clean by tumbling them so they rise near the top of the tub and then drop with a splat on the water below. In a top-loader, clothes are circulated by an agitator. Both ways to wash can yield very clean clothes. Indeed, all the machines we tested washed at least very well except the White-Westinghouse MWS445RF, which we judged merely good in washing.

Water and energy efficiency. No top-loader could match the front-loaders for miserliness with both water and energy--even the Kenmore and Whirlpool Resource Saver models. The Resource Savers were sparing with water--their spray rinse cuts the volume of rinse water by half--but not necessarily with energy (see "Who Gets an Energy Star?" on page 31).

How frugal are the most efficient machines, like all the front-loaders we tested? When used with an electric water heater to wash about six loads of laundry a week, we calculate they'd save about 3,000 gallons of water and about $20 worth of electrical energy a year compared with the least efficient top-loaders.

A hidden element in energy efficiency is the amount of water extracted by the washer's final spin--and therefore not left for the dryer to remove. The top-loading Fisher & Paykel excelled in this department; the front-loaders were very good, and the other top-loaders only good.

Water levels. Front-loaders (and the top-loading Fisher & Paykel) set these automatically, freeing you of guesswork. Next best, in our view, are top-loaders that can be set for four or more levels, probably providing as much flexibility as anyone would need. (If you always wash a full load set to the maximum water level, having fewer water-level settings may not concern you.)

Water temperatures. Most machines establish water temperatures by mixing hot and cold water in preset proportions. If your incoming cold water is especially cold (as in winter), automatic temperature controls on some machines adjust the flow so that the machine's "warm" water won't be too cool or the "cold" water too cold. (Detergents may not dissolve well in very cold wash water.)

Wash and spin settings. Most washers automatically set the wash speed according to the fabric cycle selected. Most machines also provide at least three wash/spin speed combinations, generally for "regular" (or "cotton"), "permanent press," and "delicate" (or "gentle") cycles. For better or worse, depending on how much control you want over your wash, many top-loaders we tested offer four or five wash/spin speed combinations for greater flexibility. Many models allow you to tack on an extra rinse to the cycle, which may be useful if you're sensitive to detergent, or to extend the final spin a few minutes--a feature that extracted only a little more water from the wash.

Capacity. As a rule, this varies only a little among full-sized washers. The few tested models that scored very good in capacity will hold several fewer items per full load than the other machines, which all scored excellent.

Tubs and surfaces. A porcelain-coated steel tub may rust if the porcelain chips or if water sits in the tub too long. A stainless-steel or plastic tub doesn't present the same problem. Most machines also have a painted surface, which is easily scratched. A porcelain-coated top surface is preferable.

Detergents. Regular detergents can suds too much in a front-loader, inhibiting the machine's cleaning and rinsing action. Special front-loader detergents, including Tide HE and Wisk HE, are available most places you'll find regular detergent.

Recommendations

We found both front-loaders and top-loaders that did a fine job of cleaning laundry, but the front-loaders as a group were more energy efficient and a bit more gentle in the regular cycle. Even without the rebates often available with efficient washing machines, the best front-loaders we tested may make economic sense. The top-scoring, essentially similar Kenmore 2904, $800, Frigidaire FWTR445RF, $700, and GE Spacemaker WSXH208T, $720, are superlative washers. They offer excellent washing, fine efficiency, and low noise. The other full-sized front-loader tested is the Maytag Neptune MAH4000A, $1,100, a fine but expensive performer.

One caveat about front-loaders: Because relatively few of our readers yet own these washers, we lack sufficient data to provide a repair history for them, as we do for top-loading washers (see page 33).

The best top-loaders we tested cost at least $100 less than the front-loaders, but you'll eventually lose at least part of that saving in higher energy bills. The top-scoring Kenmore 2891, $580, offers fine value nonetheless. Many GE top-loaders also scored well, but note that Kenmore top-loading washers have been more reliable than GE top-loaders in recent years. (See page 37 for test results on front-loading European compact washers.)

Ratings & Recommendations

Washing machines

Shopping strategy

Good performance is almost a given

Practically any washing machine washes well. Differences in washing prowess shouldn't be a key buying consideration--with the exception of a few mediocre models, such as the White-Westinghouse MWS445RF we tested.

Consider rebates and operating costs

Top-loaders cost less to buy, but front-loaders are more efficient. Also, all front-loaders qualify for utility-company rebates offered in some parts of the country, where only a handful of top-loaders do so.

Overall Ratings

Within types, listed in order of overall score

Key Brand and model Price Overall score
no.
P F G VG E
FRONT-LOADING MODELS

1 Kenmore (Sears) 2904 [2] $800 83
2 Frigidaire FWTR445RF [S] 700 83
3 General Electric Spacemaker 720 81
WSXH208T [WW]
4 Maytag Neptune MAH4000A [WW] 1,100 81

TOP-LOADING MODELS

5 Kenmore (Sears) 2891 [2] 580 75
6 Kenmore (Sears) Resource Saver 600 73
2996 [2]
7 General Electric Profile 480 72
Performance WPSF4170W [WW]
8 General Electric Profile 470 72
WPSR4130W [WW]
9 KitchenAid Superba KAWS850G [Q] 550 71
10 Whirlpool Resource Saver 550 70
LSW9245E [Q]
11 Fisher & Paykel GWL08 800 70
12 Maytag MAV6000A [WW] 640 68
13 General Electric Profile 390 68
WPSR3100W [WW]
14 Whirlpool Gold GSL9365E [Q] 480 67
15 Amana LWA60A [W] 450 66
16 Amana LWA20A [W] 420 63
17 Maytag Performa PAV3200A [WW] 430 63
18 Speed Queen LWS55A [W] 440 60
19 Roper RAS8245E [W] 370 60
20 Frigidaire FWS645GF [S] 350 58
21 Roper RAX7244E [Q] 330 56
22 White-Westinghouse 340 54
MWS445RF [S]

