Published on August 26th, 2017 | by Chris Dragon0
Dragon’s Guide To A 100% Renewable Home — Part 7 (Laundry)
August 26th, 2017 by Chris Dragon
Welcome back to our series of guides covering how to power your life with renewable electricity. If you’re new to this series, check out the introduction in Part 1.
Articles in the series:
- Part 1: LED lighting
- Part 2: Water heating
- Part 3: Transportation
- Part 4: Home heating and cooling
- Part 5: Solar panels
- Part 6: Cooking
- Part 7: Laundry
Part 7: Electric Laundry
Let’s be honest — you don’t need to wear a new shirt and pants every single day when you work in an air-conditioned office. When I see statistics saying the average American household does 283 loads of laundry a year, it makes me cringe. Do a lot of those loads come from hard-work outdoors?
At least in our house, laundry is one of the lowest uses of energy, so we tackled replacing the gas dryer last.
Sun drying clothes is best
If you’ve got the time and the room, save some money and energy and dry your clothes in the sun.
Isn’t using solar energy to run a dryer just a high-tech way of using the sun to dry clothes? Unfortunately, that ignores the approximately 890kWh of energy needed to construct the dryer in the first place. It also ignores the costs of maintenance.
Besides saving energy, avoiding a dryer prolongs the life of your clothes. All that lint that builds up on a dryer filter is made up of tiny clothes particles that will eventually manifest as thinning fabric and holes.
If you don’t have room for a clothes line, try a rack. If your house gets dry in the winter, drying indoors on a rack can keep your air more moist. Just be careful not to raise humidity too much. A Glasgow study found that three-quarters of homes surveyed had moisture levels that could lead to dust mite growth and were at risk of increased concentration of mold spores. Drying indoors raised moisture in the home by 30 per cent on wash days and 15 per cent on average. Smaller, more well-insulated homes make it difficult for vapor to escape.
So buy a humidity sensor and don’t dry indoors without opening windows when it would push your humidity too high. The level of safe humidity varies depending on outside temperature:
- 20 to 40F outside: Keep humidity under 40 percent.
- 10 to 20F outside: Keep humidity under 35 percent.
- 0 to 10F outside: Keep humidity under 30 percent.
- -10 to 0F outside: Keep humidity under 25 percent.
- -20 to -10F outside: Keep humidity under 20 percent.
If you can’t open windows to lower humidity, be aware that clothes will dry outside even in freezing temperatures, it just takes longer.
Go solar before getting an electric dryer
If sun-drying clothes isn’t feasible, get your solar system installed before you consider electric clothes drying.
Why? Burning natural gas to generate heat that dries clothes is only about 12% less efficient than using electricity to heat. That means unless your electricity is generated mostly from renewables, the electric dryer will use more fossil fuel than the gas dryer.
Laundry air pollution
In Part 6, we talked about indoor air pollution caused by burning gas to cook. When it comes to gas clothes drying, most of that pollution is blown out the dryer vent to plague people outside.
Those sweet-smelling laundry products are another source of pollution. A National Institute of Health study says that “exposure to scented products has been documented to cause irritation of the eyes and airways, contact dermatitis, migraines, and asthmatic reactions, particularly in sensitive individuals”. Seven of the VOCs found in dryer-vent emissions (acetaldehyde, benzene, ethylbenzene, methanol, m/p-xylene, o-xylene, and toluene) are classified as hazardous by the EPA.
Critics of the study point out there was no proof the harmful VOCs came from the laundry products, but should we really be risking health complications for the sake of sweet scents? In a telephone survey, 10.9% of 1,058 U.S. respondents reported being irritated by the scent from laundry products vented outdoors, so even if the products don’t obviously bother you, be a good neighbor and keep those scents to a minimum.
Heat pump dryer
A traditional dryer takes in air, heats it, blows it over clothes where it picks up moisture, then exhausts the warm, moist air outside.
In a heat pump dryer (HPD), air is heated by the hot side of a heat pump (the condenser, labeled C to the right), blown over clothes to collect moisture, then cooled on the cold side of the heat pump (the evaporator, labeled E). When the air is cooled, its moisture condenses on the cold metal fins of the evaporator, drips into a tray, and is pumped down the house drain or collected in a tank for greywater use or manual emptying.
In a traditional HPD, the cool air (blue arrow) moves back over the hot condenser, and the cycle repeats. No significant amount of air is moved in or out of the dryer in this kind of system. This drying technique uses 50% to 70% less energy for a full drying cycle than an old-school dryer. It also operates at lower temperatures which helps clothes last longer. The disadvantage is it takes 1.5 to 2 times longer for each cycle.
Hybrid heat pump dryer
Some manufacturers, like LG, have created hybrid HPDs that draw air from in the house, heat it using the hot condenser, collect water under the evaporator, then vent the air out of the house. This design allows an optional resistance heating element (R) to be activated to dry clothes just as fast as a resistance electric dryer at the cost of using more power.
Many ventless HPDs also have an optional resistance heating element to dry clothes faster, but the extra hot air that generates tends to warm the laundry room.
Unfortunately, drawing air from in the house and venting outside wastes energy in hot and cold seasons. A typical vented dryer will vent enough air to fill a 2000sqft house in 67 minutes. That air has to be replaced by outside air flowing in through cracks, which means your heating or cooling system has to re-heat or re-cool that outside air.
Figuring out how much energy that actually wastes is difficult because you don’t know where outside air is coming from. If you end up pulling much of the air in through cracks in the dryer room, you’ll be changing the temperature of that room more than other rooms, but maybe it’s a room you don’t directly condition so its temperature change doesn’t draw much extra HVAC energy.
If you own a vented dryer and have some way of monitoring the energy use of your HVAC system, try watching for effects in HVAC energy use next time you run the dryer.
In houses or trailers that are tightly sealed for energy efficiency, you may find a vented dryer simply can’t suck in enough air from outside to do its job. In condos and apartments, installing a dryer vent may be impossible. In all these cases, a ventless HPD is ideal, but historically, they’ve used a ventless condenser dryer.
A condenser dryer is like an HPD, but instead of using the cold side of a heat pump, they use cold water or room-temperature air to condense the water out of the hot air that’s drying your clothes.
Using room-temperature air makes the process slow and will heat up the dryer room. Water-cooled condenser dryers don’t heat the room but will waste around 26 gallons of clean tap water for a single drying cycle.
Washer dryers are a single unit that does both washing and drying. The advantage of this setup is that it takes up half the space of two units and you don’t have to move clothes between units. Unfortunately, WDs are inherently less efficient at drying because they have to dry out their drum and inner parts along with your clothes.
HPD washer dryers were introduced in Europe in 2013, but all the WD models I found in the U.S. are water-cooled condenser dryers that waste gallons of water. California is a desert so I’m definitely not getting a water-cooled WD.
Electric resistance dryers
Electric resistance dryers use electric resistance elements to heat air, blow it over clothes, then blow it out a vent. They are established tech so they’re inexpensive and should have lower maintenance costs, plus you can easily find them used.
Compared to resistance dryers, HPDs use around 35% less electricity, save home heating/cooling energy, do less damage to clothes, etc. You’ll have to decide if that’s worth the extra cost.
We won’t cover specific resistance dryer models because they’re so established. If you decide you want one, it’s easy to find one with good reviews or find a Craigslist or ebay ad for a used one. If you line-dry clothes most of the time but need electric drying occasionally, a cheap used resistance dryer might be your best bet.
Front load vs top load washers
While researching dryers, I kept encountering the opinion that old American top loading washers beat modern front loaders. Many opinions are no longer true, or were never true. I’ve collected some front-loader pros and cons (many from The Sweet Home, others from forums and blogs).
- Front loaders have always cleaned better. Every scientific test and review site shows that test strips get cleaner, and that’s because front-loaded clothes tumble, stretching and rubbing the fabric much more than in top loaders.
