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Home > Ideas & Tips > Washer & Dryer Buying Guide

Washer & Dryer Buying Guide

Buy Smart, Buy Once

Washer & Dryer

Buying Guide

What You Need to Know Before Buying A New Washer And/Or Dryer

Washers and dryers are two of the most essential appliances in any household so it is important to fully understand your needs before purchasing. Characteristics like size, design, and additional features can all affect performance. Our Washer & Dryer Buying guide will show you everything you need to consider before purchasing a washer or dryer and will help you to select the right appliances for your needs and budget.

What To Consider Before Making A Purchase Measurement & Space

Don't forget to measure all of the doorways, turns and stairwells that are on the path to where your appliances will sit!

What To Consider Before Making A Purchase Measurement & Space

The biggest reason for returning an appliance is because it simply doesn't fit! Be sure to measure twice and buy once. Have a measurement of the following dimensions before purchasing:

Height: ________________
Depth: _________________
Width: _________________
Combined Width: ________

NOTE: When measuring depth, allow for a 3 to 4 inch gap behind the washer & dryer for plumbing and ventilation.

How Big is Your Family?

How Big is Your Family?

The size of your family and the number of people using your washer and dryer should directly affect the size of your washer and dryer as generally, the more people, the more dirty laundry.

A small washer is 2 - 3 cubic feet and can hold roughly 8 pounds of clothes; a mid-sized washer is 3 to 4 cubic feet holding roughly 11 pounds of laundry while a large washer is 4+ cubic feet and can hold 15+ pounds. While a family of four may need a large washer and dryer, a couple may only need a small to mid-sized washer.

When buying a dryer, understand that clothes need more space to dry than they do to be washed. The general rule of thumb is that the dryer be roughly double the size of the washer. Having a larger dryer will also cut back on dry time as clothes will dry faster.

Is Washer Capacity the Same for all Models?

While the size of the washer and dryer are often a good measure of capacity, every unit is different in what it can actually accommodate. The amount of laundry a unit can handle - the number of pounds it can properly clean per load - is specific to the model, but generally mid to large sized top-load washers can hold between 10 - 15 pounds per load, high efficiency (HE) top-load washers will hold 12 - 18 pounds per load, and HE front-load washers will hold 12 to 20 pounds per load.

Types of Washers

Top-Load Washers

Top-Load Washers

Top-Load washers are the traditional style of washer and as such, are the most commonly purchased. They use a vertically facing drum that spins back and forth and a centre agitator to help clean. These models are easy to load and, while often lower in cost, they are typically less efficient and can handle less clothing per load.

High-Efficiency (HE) Top-Load Washer

High-Efficiency (HE) Top-Load Washer

HE top-load washers have the same top loading position but function differently. High-efficiency washers do not have the centre agitator meaning more space for clothing. High efficiency washers also use specialized high efficiency detergent designed to clean clothes using less water. High efficiency washers also have a higher spin cycle allowing them to separate more water from the clothing, reducing drying time.

HE top-load washers are typically the mid-price model because, while being more efficient than traditional top-loaders, they still require more water to complete a load than the front-load washer.

High-Efficiency Front-Load Washer

High-Efficiency Front-Load Washer

The HE front-load washer is the most efficient. The single direction, horizontal drum washer requires less high efficiency soap and water than top-load washers and operated much quieter. However, because the front-load washer can accommodate more clothing in less space than traditional top-loaders and its drum orientation is more effective at cleaning, it is the most expensive model of washer.

Specs and Features To Consider

More and more, washing machines are being equipped with additional features and settings that allow you to customize your washing cycle. However, brands like Maytag, LG, Whirlpool and Samsung offer a variety of different brand-specific features and comparing them can get confusing. So, here are some of the essentials you should look for in a washer, as well as new features that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your washer.

Wash Cycle

Wash Cycle

Standard washers are usually equipped with four washing options: Normal, Delicate, Heavy Duty & Permanent press. While these options are essential, many washers now come equipped with additional wash cycles like:

  • Pre-wash: extending wash time allowing clothing to soak, loosening deeply soiled clothing
  • Steam: using steam to penetrate deep stains, specifically oils and stubborn stains
  • Bulky wash: uses more water to thoroughly soak large items
  • Steam: reduces wrinkles and helps penetrate deep stains

Depending on how often you use your washer for delicates and garments with specific washing instruction, these extra wash cycles can improve the quality of your wash and the longevity of your clothing.

Wash Temperature

Wash Temperature

Typically, the standard washer temperatures are: hot for whites and linens, warm for permanent press items (most commonly used) and cold for specialty garments and colours. More advanced models come with more specific temperature settings for a wider variety of garments and fabrics. Some models even have digital thermostats that let you set your water temperature to the degree. These options are extremely helpful with delicate items that have specific washing instruction.

Spin Cycle

Spin Cycle

The spin cycle is the final cycle your washer goes through to remove excess water from clothes. Typically, washers spin at around 600 to 650 RPM during the spin cycle, while high efficiency models spin in excess of 2,000 RPM removing more water and decreasing drying time thus cutting down on your energy bill.

Quiet Operation

Quiet Operation

While noise level isn't something you can test in store, it is universally felt that front-load washers operate quieter than top load washers and that machines transfer less vibration when on a pedestal.

Automatic Detergent Dispensers

Automatic Detergent Dispensers

Washers with dispensary drawers regulate how much detergent, bleach or fabric softener is used per wash depending on what setting your washer is on. This option takes the guess work out of washing clothes and provides a consistent end result.

Front-Load Dryers and Their Features

Front-Load Dryers

Dryers only come in the front-load configuration as the horizontal facing drum is the most efficient model for drying clothes. They are also typically larger than washers as the space required to dry clothes is more than the space required to wash them. Electric dryers require a 240V plug specific to large appliances and come with a wide variety of different options and features that can improve their effectiveness and user-friendliness.


gas vs. electric?

Looking for a gas dryer? Gas dryers are special order products - please see your Lowe's store for product information and ordering.

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Gas vs. Electric?

For the most part, gas and electric perform identically. However, gas dryers are cheaper to operate, so you can save money over time - but they can cost a little more up front.

Electric washers and dryers use most of the electricity they draw to make heat (some is used to power the motors). Electricity is the more expensive way to heat things.

It can cost 30 to 40 cents per load to use an electric dryer, versus 15 to 20 cents for a gas dryer. That might save you $50 a year, and a typical dryer lasts about 18 years.

Dryer Features to Consider

Moisture & Temperature Sensors

While both moisture and temperature sensors work well to stop the dryer once clothes are sufficiently dry, it is often felt that moisture sensors perform better and last longer.

Lint Filter

Lint filters are located either on top of the appliance by the controls, or in the drum just inside the door. While both filters placements collect lint efficiently, the top mounted filter is easier to access then the in-drum filter.

NOTE: be sure to regularly clean out the lint filter as a buildup can decrease the dryer's effectiveness and even catch fire in extreme cases.

Drum Rack

The drum rack is placed within the dryer and clothes are placed on top. The clothes do not spin within, but rather sit and dry as the drum rotates around it. This is ideal for delicate clothing and fabrics like wool and silk.

Extended Tumble

This feature periodically tumbles clothes that have finished the drying cycle until removed. This feature is designed to limit clothes from wrinkling and to keep them fresh before removed.

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