As dorky as it sounds, I was secretly excited at the prospect of buying a new washer and dryer when we moved into our new house. I wasn't excited about the hit on my wallet, mind you. But I was thrilled at the prospect of having a brand-new washer and dryer that actually dried my clothes without leaving them musty. My excitement quickly turned to trepidation, however, when I realized just how many options there are out there for washers and dryers. As with any appliance buying, I've come to discover, purchasing a washer and dryer can be a bit intimidating. So, to help you get the most spin cycles for your buck, I present a brief guide to washer and dryer buying. Let's cut to the chase. You're probably wondering what components and features are most important. And, unfortunately, I'm going to throw a very muddy answer your way: It depends. It depends on how much laundry you do, how you do it, and what your needs are.
But asking these five questions can help make things a bit less murky.
1. Do I want a top- or front-loader? Front-loaders making loading laundry easier (particularly from a seated position), are typically more energy-efficient, and may be gentler on clothes-plus many front-loading models look stellar compared to boring top-loaders. Front-loading washers in particular can be pricey though, so you may need to consider what's most important to you before you choose. (Plus there are high-efficiency top-loaders now too, which conserve more water and have higher performance than standard top-loaders but are much pricier, of course.) Not sure which is best for you? Lucky you, there are plenty of product guides out there that help explain what you get with each model.
2. What size is best? Washers are available in a variety of capacities-and it's important to get one that fits your needs. If you have a large family, a super-capacity washer will save you valuable time because you can tackle larger loads at once. But if there are only two people in your household (and you don't expect that to change anytime soon), a smaller, stackable washer-and-dryer unit may do the trick. One caveat: Make sure the capacity of your washer matches that of your dryer-a super-sized washer won't save much time if your dryer can only handle half that much!
3. What options does it offer? For some, a bare-bones washer and dryer does the trick. I wasn't looking for a lot of fancy bells and whistles when I went shopping, but I knew there were a few must-have options. Look for a washer that allows you to select the water level that best fits the size of your load and adjust the water temperature (even if, like me, you wash pretty much everything on cold). For my dryer, at the top of my list was a model that allowed me to select the right temperature for what I was drying and that had an automatic sensor so the dryer would shut off when the clothes were dry.
4. How quiet is it? If your laundry room is hidden in the basement this might not be quite as much of a concern, but if your laundry unit is located near your bedroom or the main living areas of your home you'll want to consider noise level. Look for models with additional insulation and reinforced frames.
5. How energy-efficient is it? This is a big one-making the right decision in this category can save you money and lessen the impact your clothes washing and drying has on the environment. For washers, look for the Energy Star label, which indicates that a washing machine uses 35 to 50 percent less water and 50 percent less energy than other machines. Energy Star does not label dryers because there is little different in the energy use between models, but if you want to save in this category, remember that gas models may cost a bit more upfront but may be more efficient and can save you money in the long run. Or, better yet, air dry as many of your clothes as possible to reduce the amount of energy you use drying. Want to learn more about washers and dryers before you head to the store? Before I went shopping, I spent a considerable amount of time perusing the Consumer Reports website to learn about their recommendations for washing machines and dryers.