Key Brand and model Washing Capacity
no. ability

FRONT-LOADING MODELS

1 Kenmore (Sears) 2904 [2] a a
2 Frigidaire FWTR445RF [S] a a
3 General Electric Spacemaker a a
WSXH208T [WW]
4 Maytag Neptune MAH4000A [WW] b a

TOP-LOADING MODELS
5 Kenmore (Sears) 2891 [2] a a
6 Kenmore (Sears) Resource Saver a a
2996 [2]
7 General Electric Profile a a
Performance WPSF4170W [WW]
8 General Electric Profile a a
WPSR4130W [WW]
9 KitchenAid Superba KAWS850G [Q] b a
10 Whirlpool Resource Saver b a
LSW9245E [Q]
11 Fisher & Paykel GWL08 b a
12 Maytag MAV6000A [WW] b a
13 General Electric Profile a a
WPSR3100W [WW]
14 Whirlpool Gold GSL9365E [Q] a a
15 Amana LWA60A [W] b a
16 Amana LWA20A [W] b a
17 Maytag Performa PAV3200A [WW] a b
18 Speed Queen LWS55A [W] b b
19 Roper RAS8245E [W] a a
20 Frigidaire FWS645GF [S] b a
21 Roper RAX7244E [Q] a b
22 White-Westinghouse c b
MWS445RF [S]

Key Brand and model Efficiency Noise
no. WATER ENERGY

FRONT-LOADING MODELS

1 Kenmore (Sears) 2904 [2] b a a
2 Frigidaire FWTR445RF [S] b a a
3 General Electric Spacemaker b a a
WSXH208T [WW]
4 Maytag Neptune MAH4000A [WW] b a a

TOP-LOADING MODELS

5 Kenmore (Sears) 2891 [2] b c b
6 Kenmore (Sears) Resource Saver a d b
2996 [2]
7 General Electric Profile c c b
Performance WPSF4170W [WW]
8 General Electric Profile c c c
WPSR4130W [WW]
9 KitchenAid Superba KAWS850G [Q] c c a
10 Whirlpool Resource Saver a d b
LSW9245E [Q]
11 Fisher & Paykel GWL08 d c b
12 Maytag MAV6000A [WW] b c c
13 General Electric Profile c c c
WPSR3100W [WW]
14 Whirlpool Gold GSL9365E [Q] c d b
15 Amana LWA60A [W] c c c
16 Amana LWA20A [W] c c c
17 Maytag Performa PAV3200A [WW] c d b
18 Speed Queen LWS55A [W] c d c
19 Roper RAS8245E [W] d d c
20 Frigidaire FWS645GF [S] c c c
21 Roper RAX7244E [Q] c d c
22 White-Westinghouse d d c
MWS445RF [S]

a Excellent
b Very good
c Good
d Fair
e Poor
The tests behind the Ratings

Overall score is based mainly on washing ability, efficiency, and noise. We loaded the washers with eight pounds of mixed cotton items, including swatches stained with various types of soil, then ran the machines using 120[degrees] F water. (The Resource Saver models from Kenmore and Whirlpool were run at 100[degrees], the maximum for a regular cycle). By measuring the color change of the washed swatches, we gauged washing ability. Capacity is based on how well clothes could circulate in increasingly large loads. Washers with excellent capacity could circulate several more items of clothing than those with very good capacity. We determined water efficiency by measuring the water it took to wash our eight-pound load and each machine's maximum load. On models that didn't set the fill level automatically, we used the lowest fill setting that got the job done for the eight-pound load. We then calculated water used per pound of clothing. Energy efficiency is based on the energy needed to heat the water for both eight-pound and maximum loads, for a 100[degrees] wash and cold rinse. (We consider both gas and electric water heaters, and include the electricity needed to run the washer.) A group of sensory panelists judged the noise made by each machine. In brand and model, brackets indicate where you will find a machine's color code (shown here for the tested model). Price is the estimated average, based on a national survey.

Details on the models

Most models have: * Bleach and fabric-softener dispenser. * Painted cabinet top and lid. * A 120-volt outlet requirement. * 1-yr. warranty on parts and labor. * Wash and spin speeds that are automatically chosen depending on the cycle being run. * Self-cleaning lint-filter systems. * Wash/rinse temperature settings of hot/cold, warm/cold, and cold/cold. * Either a warm rinse setting or an auto-temperature-controlled cold rinse.

Front-loading models

All machines: * Handle unbalanced loads better than top-loaders. * Have an automatic water-level setting. * Have a door that locks while in operation. * Have a stainless-steel inner tub. * Have a detergent dispenser. * For better performance, should be used with front-loader detergent. * Were very good at extracting water from our test loads. * Water used is for the normal cycle, with a machine's maximum load at the maximum water setting. * Times are the maximum for the normal cycle. * Size (height by width by depth) is rounded up to the nearest inch.

1 Kenmore (Sears) 2904 [2] $800

* 36x27x30 in. (45 in. with door open)

2 Frigidaire FWTR445RF [S] $700

* 42x27x27 in. (45 in. with door open)

3 GE Spacemaker WSXH208T [WW] $720

* 36x27x30 in. (45 in. with door open)

Excellent and quiet performers, differing mostly in controls and a few minor features.

