Dear Home-Ec 101,
What washing machine is better top or side load?
Wishy-Washy in Waseca
Isn’t it fun when someone answers your question with “It depends?”
The front-load vs top loading washing machine debate has been going on for years, about ten in the US. High-efficiency front loading washing machines hit the mainstream back in 2004 or so. Some of the lower end models of front-loading washing machines had major problems that frustrated their owners. The good news is that there have been improvements, but “once bitten twice shy” and people were reluctant to give these washers another chance.
So let’s take a look at where things are today.
Front-load clothes washers are still more efficient than standard top loading machines but not that much more efficient than high-efficiency top-loading washers.
Efficiency isn’t everything or we would all be driving hybrid cars, right?
Some front loading washing machines are stackable, so if you’re super tight on space, this may be an option for you.
High-efficiency top loading washers are generally easier to load and unload, unless you’re of small stature. The ease of loading and unloading can be improved for a front-load machine by placing the appliance on a pedestal.
Front-loading washers tend to remove more water during the spin cycle than their top loading counterparts which reduces the amount of energy used to dry the load of clothing. This factor won’t matter at all, if you prefer to hang your clothing to dry.
Front-loading washers are still slightly better at stain removal than the top loading variety, but it’s pretty marginal and I am willing to bet that pre-treating makes a big difference.
Top loading machines still use more energy to agitate the clothing, use more water, and require more laundry detergent for loads of comparable size, but the gap has been shrinking over the last few years.
And of course, the final comparison is cost.
Standard top loading machines are the cheapest, but least efficient appliances. High efficiency top loading washers come in second in both terms of cost and efficiency. Finally front-loading machines are the most expensive, but most efficient machines.
When you’re making your appliance choice, factor in the long term cost of electricity and water use. If your water is heated by natural gas or propane, you’ll find your clothes washer likely has less of an impact on your overall energy costs than if you’re stuck with an electric water heater like me.
Which of these factors matter most to you?
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