- Front loaders use 5 fewer gallons of water per cycle compared to the latest, most-efficient top loaders.
- Less water means less detergent, which means less pollution.
- Front loaders use less energy (mainly because they have to heat less water).
- Front loaders spin faster. That removes more water from clothes, which saves drying energy.
- Front loaders are stackable. If unstacked, the top can be used as a table, installed under a counter, or put on pedestals to make loading/unloading easier.
- Clothes can be added to most newer front loaders after the cycle is started by pressing the pause button.
Front-loader cons, plus work-arounds:
- The door on a top loader is not water tight, so they dry out between uses. Front loaders are water tight, so they can develop mold and mildew smells in the water trapped inside. These smells can transfer to clothes, which started the rumor that front-loaders don’t clean well. Avoiding this is easy enough:
- Leave the main door and detergent drawer open between uses to let them dry.
- Odors can also be caused by using too much detergent or a detergent without the blue “he” (high efficiency) symbol. If you fill to the “max” line in the washer drawer, you’re using too much. Follow instructions on the detergent and use its measuring cup or lid.
- You can use a special cleaning cycle to remove odor-causing residues if they do occur, but you can also wash laundry in a hot cycle occasionally for almost the same effect without wasting the water.
- Machines made by Whirlpool in particular had intentional design flaws that led to smelly washers even if you left the door open. Their fix is to sell you a cleaner called Affresh that you must regularly use. Even after losing a class-action lawsuit, the fact they still sell the cleaner makes me wonder how motivated they are to make their washers as mildew-free as possible.
- My parents have had an LG front-loader for a few years. They usually leave the door closed which leaves a minor mildew smell, but not enough to taint clothes washed in it (my wife would smell it on clothing — her sniffer is epic). Europe has also been designing non-smelly front loader washers for decades, so it’s certainly possible to do.
- All washers use a metal drum that spins freely within a water-tight plastic tub you can’t see. Front and top loaders each support the full weight of metal drum and clothes on their bearings, but front-loaders strain their bearings more with faster spin speeds. Historically, it wasn’t too difficult to replace bearings when they failed, but today, too many manufacturers use purposely-bad designs where parts plus labor to replace bearings is more expensive than a new machine. To extend the life of your bearings:
- Limit use of the fastest spin speeds and never overload the machine. Especially lower the spin speed on loads with a few large items that could unbalance the spin.
- Bearings normally sit above the water line in front loaders, but if you use the wrong detergent or too much detergent, suds may build up to the bearings and damage them.
- Use a bubble level to ensure the washer is perfectly level on its adjustable feet because any tilt can strain the bearings.
- Small, thin items like coins, buttons, baby socks, or tiny undies have a small chance of slipping through the narrow space at the front of the metal tub that leads into the plastic tub. Modern washers have a filter to catch these items before they damage the drain pump. Well-designed washers put a door to that filter in the front so you can get your stuff back easily. You can avoid losing tiny items of clothing by placing them in mesh bags.
- Sharp metal objects can damage the rubber seal around the door. It’s best to wrap clothes containing such metal in mesh bags. If you’re worried about a zipper, you can usually turn the clothing inside out.
We all yearn for the old top-loader washers that lasted ~25 years, but modern appliances of both top and front loading variety have gotten cheaper and more disposable. In the UK, manufacturers admit average life span is down from 10 years to 7 years and some believe it’s closer to 5 years. Personally, I’ll always pay more for something designed to last longer and be easier to repair.
With frequent changes in models, there are often no customers from 10+ years ago to tell you a model will last. Paying more doesn’t always mean better construction, but I can guarantee that the cheapest units will always have expensive replacement parts or be impossible to repair — that’s how they make their money.
Looking for reliability based on brand also isn’t foolproof. Even a brand that makes more expensive units repairable may not do the same for their cheap line.
I’ll discuss the repairability of a few units below. If you want to research your own unit, pay careful attention to reviews that say something broke that was too expensive to repair. If you know a trusted repair company, ask them what they think of the unit or the brand in general. You can also try to get a copy of the “service manual” for your model and read about how difficult major repairs are, but getting service manuals can be difficult. If you do many loads per week, paying more for a long-lived machine makes economic sense, as well as environmental sense.
Estimating dryer energy use
A dryer uses around 75kWh/mo (900kWh/yr) according to national average data.
To get a better estimate, first figure out the number of loads you do per year:
- You can estimate loads per week and multiply by 52.14 weeks in a year
- Or figure out the loads you do per month and multiply by 12 months in a year.
A 2011 EPA study says that as of 2015, new vented electric resistance clothes dryers of 4.4cuft and larger capacity must dry at least 3.73 pounds of clothing per kWh of electricity. They don’t detail how many pounds of wet clothes fit in each cubic foot of capacity, but they do say average dryers in the category use 684kWh/year in 283 cycles per year, which is 2.417kWh per cycle. We can use that to estimate dryer energy use with this formula:
Yearly dryer energy use = <number of cycles per year> * 2.417kWh/cycle
If you’re considering an HPD, multiply the result by 0.65 to estimate the energy it will use.
Estimating washer energy use
If you’re currently using an electric washing machine, its energy use is already included in your monthly electric bill. Newer washers may use somewhat less electricity, but the difference is probably not worth estimating.
If you’re not currently using an electric washer, know that a typical electric washer adds 108kWh/yr on average. To get a better estimate, divide by 283 average cycles per year to get 0.382kWh/cycle, and use this formula:
Yearly washer energy use = <number of cycles per year> * 0.382kWh/cycle
Does the estimate fit reality?
Our compact HPD uses an average of 0.907kWh to dry a 4.1cuft full load. A full size HPD of 7.4cuft is 80% larger (7.4 / 4.1 = 1.80) so I would expect it to use 80% more energy:
0.907kWh * 1.80 = 1.63kWh to dry a 7.4cuft full load.
That’s pretty close to the average resistance dryer energy use converted to HPD energy use: 2.417kWh * 0.65 = 1.57kWh.
Our 2.5cuft washer uses something less than 40W doing its slow tumble. This causes our energy monitor (TED) to see it as using no power for most of its cycle, so the power use I’ve recorded is a little less than it should be. Power use rises into the measurable area during high speed spin and when it does internal water heating. Since we have a tankless hot water heater, I’ve also included the energy it uses in warm washing modes. Average power use per cycle:
- Cold water: 0.0833kWh to wash a 2.5cuft full load
- Hot water: 0.293kWh to wash a 2.5cuft full load
One would expect a 4.5cuft washer to use 80% more energy than a 2.5cuft washer (4.5 / 2.5 = 1.80), so these numbers become:
- Cold water: 0.0833kWh * 1.8 = 0.150kWh to wash a 4.5cuft full load
- Hot water: 0.293kWh * 1.8 = 0.527kWh to wash a 4.5cuft full load
Assuming half the loads are washed hot and half are washed cold, (0.15 + 0.527) / 2 = 0.339kWh/cycle. That’s reasonably close to the estimated average of 0.382kWh/cycle.
To check for rebates in your area, click here, then use the Apply Filter button, click State, choose your state, then click the Apply Filters button at the bottom.
Click Apply Filter again, then Coverage Area, then click County or City. I don’t recommend using Zip Code because they force you to click Load More… to show 10 zip codes at a time and many states have hundreds of zip codes. If you do use Zip Code, use the Page Down key on your keyboard between clicks to make it faster.
Next, add a filter for Technology > Energy Efficiency > Appliances > Clothes Washers.
In my area, I didn’t find anything. The site doesn’t list any category for clothes dryers, but I read a review of a heat pump dryer saying the District of Columbia had offered a $400 rebate on it till Sept 2015, and New Jersey offered a $300 rebate at some point, so it might be worth performing a general internet search for dryer rebates in your area.
