Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
SPOTLIGHT: Environmentalism meets washing day.
BIG PICTURE: A straight-from-the-store washing machine was delivered to our home last week. Over the years, I’ve used shared laundromats in apartment buildings, and public laundromats frequented by rowdy homeless people. I’ve used no-frills machines in grungy basements, and was thrilled with an already decade-old apartment sized appliance for 13 years.
Then we moved. After two second-hand machines, two mini-floods, and an unsuccessful repair attempt, we bought new for the first time. But not without trepidation.
A friend has long complained that the energy efficient, front-load washer she purchased eight years ago takes forever to do a load of laundry – and that her energy-saving dryer is even more lethargic. When lots of family visits over Christmas, she schleps the towels and bed sheets to the laundromat afterward.
Appliance salespeople brandish printouts listing all manner of specs, but none volunteered what seemed to me a crucial piece of information: how long does it take to wash a load of laundry in machine A versus machine B?
Consumer Reports warns that front-loading, high efficiency models can take “from 60 to 120 minutes using the normal wash/heavy soil setting.” Mold and odours, it says, can also be a problem.
Everyone wants to be environmentally friendly. But we now live in a world in which politicians and bureaucrats deliberately hobble appliances. Performing their function well has become secondary to conforming to arbitrary rules that will supposedly save the planet. (When you have 20 minutes and want to get riled up, read this saga about phosphates and dishwashers.)
The washing machine we eventually chose cleans a normal load in 55 minutes (compared to 35 minutes in my older machine). But it also has a speed wash cycle for smaller loads that I expect will suffice much of the time (22-35 minutes).
We’re supposed to feel virtuous when purchasing a machine of this sort and, to my surprise, I do. It uses only half the water – an obvious win.
These new machines take longer partly because more moisture is being extracted from the fabric at the end of the process. Since dryers consume more energy than washers, reducing drying time by an estimated 15 minutes per load is another huge win. (Yes, I could hang my laundry on the line – been there, done that.)
I feel badly for people such as my friend, who appears to have purchased these costly, energy-efficient machines a bit too early in their development cycle. I also feel badly for appliance manufacturers who find themselves at the mercy of ever-more stringent government standards – whether those standards make sense or not.
Nevertheless, the shortcomings that plagued the early versions of these appliances are being overcome.
TOP TAKEAWAY: Despite my skepticism, my green, 21st-century machine is a dream :-)
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