WASHING NOTES: * Extra-rinse setting and a timed bleach dispenser (but be careful not to overfill, or bleach may flow onto the dry load). * In certain cycles, they will use a cold rinse even when set for a warm one. * The Kenmore has a "fast spin" setting; removed more water from clothes than the others.

* 30 gallons of water, 50 minutes. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * End-of-cycle signal (may be turned off on the Frigidaire and GE.) * Water pools on bottom of door gasket and may spill onto floor. * Frigidaire has rear-console controls, like a top-loader; you can't stack a dryer on top. SIMILAR MODELS: Frigidaire FWT449GF [], $700, and Gibson GWT445RG [], $700, both with front controls; Kenmore 2905 [],$800, rear-console controls. MATCHING, STACKING DRYER: To Kenmore: 6904 [], 7904 []; both were available too late for our testing.

4 Maytag Neptune MAH4000A [WW] $1,100

An excellent performer, but expensive.

* 43x27x30 in. (52 in. with door open) WASHING NOTES: * Extra rinse setting, extended-spin option, and timed bleach dispenser. * In certain cycles, it will use a cold rinse even when set for a warm one. * More gentle than most on regular cycle. * 27 gallons of water, 65 minutes. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * End-of-cycle signal that can be turned off, delay-wash feature, rear-console controls (like a top-loader; you can't stack a dryer on top), and the inner tub is angled for easier access. * The door can be switched from left- to right-opening. * Water pools on bottom of door gasket. ALSO: * Porcelain top. MATCHING DRYER (doesn't stack): MDE 4000A [], $550; see page 36.

Top-loading models

Most models: * Have three wash/spin combinations. * Have porcelain-coated steel inner tub. * Have self-leveling rear legs. * Are 42 to 43 in. high, 26 to 27 in. wide, and 28 to 30 in. deep (with hose attached). * Have a normal-wash-cycle time of between 37 and 49 minutes (maximum wash time). * Use between 37 and 47 gallons of water for their normal cycle, maximum fill, with its maximum load. * Performed well in our extraction test.

5 Kenmore (Sears) 2891 [2] $580

A very good performer.

WASHING NOTES: * Selectable automatic temperature control. * Extra-rinse setting. * 4 selectable wash/spin combinations. * Continuously variable water-level control. ALSO: * The lid opens left and doesn't lie flat. SIMILAR MODELS: 2691, $600; 2092, $600. MATCHING DRYERS: 6790 [], $500; 7790 [], $550; see page 36.

6 Kenmore (Sears) Resource Saver 2996 [2] $600

A very good performer. Certified for an Energy Star, though it saves energy only if you settle for relatively cool wash temperatures.

WASHING NOTES: * Spray rinse saves water (uses about 30 gallons of water per normal cycle, compared with at least 37 for most top-loaders) but means you can't use fabric softener. * Wash temperatures controlled automatically, but cooler than most--75[degrees] or 100[degrees] F. To do a hotter wash, you must select a prewash cycle and then return to the machine to initiate a wash or rinse cycle--an inconvenience. * Has 4 selectable wash/spin combinations and a continuously variable water-level control. MATCHING DRYERS: 6893 [], $580; 7893 [], $630; see page 36.

7 GE Profile Performance WPSF4170W [WW] $480

8 GE Profile WPSR4130W [WW] $470

13 GE Profile WPSR3100W [WW] $390

Very good machines, but GE has been one of the less reliable brands of top-loader. The Profile Performance model is a bit quieter, has different controls, and offers a few more cycles.

WASHING NOTES: * The WPSF4170Wand WPSR-4130W have automatic temperature control, and all have an extra rinse setting. * All handled unbalanced loads better than many top-loaders. * The WPSF4170Whas an extended-spin setting (but still good performance in our extraction test), and a continuously variable water-level control. * Its 3 wash/spin combinations are built into the cycle. * The WPSR4130W has 4 selectable wash/spin combinations and a continuously variable water-level control. * The WPSR3100W has 3 selectable combinations, a 4-step water level control, and no warm rinse. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * Color-coded controls. * The WPSF4170W has mechanical touchpad controls and an end-of-cycle signal that can be turned off. ALSO: * Plastic inner tub. SIMILAR MODELS: To WPSF4170W []: WPSF5170W [], $520. To WPSR3100W []: WPSR3120W [], $430, adds auto temperature control and a warm rinse. MATCHING DRYERS: To WPSF4170W []: DPSF495EW [], $440, and DPSF495GW [], $490; see page 36.

9 KitchenAid Superba KAWS850G [Q] $550

A very good performer, and the quietest top-loader tested.

WASHING NOTES: * Has a continuously variable water-level control, selectable automatic temperature control, an extra-rinse setting, and 5 wash/spin combinations. ALSO: * Has an end-of-cycle signal that can be turned off. * Porcelain top and lid. MATCHING DRYER: KEYS850G [], $480; see page 36.

10 Whirlpool Resource Saver LSW9245E [Q] $550

A very good performer. Certified for an Energy Star, though it saves energy only if you settle for relatively cool wash temperatures.

WASHING NOTES: * Spray rinse saves water (uses about 30 gallons of water per normal cycle, compared with at least 37 for most top-loaders) but means you can't use fabric softener. * Wash temperature controlled automatically, but cooler than most--75[degrees] or 100[degrees] F. To do a hotter wash, you must select a prewash cycle and then return to the machine to initiate a wash or rinse cycle--an inconvenience. * Has 3 selectable wash/spin combinations and a 5-step water level control. MATCHING DRYER: LEL8858E [], $420; see page 36.