HPD financial payback
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory did a study in 2010 of the money heat pump dryers could save. At best, a heat pump uses 52% of the energy of a conventional dryer per load, but on average the energy use is 65%. Manufacturing cost of HPDs is over twice that of traditional electric, but maintenance is not expected to be greater. The estimated average dryer lifetime is 16 years with a 5 year minimum and 30 year maximum used in the study.
Average US households use 283 drying cycles per year, but only those who use a dryer over 700 times in a year actually save money within the average life of the dryer. Only 12% of households use the dryer that often (that’s almost twice a day, which is frightening).
Unfortunately the study only considers vented HPDs. That means it does not consider the energy needed to replace the air vented by a traditional dryer that would not be vented by a ventless HPD. As we talked about in the Hybrid heat pump dryer section, the HVAC energy saved by a ventless HPD is hard to estimate, but you may be able to get some idea by watching your HVAC energy use while your vented dryer is running.
I also think that manufacturing costs of HPDs have been coming down. Whirlpool charges 75% more for their HPD instead of 100% more as the study assumes. Over July 4th, sale prices dropped the HPD by $299 but the electric resistance dryer dropped only $85, making the HPD only 46% more expensive. I suspect the sale price more closely reflects their actual manufacturing cost while the rest of the price premium is just profit. If you can find an HPD on such a sale, the payback period will be much less.
HPD energy payback
Regardless of whether a HPD actually pays for itself in cost savings, I’m still a fan of saving energy even if it costs extra. HPDs also run at a lower temperature which does less damage to clothes so they last longer, have fewer wrinkles, and less static. Lower temperatures also reduce the risk of dryer fires caused by igniting dryer lint.
However, I wanted to know if an HPD will save enough energy in its lifetime to offset the extra material involved in its creation.
Spoiler alert: Doing at least 1 load per week makes an HPD worthwhile from an energy-saving standpoint as long as you keep the HPD at least 7.28 years. Read the rest of this section if you want to know the details.
This study estimates it takes 1422 kWh of energy to extract raw materials and manufacture them into a 2005, front-loading washer weighing 196 pounds. That’s 7.255kWh per pound.
I have no data on the materials in an electric resistance dryer. A dryer has a larger metal drum, no plastic tub around the drum, but also fewer pumps and piping to move water around. I’m guessing washers and dryers are similar enough that the same 7.255kWh per pound estimate roughly applies to both.
Appliance makers tend to use less metal and more plastic over time, so I should adjust things for 2017 vs 2005. However, there is some limit to how much metal you can eliminate and I suspect they already got close to it by 2005. Either way, I have no data to draw from, so I’m going to ignore that effect to keep things simpler.
- Whirlpool’s 7.4cuft electric resistance dryer weighs 155lbs * 7.255kWh/lb = 1124kWh
- Whirlpool’s 7.4cuft HPD weighs 198lbs. That’s ~155lbs for the same basic structure, plus 43lbs for the heat pump condenser, evaporator, and refrigerant tubes.
- I made some guesses at how much of each type of metal the extra weight comes from and the energy to extract and refine them is around 321kWh.
- Manufacturing adds 0.2857kWh/lb * 43 = 12kWh.
- Total extra energy to make a full-size HPD is around 333kWh.
Manufacturing energy studies ignore the energy used to transport the appliance to its end-user because that energy amount is usually small compared to the energy of manufacture. We’ve also ignored side effects like greenhouse gases released to create the extra manufacturing energy, resource depletion, etc.
So, at a minimum, a 7.4cuft HPD needs to save 333kWh over its life to justify buying it instead of an electric resistance dryer. Can it save that much?
- Earlier, we estimated a full-size HPD uses:
- 1.63kWh per cycle.
- If you use the HPD once a week, you could expect to use:
- 1.63kWh * 52.14 weeks = 84.988kWh per year
- Using an electric resistance dryer would use more energy:
- 84.988kWh / 0.65 = 130.75kWh per year
- The HPD saves about:
- 130.75kWh — 84.988kWh = 45.762kWh per year
- How many years of saving 45.762kWh does it take to offset the extra 333kWh used to make the HPD?
- 333kWh / 45.762kWh = 7.28 years
With a 7 year average life for modern washers, the value of an HPD used once a week seems borderline. Then again, one use per week is far below average, which should help the dryer last much longer than average. Also, the study cited in the previous section expects dryers to last 16 years on average. That may be true because dryers don’t have as much corrosive water, detergent, and high spin speeds to deal with, so they should last longer than washers. On the other hand, if you insist on replacing a washer and dryer at the same time so they always match, a washer failure also means a dryer replacement.
The bottom line is that doing 1 load per week or more makes a full-size HPD worthwhile from an energy-saving standpoint as long as you keep the HPD more than 7 years. I looked briefly at the math for a compact HPD and came to the same conclusion.
How much does washer spin speed cut dryer energy use?
I got excited when two people claimed their dryer energy was cut almost in half by increasing washer spin speed. However, my experience with drying clothes spun at low vs high speed does not show more than a few percent in dryer energy savings. This is a tricky issue because different fabrics hold different amounts of water, and my data covers all sorts of mixed loads with too few data points.
Spoiler alert: 1100-1200 RPM is the optimal spin speed to balance water removal and wear on washer parts. Read on for details.
Figures from a UK tumble dryer user manual estimate that spin speed has the following effect on dryer energy:
As you can see, going from 1000 to 1400 rpm only saves you 17% drying energy. Not insignificant, but not half.
EDRO Corp. explains how much water various g-force values will extract from three types of fabric.
This formula converts washer spin speed in Rotations Per Minute (RPM) to G-Force:
G-Force = RPM^2 * diameter (inches) / 70,500
Once you go above 200G, moisture retention falls at a much slower rate. A 4.5cuft “ultra capacity” washer has a tub diameter around 23″, so you exceed 200G even at 800 RPM:
- 800 RPM^2 * 23″ / 70,500 = 203G
- 1100 RPM^2 * 23″ / 70,500 = 395G
- 1400 RPM^2 * 23″ / 70,500 = 639G (off the chart!)
A compact washer with 19.75″ tub diameter achieves lower Gs, but not dramatically lower:
- 800 RPM^2 * 19.75″ / 70,500 = 179G
- 1100 RPM^2 * 19.75″ / 70,500 = 338G
- 1400 RPM^2 * 19.75″ / 70,500 = 549G
Based on these figures, it looks like once you reach 1100-1200 RPM, spinning faster may not save enough energy to justify the extra wear on parts that could cause early part replacement. The figures also show that to get cotton clothes twice as dry based only on spin speed, you’d need to move from around 500 RPM to 1100RPM. Old top-loading washers have top speeds from 600 to 700 RPM, and spin may get slower as machines age (or never reach manufacturer claims to begin with), so that may explain the half-energy use claims.
With high spin speeds, enormous vibration can occur with small loads or small numbers of highly absorbent items (towels, denim, sweaters, etc), depending how items get randomly distributed in the tub. Modern washers have sensors to lower the speed when vibration is excessive, but I’ve occasionally had high speeds shake the house without slowing so I doubt it’s good for washer longevity. Supposedly, installation on concrete helps damp the vibration, but many of us have only wood floor to work with.
To help keep loads balanced, wash water-absorbing items together so there are enough items to evenly distribute around the tub. Grouping absorbent items that will also prevent over-drying less absorbent items in the dryer.
I thought my parents raised me well, but they never taught me to clean my dryer vents.
Failure to clean dryer vents gradually reduces drying efficiency, can cause water to be trapped and leak into flooring (leading to mold and dry rot), and can cause a fire. Lint is flammable, so a clogged vent can let the heat from the dryer build up until the lint ignites.
