Front Load Washers vs. Top Load Washing Machines

24 May Front Load Washers vs. Top Load Washing Machines


boy standing on high efficiency washers

Are front load washers really that good?

When our washer decided to keep filling with water before the rinse cycle, we had a mess on our hands. Once we cleaned up all the water and got everything dried up, my wife and I sat down to discuss our options. We’ve had this washer for nine years and it was old when we bought it. We’ve been frustrated at how small it is (we can’t wash our queen size comforter or our sleeping bags in it) and we had been talking about the “someday” when we would have a bigger washer.

Now it would seem we have our chance to get a new washer. The old one is on the fritz and we wanted a new one anyway, so we decided to start researching washers in an effort to make an educated decision. We have heard horror stories about the new front load washers leaking and smelling bad over time, so we want to make sure we buy the right one. As we did our research, we learned a lot and we want to pass that knowledge on to you. Isn’t that nice of us? 🙂

High Efficiency Saves Money… Or Does it?

They say the front loaders save you money over time, but I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around how much savings you see as the consumer. I mean, these things cost upwards of a thousand dollars. There has to be some major energy savings over time for me to spend that kind of money. So that’s the first thing I researched: how much money can you actually save with these things? Here’s what I found:

Front load washers don’t agitate the clothes like traditional washers. They don’t need to because they tumble the clothes into a pool of soapy water. This is more efficient because they don’t need to fill up the tub with water so many times. I know water savings is good, but how much do you really save? According to consumerenergycenter.org, you actually save 15 gallons of water per load. Plus, you can fit more clothes in the washer per wash load so you’re saving on the number of laundry loads you do. That means you use even less water. Plus, you don’t have to heat as much water because they use less water. That means you save on your energy bill. Now we’re starting to get somewhere.

Adding up the Savings

So how does all this add up? According to the same website I mentioned above, you can save approximately $850 over ten years in water and detergent. That’s a good thing because the average life span of these new washers is 8-12 years. I have several friends whose new high efficiency washers only lasted five years. So if you buy one that doesn’t last, you’ll actually lose money over the life of the washing machine.

At this point, I know that the high efficiency washers are less expensive to operate but more expensive to buy. And there’s a good chance I’ll break even on my energy costs vs. the cost of the washer over time. But I really don’t know which one to buy. Or if a high efficiency washer is even the way to go. More updates and research is coming in future blog posts. Until then, stay tuned!

 

16 Comments
  • Chris Gallagher
    Posted at 16:52h, 25 May

    Great information. We bought a front-loading washing machine four years ago and it is already rusting because of a design flaw which causes the water to run into the door at a slow rate. The majority of the water goes into the tub, but a trickel dribbles down to the door. I called the company to tell them, but they said it is not their problem because the item is not under warranty any longer.

    We had a top loading washer and dryer that was flawless and it was the cheapest model made I am thinking we might do backto them.

    Anyway, great reviews and thoughts.

    • Anonymous
      Posted at 18:07h, 25 May

      Thanks Chris. Glad you shared that info. We still haven’t made up our minds but we are definitely finding that the front load washers don’t seem as dependable as the top loads. More efficient, more capacity, but less dependable. Leads me to believe if we’re going to buy a front load, it had better be the best one on the market. I’ve still got a few posts coming on this subject!

  • Jackie Walters
    Posted at 19:47h, 25 May

    Hi Matt,

    We bought a new front load washer/dryer 3 years ago and I have come to realize that I like the top load washer much better.  I like the idea of less water but I feel the more agitation my washer has the cleaner the clothes are.  I have had numerous socks and pocket items get stuck inside the rim of the door as well as grime buildup door rim.  I do however, like the dryer.

    • Anonymous
      Posted at 21:26h, 25 May

      That’s good feedback Jackie. I’ve had some people tell me the front loader gets the clothes cleaner because of the tumbling action. They supposedly are easier on the clothes because there’s no agitator to stretch out the clothes. I have heard about the dirt and grime buildup issues from some owners too. Also, a repairman told me they’re a nightmare because of the way they’re designed. The good news is, the jury isn’t out yet. We’ve got some more digging to do.

