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Top-load vs. front-load washers: by comparing cost, energy savings, cleaning ability and ease of use, apartment owners and managers can make an informed decision when purchasing top-load or front-load washers.

Doing laundry is a necessity of life. And with so many variables--utility costs, meeting residents' desires, common laundry room or an in-unit washer and dryer--determining which type of washers to buy is difficult. Having all available information on front-load washers compared to top-load washers can make deciding easier. With this information, owners and managers can learn which washer style will meet their business objectives while satisfying their residents.

The Cost Comparison

When purchasing a big-ticket item, it's not uncommon to evaluate company priorities and needs. For washing machines, front-load washers can initially cost up to 43 percent more than traditional top-load washers; however, front-load washers am more energy efficient and use less water.

"Addressing the price difference between a top-load washer and a front-load washer has been one of the biggest issues that manufacturers face," said Leo Yokiel, Director of Marketing for Maytag Commercial Laundry.

But route operators and community owners need to weigh which issues are important to them. With front-load washers, owners can re-coup the initial extra expense through a savings in energy and water costs.

"If utility costs are a concern and the price of a front-load washer is still too much, there are other lower-cost solutions," said Dick Casey, Director of Multi-Housing for Alliance Laundry Systems. "There are top-load washers on the market that offer water saving features and that are ENERGY STAR qualified."

Products that have earned the ENERGY STAR prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Utility companies have started launching rebate programs as a reward for purchasing a machine that is ENERGY STAR qualified. (For information on rebates, go to fuseaction=rebate.rebate_locator.)

Both styles of washers are suitable for new construction or existing construction. Standard top-loading and front-loading washers share a similar footprint size, so they may be exchanged one machine for another.

Energy Issues

Earth has limited resources, and as these resources become strained, costs go up, including gas, water and other utilities. With ever-increasing energy consumption and water standards, laundry manufacturers are continuously improving their equipment to meet them.

Generally, top-load washers consume significantly more water than front-load washers--up to 55 percent more, depending on the model.

"It's because of the difference in water and energy consumption that customers are being attracted to front-loaders," Casey said.

How will top-load washers fare with the ever-increasing energy and water requirements? According to Gaff Ziesemer, Product Development Manager at Alliance Laundry Systems, as the standards change it will become harder for conventional top-load washers to meet those requirements without significant enhancements.

"As those changes are made, the cost benefit of a top-load washer will become less significant," Ziesemer said.

Is it Clean?

Like the proverbial chicken and egg, when experts are asked which machine gets clothing cleaner--the front-loader or the top-loader--the answer is debatable.

"Generally speaking, front-load washers clean better, particularly on stains," Yokiel said. "They are gentler on fabric than top-load washers."

When you compare item to item, it depends on what is being washed. While top-load washers clean certain articles better than front-load washers, one of the cleaning benefits to a front-load washer is its lack of an agitator. "With out the agitator, frontload washers can clean bulkier items, such as comforters, better," Ziesemer said.

Front-load washers also offer a higher spin speed of 1,000 RPM compared to 710 RPM on a top-load washer. "The higher spin speed on a front-load washer gets more water out of clothing, thus reducing drying time," Ziesemer said.

Besides the features on a washer, the ability to clean clothing ultimately comes down to the person who is using the washer. "I believe that if a machine is used properly, both a front-load washer and a top-load washer will achieve a good wash and rinse," Casey said. "If the user is putting in the right type and amount of soap and isn't overfilling the machine, clothing will get clean."

Ease of Use

Sure, a washer can be energy efficient and get clothing clean, but is it user-friendly? Can it handle human error? On some level, all machines are forgiving. They offer extra rinse cycle options for those who put in too much laundry soap and come with an automatic balancing system to keep the machine working during unbalanced loads, but what about other issues such as ergonomics and the forgotten sock?

According to Casey, top-load washers are much easier to use from an ergonomic perspective. "There is no bending or stooping to load and unload a top-load washer," he said. To help ease the back and knee strain on using a front-load washer, manufacturers have begun offering pedestals that raise the washer off the floor to a more user-friendly height.

As for the forgotten sock, if you use a front-load washer, you may be out of luck. "Once the front-load washer is done filling it can't be opened until the cycle is complete," Casey said. "With a top-load washer, you can stop the cycle at any time, add the forgotten item and close the lid to continue the cycle."

A Future for Washers

Where the end-user used to drive the demand, government regulations on energy and water usage will begin to play an even bigger role. 'I see these new regulations pushing the market toward more water efficient washers," Casey said.

But for now, there are top-load washers on the market that meet the current standards, and with emerging technologies, these tried and true machines maintain a hold on the market.

Water Use Comparison

Because most apartment communities have everything running on one meter for water, etc., it is hard to measure water use. However, on average, top-load washers use approximately 33 gallons per load depending on the brand or whether or not they are water savers, and frontload washers use about 18.5 gallons of water per load, depending on the model and brand.

Jazz Rupnick is the Public Relations Specialist for Alliance Laudry Systems, a leading manufacturer in commercial laundry equipment. Alliance Laundry Systems is the parent company to Ajax, Huebsch, Speed Queen (USA) and UniMac.
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Author:Rupnick, Jan
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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