My parents may have skipped this lesson because older houses wisely located dryers on an outside wall with a short, straight duct to the outside. Such vents may never clog. Newer houses often end up running vent ducts long distances with twists and turns that catch lint.
Warning signs you have a clogged vent from ashireporter.org:
- Clothes take an unusually long time to dry
- Clothes are hotter than usual at the end of the cycle
- Surface of dryer is unusually hot
- Outside flap(s) at the end of the vent don’t open much when dryer is on and not much air blows out
- Laundry room feels warmer or more humid than normal
- Unexplained moisture stains appear beneath vent duct
- Burnt smells in laundry room
Even with clean vents, some dryers still present a fire risk. Some 750 fires in the UK have been tracked back to Whirlpool dryers built between April 2004 and September 2015. These fires were caused by lint collecting around the heating element in the dryer. As of Feb 2017, Whirlpool still refuses to issue a safety recall and merely advises customers to never leave dryers unattended. This is an outrageous stance because even when customers have witnessed the fires starting, they were not always able to extinguish them.
From what I understand, it’s impossible to protect heating elements from lint accumulation because air needs to touch them in order to heat the air. Instead, manufacturers use temperature sensors to turn off the elements when temperatures reach a dangerous level. Fuses that burn out when overheated should be included as backup in case the temperature sensors fail. I assume the faulty Whirlpool dryers lacked some of these safety precautions, though I was not able to find details.
A bit in this document explains that dryers sold in the U.S. must meet stricter standards when it comes to containing internal fires, and that that’s why we don’t see a lot of the EU models brought to America. It goes on to explain that with an HPD, the heated side of the heat pump does not get hot enough to start a fire. Also, lint is usually double filtered to avoid accumulation on the evaporator fins of the heat pump, and that should also protect the heating side of the pump better than in a resistance dryer. Unfortunately, LG’s heat pump doesn’t double filter, and both LG and Whirlpool dryers have secondary resistance heating elements for when users want faster drying. Presumably, they’ve both implemented robust safety sensors on those heating elements.
Besides clean vents, you should also make sure the flap(s) at the end of your vent are working smoothly. Malfunctioning or poorly-designed flaps may jam closed so lint clogs. Or flaps may jam open, which lets conditioned air out of your house, lets freezing air into your dryer, or admits rodents that love to use lint as nesting material. Make sure the flaps don’t freeze closed in winter. Watch that air is escaping at good velocity when the dryer is running. If you happen to own a tool to measure air-speed (they start at $20), expect air to be moving around 50 km/hr.
Lint clogs heat-pump fins
If you’ve ever looked inside an air conditioner or heat pump, you’ve probably seen a series of thin, tightly-spaced metal fins. Those fins surround tubes containing hot or cold refrigerant. The fins create as much surface area as possible to transfer heat between the air and the refrigerant tubes.
When it comes to drying clothes, air must pass through the clothes, collecting lint and moisture, then pass through cold “evaporator fins” where moisture condenses and drips down to a pan. That moisture makes lint stick to the fins. A standard dryer lint filter only stops the largest particles, so some manufacturers have added a second, sponge-like filter in front of the fins, often followed by a fine, cloth-like filter. These extra filters catch a lot of the remaining lint, but they need to be cleaned (some makers say every 3 months, others every 3 loads). The fins behind the filters also need to be occasionally vacuumed clean of any lint that got through the filters.
Some brands, like LG and Bosch, omit the second filter and actually spray the fins with water up to 7 times per drying cycle. That seems like a convenient feature to have, but looking at reviews of LG dryers in the US and Australia, the fin self cleaning system is by far the most common thing in the dryer to break down. Allowing lint to accumulate on the fins also means it will accumulate on all internal parts, including ones that aren’t rinsed, and that may cause problems eventually.
Choosing a heat-pump dryer
Earlier, we discussed all the different types of dryers available. If you think you might want an HPD, this section is for you.
Just like we saw with HVAC heat pumps in Part 4, HPDs were introduced in Europe in 1997 and expanded to 25 models as of 2010, whereas America only got its first two heat pump dryers from Whirlpool and LG in early 2015, followed by Blomberg a couple months later, and Asko in late 2015. Unfortunately, each of these four choices has a downside and I see none of them as ideal for all users:
- Whirlpool’s HPD has questionable reliability.
- Blomberg’s HPD has no failure reports but its compact size may not be enough for larger families.
- Asko’s HPD has no U.S. reviews and terrible reliability in Australian reviews. It’s compact, but sports a 5.1cuft drum compared to Blomberg’s 4.1cuft.
- LG’s HPD is not ventless like other HPDs so it blows conditioned air from in your home to the outside. It has self-cleaning evaporator fins that are convenient, but the self-cleaning system seems prone to failure.
I’m only going to cover U.S. brands here in detail, but I’ll point to some info on brands in other areas after the U.S. section.
- DLHX4072W costs around $1439 and is finished in white.
- DLHX4072V costs around $1539 and is finished in stainless steel.
LG makes dozens of resistance electric dryers, none with fewer than 4 star reviews on their site, so they generally seem to do a good job with dryer appliances.
Unfortunately, LG’s HPD gets only 3.0 stars in 6 reviews from various sites. The low rating is mostly due to 50% reporting failures after about a year. One of the failures is in the self-cleaning system while the others are error code E13 which the service manual says means drain pump failed or drain line clogged. Both reviews were posted before they solved the problem so I don’t know the cause. One reviewer says no clog was found in the drain line.
One particular review was posted on multiple sites and claims the LG HPD has a design flaw where the evaporator fins clog with lint and need a tech to come disassemble the dryer and clean them every 3 months. In reality, it’s more likely that his self-clean system has failed.
LG’s HPD manual says the dryer has “self clean” at one point, but does not explain what that means. I had to buy a service manual for the U.S. version and study it carefully to be absolutely sure it has water cleaning of its evaporator fins as discussed in the Lint clogs heat-pump fins section.
Interestingly, it gets the cleaning water from the tray that catches the water condensed out of your drying clothes. It’s nice that it doesn’t waste any tap water or expose the dryer to minerals that often contaminate tap water. On the other hand, all the lint washed off fins will go through the drain pump that doubles as a fin sprayer. I don’t see how they can stop that lint from eventually clogging a filter in the water line or the sprayer nozzles themselves. I suspect the E13 errors mentioned earlier might be caused by such clogs. Oddly, the service manual has no solution for E13 other than “call for service”. I guess that means they want techs to call back to HQ to diagnose the problem.
I find it hard to believe LG would design a self-cleaning system that will inevitably clog and require a service call, but since this seems to be LG’s first use of this particular cleaning system, it may be possible. It could also be that certain customers are using fabric softener or other additives that make lint clump in ways they didn’t account for.
2 of 9 Australian reviewers complain their version of the HPD stops drying and reports “water full” which techs eventually diagnose as being caused by clogged fins due to self clean failing. The Australian model uses a tap-water line to provide self-cleaning water, so the system is a little different than the U.S. HPD, but apparently just as unreliable.
The other dominant Australian-model complaint is that the dryer rolls sheets and comforters into a tight ball that doesn’t dry inside. Most expensive dryers avoid this problem by rotating in both directions for an equal amount of time. Here are a number of ways you can avoid balled sheets in dryers that don’t reverse:
- Add “dryer balls” or clean tennis balls. People report varying degrees of success with them preventing balled sheets. I suspect success depends on the texture of the balls and sheets, ball weight, and ball number.
- Fold the sheet like you’re putting it away, or accordion fold it. If it still balls, safety pin it at two corners or use clothes pins or binder clips.
- Fold the sheet and put it in a large mesh bag that leaves the sheet room to shift inside the bag.
- If your washer has an optional rack that does not spin with the dryer, you can fold quilts loosely and set on the rack to dry. May also work on sheets.
