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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Samsung WF337 (WF337AAG) Washing Machine Review


Followers of this and my other Geek Network blogs are familiar with my focus on resource efficiency when it comes to making purchase decisions. Part of this is figuring when it becomes worthwhile to upgrade our energy and water hogs.

In our municipality we receive 2 water tax bills based on metered consumption. Our last bill showed that we consumed water for a family of 6 when we are only 3 in the house (gulp! guilt trip...). Also our nationalized electric company (Hydro Quebec) has been steadily increasing rates as it becomes more lucrative to export our capacity surplus than to sell it domestically at a discount.

This had us looking at what is probably the biggest water and energy consumer in the house: the washing machine. We have 10 year old Kitchenaid top loader that is built like a tank and still works like a charm, but realized that it consumed a huge amount of water and power when compared with the new high efficiency (HE) front loaders. Basically this represented a double whammy of savings: less water cost, less electricity cost for both the machine and the hot water it uses.

But HE machines are rather expensive for the higher-rated machines, so this does represent a significant investment, therefore well worth taking the time to figure out which is the best performing machine.

A quick trawl of the net and other reviews showed a marked preference for the LG Tromm, but we nixed that machine due to the lack of a factory service presence in Montreal. We were not impressed with stories of parts unavailability and spotty service. The domestic brands also did not fare very well in my research either. Plenty of reports on the 'net of rusting tubs, mangled clothing, leaks, mildew problems and motor/transmission problems had us steer clear from Frigidaire, Whirlpool, Maytag and Kenmore. GE was basically out of the picture at the time we did our research (but have some interesting 2nd generation models just coming on the market) and we had a hard time trying to get information on Bosch and Miele from the local retail outlets that carried these brands.

Since we have had a very positive experience with our Samsung range we decided to take a long look at their washers. We decided with very little hesitation on the Samsung Silvercare WF337AAG in Stratus Gray (which we felt would not date the machine as much as red or blue, the "harvest gold" and "avocado green" of this age). What sold us on the machine in addition to the silver ion sanitization was the direct drive motor (no transmission to break), ultra high-speed spin cycle at 1300 RPM, a vibration reduction system that really works, and incredibly low water consumption rated at about 4 litres per load.

We ended up buying at Sears Home, as they were having their national rollout promotion on Samsung in June (2008), and we took advantage of a price match. We were quite impressed at how well informed our sales rep was about Samsung appliances, a result of Samsung's regional training that seemed quite effective.

Installing and setting up was quite easy. The biggest difficulty was removing the shipping bolts (not obvious with the provided instructions) and then levelling the machine (which we learned is very important for front loaders). A nice touch was the machine came with all of the water and drain connections and a wrench for the bolts and levelling feet.

Our jaws dropped when we used the machine for the first time. the machine is utterly silent! Since our laundry closet is on the main floor, with the doors closed you can't even tell its running! You can barely hear the water sloshing around, and there is virtually NO motor noise.

The vibration reduction is hard to describe. The machine begins the spin cycle, then it shakes a little, then stops, then starts again. It does this a couple of times until it figures out its optimum balance, then off it goes, slowly at first, before kicking it in full speed. It has this precision mechanical whine not unlike a Porsche turbo or other high performance car.

Clothes come out virtually dry, which means significantly lower drying times. A full load of towels took about 38 minutes to dry completely. We haven't tried a heavily soiled load yet, but so far a tiny amount of HE soap gets a full load clean. The other thing we noticed was the very low amount of dryer lint, which we attribute to the gentle way in which the washer handles clothes. We expect that our clothes will last longer with this machine.

We have used the SilverCare cycle a couple of times, but without a microscope I would be hard pressed to tell the difference. There does seem to be some controversy over the effectiveness of the Silver Ion process, and it is important to know that not all bacteria and fungii (or dust mites, I imagine) are killed by silver ions. I consider this a partial solution, but an energy-saving one as it will sanitize in cold or warm water (without steam).

Of course it remains to be seen how reliable and durable this machine will be. We did take a 5 year service contract from Sears with annual visits, which we will likely renew depending on other people's experiences with their machines. My expectation is a 10 year service life, at which point energy, water and detergent savings will have more than paid back the premium purchase price.

After using this machine for a few months, we have no complaints. Given a second chance we would most likely go out and buy the same machine again.

This review is an edited version of a review originally posted on epinions.com.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Great blog: World of Washers

While I was researching information on appliances on Digg, I stumbled upon a pretty interesting blog that talks ONLY about washers. I found a great article discussing the advantages and disadvantages of front load vs. top load washers. We just made the switch to front load machines, the (so far so good) Samsung WF337AAL washer DV337 dryer. (Check out my reviews on epinions here and here).

We made the decision to go with front load machines based largely on environmental concerns for water and energy conservation, and I had thought that top loaders were dinosaurs. Well I quickly found out that not everyone is as happy as I am with their front load machines!

I still believe front loaders are the way to go, and I feel terrible for people who were sold a bill of goods. But this is exactly the reason why we need to put pressure on manufacturers to build better machines and to own up to past mistakes with websites and blogs. There are good machines out there that more than pay back their additional acquisition costs.

The environment is too important to just give up and go back to water and energy hogs. Especially when this is really a design and engineering problem that some manufacturers have managed to solve.

Check out the World of Washers, especially if you are thinking of buying front loading machines.

Link.

Monday, August 4, 2008

From Boing Boing Gadgets: Online Toaster Museum

I've seen this before, and this is something I would probably do.

The International Online Toaster Museum - Boing Boing Gadgets