The clever title of this, my introductory and first-ever blog post, refers to a recently introduced high-efficiency washing machine produced by Korean electronics manufacturer LG. When I conceived of this blog I had loftier ideas for my first post, but it occurred to me that my recent experience purchasing a new washing machine would better demonstrate what I would like to accomplish with this blog.
After fifteen years of reliably doing tons of laundry, our old-style General Electric washing machine began indicating that it was tired of being our servant. First there were the groans emanating from the machine when it began to spin. Shortly thereafter the drum began to wobble furiously in the spin cycle. Finally, it started to randomly fail to spin – well, perhaps not so randomly since it was always a load of towels. After the second failure we simply started shopping in earnest for a new machine. But that is when things became complicated…
Which manufacturer makes the best machine and who actually makes those machines? What kind of machine is the best: front-load or top-load? High-efficiency or agitator? Who has the best advice for consumers? Consumers or Consumer Reports? Salesmen, or repairmen?
Such questions were destined to make our heads spin faster than our wet laundry. My hope is that this post will help you navigate these questions while giving a helpful review of the machine we finally purchased.
Which manufacturer makes the best machine and who actually makes those machines?
The answer to this question is not straightforward, for it is directly connected to both the other questions as well as your personal concept of what is “best.” For me, “best” meant “reliable.” There were two resources which helped me with my final decision. The first is ConsumerReports.org. There you will find helpful objective AND subjective comparisons of different machines, consumer reviews, and brand reliability statistics. It is definitely worth the seven bucks I will end up spending to join the monthly plan (if I remember to cancel the ongoing subscription in time.) The second is Appliance411.com. This website informs you which manufacturer makes what products. There you will learn that Whirlpool makes Maytag, Roper, and selected Kenmore machines.
From ConsumerReports.org I learned that LG is considered the most reliable. This is interesting given that no LG machine is recommended by Consumer Reports. That status is reserved for Whirlpool, Maytag and Whirlpool-made Kenmore machines. While not the least reliable, it is interesting that the one brand more reliable than LG is Roper, which is made by Whirlpool. Armed with this information I initially approached the marketplace with the assumption that I would end up purchasing a Whirlpool, Maytag, or Kenmore machine.
What kind of machine is the best: front-load or top-load?
Once again the answer to this question is caught up with other considerations. But after factoring in the needs of your family, it is a fairly easy question to answer. While researching the first question I discovered quite quickly that I wanted a top-loading machine. For my wife and I the important factor was cost. Front-loaders are simply more expensive. For two people I just did not need the extra capacity afforded by front-loaders. The amount of laundry you need to do may make capacity the more important factor. An important secondary factor was mold. No matter where you read reviews, mold collecting on the door seal is a common complaint for front-loaders. It develops quickly and is impossible to completely eliminate.
Old-fashioned agitator or high-efficiency?
For my wife and I this became the most difficult question to answer. Indeed, the way we came to our decision was the inspiration for this post. It came down to this: no matter which type of machine you settle on, they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Back in the day (even as late as 2004 by some who reckon such things,) American manufacturers often doubled the ratings of such things as pipes, switches, relays, circuits, and valves – all things that you will find on a washing machine. That means if it was officially rated for 220 volts, odds are it could survive a surge of 440 volts. This is no longer the case. Most machines are now manufactured to International (ISO) standards, which are very precise. Why switch to a more exact standard, since the machines won’t last as long? Hmmmm…I wonder why companies worried about their bottom-line in a retracting economy would make such a decision? The bottom-line for the consumer is that s/he will be replacing their new washing machine in eight years, no matter which kind of machine they purchase.
My wife and I also figured that the manufacturers are actually reserving their best resources for the more expensive machines. In our opinion it seemed logical that the popular high-efficiency machines would possess better workmanship. Which leads directly to the next question:
Who has the best advice for consumers?
When considered in the proper context, Consumer Reports (CR) is a great source of information. They take many machines and subject them to precisely the same conditions according to criteria set by the researchers. This allows CR to publish object comparisons between both popular and unexpected machines. Another helpful thing they do is publish user reviews by people who actually use the machines. But it is at this point that things seem to go awry.
A quick comparison between the two sources of information illustrates the disparity between “objective” and “subjective” opinion. Consumer Reports prefers the high-efficiency technology. For them the higher upfront cost of the new machines is far offset by their energy and water savings. They also find that the new machines wash clothes better and in general more gently. The user reviews show that people either love ‘em or hate ‘em, and the ones that hate the new machines really hate them. You will read horror stories about grayed colors, tangled clothes, and detergent that has not been fully rinsed.
There are three general problems revealed by all this: First, Consumer Reports does not test products in a real-world environment. The way average people do laundry not only varies greatly from the way researchers do, but those ways vary from family to family. Second: People do not know how to read directions. The new machines come with manuals that must be carefully read in their entirety. Failure to do this will cause you to hate your new machine, guaranteed. Third: People in general do not know how to do laundry. People proficient at laundry will tell you to separate your clothes into the different types of fabrics and colors – which is the secret to success with a high-efficiency machine. Those gray colors are not likely the machine’s fault. If you don’t mess with the machine’s programming, it will use just enough water for your clothes and spin all the detergent out.
In our case my wife and also checked with the salesman we encountered. They know which machines are returned and for what reasons. It also helped that the store we bought our machine from also offers a service program. The salesmen were aware which machines required service more often. If you buy from Sears or Best Buy the salesmen are not on commission, so it is in their interest to serve you to secure your repeat business, not sell you more machine than you need.
The LG WT4801CW
My wife and I wanted to purchase the washing machine that matches our dryer. Three years ago we purchased only the dryer, purposely selecting it based on its matching washer.- a Whirlpool 5700 series. The problem is that the machine we saw three years ago has been discontinued and that model number assigned to an expensive high-efficiency model. After a lot of consideration (see above,) we walked into Best Buy ready to purchase a bottom-of-the barrel GE agitator model much like the one that finally gave up the ghost later that night. But discussions with the salesmen revealed that LG simply makes the best machines, period. While Consumer Reports did not officially “recommend” any LG top-loader, their website concurred with the salesmen, at least regarding reliability. The salesman also pointed out that LG invented the high=efficiency technology and also manufactures drive units for other manufacturers. When you look carefully at an LG machine, you can see that the engineering of their machines is superior to the other makers. One example of this the wash tub. Unique to LG are bumps all over the tub which provide an extra washing action…like that of a washboard.
At the end of the day, all of these considerations led us to the LG WT4801CW - a machine that has yet to be reviewed by Consumer Reports. But it is mechanically similar to one that has been reviewed and received top ratings by CR. I would assume it missed recommendation due to price. But the WT4801CW can be found for $630 on sale, and perhaps even cheaper online, pricing it $20 below recommended machines that rate lower in comparison both by CR and actual users. I have only used this machine for one week. But on its first day it handled seven loads of laundry better and quicker than the old machine. Clothes are cleaner, colors are brighter, and stains that the old machine failed to remove are now gone. I have joined the growing ranks of people who think these machines are great.
What I really want to accomplish with this post is more than just help people make a decision about a washing machine. I hope I have demonstrated that when making decisions you should Research your choices, Rate the information you find about those choices, and from that make a well-Reasoned selection.