Some of the methods above may cause the center of the sheet to remain isolated from the dryer’s air, which will lengthen the drying cycle or the dryer may detect the load as dry without drying the center of the sheet.
LG is known for adding innovative features to their appliances that may not exist in any competing units. Self-cleaning HPD fins are a great idea, but I’m not convinced they’ve designed the system to last. Letting users choose efficient heat-pump-only mode or faster resistance-heating mode is another great idea, but I don’t like that it vents conditioned indoor air to the outside in all modes.
LG washer repairability
As mentioned earlier, front loader washing machine bearings are one of the most common things to fail within the first 10 years, so I’m going to focus on that. Bearings are also something that washer makers can make relatively easy to replace, or almost impossible without paying them exorbitant prices for parts.
If you’re not familiar with bearings, they look like a metal donut with an interior ring that rotates freely within an outer ring. Held between the rings are metal balls or sometimes metal cylinders that roll as the rings rotate.
This video shows a 2011 era LG washer that was designed to make bearing replacement possible, but not easy. You need to remove almost every part on the washer, including front and back, control panel, motor, pump, hoses, springs and supports. The plastic tub containing the metal drum is then removed from the washer body. The tub is formed in two halves that are screwed together. Between the halves is a rubber gasket that keeps it water tight. Unscrew the halves, remove the metal drum, and you can now see two sets of bearings.
Bang the old bearings out, bang new ones in, then put it all back together. It’s a 2-3 hour job for a pro and may take a DIYer all day, but at least bearings and a new seal for the washer tub halves are fairly cheap.
The problem is LG makes many different washer models and it’s hard to know if they all have this design. Cheaper units may glue the plastic tub halves together or weld bearings in place, making the repair almost impossible short of replacing the whole tub, and that usually costs as much as a new washer.
LGWM4270HVA and LGWM4270HWA are two washers that have a similar look to LG’s heat pump dryer. The WM4270H*A service manual seems to show the plastic tub can be separated in two on page 56. Unfortunately the manual never talks about a bearing replacement procedure or how to separate the tub, and the diagram is too low resolution to be sure how the tub is constructed, but it’s probably similar to the video. A parts site sells bearings as parts 4280EN4001G and 4280EN4001F, and it also sells the front and rear half of the tub, proving the tub can be split for bearing replacement.
LG HPD repairability
The service manual for LG’s HPD does not cover heat pump replacement at all, but parts sites do sell the heat pump ($250) and evaporator ($96) separately, implying they can be replaced. I found no complaints of the heat pump failing, and keep in mind that heat pumps have been around for decades in major appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners, so there is no reason for them to fail unless a manufacturer designs them to fail. Furthermore, dryer drums spin slowly compared to washer drums and the risk of water getting into bearings or other parts is minimal.
The main thing that can go wrong with a dryer is internal lint buildup, and that can usually be repaired by cleaning. With LG’s HPD, the self-cleaning system adds another point of failure not present in other HPDs, dragging down its overall reliability.
- WED7990FW, white, powder-coat drum, $1399 MSRP
- WED9290FW, also white, stainless-steel lighted drum and a few extra settings, $1799 MSRP
Based on number of reviews, Whirlpool has the largest market share of heat pump dryers in the U.S. by far. Yet they have a wide variety of breakdowns reported with 34% of 41 reviews reporting failures in the first couple years. Their star rating across those reviews is 3.37.
Interestingly, none of the failures I read about had anything obvious to do with the heat pump — failures tended to be in control boards, water pumps, or in the drum itself. Reports that “it won’t dry” could mean many things including heat pump trouble, evaporator fins clogged with lint, drain pump failed or clogged, etc. I saw no proof in reviews that the heat pump was a significant point of failure.
A 34% failure report rate is high and I don’t usually buy products rated under 4 stars, but U.S. HPD options are limited. In fact, Whirlpool is the only full-size, ventless HPD option. The discontinued version of the dryer achieved 4.4 stars in 214 reviews, which makes me wonder if they cut quality on the new model or if the earlier model benefited from early-adopter excitement.
I spent awhile checking if the drum will reverse spin to prevent tangles, but found no answer. Since no reviewers complain of tangled sheets (even in 214 reviews of the discontinued model), I think it must reverse or have some other method of preventing tangles. Also, Good Housekeeping mentions they specifically tested the discontinued model for tangling and it had no problems.
Some reviews say the dryer emits heat and humidity into the laundry room, while others specifically say it emits no heat. I suspect it depends on which of 3 drying speeds you select. At the top speed, a resistance heater adds additional heat to the drum which ends up escaping into the laundry room and carrying some moisture with it that the heat pump can’t condense fast enough.
Many reviewers comment on the advantages of heat pump drying:
Another wonderful benefit of this dryer is that clothes come out feeling more soft and the drying itself is more gentle on the materials than a conventional dryer.
So much softer, cooler, and less wrinkles than any previous dryer I’ve used.
Instead of self cleaning the evaporator fins with water, Whirlpool uses a second sponge-like filter. The manual recommends cleaning this filter every 5 loads along with vacuuming the exposed evaporator fins behind the filter periodically. Users report that washing the sponge is the only way to really get it clean and if you don’t clean regularly, the dryer takes hours to dry.
Additionally, there is a screen on a cooling fan behind the dryer the manual says to clean monthly.
One item that concerns me is on page 11 of the manual where it states:
Lint should be cleaned from “in the dryer cabinet” once every 2 years by a “qualified appliance servicer”.
I found this consumer complaint where Whirlpool’s HPD was taking too long to dry clothes and a technician determined it was due to internal lint accumulation. In this case, lint had built up to levels that slowed drying speed in under a year. I assume that means the dryer got a lot of use because internal lint buildup was not a complaint I saw in other reviews.
Paying someone ~$100-$300 to clean the dryer every 2 years is burdensome. LG dryers do not mention any cleaning requirement like this, though they do recommend cleaning vent ducts once per year. I wondered if blowing lint out a vent might prevent this internal cleaning, but Blomberg makes a ventless dryer that doesn’t mention internal cleaning. I don’t know if lint removal is better in Blomberg or if they just fail to mention the cleaning requirement.
Lifehacker actually recommends opening up all dryers for lint cleaning every so often. They say it’s easy with most models. Unfortunately, I could find no information on the procedure for cleaning the Whirlpool HPD.
Whirlpool now makes about 80% of their American washers in an Ohio plant which is great for reducing shipping emissions and keeping jobs local. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any info on where their HPD is made.
Whirlpool washer repairability
This video from 2014 shows a Whirlpool Duet washer needs to be completely disassembled to pull the tub out, just like with LG. The plastic tub can be separated into two halves by removing clips that don’t look too difficult to remove. Unfortunately, in this case the metal drum drive shaft had been bent and did damage to the housing around the bearings, meaning both drum and tub would need replacement, which they said was more expensive than a new machine.
Maybe the owner let the machine vibrate like mad or ran it for a long time with bad bearings to do this kind of damage, but I have to wonder if Whirlpool is making parts strong enough if it can be broken this badly. If you notice weird sounds, weird vibrations, or if you can easily move the metal tub up and down within the door opening, have the bearings checked before things get to this point. Note how much the drum can move up and down when the machine is new so you have a reference point.
The latest Whirlpool washer that matches the look of their HPD is model WFW75HEFW. I found a schematic of replacement parts which shows no bearing replacement part, but it does show Part 13 “Clamp” which looks like it holds tub halves together.
The schematic isn’t clear and I was unable to find any bearing, seal, or tub-half replacement parts anywhere online. That’s a bad sign because manufacturers don’t bother selling those replacements when they glue their tubs together. To be absolutely sure, I bought the service manual. It has pictures of the actual tub and there are three clamps at the top, but no other clamps or clips or screws around the top half of the tub (there are no pictures of the bottom half). With nothing to hold the tub seam at regular intervals, I’m almost certain it must be glued and the clamps may be there just to hold it while the glue sets.
