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Atlas Appliances
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5545 Blackfoot Trail SE, Calgary, AB T2H 1L6

A Comparison of Front and Top Load Washers

Product debates can get pretty heated, especially when it comes to personal cleaning preferences. But what's all the fuss about? Between front loaders and top loaders, there is a whole lot of differentiating traits. To get an idea of which washer type excels where, let's make a full comparison.

The Cost of Energy Efficiency

When it comes to buying a new washer, price is one of the main determining factors for those on a budget. Front loaders tend to range $200-300 higher than the standard top loading option. But, as any consumer should understand, you usually get what you pay for.

Until recently, front load designed washers were the industry leaders in energy efficiency. However, many manufacturers have designed high-end energy efficient versions of the top loader as well. But, a much higher percentage of front loading washers meet Energy Star program standards. The main factors that contribute to our energy efficient discussion here include water, detergent, and energy use.

Water Usage

The little blue Energy Star sticker indicates 50% less water usage than other current models. To give some perspective, the average top loader uses 30-40 gallons of water per wash. And even though front load machines have a larger drum capacity, they only use an average of 10-18 gallons of water per load.

There are several reasons behind this difference, one being that front load machines don't use an agitator. Instead of rotating the clothes against the agitator, the front load design uses gravity and an up-down motion to clean the clothes. This uses less energy and water while providing more space.

Some high-efficiency top loaders use a wash plate located at the bottom of the drum instead of the central agitator. Unfortunately, this design still uses more water. With the added space and ease of rinsing, front load machines win out for water and cleaning efficiency.

Detergent Savings

Most front load machines require less detergent for every wash because they tend to use HE (high-efficiency) low-suds detergent. This can save countless dollars in the long run, as you won't need to buy new detergent for months. Front load or top load, any machine with an Energy Star rating supports this efficient feature.

Utility Costs

Because front loaders have more space and use less water, they are more energy efficient than top load machines. It takes fuel to heat and cool your water, so the less water your machine uses, the less you spend on conditioning water.

In addition, front load machines spin faster, making clothes 10% drier than those washed in a top loader. If your clothes are less wet before you dry them, your dryer won't have to work as hard or as long. This saves energy, too.

Front loading machines are usually the first choice when it comes to saving energy. And although the original price is higher for front loading machines, utility savings can make up that cost over time.

Disadvantages and Life Expectancy

A standard washer should do just that: wash clothes. But it can't wash well unless it's usable, has reasonable wash times, and a good life expectancy. Some argue that the agitator in top loaders cleans clothing better than ones without. Conversely, many others contend that the gravity-using technique of the front loader gets clothes cleaner with less effort.

It's difficult to measure the actual difference in cleanliness between each machine type. But, there are certain traits to consider when buying the ideal cleaning machine. Here is a basic list of each design's disadvantages:

Front Load Disadvantages:

  • Higher rpm, noisy vibrations
  • More water left in gasket
  • Less convenient sans pedestals
  • Higher price

Top Load Disadvantages:

  • Smaller drum capacity
  • More wear and tear on clothes
  • Higher utility bills
  • No stack option

Since each machine has potential weaknesses, take time to consider what actually matters to you as a consumer. What disadvantages are a deal breaker for you, and what ones can you live with? Then again, it's also important to know what your machine can live through.

Life Expectancy

Top load designs have a 14 year life expectancy, while the typical front loader's life expectancy is 11 years. Be aware that a top loader machine may cost more in repairs since it has more parts that become agitated by-you guessed it-the agitator. When it comes down to it, your choice should depend on what your everyday needs and wants are.

Overall Considerations

It's obvious that different designs excel in different ways. For instance, if what you seek is a simple panel, comfortable unloading and loading, and a lower purchase price, the top loader might be just what you need.

On the other hand, if you want a machine that yields high efficiency, gentle treatment, and several cycle options, a front load machine may be the proper choice. Just remember to review your needs and what each machine provides before buying.