The big brands are competing the heaviest, fastest and most efficient washing and drying cycles.

  • Size and speed are important considerations. Barrel sizes are increasing, especially in front loaders, and cycles are becoming quicker, meaning fewer weekly loads and less time spent in the laundry.
  • Heat pump dryers are increasingly popular and likely to carry a 6-star energy rating. Although expensive up front, the super energy efficient machines will save money in the long run.
  • Intelligent features designed to take the guess work out of washing, stain removal and drying are becoming standard across the board, not just on premium models.

In Pictures: 14 Best Laundry Appliance Brands of 2014

Brands are doing their very best to make outsourcing caring for clothes to the local laundromat obsolete with the standardisation of intuitive washing programs, bigger barrel sizes, gentle steam cleans and automatic dispensers dosing clothes with the optimum amount of detergent.

Across the board, energy and water efficiency are obligatory considerations for laundry appliances, and brands also like to distinguish themselves with other factors such as wash speed and sensitive treatments to take the best care of clothes with minimal effort.

Celebrating their 80th year in 2014, Fisher & Paykel is confident its designs will live up to expectations.  Marketing manager Kara May said consumers expect more and more from their washing machines.

“Efficient water and energy ratings are mandatory considerations, and increasingly customers also demand extra features such as intuitive machines that can take the guesswork out of washing,” she said.

Fisher & Paykel machines use SmartDrive technology, which removes the need for belts, pulleys and the traditional block of concrete to hold the machine down in the spin cycles. Without these extra components, the washers are quieter and vibrate less.

Two new front loaders have been added to Fisher & Paykel’s range:  the WashSmart (RRP from $949) and the QuickSmart (RRP from $849), which both come in 7.5-kilogram and 8.5-kilogram sizes, have 4-star energy ratings, 4.5-star WELS ratings and a 10-year motor warranty.

The front loaders have a unique washing action called ‘Vortex Wash’, which acts as a “reverse waterfall to drench an entire load in seconds, like an explosion mid-cycle”. It uses the centripetal force of the spinning drum to force sudsy water through the clothes to enhance wetting.

“By getting the cleaning agents and heat into the fibres of the clothes quicker, the clothes get clean quicker,” May said. The majority of the wash cycles take less than an hour and the Super Quick cycle on the WashSmart takes just 15 minutes from start to finish.

Another trend May identified was the move toward larger capacity products. “The 9.1-kilogram-plus segment in total washing machines has experienced 15 per cent growth compared with last year,” she said.

“This is more pronounced in top loader washers which have seen a strong 21 per cent growth versus last year, compared with 3 per cent in front loading washing. This increased demand for top loaders is significant in driving the increase in the average sell price,” she said.

Combining both size and smarts, Fisher & Paykel FabricSmart top loaders  (RRP from $989) boast fabric sensing technology that can detect the difference between items such as denim jeans and delicate lingerie, based on the level of friction against the agitator, and can adjust the wash cycle to a perfect setting. Testing showed clothes last up to 30 per cent longer when compared to washes in a pre-2004 SmartDrive machine.

For drying, condenser dryers are in vogue. “There is a growing fashion for condenser dryers with the segment growing a significant 33 per cent increase on last year’s figures,” May said. “These dryers are switching consumers from the Vented Dryer category, which experienced a 10 per cent decline on last year.”

Fisher & Paykel’s new 8-kilogram AeroXL Front Loader Condenser Dryer (DE8060P1, RRP $1,049) has 11 drying programs and a 2-star energy rating.

“Customers are drawn to the ease of installation (no venting required) and energy efficiency. Families also appreciate less allergens and moisture going into the home, making a condenser dryer perfect for households with young children or respiratory illnesses,” she said.

Haier, the Chinese company that owns Fisher & Paykel, has also observed a continued demand for larger capacity models, front loaders and energy and water efficiency.

“Understanding consumers’ desire to improve living experiences is at the centre of Haier’s product innovation,” said Haier marketing manager Georgia Way. “In response to customer insights, energy and water efficiency and larger capacity models with intuitive features will continue to be a focus of Haier’s product development.”

The Haier range features an 8-kilogram Front Loader (HWM80-1403D RRP $729) with  11 wash programs including  two short programs, anti-bacterial door seal and up to 1,400RPM spin speed, which is more commonly found in premium models.