So, Whirlpool wants you to buy a new machine if the bearings fail. The service manual does show the tub and basket are available assembled as part W10901030, but it costs ~$488 and most parts sites don’t stock it. If you add labor costs to install it, no one is going to replace it unless they do the work themselves.
Honestly, I’m outraged by any company that designs large appliances to let the failure of small parts result in most people tossing the whole machine. I would not buy such an appliance. I looked at all their washers with a similar look to their HPD and they all have the irreparable tub design as far as I can tell from the repair part sites.
If you still love the Whirlpool HPD, you might be able to find an older version of the washer that can take repairs. Of course, you can’t buy something manufactured before 2010 or you may have the mold-growing problems mentioned earlier. Whirlpool also changes their door designs and colors periodically to ensure you must always replace the washer and dryer together or have an obviously mismatched set. Since you probably won’t find a Whirlpool washer that’s repairable, doesn’t grow mold, and matches the look of their HPD, I’d just go with another brand of washer entirely.
It disgusts me how many tactics companies use to encourage discarding of huge appliances that are mostly or fully operational.
Whirlpool HPD repairability
Whirlpool’s washer design implies they’ve also designed their HPD to be unrepairable, but I decided to get a copy of its service manual to check. The 2015 service manual describes only how to replace the “base assembly” which includes “compressor, heat exchanger components (evaporator and condenser), the post condenser, expansion valve, and all tubing and fittings.” It says “At the time of writing” the entire assembly must be replaced, however, the 2016 parts list includes compressor ($191), evaporator ($115), and various other fittings that make it seem like smaller components can be replaced.
Given Whirlpool’s history and washer design, I don’t give them much benefit of the doubt when it comes to reliability/repairability. I found no reviews mentioning heat pump failures, but failures in other parts are higher than I’m comfortable with, especially in the second generation of these units. Unfortunately, Whirlpool is the only full-size, ventless HPD choice in the U.S. If you might be interested in a compact ventless HPD, read on.
Asko brought their T884XLHPW heat pump dryer to the U.S. in late 2015 according to the one U.S. review I could find of it. It’s a compact dryer at 23.5″W x 29.375D x 33.25″H, meaning it can fit under a typical counter, but that limits its drum size to 5.1 cubic feet compared to 7.4 cubic feet in Whirlpool’s full-size HPD.
With an MSRP of $2,735, I would expect Asko to be a quality product. Yet, in Australia, productreview.com.au gives the dryer only 2.25 stars with an abysmal 73% of the 26 reviews reporting hardware failures within the first few years.
I’m all for paying more for something that lasts, but their Australian track record is so bad I would not trust this model. Although productreview seems to attract mostly reviewers who have problems, other heat-pump dryers with 12 or more reviews achieved up to 3.4 stars.
- DHP24400W, white, $1,199
- DHP24412W, white with stainless steel door, lighted drum, $1,399
Both dryers are compact at at 23.75″W x 26.675D x 33.25″H with a 4.1 cubic foot drum. That’s smaller than Asko’s dryer, but it’s plenty of room to dry anything washed in the 2.5 cubic foot matching washer.
Reviewers say the washer is large enough for one king-size comforter and I verified that by making a cardboard mockup and fitting a king comforter inside without significant squishing. If you want to make your own mock-up, the inside diameter is 19.75″ with a depth of 14″. This does not account for 3 agitators around the tub but they don’t take up too much space.
To give an idea of how much space a full vs compact washer/dryer would take up in our utility room, I created this image in Sweet Home 3D:
Washers work most efficiently when filled to capacity (about 8 pounds of fabric in this case). Larger washers are more efficient if you can fill them to capacity each time, but in the real world, splitting loads by color, I’m not able to fill a larger washer about half the time. In that case, having a smaller washer should increase efficiency by letting you do more loads nearer to capacity.
One disadvantage of compact washers, as noted by Consumer Reports, is that they vibrate more than full-sized washers during the spin cycle.
Those worried about tangled sheets will be happy to know the drum reverses rotation to limit that problem.
The manual recommends cleaning a secondary heat-pump filter every 3 loads, but there is no rear fan filter to clean and no mention of any other maintenance.
The Blomberg HPD gets 4.55 star average in 9 reviews spread across a few review sites. The average is only brought down by a single 1-star review that claims “terrible quality” without explaining what the problem is and complains the dryer takes too long to dry. The only failure reported by one review was that the drum belt loosened in shipping and had to be put back in place.
I found one particularly interesting 5 star review:
I work with a group of engineers who run standardized tests on advanced heat pump clothes dryers, and I purchased this one for my own home because it gets the best scores both for efficiency (low electricity use) and drying time. Typically, heat pump dryers take longer to dry clothes than conventional dryers, but this model (and the equivalent Beko model) are the fastest. They typically dry a full load in 80 minutes, compared to 60 for a conventional dryer, using less than half as much electricity. We’ve owned this dryer for 3-4 weeks, and we haven’t noticed it taking a long time to dry. The clothes come out properly dried every time. It makes slightly more noise than a regular dryer, but it’s barely noticeable. We put this dryer in a closet next to our bedroom and we don’t notice the noise.
I looked for reviews of other Blomberg products and found only one other Blomberg dryer available in America — a compact resistance electric. It gets 4.1 stars with one six-month failure reported among 7 reviews. The biggest reason for the lower star reviews seems to be slow drying speed.
Since Blomberg obviously has a small American presence, I called to ask if there were any warranty repair companies in my area. After about 5 minutes on hold, I spoke to Matt who said the nearest company in their database was 32 miles away but if they weren’t willing to service it, Blomberg has a department dedicated to finding someone in your area.
Blomberg’s warranty covers parts and labor for 1 year, just parts for 2 years, and just circuit boards and drum for 5 years. That’s a nice bonus given that a significant number of reviews report circuit board failures in the Whirlpool HPD.
Blomberg was originally a German company but is now owned by Arçelik with manufacturing done in Turkey. Arçelik is the largest appliance maker in Turkey, the 4th largest in Europe, and trying to grow larger. That kind of market position usually means a company is motivated to provide quality products instead of relying on dominant brand recognition. Unfortunately it also means the dryer ships halfway around the world to get here. At least the units weigh about 45% less than full-sized units.
Arçelik sells a HPD in Australia under their Beko brand. The older version of that product gets 3.4 stars with 33% of 12 reviews reporting failures in the first few years. That’s pretty similar to Whirlpool’s current track record, though the scarcity of reviews limits accuracy. I’ve also noticed that Australians seem more prone to writing bad reviews if things fail in a few years, so 33% failure in Australia is probably significantly better than 34% failure in U.S. Whirlpool reviews. Beko is also sold in the UK where it earns 4.86 stars in 6 reviews with no failures reported.
Blomberg washer repairability
Blomberg offers only one washer line to go with their HPD:
- Model WM98200SX for $960
- Model WM98400SX adds a stainless-steel door for $100 extra.
I could not find a service manual or disassembly video for these two models. However, Beko and Blomberg are owned by the same parent company and I was able to find this video showing how to replace bearings in a Beko washer. I was impressed because you can remove panels on the front and back of the washer, then take the front off the plastic tub and replace bearings all without removing the tub, control panel, motor, or other parts.
After purchasing the Blomberg WM98200SX, I took off the top and was horrified to find the plastic tub is glued together to stop users from repairing bearings instead of buying a new machine. This video shows it’s possible to cut a glued tub open on the seam to get at the bearings. When done, he used gorilla glue and screws to connect the two halves. The repair has been running without issue about once a week for 18 months so far.
Just as with Whirlpool, I’m outraged by any company that designs large appliances to have small-part failure result in replacement of the entire machine. While the hack shown in the video might work, we won’t know for sure until someone tries it. Therefore, I do not recommend buying a Blomberg washer.
