Consumers in North America have finally discovered the front load washing machine. Although new to North America they are the standard in Europe, accounting for 90% of the market.
The front load (or horizontal axis) washing machine was produced in response to concerns about the increasing costs to operate laundry equipment. Efficiency, electrical consumption, and environmental impact were all factors that influenced its development.
With this system the clothes do not sit in a tub of water. Rather they tumble through a layer of water as the drum rotates. This allows for a tremendous reduction (60% less) of the water required. In areas where water is at a premium lower water consumption may be a significant factor for a potential purchaser.
For anyone on a septic system lower water and detergent usage can be an important advantage. Since the amount of water being used is so small the detergent required is about 25% of a top loader. The fabric softener required is so little that it should be diluted 5 to 1 rather than added full strength.
Another advantage to a front loader is that it can spin very fast. While a top loader only spins at about 600 RPM, the horizontal axis washers can spin at up to 1200 RPM. Increased spin speeds means more water removed from the clothing prior to them going into the dryer. This means less time in the dryer, and a subsequent saving in electrical consumption.
A front loader will also do a substantially larger load. They easily handle loads 50% larger. So washing items like comforters is now possible. Or asking a front loader to wash five or six pairs of jeans at one time is common practice. With these increased load sizes comes additional savings of time since it will lower the total number of loads required.
Lastly, their design allows for a saving in floor space. Generally, a front load washer is physically smaller than an equivalent top loader. This can be important if space is restricted such as in an apartment.
Are there disadvantages to the purchase of a front loader? Yes.
A front loader costs more. Typically prices range from $850 to $1700. Due to its inherent complexity repairing these machines can be expensive. Plus, not every service company has the expertise required to repair them. So before purchase get assurances from your salesperson that the manufacturer has a local factory authorized service agent. One experienced at repairing this new generation of machines.
Finally, mature consumers should be aware that these washers are lower to the floor. Consequently, they require more bending over to retrieve the clothes than would a top loader. This could be a major consideration for anyone with back problems. Manufacturers have responded by offering bases that raise the washer, but at an additional cost.
So if a washer replacement is in your future consider the front loader as one of your choices. Like all major purchases it should not be an impulsive decision. Do your homework, ask lots of questions, and be prepared to hear varied answers and opinions. Base your choice upon what is best for you, your circumstances and particular needs. Only then decide whether spending the extra money on a front load washer will be to your advantage.