11 Fisher & Paykel GWL08 $800

A very good, feature-laden, and expensive performer from New Zealand.

WASHING NOTES: * Best model at removing water from loads in final spin; could reduce drying expense and time. * Has automatic temperature control, selectable automatic water-level control, 5 manual water levels, 5 default wash/spin combinations for the 5 cycles (more are possible by selecting a different spin speed), and a "water saver" mode that replaces a deep rinse with a spray rinse (but still scored only fair in water efficiency). * Can be programmed for 2 deep rinses in some cycles. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * Electronic touchpad controls; many programmable features. * Has an end-of-cycle signal that can be turned off, and a delay-wash feature. ALSO: * Stainless steel inner tub. * Measures a compact 40x26x27 in. * 2-yr. warranty. MATCHING DRYER: DE04, $550; see page 36.

12 Maytag MAV6000A [WW] $640

A very good performer.

WASHING NOTES: * Has a continuously variable water-level control and an extra-rinse setting. ALSO: * The front edge of the cabinet is angled for an easier reach into the tub. * Has a plastic inner tub and a porcelain top and lid. MATCHING DRYERS: MDE6000A [], $500; MDG6000A [], $550; see page 36.

14 Whirlpool Gold GSL9365E [Q] $480

A very good performer.

WASHING NOTES: * Has selectable automatic temperature control, an extra-rinse setting, 5-step water-level control, and 3 wash/spin combinations. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * Has an end-of-cycle signal that can be turned off and mechanical touchpads for setting some options.

15 Amana LWA60A [W] $450

16 Amana LWA20A [W] $420

Very good performers. The LWA60A offers a lot more washing flexibility for a little extra money.

WASHING NOTES: * Both have a continuously variable water-level control and handled unbalanced loads better than many top-loaders. * The LWA60A has 4 selectable wash/spin combinations and an extra-rinse setting. * The LWA20has only 1 wash/spin combination and no warm rinse. ALSO: * Both have a stainless-steel inner tub. AVAILABILITY: LWA60A is discontinued. SIMILAR to LWA60A: LWA65A [], $520.

17 Maytag Performa PAV3200A [WW] $430

A very good performer.

WASHING NOTES: * Has a continuously variable water-level control, 3 selectable wash/spin combinations, and an extra-rinse setting. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * Its cycle dial turns and adjusts smoothly. ALSO: * Plastic inner tub. MATCHING DRYER: PYE3200A [], $360. See Recommendations, page 35.

18 Speed Queen LWS55A [W] $440

A good performer.

WASHING NOTES: * Has a continuously variable water-level control, an extra-rinse setting, and handled unbalanced loads better than many top-loaders. * Has only 2 wash/spin combinations. ALSO: * Has a stainless-steel inner tub.

19 Roper RAS8245E [W] $370

A good machine, but worse than most for water and energy efficiency.

WASHING NOTES: * Has a 5-step water-level control and 3 wash/spin combinations. MATCHING DRYER: RES7648E, $320; see our March 1997 report.

20 Frigidaire FWS645GF [S] $350

A good machine, but from one of the less reliable brands of top-loader.

WASHING NOTES: * Has a continuously variable water-level control, 4 selectable wash/spin speed combinations. ALSO: * Has a plastic inner tub. * Lid locks during spin. SIMILAR MODELS: FWS747RF [], $370; FWS845GF [], $430. MATCHING DRYER: FDE648GF [], $310; see page 36.

21 Roper RAX7244E [Q] $330

A good machine.

WASHING NOTES: * Has a 4-step water level control and 2 wash/spin combinations. * Uses only about 33 gallons of water (normal cycle, maximum fill).

22 White-Westinghouse MWS445RF [S] $340

A good machine, but worse than most for water and energy efficiency.

WASHING NOTES: * Has a continuously variable water-level control, a plastic inner tub, and 2 wash/spin combinations. ALSO: * Lid locks during spin. AVAILABILITY: Discontinued. SIMILAR: WWS445RF [], $360.

Repair history

Top-loading washers

The graph reflects the percentage of top-loading washing machines purchased new between 1992 and 1998 that were ever repaired or that had a serious problem that was not repaired. A brand's repair history includes many models and can't anticipate design or manufacturing changes. Still, we think you should improve your chances of getting a trouble-free washing machine by buying a brand that has been reliable in the past.

RELATED ARTICLE: Who gets an Energy Star?

The Department of Energy's Energy Star certification recognizes washers that are markedly more efficient than others--even, it seems, if a washer cuts energy mainly by cutting the temperature of its wash water. The hottest temperature for a regular wash cycle for the certified Resource Saver top-loaders is about 100[degrees] F, which is more like the warm wash temperature in some machines. For a hotter wash, you must select a hot prewash and (inconveniently) return to the washer to start a wash or rinse cycle. The Savers' only other wash temperature between 100[degrees] and "cold" is a relatively cool 75[degrees].

Resource Saver owners who favor hotter water might well select a 100[degrees] wash for loads they'd usually wash on warm and the hot prewash for loads they'd customarily wash on hot. Result: Energy consumption much like that of any other top-loader. Another note on energy labeling: When reading the yellow Energy Guide stickers on washers, it's best to ignore the scale, which compares only within type--for example, top-loaders to top-loaders. Instead, compare the figures for kilowatt-hours and estimated annual operating cost, keeping in mind the respective capacities of the washers.

Clothes dryers.

What's new

Lower prices for some moisture-sensing models. A moisture sensor automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry. You'll generally still pay more, however, for one of these models than for one that controls its automatic cycles with a thermostat.

