On being … the deciding feature

By Ingrid Sapona

There are a lot of useful household appliances. If I were ranking them, I’d say the refrigerator is the most important. (After all, without one, I couldn’t possibly have cheese on hand!) For me, the washing machine is a close second. I’ve never been keen on hand washing even my most expensive delicates – I can’t imagine washing bedsheets, towels, and what have you, by hand.

The other day I threw a load of laundry in. I was barefoot as I headed toward the washer to unload it. I felt something wet on the floor. When I looked down, I saw that I had stepped into a huge puddle. My heart sank, as I figured it had to be from the washing machine. I quickly got a bath towel to wipe up the water. That’s when I noticed the puddle was about two feet away from the washer. The area next to – and under – the washer was bone dry. Strange…     

I decided to try another load, this time watching for water. Not so much as a drop. Very strange… Since then I’ve done a few more loads and so far, so good. But, the puddle seemed a warning sign, so I began shopping for a new washer.

When I started looking, the only thing I knew for sure was that I want a top loading machine. (Besides the cost differential, I’ve heard some negative things about front loaders and I’ve never had a problem with my top loader.) Beyond that, I really didn’t know what “features” to look for. 

I started by looking on-line because I knew I’d be able to see the specs for each model. Also, I like the comparison feature on different websites. You can choose a half dozen different models and the program produces a list that lets you tell, at a glance, how they compare. The websites also have reviews, which I thought might be helpful.

I started my search in earnest. I selected a few models that looked similar to my current machine and I hit “compare”. Up came a list of 65 points of comparison. (65! I counted them!)  About half the items are things you might expect to see when talking about washing machines. For example, a yes or no list of features like: Delicate Cycle? Extra Rinse Cycle? Cycle Status Light? Power Cord Included? Delay Start? And End-of-Cycle Signal? 

But, as I went down the list, I couldn’t believe I was still comparing washers. Who looks for washers that have Bluetooth capability? Or washers that are Wi-Fi compatible? If you consider those things must-haves for a washer, then you’d be appalled to hear that NONE of the washers I looked at work with Apple HomeKit or Nest, nor do they work with Amazon’s Alexa, or Iris. (Who – or what – is Iris? I Googled it and the only thing I found were references to the eye and the flag!) I realize most of these “features” have to do with creating a “smart home” – but honestly, I don’t need a smart washer. Given that I’ll be manually loading the clothes in, I figure I can stand there the couple extra minutes it takes to turn it on.

As for the reviews, there’s really no way to make sense of 5000+ reviews. When someone gives a model 1 star (out of 5) because the machine broke after one wash, I figure they got a lemon – it doesn’t mean every one of that model breaks after one load. And when one review says the machine is very loud, but the very next review says it’s the quietest washer they’ve ever had, what are you to make of it? 

The on-line perusing helped me narrow in on the features I’d like. Then it was time to look at some models in person, so I headed to a big box store. The displays gave the length, width, depth, and height for each. But, none of them gave information about the height with the lid up. That’s a critical measurement for me because my dryer rests on a sturdy, non-adjustable metal frame over the washer. So, I borrowed the salesperson’s tape measure.

I ended up measuring all the top load models on display and – as unbelievable as it seems – only one of them might fit. And, it’ll be a squeaker – it’s within a quarter inch of the height measurement I took. I couldn’t believe it. After all that comparing and thinking about what features I want (not to mention, whether I could live with a “dumb” washer), it all boils down to one thing – whether the damned model fits the space I have for it!

Honestly, I wish appliance makers and builders would get together and set some sizing standards and then stick with them for a few decades. Until they do, I’m sure the deciding factor for many appliance purchases isn’t even on the list of “features” the companies boast about – it’s the age-old question of whether it fits. Kind of crazy, don’t you think?

© 2017 Ingrid Sapona


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