Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Despite The Initial Expense, The Whirlpool Front Loading Washer (WFW9400S) Is A Great Investment!

The Good: Energy and water efficiency! Gets clothes clean, Easy to use
The Bad: Doesn't include high-pressure tube, Water left in front of unit, Initial cost
The Basics: An excellent washing machine, despite the initial expense. It appears to actually save money on the electric bill as promised!

While I was working for the government last year, I had two homes. The disadvantage of this, of course, is the relative expense. It costs quite a bit to pay for two places. The advantage is that I seem to have twice as many gadgets to evaluate and as a result, I can make some of that back by reviewing new household items in my newer place. One such item is the Whirlpool WFW9400S Front Loading clothes washer in my new place. In my old place, I had a Frigidaire frontloader that I became pretty fond of. In fact, this Front Loading Washer is my first Whirlpool clothes washer that I can recall.

The Whirlpool WFW9400S Front Loading Washer was chosen for me and the only real say I had in it was the color, which is a silver finish. What can I say, I'm a sucker for stainless steel or the closest I could get for this appliance (it's a dull silver-gray color). For those unfamiliar with the basic principles, the front-loading washers have the look of the traditional clothes dryer with clothes being put through a door in the front of the unit, as opposed to the top. As a result, clothes are washed through a spinning motion in the z-dimension, as opposed to an agitating motion in the x/y dimension. In simpler terms, unlike the traditional clothes washer, the Front Loading Washer does not have clothes resting in the water is has made filthy. Instead, water passes through the dirty clothes, into the drum where the dirt, hair and other matter appears to be filtered as the washer drum spins.

My big insistence on a Front Loading Washer was because I wanted to reduce the environmental impact I have on the world through such mundane tasks as washing clothes. The Whirlpool Front Loading Washer is designed to lower the amount of water and electricity used to clean clothes and it certainly lives up on that end. In fact, with no other appliance changes outside the washer and dryer after the first two months of living in my new place, I watched the electric bill drop fifteen percent. The only thing I can account for the change was the change in these appliances!

The Whirlpool WFW9400S Front Loading Washer is a fairly large-sized clothes washer (technically, it is considered medium-sized, but it's larger than any I have ever had prior to this!). It sits thirty-eight inches tall by 27" wide with a front to back depth effectively of almost 32" (the front panel of the washer tub is a clear door that curves outward, adding a little more depth to the front than the unit would otherwise have). The Front Loading Washer has a 3.8 cubic foot capacity and it runs on a standard 120 volt, grounded power supply.

This is a slightly larger washer than I had before (by .3 cubic feet) and the difference in space is about three shirt's worth. The Whirlpool holds a decent amount of clothes in it and it has the ability to get full loads quite clean. So, for example, today I washed two blankets, six pillowcases, a shirt and a bottom sheet all in one load. Everything came out clean and free of everything from stains to cat hair. A standard load that does not overfill the drum allows all of the clothes in the Front Loading Washer to get fully cleaned.

It is worth noting that my Whirlpool Front Loading Washer was professionally installed, so I only observed the installation. Because we had measurements that were precise before the installation, everything seemed to go as planned with no difficulties. Essentially, installation consisted of taking the unit out of the box, screwing in the water supply line and the waste water line and plugging the washer in. Then it was shoved against the wall. I already had a high-pressure line attached to the water inlets and outlets. This was a good thing as one was not included in the unit. Instead, the buyer must be sure that connections to the water supply and drainage will meet the pressure needs of the Front Loading Washer. Any decent place selling this unit will know exactly what one needs in terms of connections and it is better to be overprotected in this area as opposed to under-protectected (and risk rupturing a pipe!). Because I have a very stable floor where this was installed and because I was putting the dryer on top of this unit, I did not opt for the overpriced pedestal attachment that could have been purchased with this. For those not able to haggle it into the cost, the installation guide is fairly well-written and the do-it-yourselfer ought to have no problems installing it, so long as they read ahead for all of the needed materials before starting the project.

Usage is equally simple. The Whirlpool Front Loading Washer has fairly intuitive controls and after a few months of usage, the only function I have not seen fit to use is the time-delay function. In addition to the Use & Care Guide (a pretty obvious collection of notes on how to take care of the washer) there is a whole cheat sheet with Washer Operating Instructions. In truth, though, this unit, which is controlled by a dial for simple settings and a series of push buttons for water temperature, spin cycle and activation, is a remarkably easy appliance to use. As well, if anything goes wrong, there is a little series of LED lights on the side of the panel that give very easy to understand status reports on what the state of the washer is. This Whirlpool seems to follow a sense of an industry standard that tries to make operating these front loading units more or less idiotproof and this is very easy to use and diagnose problems when they occur. Indeed, since the first time I set the unit, I have essentially only had to hit the "power on" and "run cycle" buttons and it goes off!

As the cycles progress, the light moves down the options from "Wash" through "Final Spin" to let users know exactly where they stand. This is easy to use. Simply open the fluid receptacle door on the upper left to put in the detergent, fabric softener and bleach as needed and push the controls to start. It's that easy. Approximately forty-eight minutes later, everything is clean. As well, there is a timer counting down exactly where in the cycle the unit is, which lets one know exactly how much time is left.

It is worth noting that the spinning mechanism to the Front Loading Washer acts much like a dryer and the clothes come out of this washer drier than from most clothes washers. This saves money on the drying process from one's dryer and that, too gives it extra value.

So, what won't you get anywhere else from this product? What should you know before picking this unit up? In addition to being remarkably easy to use, this unit requires special detergents for High Efficiency washers. There is a logo on most brands to indicate ones that will work in washers like this. The reason for this is simple; the washer uses less water than standard washers, so the proportion of detergent to water needs to be altered and that is what the High Efficiency detergents do.

Also not in the manual is the one minor performance quirk of the Whirlpool Front Loading Washer. Water pools in the front of this unit. The metal drum that spins (where the clothes go) is topped on the door side by a flexible rubbery sealer which keeps water from leaving the washer. Unfortunately, it also has a bit of surface area higher than the drum where water can accumulate. I keep a rag next to the washer just to mop this up to avoid rot or mold and if I am putting a second load in after my first, I always use a piece of clothing to mop up the puddle that invariably accumulates there.

The unit is deceptively quiet during the washing and rinse cycles. Indeed, at first it was unnerving to have this clothes washer because I was convinced it was not doing anything save lighting up buttons on the front of the washer and counting down. If it weren't for how clean my clothes always get, I might still believe that.

And then there's the spin cycle. It's not loud, but it does make enough of a sound that if one is in an adjacent room, one is likely to hear the spinning of the drum. The spin cycle works amazingly, though, and clothes come out clean and surprisingly close to dry from the washer.

All in all, there is little or nothing to actually complain about about the Whirlpool Front Loading Washer, except its initial expense. This is an expensive appliance at the outset, but the usage cost seems to help negate that expense, assuming this lasts for ten years. The warranty is only for a year, but given that I use my washer once a week, I am operating on the assumption that it's going to last at least a decade (I'm rooting for two or three!).

This is an excellent, high efficiency clothes washer and if one is looking for something that will actually save time and money on cleaning clothes, it is hard to imagine one that will perform better than this one.

For other laundry-related products, please visit my reviews of:
Frigidaire GLER331A Electic Dryer
Whirlpool WGD5200 Gas Dryer
Purex Complete 3-in-1


For other appliance reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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