WASHING MACHINE BUYING GUIDE


We are often asked to comment on washing machines by customers, so have compiled this buying guide. Whilst not the definitive guide to washing machines, it is, never the less, a good general guide.




Introduction
 We have no allegiance to any manufacturer. I hope you find the above information useful, and of course if you want to buy a machine from Fox & Co you can by phoning or emailing. The price quoted will include delivery and installation in the price of the machine. Nationwide delivery is possible, but you will have to find your own installer, or do it yourself. 

Fox & Co only buy in machines to order, and each machine is sold at whatever price is agreed at the time, if you have been quoted a price for a particular model we will try to beat it. 


Cloning
Cloning is when many manufacturers have merged together or have agreements to make machines for each other. This means, for example, that you might find that a Bendix machine might be made by Zanussi, or an Indesit might be made by Ariston. If in doubt ask the sales person about the machines pedigree.

Delay Timers
Self explanatory really, useful if you wish to have the wash run in the middle of the night or take advantage of cheap off peak electricity. 

Design
In Great Britain there are three basic design types of washing machine commonly available, the most popular by far being the front loader. The main advantage is that our kitchens are usually designed to accommodate these machines and their popularity means that prices are cheaper than other types. They also lend themselves to integration into the kitchen design with the use of fascia panels or cupboard doors. All the main manufacturers sell machines in this design.

There are also two designs of top loading machine. The first is basically the same as a front loader except that the drum is accessed from the top and clothes are put into the drum through a trap-door in the drum itself. This type of machine has its controls on the top at the back and because the drum is mounted sideways it is much narrower. The main manufacturers that make this style are Siemens/Bosch and Whirlpool.

The second type has a wash tub with access from the top, but the washing of the clothes is done by a central agitator that rotates back and forth. The spin is achieved by the rotation of the drum which is mounted on its side inside the wash tub. This design is very common in the USA and provides a very good wash due to the central agitator. American models are available here, but service is not that easy to obtain. The only manufacturer supplying this style here which has a large service network is Hotpoint, whose top loading automatic has been pretty well the same machine for 30 years. Advantages include the fact that you can add the odd item after the wash has started, there is a bit less bending to load and empty the machine, and the wash quality is good.

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Ease of Use
A lot of people worry about washing machines being complicated to operate. To be honest this really is not something that you should consider to any extent, since all machines have the same basic functions, and if you ignore all the extra buttons and options they will just get on with the job without any extra special attention from you. The main point to realise if you are worried about this aspect is that you should consider the cheaper model ranges because they will always have fewer extra options on them. If you have difficulty operating control knobs and find them too stiff or fiddly, check out the machines that have digital push button controls. As said previously, don't worry about them being too complicated - no washing machine is difficult to operate. the simple machines are often referred to as idiot-proof, inferring that any idiot can operate them!

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Efficiency
This is the latest thing in the battle for sales: the dreaded efficiency ratings! I am as interested as the next person in saving money, electricity, natural resources and the planet (not necessarily in that order), but I have to say that I would not have this uppermost in my mind as a consideration. Machines that have energy saving devices are more expensive and have more components to go wrong, so there is always a balance between the extra price and the wear and tear on the extra components against any savings that you might make on water and electricity consumption. If you are not going to use the machine heavily then this issue will not affect you much, unless you have a ecologically based philosophy. If you are a heavy user, then consider the energy and water consumption, but balance it against the extra initial cost and the greater likelyhood of maintenance costs. Don't forget that you can save a lot of energy and water even on a standard machine by washing only full loads and by selecting programmes at lower temperatures for clothes that are not badly soiled. Even more to the point, you might consider washing some things a bit less often: we have developed a culture of 'wear it once and wash it'. On second thoughts, forget that. I am doing myself out of a job!

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Guarantee
All manufacturers give a twelve month parts and labour guarantee. Some give an extra guarantee on parts for a number of years, but this is always dependent on using their own service engineers, for whom you have to pay an expensive call-out and labour rate. Extended guarantees are available from most manufacturers, and details are usually included in the documentation of the machine. You can buy an extended guarantee after you have bought the machine, so do not buy an extended guarantee at the point of sale unless you are absolutely certain that you need it, and that the deal being offered is better than the manufacturers own deal (which is highly unlikely!). If you are washing for a family of four I would say take a risk and don't bother with an extended guarantee unless you are a hardened washing machine abuser. If you have a family of six or above, or have average teenage children, go for the manufacturers five year pay in one go deal!

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Load
As a quick guide to load capacity for full size washing machines a 4kg load is small and a 6kg load is big.