Blomberg HPD repairability
I can’t find a service manual for the Blomberg HPD, but I did find the compressor ($205) and evaporator ($107), implying they can be replaced individually. Blomberg’s HPD was introduced a couple months after Whirlpool’s, but the scarcity of Blomberg reviews makes it hard to judge reliability. Having no reports of failures is a good sign, but most people’s units will be barely two years old at this point.
They sell appliances under the Beko brand in other countries that seem to be higher on the reliability spectrum, but as we saw with the Beko washer vs the Blomberg washer, internal components may be completely different. If they’re willing to make their U.S. washer into a throw-away appliance, why not the HPD? Without more information, there’s no way to know. On the plus side, Blomberg’s HPD is the least expensive and most efficient among those available in the U.S.
What to choose in the U.S.?
I’m frustrated that washer life expectancy has dropped from 25 years to 7 years. Whirlpool’s Ohio plant alone produced 4.8 million appliances in 2004. One would think they could reduce that production and still turn a nice profit with a longer product life span, especially when adding repair-part profits. Instead, manufacturers have cut repair personnel training and seem to be competing to see how short a product life span consumers will tolerate.
If this situation is ever going to improve, it will be because we pay attention and pay more to buy products meant to last. Cars got longer lifespans when people noticed imports had fewer problems and American makers lost market share.
Among U.S. HPD choices, Blomberg has the lowest failure report rate:
- Blomberg: 0% of 9 reviews report failures since the HPD was released ~May 2015
- Whirlpool: 34% of 41 reviews report failures since the HPD was released Jan 2015
- LG: 50% of 6 reviews report failures around 1 year after purchase. It’s likely they all relate to the self-clean system. The HPD was released early 2015.
- Asko: 0% of 1 review report failures since late 2015. In Australia, 73% of 26 reviews report failures.
If Blomberg’s 4.1cuft HPD is large enough for your needs, I recommend it. Otherwise, Whirlpool is your best option, but the risk of a maintenance call is significant. Keep in mind that when 34% of reviewers report failures, it doesn’t mean 34% of machines will fail. Experiencing a failure makes people more likely to complain about it in a review, so the percentages are inflated. True failure rate is unknown, but the percentages are useful for comparing brands.
Whether you go for an HPD or electric resistance dryer, I recommend pairing it with a reliable and repairable washer of another brand. Washers are under more strain from handling water and high spin speeds, so a good design is critical if it’s going to last and be easy to repair.
When it comes to front-loading washer reliability, Consumer Reports and Engadget rank LG as the most reliable brand. JD Power rates Samsung 1st and LG 2nd. My father has owned an LG front-loading washer and electric dryer for a few years without issues. So, although I can’t recommend LG’s HPD, I do recommend their washers and electric resistance dryers. Instead of getting the latest model, it’s best to look for something that’s been around at least a couple years so you can look at failure percentage in that time period.
I put together a list of HPDs available on amazon.co.uk, skipping any that had no reviews and sorting companies by total star rating. Overall, I’m surprised to find so few reviews. One study said 200,000 HPDs were sold in 2009 in Europe, and that number was predicted to grow. If there is a better site for European reviews, let us know in the comments.
- 5 stars, 2 reviews
- Reversible tumble keeps big things from balling up.
- Maytag (Whirlpool brand):
- 5 stars, 1 review
- “Brilliant machine. Saving lots of time and no washing hanging around. It’s just great”
- Beko (related to Blomberg):
- 4.8 stars, 4 reviews
- A couple people praise how quiet it is.
- 5 stars, 2 reviews
- Emits no heat into the room.
- Total: 4.86 stars, 6 reviews
- 5 stars, 1 review
- “great machine”
- 5 stars, 1 review
- “Love the look of this machine very pleased”
- 5 stars, 1 review
- “Really pleased with dryer works perfectly.”
- 5 stars, 1 review
- “So quiet and drys well”
- 3.7 stars, 3 reviews
- “Does not dry clothes”
- “It took me over a month to get technical support from Bosch by which time it was too late to return the tumble dryer”
- Total: 4.44 stars, 7 reviews
- 4 stars, 2 reviews
- One review complains it takes 3 hours to dry.
- 4 stars, 1 review
- Reviewer subtracted a star only because its default dry level setting leaves clothes too damp to put away.
- 5 year parts and labor warranty.
- 2.3 stars, 3 reviews
- 5-7 hours to dry a load. Condenser broke after 4 weeks.
- 1.5 stars, 2 reviews
- 2 repairs in 9 months and he says “other review sites” report similar problems with drying sensor.
- 2.35 hours and still wet.
Our old friend productreview.com.au lists 21 HPD models. I’ve sorted them from high to low star score.
- Fischer & Paykel
- 5 stars, 3 reviews
- 5 stars, 2 reviews
- 5 stars, 1 review
- 5 stars, 1 review
- 4 stars, 3 reviews
- Total: 4.25 stars, 4 reviews
- 4 stars, 2 reviews
- Beko (related to Blomberg)
- DPU7360GX (DISCONTINUED)
- 3.4 stars, 12 reviews
- DPU7360GX (DISCONTINUED)
- 2.2 stars, 10 reviews
- 3.2 stars, 5 reviews
- T8861WP (DISCONTINUED)
- 4.1 stars, 14 reviews
- Total: 3.29 stars, 29 reviews
- 3.7 stars, 9 reviews
- 2.3 stars, 3 reviews
- 1.7 stars, 11 reviews
- WTY88700AU (DISCONTINUED)
- 3.1 stars, 21 reviews
- Total: 2.82 stars, 44 reviews
- 2.4 stars, 14 reviews
- 2.2 stars, 10 reviews
- 1.5 stars, 2 reviews
- Total: 2.25 stars, 26 reviews
- Electrolux (related to Frigidaire)
- 2 stars, 2 reviews
- EDH3284PDW (DISCONTINUED)
- 2.2 stars, 20 reviews
- Total: 2.18 stars, 22 reviews
- DMH D1013A2
- 2 stars, 1 review
- DMH D1013A2
- 2 stars, 9 reviews
Our washer/dryer choice
We purchased the Blomberg WM98200SX washer and DHP24400W heat pump dryer. The biggest reasons for this choice:
- Small size
- Ventless design
- Greatest efficiency
- Highest reliability (we hope)
- Easiest maintenance (other than LG’s self clean units that I don’t trust to last)
Note that if I’d known the Blomberg washer was designed with irreplaceable bearings, I wouldn’t have purchased it. One silver lining about having two Blomberg units is they come with a stacking kit to put one atop the other. Stacking is more difficult when brands don’t match.
This section describes our installation of the washer and dryer, mostly focused on things I found confusing or less obvious. These are not fully-complete installation instructions.
We purchased through designerappliances.com because they had the best price and 9.34/10 rating on resellerratings.com. The total, with free delivery, was $1,979.58. Unfortunately, the area their delivery company will deliver to is limited. We were considered to be too remote and they were going to cancel our order until I suggested delivering to my parents’ house. We were actually able to fit both units in our Model S and drive them home with the trunk partly open:
Both units are clearly marked on the box that they can be shipped on their sides, but only on their right side. They define the “right side” as your right side if you were the appliance and your face was the appliance door. It’s a little confusing, but the boxes had one side clearly marked as being safe to lay on that side, so we marked that side after removing the boxes. Boxes simply lift off a styrofoam shell after cutting off plastic ribbons around the box.
The washer is significantly heavier than the dryer at 192lbs vs. 125lbs. With three people, we had little trouble lifting the washer onto boards laid in the trunk and sliding it in. The boards were there to protect the rubber trunk seal from possible damage.
