Does More Washer Weight = Increased Longevity?

bestf100August 6, 2011

I'm about to purchase a new washer in the coming months. I've heard that the best months to buy (for bargains), are September and October. The thought process here is since the new models are coming in, the old models gotta be priced to move - sounds like the automobile industry. In the process of selling my house, I had to leave behind my trusty Kenmore HET -3 front loader. In the new house, I "inherited" a 4 year old GE top loader. Not exactly state of the art - and a big water guzzler - which I pay for.

I have not heard anyone come out and say it, but I believe a heavy washer = a long lasting washer = a happy customer. I took the time to look up the weights of a few washers that I'd like to consider (when my "ship" comes in - and depending on how much ship comes in)! :

Miele 4842 - 312 lbs

Speed Queen Horizon front load - 250 lbs

New Maytag MVWB950YW - 214 lbs

Outgoing Maytag 850 - 165 lbs

I'm looking for a washer I can expect 10 years of mostly trouble service. I really don't NEED, a whole lot of electronics, or "light show". Just give me the basic washer controls. In this family of four, we have about 6-7 loads per week. It is my understanding that the Miele is designed for operation of about 20 years. I've also heard that that some Speed Queens are designed for 20,000 commercial grade cycles. With that in mind, I believe the washers built the most robustly, have the most metal (and the least plastic), so they last the longest. I also looked up a commercial LG front loader (model number escapes me). Although it has been tested for a claimed, 20,000 cycles, it's overall weight was under 200 lbs - so I scratched it from my "wish list". Staber washer is on the cut list also for the same reason, however, I'm willing to listen to anyone who says I should reconsider. Love that Staber horizontal axis concept.

Does anyone have experience to prove otherwise? Comments y'all?

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itguy08

I don't think weight matters a bit....

Many cars made in the last 10-15 years use a lot of plastics in the engine. Plastic intake manifolds, plastic radiator tanks, etc. A car engine is a high stress environment with a wide range of temps (from well below freezing to well over boiling) and a lot of heat/cold cycles. Yet all this stuff holds up well for 100, 150, 200, 250+ thousand miles.

So plastic in itself is not a bad thing as long as the quality of that plastic is there.

Miele makes a big deal about their cast iron counterweights. Why is that better than concrete? Both are very durable. Concrete is used to build roads and houses, and cast iron for cookware and boilers. Why is one better than the other? I doubt one is better than the other.

Personally, I think the best thing to do is pick a machine that meets your requirements for features and roll the dice. We got 6 years out of our LG's and had few issues along the way. I'd imagine there are plenty of HExt's, Duets, etc that are old and working fine.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 9:09PM
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asolo

"We got 6 years out of our LG's....."

Umm....am I understanding you correctly....are you saying that you regard 6 years as a good, long, normal, acceptable service life? Does the sentence that follows mean you think six years service makes a washer "old"?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 10:18PM
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itguy08

We got 6 years out of them until a flood took them out. I replaced a leaky fill valve and a hall sensor in that time. The only reason we replaced it was because we had 3.5 ft of sewer water in our basement, including the washer and dryer. Neither my wife or I would feel we got clean clothes after that. We were already replacing the dryer so a washer was not really out of the question.

I was hoping to get around 10 out of them myself. If our new $800 Kenmore (an LG inside) lasts 10 years I'll be happy. I could have bought a $2k Miele that may last 20 years but I figure even if I replace this one at 10 I'll be out ahead.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 11:17PM
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livebetter

@itguy08, do they really use concrete for roads? Around here they are all asphalt. Sidewalks are concrete I think. Anyway, roads and sidewalks all have cracks in them.

The durability of the Miele is only part of what you're getting. You really can't look at it that way. I know this now that I actually own them.

There are so many little "nuances" the Miele has that others do not that allow them to wash and rinse really well.

Having said that, some people just want to put in dirty things and take out clean things and that's cool too. Miele is not for everyone but I think most of those who own it appreciate what it does.

Regarding that cast iron cradle in the Miele:

"Another piece of tried and tested Miele quality: other washing machines have a concrete stabiliser to prevent vibration which can crack and hinder stability over time. The weight of the Miele cast iron cradle keeps the washing machine stable, even at high spin speeds. To ensure the smooth and quiet operation, we subject the cast iron support to an endurance test of 25 days continuous spinning."

Where every other manufacturer uses painted metal, Miele uses enamel:

"Direct enamel front: Miele are the only washing machine manufacturer I know who use such a thick vitreous enamel coating on the front of all their washing machines. This coating is, "guaranteed not to corrode or yellow for the life of the machine". Protects against corrosion, scratch resistant, colour and acid resistant, hygienic."

