Sunday, November 21, 2010

Laundry Options for Smaller Spaces: Things to Consider

As mentioned in a previous post, the laundry facilities in the cottage we hope to purchase will be located in the bathroom.  The challenge for us now is to figure out how to place the machine(s) while making the most of the available floor space.  I've been researching several options, each with its respective pros and cons.

Kenmore Unit available at Sears.ca
One option is the conventional two-in-one washer/dryer unit like the Kenmore brand pictured here.  This looks like a stacked washer and dryer, but is actually one unit.  These come in different sizes.  I've seen units that are 24" wide and 27" wide ranging in price from about $1000 CAN to $1500 CAN.  The units I've seen require the typical 220V outlet (for the dryer unit) and water hookups.  This sort of unit certainly minimizes the floor space required for a typical laundry set-up.  One thing I did notice was that it pays to read customer reviews on the various models that some sites post as the best bargain, dollar-wise, may not always be the best performer.  Another drawback is if the unit has to be sent out for repairs, you lose both the washer and dryer functions until the machine is sent back to you.  If one becomes inoperable, you will end up replacing the whole unit, instead of just the washer or the dryer.


A Bosche 24" washer available at Sears
If you like your machines separate, there are many on the market that can be stacked, so they don't take up anymore floor space than the type of unit described above.  This gives you the benefit of a stacked all-in-one unit, without some of the drawbacks.  Such units are often marketed in pairs.  As I did my review, I was surprsed to learn that some of these pairs seem mismatched in terms of performance, at least based on the posted consumer reviews.  It certainly pays to do your research before you buy.  I read several reviews, for example, where customers were very pleased with the washer but disappointed in the dryer (or vice versa).  Just because a washer and dryer are paired up on the showroom floor, doesn't mean you have to buy them as pair. 

Both of these options maximize the use of floor space for laundry functions, but you are still faced with where to put the laundry soap, dryer sheets, and other laundry supplies.  If you only have a small niche or closet to work with, you may want to consider one more option.

Go to LG.com for more info
The the washer/dryer all-in-one unit, like the one pictured by LG, has been popular in Europe for years especially in small flats (apartments) and houses.  One machine does it all for you - washes and dries - and doesn't require external venting like a conventional dryer unit.  Because the unit is half the size of the conventional stacked unit, there is the option of installing additional storage right above the machine.  This means your entire laundry centre could be contained within a space the size of a small closet ( in about 4 or 5 square feet of floor space).

I learned there is an important difference between the units for sale in places like the United Kingdom and in North America.  In Eurpoe, the unit runs on 220V while most of the units for sale in North America run on standard 115V.  Consumer reports on this continent usually have high praise for the washing functions of these machines, but describe disappointment with the dryer function.  The issue appears to be due to the lower voltage of these machines: the drying elements aren't able to muster sufficient heat to dry clothes in a reasonable length of time. One consumer review stated that it takes about six hours to wash and dry a single load.  If you are used to separate units, you would have to change how you do your laundry to work within these parameters.  Another issue concerns the lack of venting: while the unit is set up to deal with the resulting humidity generated by the drying process, in colder, damp climates, this could be a challenge if you already have humidity issues in your home.

On the plus side; however, this sort of combo unit makes economical use of water and has a water heating element to get your clothes very white without bleach.  If your home is on septic field, both of these features will be important considerations.  If you live in a southern climate where drying clothes outdoors is an option most of the year, or if you are concerned about your septic system, then this sort of machine may be just the thing. 

So it seems that all three options have benefits and obvious drawbacks to the conventional side-by-side washer and dryer.  The trick is to decide which functions or features are most important to you and to do your research regarding the various brands available.

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