The Haier 7.5-kilogram Pulsator Top Loader (HWMP75-918 RRP $569) has a bi-fold lid to help maximise space above the washer, 3-star WELS water efficiency and seven pre-set wash programs with the option to adjust water levels, water temperature and rinse options .

UPDATED:  According to Ariston’s marketing communications coordinator Shelley Neill, retailers should look for laundry appliances that have technological features that offer solutions for every home.

The product features for Ariston’s Aqualtis Auto-Dose washing machine (RRP $2,299) — exclusively sold through Harvey Norman — tick off a number of the trends appearing in the category, for example a large capacity barrel, gentle fabric care and energy saving features.

“Machines are more advanced with energy savings and water efficiency, washing machines are becoming more innovative,” Neill said.

“Our Eco-Tech technology offers consumers 4-star energy ratings and 4.5-star water ratings, assuring the best performance with less consumption. Anti-allergy washes are offering consumers who suffer from allergens a smart choice. This is backed by the British allergy foundation seal of approval.”

Another unique cycle is the exclusive Woolmark Platinum Care wash option, certified by the Woolmark Company, which means consumers don’t have to think twice when washing hand washable woollens.

The Aqualtis Auto-Dose is capable of sensing the size of load inside the machine and dispensing the ideal dose of detergent and fabric softener. The integrated storage tanks can hold 3.5 litres of softener and 5.5 litres of detergent, the equivalent of 4 months-worth of laundry detergent.

UPDATED: Samsung is combining smarts and size in its 2014 laundry range with the inclusion of wi-fi and ‘ultra large capacity’ barrels.

“As technology evolves, so do the expectations of our consumers. Great performance and features are a given, but what sets an appliance apart from the rest is premium design,” said Mike Lilly, head of home appliances, Samsung.

“Knowing this, we have invested in design across the 2014 range — our new 9kg Blue Crystal front load washing machine is a perfect example. This machine has a stunning minimalistic design but also packs a punch with Smart Wi-Fi technology and a 5-inch colour touch screen.”

“Additionally, our Super Capacity washer dryer combination features a 10kg washer and 8kg dryer with the ability to wash up to 15kgs of washing so that you can wash more in less time.”

Larger loads

Size matters at ASKO Appliances! The Swedish brand recently launched an XL range of washing machines. These 80-litre, 10-kilogram washers are bigger inside and aim to meet the changing needs of families over time.

Front loaders are also getting bigger to try to cash in on the segment of the market looking for larger capacities. There are two front loading washing machines in ASKO’s XL range: the W8844XL and the W8844XL ECO (RRP $2,499). Both boast deeper drums, to accommodate larger items like doonas, carpets and large coats.

James Vogdanos, national product manager for ASKO Appliances said, “As well as handling bigger loads, the XL washing machines offer all the best bits of ASKO’s existing European-designed ranges, capable of cleaning any garment type, as well as delivering high energy and water efficiencies”.

Both machines in the range feature a 5-star energy rating and a 4.5-star water rating, as well as a a door that can be opened from the inside. As a point of difference, ASKO’s front loaders don’t have any rubber door seals, meaning less cleaning and no residual detergents.

Simpson has released its biggest front loader yet (SWF10832, RRP $989); it has a 4-star WELS rating and a 3.5-star energy rating, and child lockable control panel and washer door.

Dominic Wong, category manager for fabric care at Simpson’s parent company, Electrolux Home Products, said consumers rarely fill their washes to the highest capacity, especially front loaders, for fear of over-filling, so tend to opt for larger capacities.

“Consumers are generally buying larger capacity washers because, due to time constraints, they prefer to make fewer washes,” Wong said.

“Front load versus top load sales are currently almost running neck and neck, gradually eroding the two-thirds to one-third split between the top and front load sectors.”

Treating clothes with extra care was another trend Wong identified, which reinforces EHP’s decision to refer to the laundry category as ‘fabric care’.

In this vein, Wong said heat pumps are slowly gaining popularity in line with increasing appreciation of their ‘kind’ treatment of clothes and more efficient drying capacity.

Also in the Electrolux family is the 6-star energy rated 9-kilogram AEG Heat Pump dryer (T96690IH, RRP $2,499) is the biggest on the market and features an anti-crease option that intermittently rotates clothes after drying and has a Woolmark certification for extra gentle wool care.

And there’s also the Electrolux Inspiration Laundry Range, which includes condenser dryers loaded with features to ensure fabrics are treated with utmost care, including an advanced sensor dry technology to read humidity levels throughout the drying cycle, ensuring clothes are not over-dried.