This is my favorite Miele video. It gives you some good info on what sets a Miele apart. Not that I'm trying to convince anyone they have to have one ... like I said ... it's not for everyone.

Here is a link that might be useful: Miele - The Art of Laundry Care

    Bookmark   August 7, 2011 at 11:34AM
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mara_2008

OP, the very best appliance bargains I've seen over the last few years have been at Christmas time (often the weekend after Thanksgiving). I think this could be because manufacturers and companies want to clear out inventory at the end of the year. My DS and DIL bought a Maytag dryer Christmas before last at half price. She says it's the best dryer she's ever had, but I don't know how much it weighs. ;)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 5:44PM
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sshrivastava

@ bestf100

Weight absolutely matters. Machines that use thicker, heavier, longer lasting components will weigh more than those which don't. What's the difference between using cast iron cradle versus a concrete one? While there may be no perceptible difference to the consumer, the components used by a manufacturer should tell you everything you need to know about that manufacturer's values and priorities.

I own two Miele appliances and I'm biased towards them. The reason I'm biased is because I love quality products that are well built, thoughtfully designed and made to last for 20 years. Miele designs and manufacturers most of the individual components that go into their machines, including the circuit boards. They don't use off-the-shelf components, they don't subcontract the design and manufacturing to other companies - they do it all. Miele has 100% control over its products' manufacturing stories, from the individual components all the way to the final product. Miele maintains a much tighter control over quality, is not subject to the whims of suppliers, and ultimately can produce a much tighter, higher quality product when they make all the pieces and then put those pieces together.

If a product is only as good as its weakest component, it's a good thing Miele makes their components to the same high quality standards. Miele is solidly built to last two decades or more and their machines don't have all the "bells and whistles" of the Asian models - digital color touch screens, etc. If I want a quality machine that will work as expected day in and day out, with superior results, I will get a Miele. If I want to check e-mail on my washing machine, I'll get an LG.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 9:28PM
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itguy08

I still don't get why concrete is a bad thing. It's the most widely used building material, building roads, bridges, and skyscrapers. It's been used since ancient times and will outlast us. (for a whole lot of info, see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concrete )

Cast iron is also a good material. It's strong, resistant to rust, deformation, etc. They make buildings, boilers, engines, and cookware out of it. It's also been around forever.

I'm a car guy and have noticed in recent years the trend is to use a lot more plastic in places that you wouldn't think: engines, fenders, etc. The reason? saving weight. Doesn't mean it's any less durable; it isn't.

So weight really isn't a good indicator of quality or durability. I can make a part out of cast iron (very heavy) or one from aluminum (very light) and they both will perform identical.

I'm not saying I'm not for quality but using weight as an indicator of quality is really not a good idea.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 9:59PM
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sshrivastava

@ itguy08

I'm not saying concrete is a "bad thing", I'm just saying that cast iron is perceived to be a higher quality material when compared to concrete. It would be much easier and cheaper for Miele to use concrete, but they don't... Perhaps Miele is trying to artificially boost the weight of its machines, incurring correspondingly higher manufacturing and shipping costs, in order to be the heaviest gorilla in the room? I doubt it.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 11:17AM
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dudleyfuddpucker

Of course not. Miele uses cast iron because it is unique, and therefore something they can make a claim to as being superior because only they use it.

This is all off-topic though. To the OP:

Exhibit A: Automobiles (excluding SUVs) now weigh significantly less than they did 50 years ago. Does that mean they are lower quality or less durable?

The facts clearly show cars today are far more durable, more trouble-free and last longer. Historical crash evidence also unarguably proves they are far safer.

Exhibit B: Light weight is a primary goal in airplane design. It has to be. Do you feel less safe knowing this? Do you think a plane with a thick steel hull is safer than a thin aluminum skin? I doubt it.

Of course I realize this is comparing apples and bananas, but the point remains: as someone who's had a very long and fruitful engineering career I can tell you beyond any shadow of a doubt that the old urban legends regarding machine design are just that. Quality and durability are a matter of design first (including quality of materials, not weight), assembly second, and care by the end user third. If someone designed a washer that weighed 50 lbs but used the highest quality materials, was painstaking engineered, regressively tested, and assembled with high precision and careful SPC, I would take that over a 300+ lb machine - and be comfortable doing so.

In other words: don't be fooled.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 3:01PM
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livebetter

Somehow we always end up with car analogies in this forum ... lol ...

