Doing the washing is rarely a job we look forward to, but it's made easier in the summer, when we can hang the clothes on the line. Washing in winter, though, can be a real chore. In a busy household, winter washing demands can be hard to keep up with. All is not lost, though. With the right equipment, washing in winter can be stress-free and energy efficient. Here's what you need to know:
What You Need to Know about Washers
There are two kinds of washing machines: top loading and front loading. Top loading washing machines are by far the best sellers in Australia and have been for generations. With occasional trips to a good appliance repair
shop, a top loader can last for ten years or more. That's the good news. The bad news is that older top loaders are not as energy or water efficient as newer models and some lack important features that can make washing in winter easier. If your washer has paid one too many visits to the repair shop, maybe it's time to start looking for a new one. These are some of the things to look for:
- A high Energy Star rating (4 or above is ideal) means you will be saving on your electricity bill and helping the environment at the same time.
- A high water rating means lower water consumption. Some newer top loading machines cleverly minimise water consumption by lifting and dropping wash loads as well as agitating them.
- Electronic controls allow you to fine tune your settings. This can save time on wash cycles and minimise energy consumption.
- Higher spin cycle speeds draw more moisture out of the clothes, cutting down on drying time in the sun or dryer.
Although top loaders still outsell front loaders, front loading washing machines are catching up with them in sales as consumers learn about their advantages. One of their biggest advantages is the fact that they don't have a central agitator. For this reason alone, a front loader can be more compact in size than a similar capacity top loader. Other advantages of front loaders include:
- Front loaders tumble clothes rather than "beat" them as agitating top loaders do. This reduces wear and tear on frequently washed fabrics.
- Studies have shown that front loading machines produce a cleaner wash.
- Front loading washing machines are more water efficient than even the most modern top loaders.
On the downside, front loaders cost more than top loaders and may not be suitable for some users. If it is mounted on the floor, bending down to load and unload the machine can become a problem and when stuffing clothes into the machine, they can sometimes fall on to the floor. If you just need a washer for light loads, a lower capacity top loader may be a better choice than a front loader.
What You Need to Know about Dryers
Throughout the hot summer months, hanging clothes on the line is the most energy efficient way of all to dry laundry. When winter comes around, though, we often don't have the opportunity to wait for a break in the weather to dry our wash in the sun. That's when a good dryer becomes a necessity rather than a convenience. There are two kinds of dryers:
- Vented dryers are the cheapest and most commonly purchased. These extract air through vents at the back of the machine after it is heated and pumped into the drum.
- Condenser dryers remove moisture from the air before it is either vented out the back of the machine or recycled.
The combination of moist winter air and moist vented air from a dryer can be a real problem in a confined laundry room space. If you live in an apartment or have an enclosed laundry room, consider buying a condenser dryer. Those that recirculate the warmed and de-moisturised air also tend to be more energy efficient.
Other things to look for in dryers include:
- A sensor system senses when clothes are dry and automatically shuts off the machine.
- Electronic controls allow you to customise your settings for your load.
- An anti-crease cycle can cut down on ironing time.
- A delay start is a nice feature for winter washing: set it for the most convenient time for you and avoid coming home to cold clothes that may have absorbed some winter moisture from the air while you were out.
Limited space in the laundry area becomes a real headache when doing winter washing. If space is at a premium, consider trading in your washer and dryer for a combination washer/dryer. These are usually best for smaller households and bear in mind that you will have to wait for the load to both wash and dry before you can wash another load.