Letting off a little steam

Steaming features are also popping up on laundry appliances. The Electrolux Wash ‘n’ Dry System (EWW14912 RRP$1,869) uses a load sensor to recommend the ideal detergent dose, dryness level setting and vapour action that ‘refreshes’ clothes.

The LG range has also adopted steam generators for selected cycles. During the 60° Celsius Allergen cycle, the steam keeps the temperature inside the drum at an appropriate level to help remove house dust mites and allergens, while the ‘steam refresh cycle’ is a 30-minute steam only cycle (no water or detergent needed) to remove odours and wrinkles.

Jennifer Osborne, home appliances marketing manager at LG Electronics Australia, said they set out to produce a range of washing machines focused on saving time, money and energy.

“Rising costs of energy and water, combined with increasingly hectic life schedules have brought time, money and energy efficiency technologies to the forefront of a consumer’s mind when purchasing a new washing machine or dryer. Consumers are looking for a machine that will not just wash their clothes, but also help manage their time while keeping costs down,” she said.

New to the market in May was LG’s Front Loader washer/dryer combo (WD12595FD6), which washes up to 15 kilograms and can dry 7.5 kilograms. LG also has a top load washer, the 10-kilogram Inverter Direct Drive with built-in heater (WT-R10856, RRP $1,689), as well as the 10-kilogram Inverter Direct Drive Front Load Washer with TrueSteam (WD-14070SD6, RRP $2,029).

As well as steam, another key innovation in the LG range is ‘6 Motion Control. This feature rotates the drum at various speeds and directions to mimic the different motions of hand washing and chooses the best combination of the six different motions to deliver a customised washing action.

“Whilst other machines also have different types of wash cycles, they just vary the speed of the drum and the wash time, not the motion type,” Osborne said.

LG is also turning consumers into expert diagnosticians with the help of Smart Diagnosis technology. Users can troubleshoot problems that may arise with the product by downloading the LG App or calling the LG Customer Information Centre. The product will “talk for itself” by starting the Smart Diagnosis function. “Because issues can be pre-diagnosed, or even solved in this manner, it can help consumers save time and money on expensive call-outs,” Osborne said.

Need for Speed

As the name suggests, speed is a top priority for Speed Queen laundry appliances, which are now offered to retailers by newly formed distributor 1300 WASHER. This new company is a joint venture between Speed Queen’s three commercial dealers, including its Queensland rep Andrew Barton Laundry Equipment.

Ross Moony, Queensland state manager of Andrew Barton Laundry Equipment said that while some domestic manufacturers have increased their wash capacity at the expense of time, Speed Queen’s top loading washer has remained focused on wash times.

“With a wash time of 35 minutes on a normal 7.5-kilogram load, a Speed Queen washer can wash three times as many loads in the same time some domestic washers are still completing their first load.

“Yes, it’s important to have low water and power consumption and thanks to the tough regulations, most laundry equipment can achieve that, but we believe because most of us are time poor, it’s important that we achieve the most amount of washing possible in the shortest possible time.”

Speed Queen is the only commercial laundry equipment company with the approval of the Australian Government to sell domestic products as well, as such, the brand is keen to promote the durability of its products.

Saving on soap

Bosch and Siemens are not only focused on saving water and energy, but also detergent. Both brands’ washing machines both include i-DOS (Intelligent Dosage System) to determine the optimal amount of detergent for a load. Sensors automatically detect the hardness of water, type of fabric, weight of load and level of soiling before dispensing the precise amount of detergent.

Brand manager for Bosch, Aleks Efeian said correct dosing of detergent is vital to the efficiency of a wash cycle and maintaining premium garment care. “Overdosing leads to visible detergent residues, risk of allergies and wastage of water and detergent. Underdosing means that clothes are not clean, white wash turns grey and stains are burnt in. It can also lead to the accumulation of oil and grease as well as loss of colour brilliance.”

Bosch’s front loader i-DOS HomeProfessional washing machine (WAY32840, RRP $2,599) boasts a 5-star water rating; 4-star energy rating; and Bosch’s innovative EcoSilence Drive, a brushless, frictionless motor that ensures quieter and more energy efficient performance.

Boasting a 7-kilogram capacity, the Bosch HomeProfessional ActiveAir heat pump condenser dryer (WTY88700AU, RRP$2,729) features Bosch’s innovative ActiveAir technology, which operates by warming air with a heat pump. This ensures that all existing heat is efficiently reused throughout the cycle, making it one of the most energy efficient dryers on the Australian market.