Added conveniences. Such features as wider door openings for easy access to clothes, drying racks, and accessible lint filters are becoming more common.

What matters in a dryer

Here are the key features and attributes that count most in a clothes dryer:

Drying performance. To be more energy efficient, dryers have at least one cycle in which the dryer automatically shuts off when the clothes are done. More common are two or three auto-dry cycles; each cycle has a "more dry" setting to dry clothes completely and a "less dry" setting, which is supposed to provide damp clothes ready for ironing.

On those automatic settings, dryers with a moisture sensor are much faster to recognize that clothes are sufficiently dry than those that use a thermostat. (A thermostat discerns clothing dryness indirectly by measuring the temperature of the air leaving the drum. Wet laundry keeps the temperature down; a cycle advances when the temperature rises to a certain level.) As a rule, you'll find moisture sensors only in dryers costing about $350 or more. But the high-rated Frigidaire FDE648GF, $310, has a moisture sensor. If you aren't sure whether a certain dryer has the feature, ask a salesperson or call the manufacturer.

However, the "less dry" setting doesn't generally leave clothes damp enough to iron--the reason for such a setting. (Manufacturers say this is because truly damp loads can prompt service calls from users who assume their dryer is malfunctioning.) Among the rated models, only three machines--the Kenmore 6893 and 7893, and the Frigidaire FDE648GF--were able to produce clothes damp enough to iron in every kind of load, including all-cotton men's shirts.

Most dryers also have a separate temperature control so you can, say, keep the heat lower for delicate fabrics. About half the models we tested actually kept temperatures below our recommended maximum of 140[degrees] F for delicates.

Extended cooldown. This feature prevents wrinkles from setting in if you don't remove clothing as soon as the drying cycle is over. This year, the cooldown is an option for all cycles on all but three machines--a welcome development. Some models continue to tumble the finished load without heat, and others cycle the drum on and off intermittently. These features go by different names, such as Press Care for the tested Maytag dryers and Finish Guard for the Whirlpools.

Controls. Most of the dryers we tested have straightforward dials for choosing the cycle, temperature, and other options. The controls on the GE Profile Performance models have a color-coded scheme around the auto-dry and temperature dials. GE has enlarged the color bars on this year's models, making them easier to use than their predecessors. Some fairly expensive models, in addition to a cycle-selector dial, have mechanical touchpad buttons for setting other functions. But when set they're hard to make out from a distance.

Lint filter. One mounted on top of a machine is easier to reach, but you're less likely to forget to clean a filter that's located inside the drum, since you see the filter every time you open the door. The Whirlpool LEL8858E's Easy Clean 100 lint filter needs cleaning less often, but it makes the machine very noisy.

Lights, whistles, extras. Most full-sized dryers (including all tested models) have a drum light, which makes it easy to spot stray socks or debris from pants pockets. Some machines come with a drying rack, which remains stationary while the drum rotates around it. You can use it to dry sweaters that you don't want to tumble, or other items like sneakers that you don't want clanging noisily about. On some models you can raise or lower the volume of the end-of-cycle signal or shut it off altogether.

Recommendations

In our tests, gas dryers generally performed as well as their electric counterparts. If you can install a gas dryer, it's preferable to an electric. Gas models often cost a little more, but they'll save you money over time because they're much cheaper to run.

Dryers with a moisture sensor are preferable because the sensor gauges dryness more accurately than a thermostat and the machines don't overdry laundry as much. In the long run, the energy saving and longer life for clothes should offset at least part of the extra cost of such a machine. The top-rated moisture-sensing models we tested are all fine performers, with different (and mostly fairly minor) advantages and disadvantages. None is the best choice for all households; choose among them by price, convenience, noise, and reliability.

If you prefer a dryer with a thermostat, the following previously tested electric models remain available: The Roper RES7648E, $320; the Hotpoint NWXR473E, $300, (and its gas twin, the NWXR473GV, $350), and the Frigidaire FDE546RE, $290 (and its gas twin, the FDG546RE, $330). For further details on those models, refer to our March 1997 report or the 1999 Buying Guide. Site subscribers to www.ConsumerReports.org can also get this information online.

In addition, we tested one newer thermostat model, the Maytag Performa PYE3200A, $360, because it's the matching dryer for the Maytag Performa PAV3200A washer detailed on page 33. The Performa ranks among the best thermostat-controlled dryers we've tested.

SAFETY

Choices in vents, risky and reassuring

Dryers vent their exhaust, including some lint, through a duct that must attach to the machine. Four types of duct are available, but two of those types may be dangerous. Flexible ducts made of plastic and foil, shown at top, may sag over time and lead to a buildup of lint in the duct. That lint could catch fire. Flexible and rigid metal ducts, shown at bottom, are much safer choices.

Space-saving stackables

Efficient, expensive appliances from Europe.

If a full-sized washer and dryer, even when stacked, are too large for your space, there are more-compact alternatives. European brands have long held the edge when it comes to space-saving appliances. We tested two stackable pairs from Germany: the Miele Novotronic W1926A washer, $1,850, and T1526A dryer, $1,450; and the Bosch WFK2401UC washer, $920, and WTA3500UC dryer, $620.

Stacked, the washer-dryer combinations are about 5 1/2 feet high. Both pairs have a "footprint" smaller any full-sized washer or dryer. The Boschs measure 24 inches wide by 23 inches deep; the Mieles, 24 by 28 inches. However, the capacity of all the machines was much less than full-sized U.S. models. Consequently, the dryers couldn't be tested with our standard 12-pound mixed load; we had to scale down the load to 8 pounds, which is just about their maximum.