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Noise
You might think this is not important if your machine is in the garage or the utility room but even if you can't hear it, someone else might be able to, or you might want to operate it at night when any noise will be noticable. If your machine is in the kitchen and you use that room or the adjoining room as a living area you will certainly want to consider a quiet machine. Most manufacturers will give some sort of noise level information. As a general rule the more expensive machines are quieter, but some of the cheaper machines can be surprisingly silent. If noise is an issue, make sure that the machine you choose has at least a reasonably low noise level. The faster a machine spins, the more noise it will tend to generate, so this can be a trade off situation if you need a really fast spin. As a guide to noise levels, a machine producing around 70 db on the spin programme is a quiet one.

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Price
There is a huge range of prices for washing machines, from about 200 to around 1000. Paying a lot of money, however, does not guarantee you will get exactly what you want, and it is worth remembering that an expensive machine will be expensive and difficult to repair if it goes wrong. If you invest 500 in an up-market model of any manufacturer, the main wearable components are likely to be the same as the 300 models. In other words you might get more twiddly bits, but the machine will not be of better build quality. The thing to watch for is the dreaded cloning process by which a manufacturer will buy machines from another manufacturer and then put their name badges on it. For instance if you see a cheap Bosch machine it might be from a Spanish factory rather than a German one. If a machine is very cheap, have a good look at the drum and cabinet design to make sure it has the same build quality as the more expensive models.

Consider also the worse case of something really serious happening after 5 years. If the initial purchase price was not too high, then replacement is not such a painful option. If you paid 900 for a machine and it needs a 300 repair, you are more likely to consider a repair, but of course, you could have bought 4 300 machines instead! From an economical standpoint the cheaper or mid-range machines are always the best bet, so long as they are from a quality manufacturer.

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Reliability
To establish reliability a machine has to have a good track record, but it is not safe to assume that because you had a certain make previously that gave you years of trouble-free service that the same machine will be as good this time round. Even the best manufacturers bring out a weak range of machines from time to time. Some of the best deals are to be found when a manufacturer brings out a decent design after a poor one, and some of the worst when the reverse occurs. The safest option is to consider models that have been out for long enough to have proven themselves in the field. Try speaking to someone who repairs them under warrantee if you can, or at least someone who is involved with that side of the business. A really bad machine means trouble for the salesman, and they are quickly dropped from the stock list of the smaller independent shops: The bigger shops tend to be a bit slower to react to adverse reliability.

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Size
Standard front loading automatic washing machines are all 60cm wide, so if you need something narrower you will have to consider either a top-loader, or a mini machine. Most front loaders have a height of 85cm, but occasionally they will be a little over or under, so measure carefully. There is quite a lot of difference on depths, but it pays to look at the shape of the machine at the back and the front, because any protrusions might give a misleading overall depth. There is currently at least one shallow machine (a Zanussi), but it has a smaller load capacity.

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Spin Speed
There are still a few very slow spin models around in the cheaper ranges, but generally machines start at about 800rpm and go up to about 1600rpm. The most popular spin speed is about 1000rpm, which will be fast enough for most people, unless you have to tumble dry all your washing. As a rule, the faster the spin on a machine, the more expensive it is and the quicker it will wear out. This is because the faster machines often have extra facilities to help justify the price, and because they simply have to rotate the drum more times per wash than the slower ones. Of course it does not really cost much more to make a slightly faster spinning machine, as all the basic components are the same, but sometimes the faster models are a lot more expensive. There is also the consideration that some machine will peak at a very high speed, but will not maintain it for a long period, so there overall performance for getting water out may not be as good as the spin speed suggests. As a rule of thumb anything over 1200rpm is not really worth it, and 1000rpm will usually be quite adequate.

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Washer-Dryers
When it come to talking about buying new machines, We are asked about washer-dryers more than any other subject. They can be a good idea if you are really stuck for a place to put a dryer, and you only need to use the drying function occasionally. If you have anywhere to put a dryer, get a separate one! If you have to get a washer dryer, remember that the drying load is only half of a wash load, and that you cannot wash while the machine is drying. This can be a big problem if you have a busy life and you want to do all your washing in one day. There is often a marginal increase in the number of service problems of course, because there are more parts inside the machine, and those parts are packed inside the cabinet more closely. As a rule of thumb it is usually ok to buy a washer-dryer for one or two people, but for a family it is a real compromise compared to two separate machines.

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Wash Time
The length of the wash programme is very important to a few people, but to most it is not a even a consideration. That is, until they unwittingly buy a machine that takes well over two hours for a normal wash, and find themselves having to advance the programme to get their school uniforms out on a Sunday night in time to dry for Monday! The worst machines for long programmes tend to be the 'A' energy rated eco-models that work with less heat by extending the wash time. Some machines have a 'quick wash' programme or a 'timesaver' button to make a normal wash quicker. If wash time is important to you either check the wash times in the brochure or look for these features. If you are considering buying a standard 1000 spin model with an average energy rating, a 60 degree wash will be around 1 hour 30 minutes depending on the temperature of the hot water feed.

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