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When it comes to washing machines, most of what you'll find in the market today are the front loading, freestanding type - although there are still a few top-loading models available, they are losing popularity as they take up more space in your kitchen and don't blend in as well. And if you're really fussy about keeping flawless lines in your kitchen, then go for an integrated model hidden behind a panel that matches the rest of your cabinets, but be aware that these tend to be smaller and cost up to twice as much as freestanding models.

Having decided which of the three to go for, the first thing to look for is the energy rating. Always opt for an energy efficient washing machine (with an A+, A or a B rating) or one with the Energy Saving Trust's recommended logo, as anything with an energy rating of C or below is going to substantially add to both your water and electricity bills over the long run.

When it comes to capacity, most of the standard-sized models can wash a 6kg load of washing, which is enough for most families. There are machines that can handle loads of up to 10kg, which could be important if you have a large family, or want to be able to wash your curtains, duvets, and other bulky items. But don't buy a large capacity machine if you're only ever going to fill it half full, as you'll just be wasting water and electricity.

More or less all today's machines offer the most widely used wash programs (30, 40 and 60 degree washes) but some also offer extra programs, like delicates, quick wash, hand-wash, extra rinse, etc, which can be useful if you're actually going to use them, but add a premium to the purchase price. On the drying cycle, most models spin at 1200rpm, which is fine for removing most of the water before hanging your clothes up to dry, but you can find machines with higher speeds, which will produce drier, if more creased, clothes - a plus if you're using a tumble dryer as they'll need less time in there. Machines with higher spin speeds cost more though, and can be very noisy in operation. Whatever spin speed you decide on, remember that any machine with a noise rating above 70 decibels is best placed in a garage or similar area, and anything below 50 decibels should be quiet enough not to intrude too much inside the house.

A lot of today's machines are cold-fill only, i.e. they only have one connection to a cold water tap and the machine heats the water to the correct temperature itself. This is more energy-efficient for today's standard wash temperatures, but if you do a lot of washing at 60 degrees or above, it may be worth getting a machine that has a hot water feed as well.

If you have the space, go for a separate washing machine and a separate tumble dryer, rather than a combined washer dryer. Reliable washer dryers can cost more than buying two good separate machines, and are not as practical as they sound, as you can't wash another load till the first one has dried - and anyway, many machines can only dry half as much as they can wash, which kind of takes the convenience angle out of it. If you really don't have the room, then dig deep and get a washer dryer at the top of the price range, from a well-known manufacturer, with a long guarantee, because if they do go wrong they can be very expensive to have repaired.

Author R. Germain
date added Sun 02 08 2009

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