Why I Didn’t Buy a High Efficiency Front Load Washer

mom and son washing clothes 200x300 Why I Didnt Buy a High Efficiency Front Load Washer

Last month I wrote a few articles about our broken washing machine and our options to either repair it or replace it. I compared front load washers to top load washers. I then investigated the option of repairing the old washer. When I left off with the articles I was on the fence with what I should do. I really wanted to buy a high efficiency front load washer but I really didn’t want to spend the money yet. I was ready to get rid of the 20+ year old washer we had, but it was so much cheaper to just get it repaired.

Well, the more my wife and I investigated our options, the more we leaned to one side. Here’s what we found: high efficiency front load washers do indeed save you money. The savings is mostly in the form of lower water usage, but there is a minor energy savings in the amount of water that needs to be heated per cycle and in the length of time you need to dry your clothes. If you do the math, you’ll find that a new front load washer will pay for itself in energy savings over the course of its lifetime. This assumes the average lifetime of 10 years for these models of washers.

But there’s where the problems begin with the math. The average lifetime of these high efficiency washers is around 10 years, according to Consumer Reports. Not knowing what the data distribution looks like (sorry for my engineering nerdiness coming out here), there could be a large percentage of these washers that don’t make it past seven or eight years. The breakeven point is right around ten years, so your machine has to be average or above average to make the purchase worth it.

In fact, when we started quizzing our friends who own high efficiency front load washers, the majority of our [unscientifically selected, non-random] population sample reported that their front loaders didn’t make it more than six years without having problems. This started to scare us a little. We then talked to our friend who happens to be an appliance repairman. He had nothing good to say about the front load washers. From his perspective many of them are poorly designed and they are prone to premature failure in the bearings, which are not an inexpensive repair. Now we were really concerned.

Then we thought about what comes with the new washer. If you get a new washer, you just HAVE to get a new dryer, don’t you? Ok, we all know you don’t but that’s the logic that flows through our minds, isn’t it? Washers and dryers are a fashion statement so it’s important to have matching ones. Well we realized that wasn’t exactly necessary but if we chose to get a high efficiency dryer, the cost savings isn’t nearly as good as the front load washer so it doesn’t exactly pay for itself.

So that brings us to decision time. Do we spend upwards of a thousand dollars in the hope of our new washer lasting long enough for the energy savings to pay for the purchase of the washer? Or do we spend just a little on our low efficiency but dependable Maytag top load washer? We called our repairman and fixed the old one for $115. We have no idea how long the washer will last from this point forward, but given that it’s lasted this long I think we’ll definitely get our money’s worth.

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  • http://bluecollarliving.com James Dibben

    Interesting story, Matt.

    Julie and I chose a front load machine back in 2006. So far no problems of any kind. We are only 5 years in so thanks for the not-so-happy information!

    Julie does so much laundry for our family of 6 that we saw the savings right away. Our water bill dropped by $60 a month right from the start. Our previous washing machine was super old and had been purchased used.

    Our dryer was dead at the time as well. We chose a cheap regular front load dryer at the time. It seems to have held up.
    James Dibben recently posted..Video Tutorial: How I created my journal logo

    • http://financialexcellence.net/about/matt-wegner/ Matt Wegner

      Wow, that’s a big savings in water James! So yours has paid for itself in the first 1-2 years. Cool. That brings up a good point though. The individual family’s water savings will depend on the size of the family.

  • Julie

    I bought a HE set from a friend in April. I am still waiting to see the savings. My water bill hasn’t decreased at all and neither has my electric bill. We didn’t even water a lot this year as we had sufficient rain, so what is the deal? Am I doing something wrong? We still have the same amount of people, our laundry usage has not increased. I noticed I have a lot of “estimate” readings on my water bill, but the last one was an actual and it’s about the same as always. Should I investigate my village’s reading of my meter? There’s 8 people in my house, so I should have seen a significant decrease in my water usage right?

    • http://financialexcellence.net/about/matt-wegner/ Matt Wegner

      Hmmm, not sure Julie. Are you increasing the size of your loads? They’re supposed to use drastically less water because they wash larger loads and tumble in the same water over and over, thereby reducing the number of fill – and – drain cycles. It may be worth your time to have the water meter checked out.

  • Marilyn

    IS IT POSSIBLE TO BUY THE OLD STYLE WASHER – TOP LOAD WITH AGITATER??? We moved across 2 states which was quite a feat since we are in our late 60s. We left the washer and dryer for the new owners since the washer was over 10 years old and we didn’t want to move them. We would have made a different decision if we had had any knowledge of HE washers and the fact that freedom of choice would be limited to a washer that DOES NOT WASH CLOTHES and obviously uses more energy in the process. Now after 6 months the Whirlpool Cabrio WTW5640XW will not drain the water completely and spin the clothes. They are wringing wet. Lowes is taking it back and we are upgrading to a more expensive washer. My fear is that after all this money we will be just as unhappy with it. I can’t believe we citizens of this free nation are putting up with shelling out tons of money for High Efficiency appliances which are anything but efficient. The environmentalists are killing this country with this ridiculousness. We will soon be forced into buying cars which will only go 40 miles on an electric charge (requiring many hours) and will not do anything good for the environment.