Even though they can't wash as many clothes at a time, the German washers used water a little more efficiently per pound of laundry than the best of the U.S. front-loaders. The Miele, which spins at 1,200 rpm--compared with 600 to 700 rpm for most top-loaders--also excelled in our water-extraction tests. Energy efficiency was on a par with the U.S. front-loaders.

The Miele showed excellent washing ability in our tests, while the Bosch was very good. Both machines dried very well; the Miele proved especially able with delicate loads.

Quietness is especially important for these units, as many are used near living quarters. The washers were as quiet as the full-sized front-loading washers. But the dryers, especially the Bosch, were noisier than most.

With all these machines, you need to weigh the advantage of proximity against their limited capacity and somewhat confusing controls.

Both brands offer hardware (for about $100 extra) that allows the washer and dryer to be stacked. Like most electric dryers, German washer and dryers run on 240 volts. If you don't have a 240-volt outlet where you plan to install the units, you may need to install one. (With the Mieles, you may also need a special outlet or "washer/ dryer box" to accommodate their special four-wire plug.)

Recommendations

Even if you have $3,300 or so to spend on a washer and dryer, our tests turned up little--except exceptionally quiet washing--to justify buying a matched pair of Mieles. The Boschs may be worth considering, however, if space is tight and you can live with smaller laundry loads. Though the Bosch stack still costs at least $1,500--more than you'd pay for almost any full-sized washer and dryer--both its machines performed very well; indeed, the washer washed better than any domestic compact washer we've tested.

Comparing the compacts

Here's how the German washers and dryers performed. Note that the noise judgments can't be directly compared for washers and dryers; a quiet washer is noisier than a quiet dryer.

Washing machines

Brand and model Price Washing Noise

Miele Novotronic W1926A $1,850 a a
Bosch WFK2401UC 920 b a

a Excellent
b Very good
c Good
d Fair
e Poor

Clothes dryers

Brand and model Price Drying Noise

Miele T1526A $1,450 b c
Bosch WTA3500UC 620 b d

a Excellent
b Very good
c Good
d Fair
e Poor
Ratings & Recommendations

Clothes dryers

Shopping strategy

Pay the extra for a moisture-sensor model--and for a gas model, if that's an option where you live Moisture-sensor models dry more efficiently--enough so that over their lifetime you may recoup some of their $50 to $100 extra cost compared with temperature-sensor models. Gas dryers are much cheaper to run than electric models.

Weigh the flexibility and conveniences you need Only a few models we tested were able to, say, shut off any load when it was still damp for ironing. And only some had niceties such as a drying rack.

Overall Ratings

Within types, listed in order of overall score

Key Brand and model Price Overall score
no.
P F G VG E

ELECTRIC MODELS

1 Kenmore (Sears) 6893[2] $580 82
2 KitchenAid Superba 480 77
KEYS850G[Q]
3 Frigidaire FDE648GF[S] 310 75
4 Kenmore (Sears) 6790[2] 500 74
5 Kenmore (Sears) 6681[2] 440 74
6 Fisher & Paykel DE04 550 70
7 General Electric Profile 490 70
Performance DPSF505EW[WW]
8 General Electric Profile 440 68
Performance DPSF495EW[WW]
9 Whirlpool LEL8858E[Q] 420 67
10 Maytag Neptune MDE4000A[W] 550 66
11 Maytag MDE6000A[W] 500 66
12 Maytag MDE9606 460 66
13 Amana LEA80A[W] 470 65

GAS MODELS

14 Kenmore (Sears) 7893[2] 630 81
15 Kenmore (Sears) 7790[2] 550 74
16 Kenmore (Sears) 7681[2] 490 73
17 General Electric Profile 540 69
Performance DPSF505GW[WW]
18 Maytag MDG6000A[W] 550 67
19 General Electric Profile 490 66
Performance DPSF495GW[WW]
20 Maytag MDG9606 500 64

Key Brand and model Drying Drum
no. performance volume

ELECTRIC MODELS

1 Kenmore (Sears) 6893[2] a a
2 KitchenAid Superba b a
KEYS850G[Q]
3 Frigidaire FDE648GF[S] a b
4 Kenmore (Sears) 6790[2] b a
5 Kenmore (Sears) 6681[2] b a
6 Fisher & Paykel DE04 b a
7 General Electric Profile b a
Performance DPSF505EW[WW]
8 General Electric Profile b a
Performance DPSF495EW[WW]
9 Whirlpool LEL8858E[Q] b a
10 Maytag Neptune MDE4000A[W] b a
11 Maytag MDE6000A[W] b a
12 Maytag MDE9606 b b
13 Amana LEA80A[W] c a

GAS MODELS

14 Kenmore (Sears) 7893[2] a a
15 Kenmore (Sears) 7790[2] b a
16 Kenmore (Sears) 7681[2] b a
17 General Electric Profile b a
Performance DPSF505GW[WW]
18 Maytag MDG6000A[W] b b
19 General Electric Profile b a
Performance DPSF495GW[WW]
20 Maytag MDG9606 b b

Key Brand and model Convenience Noise
no.