  • Randell Mark
    Posted at 10:47h, 26 May

    Fantastic post Matt,
    A very close friend of ours is an appliance repair technician who has worked on every brand and model of washer and dryer ever made.  I’m sure his opinion is a bit old school, because he is after all “old school”, but he says he would never buy a front load washer for several reasons, but his number one reason is because they burn through drum bearings quickly.  He says that because the drum hangs out their horizontally instead of vertically like a topload, it creates a lot more stress on the bearings.
    One man’s opinion…however, my wife still wants a topload…go figure.

    • Susan
      Posted at 11:14h, 29 May

      We have a 3 year old Samsung high capacity front loader that has been having drum troubles for quite a while. I called the Home warranty policy company, they sent out a technician and he determined that the drum needed to be replaced due to “owner negligence and over loading”. I have a family of 3…how could I have possibly overloaded the high capacity washer enough to “break” it? I’m in the process of gathering information for American Home Shield (the home warranty company who has denied us the repair) to provide support for them to actually have it fixed. Any suggestions would be helpful…

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  • Doug
    Posted at 12:30h, 03 October

    I bought a part for my ’80s Whirlpool imperial 70 recently and meekly expressed to the actual “Maytag repairman” that I had not been reading great things about the modern washers. His response was forceful. “Don’t replace it. Keep that washer running as long as you can. When it starts to rust, cry”.

    • Matt Wegner
      Posted at 22:01h, 03 October

      That advice seems to be the trend Doug. Part of me wants to save on water but the other part of me is still skeptical of the high efficiency washers because of their spotty maintenance track record.

  • front load vs top load washers
    Posted at 22:25h, 03 December

    I’m actually researching this topic too, you provided great info here. My friend just bought a set (front loading washer and dryer) with the steam option for only $1200, it was a black friday deal. I think a lot of the issues with front loading washers have been solved with the newer models. I know in the beginning there were a lot of problems, especially with front loaders causing a mold and mildew smell.

    • Matt Wegner
      Posted at 09:01h, 04 December

      That’s a good point. I haven’t seen how reliable the newer front load washers are. The way it sounds we won’t have a choice in a few years anyway due to legislation regarding the industry.

  • front load washer smell
    Posted at 10:12h, 11 April

    Great story, I had to learn the hard way too. I left a wet sock beneath the rubber gasket and when I checked to see what was causing my washer to smell it had been sitting there for a week! I tried different detergents and looking at the pipes like you suggested. But, washing it out with bleach and vinegar did the trick.

  • Crystal Payne
    Posted at 16:52h, 06 August

    We bought an HE LG front loader two years ago…and it has been leaking for 6 months. We can’t find where the water is coming from, though we tried, so we don’t know what to fix. If I only use a normal cycle on a low spin with a not-too-big load, it won’t leak…most of the time. We have obviously lost money on this washer, which is sad because before the leak started it actually did a pretty good job. We are going back to a top loader.

    • Matt Wegner
      Posted at 19:05h, 06 August

      That stinks. If I had the same experience I think I would go with the top load HE model. They’re almost as efficient but more dependable, from what I can tell.

  • Sharib
    Posted at 07:52h, 26 November

    Thanks for all the info and comments, I bought a top load centrifugal yesterday, and am seriously thinking about canceling today and getting an agitator model. Yes they are harder on clothes, but the separate them and wash them, then rinse them in clean, not recycled water. They do it in far less time – 45 min. vs 70 min. for the new top and front styles. It does seem like the upfront higher price equals out the energy savings practically. If my agitator machine costs me $40/year instead of $15/year for the new systems, big deal? I want clean clothes and a machine that doesn’t need special handling not to smell. Not everything new is better? I’m afraid of getting stuck with the ‘new’ trend only to find the old way WAS better . . .