Sunday, November 08, 2009

Review: LG WM2016 Washing Machine

One of the benefits of owning a house is that I now get to have a washer and dryer. Prior to moving into my house, I had been doing laundry at work. At one point, I even would rig up a trailer to my bike so I could ride in with a load of laundry and get it done. It felt a bit ridiculous, but since I had absolutely no room at my apartment for a washer and dryer, I felt entirely justified.

When I moved to Munich last year, the office there didn't have a laundry machine at work, so I was forced to buy a used washing machine. Talk to a European who's lived in the USA about washing machines, especially a German, and you'll get a lecture about how German washing machines are much better in terms of cleaning laundry, energy efficiency, water efficiency. A typical German would tell you, "The only thing the American machines are good at, is not washing your laundry very well quickly!" German machines took a long time to run.

To my surprise, when I started shopping for washing machines, the one that stood out was the LG WM2016. It was the lowest priced machine that qualified for the PG&E energy efficiency appliance rebate. In fact, for Santa Clara county, the water company chipped in for a grand total of a $200 rebate, so the fact that it was $600 cheaper than all the other Tier 3 machines meant that it was a no-brainer. Consumer reports said good things about it, as did all the other web-sites that rated energy efficient washers. I bought the machine at BestBuy, in part to get the delivery and installation taken care of (these high efficiency must be properly leveled, so it's worth the $30 to get them to do it for you), and in part to pick up a 5 year warranty. I don't usually pick up extended warranties for products, but my brother convinced me that these front-loader units (at least the ones sold in America) are still not fully debugged, and since I intended to get a renter, I decided that the reviews on epinions meant that I should get a warranty.

Operating the machine is pretty straight forward: stuff all the laundry into the drum, close the door, drop in some detergent and bleach, and push the play button, and all the defaults will do the right thing. This machine was more sophisticated than my German machine in that it gave me a time estimate for when the laundry would be done (and yes, expect it to take at least an hour).

The trick lies in the various rules you have to abide by if you want to keep your machine reliable. First of all, you must use HE-rated detergent. This is a big deal because normal detergent generates too many suds for these machines, eventually clogging up the machine's outbound pipe, and resulting in a dead machine. I thought the detergent would be more expensive, but it turns out that Safeway sells a 96-load pack of HE detergent for $10 under their house brand. To prevent the renter from cheaping out and using normal detergent, I've simply folded the cost of detergent into her rent, so she uses ours.

Next, when you're done with laundry, you must leave the laundry door open. Actually, all washing machines have to be treated this way, otherwise, mold will grow in the machine and your clothes will never smell clean again. It's just that a top-loading machine would typically have its lid open when laundry is done without interfering with anything else, while a front loader's door could get in your way. I solved this problem by putting the washing machine in a place where the open door wouldn't be an issue.

The machine has all the functions you might expect --- separate settings for washing towels, delicates, even a hand-wash mode. You can pre-rinse, pre-wash, add an extra wash cycle, set spin speeds, and decide what temperature of water to use. When it first starts up, it will turn the drum over --- that's the machine weighing your laundry so it can figure out how much to use! The result is the machine is very quiet, extremely water and energy efficient, and takes forever to do laundry. That would have driven me wild if I had to share a laundry machine with 10000 other Googlers, but for just Lisa, me, and the renter, it's just fine.

All in all, we've had the machine for 4 months now, and it's working like a champ. We're not heavy laundry users, maybe doing a couple of loads a week, but we're quite pleased with it. I'll post a long term report after a few years to see how it goes.

In case you're wondering, for the dryer, we just went with whatever scratch-and-dent unit Best Buy had in stock and went for the cheapest one. There's no difference in energy efficiency amongst gas dryers, so that's the correct selection method.
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