ELECTRIC MODELS

1 Kenmore (Sears) 6893[2] b a
2 KitchenAid Superba b c
KEYS850G[Q]
3 Frigidaire FDE648GF[S] c c
4 Kenmore (Sears) 6790[2] b b
5 Kenmore (Sears) 6681[2] b b
6 Fisher & Paykel DE04 b b
7 General Electric Profile b b
Performance DPSF505EW[WW]
8 General Electric Profile b b
Performance DPSF495EW[WW]
9 Whirlpool LEL8858E[Q] b e
10 Maytag Neptune MDE4000A[W] b c
11 Maytag MDE6000A[W] b c
12 Maytag MDE9606 b b
13 Amana LEA80A[W] c b

GAS MODELS

14 Kenmore (Sears) 7893[2] b b
15 Kenmore (Sears) 7790[2] b b
16 Kenmore (Sears) 7681[2] b b
17 General Electric Profile b c
Performance DPSF505GW[WW]
18 Maytag MDG6000A[W] b c
19 General Electric Profile b b
Performance DPSF495GW[WW]
20 Maytag MDG9606 b b

a Excellent
b Very good
c Good
d Fair
e Poor
The tests behind the Ratings

Overall score is based primarily on drying performance, with drum volume, noise, and convenience also considered. Drying performance combines results from tests to dry large (12 lb.) and small (6 lb.) mixed loads of towels, jeans, and shirts; a small load of cotton shirts; and a very small (3 lb.) load of delicate items. Drum volume ranges from about 7 cu. ft. to less than 6 cu. ft.

Convenience includes how easy it is to use the controls, load laundry, and maintain the lint filter. Noise was judged as a machine dried a 6-pound load. Price is the estimated average, based on a national survey. In brand and model, brackets indicate where you will find a machine's color code (shown here for the tested model).

Details on the models

* Comparable gas and electric models are listed together. * Size (height by width by depth) is rounded up to the nearest quarter-inch. * Height includes the control panel; depth with door open includes the reach of the door open 90 degrees. More space may be needed for vent piping. Most machines have: * A moisture sensor. * A mechanical rotary control with 2 or 3 automatic drying cycles. * A separate start control. * A separate rotary temperature control with at least 3 heat settings. * Option for an extended period of no-heat tumbling for all cycles. * Timed-dry and air-fluff (without heat) of at least 60 min. (such lengthy cycles aren't very useful.) * An optional end-of-cycle buzzer. * Raised edges on top to contain spills. * A lint filter located in the drum opening. * A drum light. * A door that clears our tall basket and can be adjusted to open left or right. * Venting options from 3 or 4 places.

1 Kenmore 6893 [2] (electric) $580

14 Kenmore 7893 [2] (gas) $630

Excellent performers. The electric model is the quietest machine tested.

* 42 1/2 x 27 x 28 1/4 in. (42 1/2 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * Best machines at recognizing when loads had been dried to the desired level, and fastest in reacting to already dry loads. * Able to provide damp-dry clothes for all tested loads. * Evenheat feature kept delicate loads cooler than most. * Single automatic drying cycle worked fine for all fabrics. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * The volume of the end-of-cycle signal can be adjusted. * The door opens down. * Comes with drying rack. MATCHING WASHER: 2996 [], $600; see page 33.

2 KitchenAid Superba KEYS850G [Q] (electric) $480

A very good performer. Good value.

* 42 1/4 x 29 x 27 3/4 in. (41 1/2 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * Excellent on mixed loads, and kept temperatures cooler than most with delicate loads. * Able to provide damp-dry clothes for mixed loads. * Single automatic drying cycle serves for all fabrics. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * Porcelain top. * Comes with drying rack. * Vents only to the rear. ALSO: * 2-yr. warranty on parts and labor. 5-yr. limited-warranty on the element or burner, motor, and controls. * 10-yr. warranty on drum and against cabinet rust. MATCHING WASHER: KAWS850G [], $550; see page 33.

3 Frigidaire FDE648GF [S] (electric) $310

A very good performer, and very inexpensive for a moisture-sensing model. But Frigidairehas been among the less reliable brands of electric dryer.

* 42 x 27 x 25 3/4 in. (48 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * Among the best overall at drying. * Able to provide damp-dry clothes for all tested loads. * Kept temperatures cooler than most with delicate loads. * Extended period of no-heat tumbling automatic with permanent press and delicate cycles. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * The volume of the end-of-cycle signal can be adjusted. * Door wouldn't clear our tall basket. ALSO: * 2-yr. warranty on parts and labor. SIMILAR MODEL: FDE647RF, approximately $300. MATCHING WASHER: FWS645GFS [], $350; see page 33.

4 Kenmore 6790 [2] (electric) $500

15 Kenmore 7790 [2] (gas) $550

Very good performers.

* 42 1/2 x 27 x 28 1/4 in. (42 1/2 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * The electric version kept temperatures cooler than most with delicate loads. * Able to provide damp-dry clothes for one large mixed load. * Single automatic drying cycle serves for all fabrics. * The air-fluff cycle runs for just 30 min. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * The volume of the end-of-cycle signal can be adjusted. * The door opens down. * Comes with drying rack. MATCHING WASHER: 2891 [], $580; see page 33.

5 Kenmore 6681 [2] (electric) $440

16 Kenmore 7681 [2] (gas) $490

Very good performers.

* 43 x 29 x 28 in. (41 1/2 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * Single automatic drying cycle serves for all fabrics. * Able to provide damp-dry clothes for large mixed load. * Extended period of no-heat tumbling automatic with all cycles. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * The volume of the end-of-cycle signal can be adjusted. * Lint filter on top of cabinet--a plus. * The door opens down. * Comes with drying rack. * Vents only to the rear. SIMILAR MODELS: To 6681: 6083 [], 6084 [], 6085 [], $430 each. * To 7681; 7083 [], 7084 [], 7085 [], $430 each.

6 Fisher & Paykel DE04 (electric) $550

A very good performer from New Zealand. Appears to be made by GE; similar to the GE Profile Performance DPSF505EWand DPSF505GW, but has different controls.

