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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.

9 comments:

allan said...

Thanks for the review, the best I've read yet.

Is it big enough to wash comforters for a double bed? How is it holding up so far?

Random Royalty said...

Allan:

Thanks for your feedback!

This is not the largest capacity machine, but having said that, we have had no problems washing a queen size down and feather duvet. My feeling is weight is probably more important than bulk.

So far the machine has been working like a charm, and it runs virtually non-stop on the weekends.

alexis_mec said...

Hello!

Thanks for the review! I'm in the market for a washer+dryer combo, and this particular washer seems to be nice so far.

Now that it's been almost a year, what are your impressions, especially on durability?

Is it really just 4 litres of water?? And the clothes get clean?

What kind/brand of soap do you use?

Thanks!

Random Royalty said...

@alexis_mec

Still very satisfied with the laundry pair. No problems whatsoever. Clothes come out perfect, with no odd or mildew odors (which is a problem with some other HE machines). We don't regret not buying another brand or type of machine (e.g. larger capacity or steam).

We have for the most part been using La Parisienne HE concentrate, but recently tried Purex HE on sale at Costco and find it leaves the clothes with a better scent. Both are considerably less expensive than the brand names, and perform equally well. It is important to use HE (High Efficiency) laundry detergent with these machines. We use so little soap, it's unbelievable!

I based my figures on Environment Canada ratings for water consumption, and I haven't actually measured water usage (could be pretty easy to drain into a bucket and measure it, I suppose). This month we will have our water meter read to see if there was a significant reduction in usage.

marc said...

Guess I have to chime in too! We just got flooded last month and I have to replace our set. I read in Protegez-Vous that front loaders aren't that great because of smell issues, wash quality, longer cycles. Any of those issues have crept up since owning it?

Thanks!

Ray Taylor said...

@marc

Generally steam clean front loaders do not have this problem. We have only recently experienced a bit of a mildew odor in the last couple of weeks, most likely due to the very high humidity we have experienced in the last couple of weeks.

All we did was wipe down the door seal with vinegar, as well as run an empty cycle with 1/2 cup of vinegar. Smell is gone.

Wash quality has been absolutely excellent, the machine is very gentle on clothes and cycles are not so long that we notice.

I would pay attention to the spin speed of any machine you look at. The more expensive machines have higher spin speeds (the WF337 is 1300 RPM) and this makes a huge difference, especially in drying times. Drying times are about 1/2.

Finally the big advantage of this machine is the VRT vibration reduction. If you must put a machine on an upper floor (not in a basement) you will never regret it.

pam said...

I purchased this washer 15 months ago and was very happy with it... until it was out of it's 12 month warranty.
The spin cycle has completely stopped working. Now I have to spend more money on a machine I thought I could count on for at least a couple of years!

Jack said...

We owned this machine for over a year and began to have extremely long wash cycles (2 to 3 times the estimated time)and the spin cycle would not always work.

I found two problems with the machine, first there was a small pebble lodged in the check valve on the outlet side of the drain pump. Removing this pebble solved the long wash times. The second problem, unable to maintain the spin cycle, turned out to be contact between the nut on the center of the motor (on the back of the tub)and the back cover plate. Because the motor is not grounded, this caused the motor to fault and ended the spin cycle. Removing the back cover plate fixed the problem.

The machine again works like new.

Jack said...

We owned this machine for over a year and began to have extremely long wash cycles (2 to 3 times the estimated time)and the spin cycle would not always work.

I found two problems with the machine, first there was a small pebble lodged in the check valve on the outlet side of the drain pump. Removing this pebble solved the long wash times. The second problem, unable to maintain the spin cycle, turned out to be contact between the nut on the center of the motor (on the back of the tub)and the back cover plate. Because the motor is not grounded, this caused the motor to fault and ended the spin cycle. Removing the back cover plate fixed the problem.

The machine again works like new.