We then found the washer hit the roof when we tried to push it in over the backs of the seats, so we cut off styrofoam on both ends. We also reduced the styrofoam in the middle to about a foot in length so it could squeeze into the curve of the roof.
In retrospect we perhaps should have had the lighter dryer set on the backs of the seats instead of the washer. At the time I didn’t realize they were so different in weight.
The washer uses an unusual white NEMA 6-15 plug, shown to the right, which supplies 15 amps at 240 volts. I was afraid I would have to wire a matching unusual outlet in the wall, but there is an outlet for this plug on the left side of the dryer’s junction box. This outlet is not mentioned in the dryer manual and is hidden by the styrofoam shell the dryer ships in, so it took awhile to discover it. In other words, the Blomberg washer plugs into the Blomberg dryer and the dryer plugs into the wall using a NEMA 14-30, 30 amp outlet.
Getting the washer off its styrofoam base is rather difficult for two people. I recommend getting a third person to pull the styrofoam out while two lift it, but make sure the lifters are strong.
Unscrew and remove five shipping bolts on the back that help support the tub during transport. I used a nylon pry tool to remove the rubbery stopper the bolts are held inside, but wriggling it out with fingernails also works. It can take a fair amount of force to work the stoppers out and it helps to rock them back and forth.
You’re supposed to open the dryer door and pull out a piece of styrofoam sitting right behind the door. We found the styrofoam had fallen out of place and was loose inside the tub, but there was no obvious damage caused by that.
There is also a bag of accessories in the tub of the dryer and the washer, including hot and cold water hoses they recommend you use instead of existing hoses. A blue U-shaped piece of plastic is included to hold the drain hose. The U hooks over the edge of a sink or a drain pipe and can be tied to a wall or other anchor at the top.
Drain hoses for washer and dryer need to be secured so they can’t slip out of the drain and flood the floor. They also can’t slide too deep into the drain: If the end of the hose ends up in the drain-water trap, it can suck that water back into the washer.
I felt like the U plastic pulled the drain lines into odd shapes with my drain so I used metal hose clamps that I tied to a nearby pipe. I couldn’t find matching zip ties so it looks cheesy. I’ll fix it someday!
After carefully leveling the washer and dryer, the dryer should not be used for at least 12 hours. I’m not sure why but it has something to do with letting the refrigerant and oil migrate back to where it belongs internally.
I installed a water detector wire near the washer. I’ve got these all over the house and they’ve saved me from a few cases of water damage that would have gone unnoticed for a long time without them. The product has been discontinued but can still be found on ebay and maybe other online stores. They still sell a more expensive version that will alert your smart phone and also detects freezing temperatures.
I filled the dryer vent hole to the outside with scraps of insulation and covered it with a piece of wood you can see in the upper left of the picture. Flexible weather stripping was stuck between wood and wall.
If you look closely, the way the edge of the tab is mangled makes it look like it was pried or cut with a tool or bent/twisted at an extreme angle during assembly so I suspect it was broken at the factory. I didn’t notice the damage until the dryer was unpacked and leveled.
The main lint filter is easier to remove and replace than in any other dryer I’ve used, but I wonder if its loose fit allows lint to pass around the edges. Usually dryers have a rubber or felt gasket around the filter, but this one just uses a hard ridge on the filter that fits into a hard valley in the dryer.
A tab must be unsnapped to unfold the filter to clean the lint, which adds a bit of time to the process and I worry it will eventually break at the hinge where it unfolds. With the compact size of the washer I’m not sure if there was room for a non-folding filter. The filter costs only $7 to replace (plus shipping) so it doesn’t seem like they’re trying to gouge people on broken filters, at least so far.
The secondary evaporator lint filter is behind a door at the lower left front of the dryer. It’s easy to remove and has a rubber gasket to stop anything from getting around it. It’s supposed to be cleaned once every three cycles, but it’s a pain to clean so I’ve been doing it every 5-6 cycles.
The sponge filter gets hair and particles stuck deep inside so it can’t be simply wiped clean. I tried washing it which created a great amount of gunk in my sink drain filter and took a lot of time and water to get everything out.
The second time I cleaned it, I took just the black sponge outside and blew lint out with an electric blower duster. It didn’t get as clean as with washing but it can be washed whenever it gets too clogged for blowing clean. A vacuum could also be used but I don’t think it would remove as much lint as the strong blower duster.
The dryer works well. A full load from the washer (filled loosely to the top) usually dries in 1:20. If it includes jeans or other items that hold a lot of water, it takes 1:40. Clothes feel completely dry using the default setting.
Large pieces of metal (chains, big rings, etc) on clothes are a problem because they trick the dryer into thinking the clothes are never dry. As Green Living Ideas explains, the dryer moisture sensor is just two metal bars that sense electricity flowing between them when damp clothes touch both bars at once
Large pieces of metal can be mistaken for wet clothing when they bridge the two bars. We had that happen on one load: The dryer ran for almost 5 hours before it gave up. When it stopped, it changed the mode from “normal dry” to “damp dry” with the “start/pause” light blinking and “0:05” shown on the display. Total power use was 2.686kWh instead of the average 0.907kWh, which means it only used as much power as a 3-hour cycle at full power despite running for 5 hours.
Clothing with large amounts of metal should be wrapped in mesh laundry bags. We bought some from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Unfortunately, the bags keep clothes from spreading out so they don’t dry by the time the mesh bag has gotten dry. With a dry bag, the dryer can’t tell clothes in the bag are still wet, so it stops drying. It might be better to use a 1:20 hour timed dry cycle instead of sensor dry when metal is a problem.
This problem with metal should affect sensor drying on all dryers, but I never noticed it with my parents LG dryer. That might just be because it knows anything over 1:30 to 2:00 is ridiculous so it stops there, whereas it’s possible that some items could take 3 hours in the HPD. Its limit of 5 hours seems unreasonably long.
I’m used to old-school top-loading washers taking well under an hour, maybe closer to half an hour. The full-size, front-loading LG washer my parents own takes just under an hour in cold-water default mode. However, the Blomberg washer takes 1:15 on a full load with cold water default mode, and 2:05 with hot water “whites” mode. Part of the time taken in hot water mode is internal heating of the water above what your hot water heater may produce.
The HE detergent we use says in a normal washer to use 2 oz for a medium load, 3-4 for a large load. A full Blomberg is 2.5cuft vs 3.1 to 4.1cuft for a “standard capacity” washer. Therefore, our full loads would seem to fall between medium and large so I use 1.5-2.5 oz depending on soil level. The washer somehow detects the amount of detergent in the water after rinsing and will automatically add rinse cycles if too much detergent remains. Therefore, to save time and water, it’s important to use the proper amount of detergent.
Overall, I’m happy with the performance of washer and dryer, but concerned about long-term repairability. Since we don’t go through clothes too quickly, I expect they’ll last 7-10 years and probably longer with some possible DIY repair work. With a large family, I expect the washer especially would wear out too quickly and be unreasonable for most owners to repair. The smaller loads and longer cycle times might also pose a problem.
We shut off our natural gas service on June 16, 2017 and boy did it feel good. Our home and transportation are now powered by 100% renewable solar electricity.
With fossil-dealing corporations continuing to buy politicians in return for fossil-subsidies and fossil-friendly policies, it’s nice to know that we all have the power to make our lives more renewable.
While not everyone has a solar-suitable property, we all have the power to do our part:
- Install LED lighting
- Offset your CO2 emissions at cooleffect.org
- Fight for clean energy at 350.org
- Tell a climate-skeptic friend about the backfire effect
- Support other actions we can take to limit CO2, ranked in order of effectiveness. Did you know adding more plants to your diet is #4?
Those that profit from pollution have made our atmosphere a dumping ground and poured money into fear, uncertainty, and doubt to keep their profits flowing. We all need to feel that sense of urgency and do everything in our power to stop them from ruining our only home.
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