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Everything you need to know about buying a washer and dryer

People don’t typically dream of buying a washer and dryer. After all, how many of us actually like doing laundry? The clothes pile up, they get washed, folded, put away, and before you know it, you’re doing it all again. What’s the fun in that? A good washer and dryer can take some of the dreariness out of the whole process, though.

Like buying any big-ticket item, it can be a daunting experience. These appliances can easily run over a thousand bucks new. Then the endless questions: Should you get a stacked set, top load or front load, and do you really need to start using HE detergent? This guide will take you through the questions you should ask, the difference in features, warranties, installation, and pitfalls to avoid.

Design: It’s in the Way That You Use It

The type of washer and dryer you get will depend largely on where it’s going to go in your home. For example, laundry might be allocated to a narrow closet in your home, making your only option a stackable. These units tend to be smaller, meaning you still might need to visit the Laundromat to wash big comforters. Dryers are available as gas or electric, so which you purchase will be a result of what your house supports.

For those who have a basement setup or dedicated laundry room where there’s room to place them side-by-side, you’ll need to decide on the size and if you prefer a top-load or front-load washer. These machines tend to be larger, and are up to 5.1 cubic feet (an can handle 20 pounds of laundry in a single load). A compact machine is up to 3.0 cubic feet (about 12 pounds of laundry in one load). They can take larger amounts, including big comforters. Essentially, do you want to open a door on top of the machine or in front, respectively? There are pros and cons to each: Top-loaders are less expensive, but front-loaders are more efficient, are gentler, and have been found to clean better.

No law says you need a washer and dryer from the same manufacturer. Mixing them up is fine.

The washing bins on top-loaders are so deep that it may be hard for shorter people to reach the bottom to retrieve clothes. When perusing them in the store, open the top and see if you can touch the bottom. If you have to lean in too much and you find yourself on your tippy toes, a top-loader probably isn’t for you. Do you really want to stand on your toes to do laundry for the next 10 years?

Many top-load models today have foregone the inner agitator (the big spinning rod inside the machine) for a hollow bin. Some even have a stainless steel tub. The benefit of these is that they can handle higher spin speeds. Ultimately, this means it will take less time for your clothes to dry.

Front-loading machines tend to be more expensive and have a ton of features, even on the most basic models. Many of the new washers have sensors in them that you’ll want to be sure to wipe dry once in a while to keep them in good working order. Some models could potentially attract mold. This is an easy fix: either occasionally wipe the front area where water can accumulate or leave the door open. (Yes, the light may stay on for a minute or two if the door is left open, but it shuts off.)

Washing Drying App

The other issue to consider is bending down to open the doors. Of course, the manufacturers took this into consideration and offer pedestals the washer and dryer can be placed upon, making them taller and much easier to use. They typically have drawers underneath for storing detergent and fabric softener. Unfortunately, these are not included in the price and generally cost around $250 each. That’s another $500 to add to the expense of the machine. Occasionally, some deals offer a discount on the pedestals when buying the washer and dryer, but don’t count on it.

Another thing to consider when buying a washer and dryer, whether stackable or front-loading, is the doors. Typically, the dryer door can be switched to open in a different direction. However, almost all washer doors will open left to right. Currently, only Electrolux machines can also change the direction in which the washer door opens. In newer construction homes, this wouldn’t even be an issue, because of the way the washer and dryer hook-ups are installed. Older homes may have the hook-ups reversed; in which case you would want to be able to change the door on the washer so you can easily transfer clothes between the two machines.

You can hire a local handyman or plumber to remove old appliances and install new ones.

Washer and dryers are big appliances. You might be wondering if you’ll be able to get them into your home easily. Manufacturers get this, and for that reason, most are about 27 inches wide. Doorways and hallways in most homes can handle items that can fit through a space 30 to 31 inches wide. Regardless of the type of machines you end up purchasing, be sure to account for an extra six inches behind the washer and dryer for the hook-ups. This will help you decide how well the units will fit in their allotted space.

Features, Features, and More Features

You can still get washer and dryers that have only a few wash and dry cycles. Getting one of these options will definitely keep the price down. Many of the newer models, especially front loaders, come with so many options you’ll need to spend some time with the manual to learn about them all. Sales people will talk you through the highlights, but to know what all of those buttons and settings accomplish will take some time.

These are the features you’ll mostly likely find on the newer washer and dryers. As you read them, write down the ones that are most important to you. Trust us, this will make the shopping process infinitely easier.

Digital Display: Higher end models tend to feature digital displays and a load of settings. No need to get overwhelmed; it limits the amount of functionality based on the initial wash or dry setting you select. For example, if you pick delicates, you won’t be able to choose the highest heat setting when you dry it.

Energy Star models: The days of getting a tax credit for purchasing one of these are gone. However, many still have manufacturer rebates that are worth looking into during the purchase process. The good thing about these models is that they actually are much more energy efficient. In the long run, it could save on water, electric, and gas bills if you do a lot of laundry. The first Energy Star dryers were introduced in 2015, and many have moisture sensors that help prevent “over drying.” Basically, they are supposed to shut off the dryer when your clothes are dry, not when the timer runs out. Note: Efficiency washing machines do require the HE detergent, which is more expensive. You do end up using less of it since the detergent is such a high concentration, though.