Bottom line is - concrete can crack / cast iron will not

Concrete is hard but not as infallible as cast iron. If I have two blocks (one concrete and one cast iron) and I drop them from a significant height, concrete will probably break - cast iron - not.

Taken from an on-line article:

"Cast iron tub weight: Most washing machines have one or more blocks of concrete bolted to a plastic outer tub. This is to weigh it down and add stability to the washing machine on spin. The trouble is that bolting something this heavy to plastic is not a good idea and I've also seen hundreds of them come loose (often) causing serious damage to the tub. The stabilizing weights on the Miele washing machine are made of an unbreakable cast iron cradle and they are bolted to a stainless steel tub."

It's not about the weight it's about the quality of materials used.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 3:18PM
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itguy08

I think we end up with car analogies as it's something we all have experience with and something we all can somewhat relate to. I use them all the time in the IT business.

Cast iron is brittle as well. It will crack if mishandled just like concrete. Google Cast Iron crack repair and it's more common than you think. It's not better, just different and something Miele can use as an "advantage".

I think you hit on it though - the stainless steel tub may be something that's a differentiator. However a properly designed plastic tub will be just as good as stainless.

Now there may be differences - thicker gauge stainless, thicker plastics, etc but those may not be reflected in weight. You could build an entire machine out of Titanium or Carbon Fiber. It would be extremely light weight and extremely durable. As well as extremely expensive....

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 4:36PM
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sshrivastava

@ livebetter

Your machine has a fiberglass outer tub, not stainless steel as stated in the quote.

@ dudleyfuddpucker

Lighter weight is a design imperative for cars and planes due to fuel efficiency. This is not the case with washing machines, so the design choices are quite different. Miele most certainly did not choose cast iron because it weighs more.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 9:57AM
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suburbanmd

Weight adds stability to a washing machine. Miele may well have chosen cast iron because it's more dense than concrete, so more weight fits in a smaller space.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 10:48AM
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sshrivastava

@ suburbanmd

That's true too. A heavier machine is less likely to shake and vibrate during spin, and far less likely to "walk around" if something goes seriously wrong while it's spinning at 1400 RPM. You can't say the same for a 50 lb washer.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 12:19PM
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livebetter

@sshrivastava, yes sorry. I do know that. Article was from the UK. Believe all the smaller machines are stainless tubs.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2011 at 2:17PM
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dudleyfuddpucker

I think we usually end up with car analogies because, like washing mahines, they are pretty universal. Most people own one, and even the few who do not know what one is and at the least the basics of how it works. Better that then if I were to use an anology that referred to assembly code or nuclear fusion or silicon conductivity that most people would say "huh?" to.

Anyway, your statement "Bottom line is - concrete can crack / cast iron will not" I am sorry to say, is about as wrong as wrong can be. Cast iron is one of the most brittle of metals and is very prone to stress and temperature fracturing (like the cracked blocks from overheated engines of yesteryear :-). If quality of materials were really the issue they'd be using a high-tensile steel counter weight, which would be significantly stronger. It would cost more, to be sure, but would worth bragging about in a washing machine (or maybe tungsten carbide, if they really wanted to brag). :)

P.S. That "on-line article" sounds suspiciously like a Miele brochure to me. Now they wouldn't be biased, would they? LOL!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2011 at 6:36PM
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livebetter

Those points maybe true but honestly, someone would have to produce "solid" sources to prove to me that concrete and cast iron are equally "weak".

I still believe if I had a concrete block and a cast iron block, it would be much easier to break the concrete one. If I dropped them both from a great height, took a sledge hammer to them, etc ...

I also still believe that Miele's greater weight give it added stability when in high speed spins and dealing with out of balance loads.

While I'm no engineer, that just sounds logical to me. I am open to being disproved but it would have to be with solid proof.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 10:13AM
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mihai914

Cast iron is better at absorbing vibrations than concrete (explained to me by a engineer).

If adding weight (for the purpose of adding weight) were a goal, then a nice slab of concrete on the bottom would have done the job...

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 12:48PM
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dudleyfuddpucker

I'll save you the effort: under any stresses they can possibly encounter in this application (used as ballast or a counterweight) it's a wash - literally. :) I might put a [very] slight disadvantage to iron due to the possibility of corrosion in a moist or humid environment, but that can be negated with proper coatings (although I don't think Miele does this).

Concrete would be more prone to chipping, but will never be subjected to the sheering forces that could cause that in a clothes washing machine.

Your statement on dropping them both is correct, but is your washing machine routinely dropped from a height as part of normal, daily usage? You have to consider the application, not what your sense of the material is as you hold it in your hand.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 1:11PM
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