* 40 x 27 x 28 1/4 in. (51 1/2 in. with door open) CONVENIENCE NOTES: * Mechanical push-button temperature controls somewhat inconvenient. * End-of-cycle signal is a pleasant tone or bell. * Door wouldn't clear our tall basket. * Comes with drying rack. ALSO: * 2-yr. warranty on parts and labor. * 5-yr. parts-only warranty on the drum. MATCHING WASHER: GWL08 [], $800; see page 33.

7 GE Profile Performance DPSF505EW [WW] (electric) $490

17 GE Profile Performance DPSF505GW [WW] [gas) $540

Very good performers, but GE has been among the less reliable brands of dryers.

* 42 1/4 x 27 x 28 1/4 in. (51 1/4 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * Kept temperatures cooler than most with delicate loads. * Moisture sensor with moisture monitor. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * The membrane-covered (and color-coded) push-button controls are rather inconvenient. * End-of-cycle signal is a pleasant tone or bell. * Door wouldn't clear our tall basket. * Comes with drying rack. * Includes a pull-up rod for hanging clothes. ALSO: * 5-yr. parts-only warranty on the drum.

8 GE Profile Performance DPSF495EW [WW] (electric) $440

19 GE Profile Performance DPSF495GW [WW] (gas) $490

Very good performers, but GEhas been among the less reliable brands of dryers.

* 41 1/2 x 27 x 28 1/4 in. (51 1/2 in. with door open) CONVENIENCE NOTES: * The membrane-covered (and color-coded) push-button controls are rather inconvenient. * End-of-cycle signal is a pleasant tone or bell. * Door wouldn't clear our tall basket. * Comes with drying rack. ALSO: * Additional 5-yr. parts-only warranty on the drum. MATCHING WASHER: WPSF4170W [], $480; see page 33.

9 Whirlpool LEL8858E [Q] (electric) $420

A very good performer, but the loudest tested model by far.

* 42 1/2 x 29 x 28 in. (41 3/4 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * Single automatic drying cycle serves for all fabrics. * Able to provide damp-dry clothes for one large mixed load. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * The membrane-covered push-button controls are rather inconvenient. * No raised edges along top to contain spills. * The door opens down. * The lint filter has a 5-yr. warranty, and it need not be cleaned after every cycle. MATCHING WASHER: LSW9245E [], $550; see page 33.

10 Maytag Neptune MDE4000A [W] (electric) $550

A very good performer.

* 43 1/4 x 27 x 28 in. (50 1/2 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * Moisture sensor with moisture monitor. * Has variable temperature control. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * End-of-cycle signal is a pleasant tone or bell. * Porcelain top. * Unique door and drum openings allow for easier loading. ALSO: * 2-yr. parts-only warranty. * 5-yr. parts-only warranty on the drum. * 10-yr. warranty against cabinet rust. MATCHING WASHER: MAH4000A [], $1,100; see page 33.

11 Maytag MDE6000A [W] (electric) $500

18 Maytag MDG6000A [W] (gas) $550

Very good performers.

* 43 1/4 x 27 x 28 in. (50 1/2 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * Moisture sensor with moisture monitor. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * End-of-cycle signal is a pleasant tone or bell. * Porcelain top. * Unique door and drum openings allow for easier loading. * Large, clearly marked push-buttons set temperature. ALSO: * 2-yr. parts-only warranty. * 5-yr. parts-only warranty on the drum. * 10-yr. warranty against cabinet rust. MATCHING WASHER: MAV6000A [], $640; see page 33.

12 Maytag MDE9606 (electric) $460

20 Maytag MDG9606 (gas) $500

Very good performers.

* 43 x 27 x 28 1/4 in. (50 1/2 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * Extended period of no-heat tumbling automatic with permanent-press and delicate cycles. * The air-fluff cycle runs for just 20 min. * The electric model kept temperatures cooler than most with delicate loads. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * Large, clearly marked push-buttons set temperature. * End-of-cycle signal cannot be turned off or adjusted. * No raised edge along top front to contain spills. * Porcelain top. * Unique door and drum openings allow for easier loading. ALSO: * 2-yr. parts-only warranty. * 5-yr. warranty on drum. * 10-yr. warranty against cabinet rust.

13 Amana LEA80A [W] (electric) $470

A very good performer overall, though drying performance is only good.

* 42 1/2 x 27 x 28 1/4 in. (51 1/2 in. with door open) DRYING NOTES: * Kept temperatures lower than most with delicate loads. * Has variable temperature control. * The air-fluff cycle runs for just 20 min. CONVENIENCE NOTES: * The cycle selector turns only clockwise; harder than most to correct a false start. * The control panel may be difficult to read in low light.

* The start control is part of the rotary cycle selector.

* The volume of the end-of-cycle signal can be adjusted.

* End-of-cycle signal is a pleasant tone or bell.

* Door wouldn't clear our tall basket. * The drum isn't as well lit as most others. * Comes with drying rack.

Repair history

Clothes dryers

The graph reflects the percentage of full-sized gas and electric clothes dryers bought new between 1993 and 1998 that were ever repaired or that had a serious problem that was not repaired. A brand's repair record includes many models and can't anticipate design or manufacturing changes. Still, based on our surveys over the years, we think you'll improve your chances of getting a trouble-free dryer if you buy a brand that's been reliable in the past.

Source Citation
"Spin city: ratings of washing machines and clothes dryers." Consumer Reports July 1999: 30+. Academic OneFile. Web. 26 Dec. 2009. .

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