The 8-kilogram Siemens iQ 800 Master Class washing machine (WM16Y890AU, RRP $2,799) also features the i-DOS system and has 5-star water and 4-star energy ratings. Both Bosch and Siemens models come with automatic stain removal programs for 16 different types of stains.

The Siemens iQ 800 Master Class heat pump dryer  (WT48Y780AU, RRP $2,889) is billed as Australia’s most energy efficient dryer.

“It’s 33 per cent more efficient than the qualifying standard for 6-star rated dryers and will maintain its low energy consumption for life, regardless of how often it’s used.”

Also at the premium end of the market, Miele machines feature an AutoDos system, a standalone automatic detergent dispenser and uber-efficient heat pump dryers.

“Even more important to consumers today is efficiency: consumers are looking for products that save time, money and valuable resources,” said Rachel Lewis product manager Miele Australia.

Miele’s model of German efficiency is the W 5000 WPS Supertronic Washing Machine (RRP $4,199). It has an 8-kilogram capacity, 4.5-star energy and WELS ratings and a SteamCare function to reduce the need for ironing.

Miele laundry appliances are German engineered and tested to the equivalent of 20 years usage, a huge benefit when it comes to longevity, sustainability and value for money, Lewis said.

“Miele continues to invest R&D funds in the development of high water and energy efficiencies and innovative features such as precise water injection, intelligent load size recognition and the EcoFeedback function.”

The EcoFeedback function delivers the exact reading of electricity and water consumption prior to the start of a selected programme.  Miele’s 6-star energy efficient T 8001 WP Supertronic Heat-pump Dryer (RRP $4,199) features the EcoFeedback function and uses approximately half the energy used by a conventional condenser tumble dryer.

Panasonic group manager for home appliances and air conditioning, Sophie Barton, said consumers prefer environmentally-friendly machines packed with smart features.

“In the laundry room, consumers want feature-packed products that are self-sufficient, and can save time, money and energy without compromising the quality and care of beloved garments,” Barton said.

The Panasonic Econavi Front Loader washing machine (NA-140VX3WAU RRP $1,619) has a 10-kilogram capacity but with a smaller footprint to handle large loads without taking up too much space in the laundry. It has a 4.5-star energy and WELS ratings and the built-in Econavi sensor technology to detect the load size and adjust the water temperature, volume, and spin-cycle accordingly.

To save time and energy, the built-in Hydroactive+ technology uses five multi-directional showers to rapidly deliver water, enabling deep and fast penetration of the detergent into the clothes and fast rinsing.

The stain master option can tackle 23 different types of stains — such as lipstick, chocolate or tomato — combining the optimum temperature and soaking time to remove the stain.

Rounding out the energy efficient range is Panasonic’s Heat Pump Dryer (NH-P70G2 RRP $2,499), which carries a 6-star energy rating and treats clothes kindly by drying them at 45° Celsius while other conventional dryers blast clothes at 100° Celsius.

New kids on the block

Sharp entered the laundry market with the release of its first 8-kilogram front load machine washing machine (ESV80HA, RRP $759) in late 2013.

“There is always room for a well-priced, well-featured product in the Australian market,” said Mark Beard, national marketing manager for Sharp Corporation Australia.

“Although Sharp is new to the washing machine market in Australia, Sharp Australia’s parent company’s heritage goes back over 25 years. Since launching the ESV80HA, Sharp has enjoyed good sales. We look to further expand our range through 2014,” Beard said.

Sharp’s front loader features a variable spin speed, Eco Logic Half Load detection system and a TwinJet system to allow for a larger amount of clothes to be washed in a shorter time.

Smeg also launched its laundry range late last year with two front load washing machines (7.5- and 8-kilogram capacities), two condenser dryers (7- and 8-kilogram) and a heat pump dryer (7-kilogram).

Both washers have 20 programs, a Woolmark-approved woollens cycle, a 4-star energy rating and a 4.5-star WELS rating.

The hero of the range is the heat pump dryer (SAHP7, RRP $2,490). It has 20 programs, four spin speeds, temperatures between 5° and 35° Celsius, a 6-star energy rating and a 10-year motor warranty.

“While the heat pump is not new technology the development of this heat pump dryer — with an impressive 6-star energy rating — is extremely topical.  It will certainly contribute to lower energy bills during the winter months,” said a Smeg spokesperson.