Steam: This feature steams your clothes, which can help with stain removal and creases. Don’t get too excited; it doesn’t replace dry cleaning. Depending on the implementation, you will either need to have an additional hook-up behind the dryer or add water manually through a dispenser on the machine. It’s also found on some new washers.

Wi-Fi-enabled: With this feature, you can use other IoT products (such as Nest) to control the washer and dryer. This might let you run the machine when energy prices are lower, for example.

Washing Machine Features

Hand wash: Simulating hand washing, this is an excellent option for delicate fabrics, bathing suits, and undergarments. You’ll still want to hang dry what you wash.

Extended spin: More than just an extra spin cycle, it’s great for items like towels and comforters. It gets out extra water, making bulky items easier to dry.

Extra Rinse cycle: An extra rinse will help remove excess detergent from the laundered items.

Temperature settings: This can adjust the hot and cold water as it enters the machine.

Stain Removal: Think of this as a pre-soak or pre-wash cycle. You’ll still want to use a stain remover, but this will improve the chances of removing the stain completely.

Favorite or Custom settings: If you don’t want to deal with the menu each time you put in a load, you can simply set  one or more favorite options.

Automatic water levels: A great feature to help save on the water bills. Some models include sensors that can tell how full the machine is and adjusts the water accordingly. If you get one of these models, it’s a good idea to periodically wipe off the sensors with a towel to keep them in good working order.

Sanitation cycle: Ideal for people with allergies, this setting removes allergens and bacteria during a deep clean cycle.

Dryer Features:

Moisture Sensor: Like the sensors in washing machines that help tell how much water to use to fill the tank, these sensors can tell how damp the clothes are and adjust the drying time. For example, if you have a 30-minute drying cycle, but the sensors “sense” that the clothes are dry at 20 minutes, it will stop the cycle then.

Wrinkle Release or Refresh: We’ve all seen the commercial where someone is late to a night out, pops a wrinkled dress in the dryer, and sets the Wrinkle Release setting. Voila, five minutes later wrinkles are gone. That’s this cycle; however, it doesn’t actually replace the need for an iron.

Extended Tumble: While the Refresh cycle is great, what if you could reduce a number of wrinkles your clothes got in the first place? This cycle will run a few more tumble cycles to help release wrinkles from clothing.

NSF Certified: This label ensures about 99 percent of bacteria is killed during the cycle.

Stainless Steel Drum: Why should washing machines have all the fun? Dryers also hopped on the stainless steel bandwagon. The material doesn’t easily absorb odors or get discolored. Another plus, it reduces the static cling in clothes.

Drying Rack: Detachable racks that can be used inside the dryer, so you can dry delicate items without having to tumble them.

When and Where to Buy

Decided on a model that you want? Great! Now you just have to figure out when and where to buy it. Typically, September or October are good times to get a deal on a new washer and dryer, since that’s when the new models are arriving at stores. Also, many retailers will start their “Black Friday” specials earlier (end of October and November), so you don’t have to “wait” for better deals on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Occasionally, you might be able to save money by purchasing a “set” from the same manufacturer. Do your research and you might find that if you bought them separately, it might end up being the same price as the “combo deal.” No law says you need a washer and dryer from the same manufacturer. Mixing them up is fine. Just be sure that whoever services your appliances can handle both brands. If you don’t get them at the same place, you’ll need to schedule various installation appointments, which can take more time.

If you like shopping from the comfort of your own home, you’ll be glad to know that you can buy a washer and dryer online. Of course, the big box stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Sears offer in-store pickup options, delivery, and installation. However, installation isn’t available across the board. That’s one of the main differences of buying in-store versus online. The benefit of purchasing from a store is that they will provide installation (often for a small fee $50) and free removal of old appliances. They’ll also know about any additional cords you may need for installation. If you’re not sure what will be required, take a picture of your hookup area and bring it to the store with you.

You can also purchase washers and dryers from Amazon. The thing to be aware of is delivery and installation. Some models are available on Prime, so that’s a quick turnaround time and free shipping. What about installation? Amazon has launched Amazon Home Services, which is a bit like Angie’s List, where you can hire a local handyman or plumber to remove old appliances and install new ones. This is an added cost and isn’t available in all areas. Be sure to check this option out first before clicking the buy button if you don’t have someone who can install it.

Is a Warranty Necessary?

Most appliances come with at least a one-year manufacturer’s warranty. Some warranties will even last up to three years. Stores will offer options to purchase an extended warranty. Don’t feel pressured to buy it that day; there’s usually a 30-day grace period. If you don’t buy it from the store, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Tons of local service providers also sell warranties.

Finally, read the customer reviews. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from someone else’s experience, especially if you see a recurring issue. Before getting too overwhelmed, make a list of what you absolutely must have and a budget. You’ll be surprised what you might find. Hey… you may even discover that you like doing laundry.