    • http://financialexcellence.net/about/matt-wegner/ Matt Wegner

      Wow Marilyn, tell us how you really feel :) I think it is possible to buy the old style (seems like I saw one at the store not too long ago) but I have also heard that the government is requiring manufacturers to phase them out. Otherwise, there are still garage sales and things like that. But eventually we won’t have a choice anymore.

  • Jen

    It seem like your paying the Sam amount either way. It’s just a matter of who you are paying it to the manufacturers or the utility companies.

    • http://financialexcellence.net/about/matt-wegner/ Matt Wegner

      Ooooh, that’s a good point Jen. Either way we won’t have a choice in a few years when the new government regulations are in place and we can only get the high efficiency machines.

  • Jon

    I know this is an old article, but I wanted to add my comment anyway. Growing up, my parents’ washer and dryer sets lasted 20 years or so with minimal problems. In 2006, they bought a HE top loading washer and a dryer. They remodeled a couple years later, so they gave the set to us. While grateful for the gift, I’m disgusted by the quality of the washer. I’ve repaired it twice myself – two different issues. Now, it seems like the bearing for the drum is going out. This is a $250 part + $300 or so in labor, or an entire weekend of my time if I do it myself. I talked to a lady at my church this last weekend about it. She and her husband own an appliance store. She said that the new HE washers just don’t last as long, and that California is phasing out the old style washers. She said confirmed the lifetime already stated – about 10 years is the max that they will last without major problems, mainly due to the electronics and the tub bearing, which is not strong enough to handle the increased spin cycle speeds. Pretty frustrating. I looked at a Speed Queen commercial washer online just for fun – they are built to handle anything you can throw at them. They are also several thousand dollars for the front loaders.

    • http://financialexcellence.net/about/matt-wegner/ Matt Wegner

      I agree with your frustration Jon. My friend is an appliance repairman and he echos the sentiment that the bearings just don’t last on the HE washers. They’re built to be affordable, not to last.

      I also agree with your thoughts about the commercial washers, but the cost may not offset any savings you’ll see.

  • http://www.toodarnhappy.com/ Miss Too Darn Happy

    Hi Matt!
    When we ran our inn, we had one laundry with 2 Sears top loaders, and one with an HE machine. The Sears were better hands down. When my hubbie and I needed a new set, though, we found a practically brand new HE set. I hate it. All the loads I run are thru the delicate cycle. I had to run the spin cycle twice and a double dryer cycle to get everything dry. I will never buy another HE machine again. Time to vote these idiot politicians out who mandate good products out of our lives!

    • http://financialexcellence.net/about/matt-wegner/ Matt Wegner

      You may not have a choice before too long, Kim. I will say I like the set we got with the house we just bought. We wash way fewer loads now, which is much more convenient. We did have to replace the heating element in the dryer because the previous homeowners didn’t appear to clean out the dryer vent very often. Otherwise they seem to be working fine.

  • http://thedogatemysofa.com Laura

    Three years ago we purchased the Whirlpool Duet Washer and Dryer (front load). Recently my washer showed an error. Turns out it is a communication error which could be ANYTHING in the washer. Repairman checked for what could be the “cheap fixes” naturally it wasn’t any of them. Apparently it is one of the main components, but there is no way to test to see which one is bad. Whirlpool recommends replacing ALL OF THEM when this code shows up. Guess What? This weekend I’ll be out purchasing a TOP LOADER and yes, they do make HE top loaders with the agitator in them (also without).

    • http://financialexcellence.net/about/matt-wegner/ Matt Wegner

      I think if I were buying a new one I’d probably go with a top load like you did, Laura. I do have to say, though, that once we moved into our new house and got the HE front loaders that were already there, I LOVE them! Mostly for the capacity. I don’t know if we save any energy but the time savings is big because we do far fewer loads to get the same amount of laundry done.

  • Rick

    I just like how front load washers and dryers are easier on my clothes. I refuse to buy my front load washers and dryers new. I bought a Samsung front load washer for $70. It only needed the main board replaced. I paid $110 for the main board, cleaned the rest of the machine and it has been running great ever since.Someone paid $1,200 for that machine when it was new. I bought it when it was 2 years old.No more ripped jeans from that crazy top load washer. I am now helping people that live near me understand the benefits of the front load washers and dryers. For those people that complain about the smell that front load washers get over time, just take the time to clean your washer and dryer, there is a liquid cleaner you can buy to run through your machine. Take the time to understand how to maintain what you buy and it will last for a long time.

    • http://financialexcellence.net/about/matt-wegner/ Matt Wegner

      Awesome job getting the benefits of the front load machines without paying the full price! I agree with your thoughts on the maintenance of the machines – if you take care of them, they’ll last much longer. Just like any piece of machinery we own, I suppose.