Thread Number: 73548  /  Tag: Vintage Automatic Washers
Vintage Combo Units
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Post# 971219   12/3/2017 at 02:14 (540 days old) by johnrk (BP TX)        

Thanks to a comment on here, I learned that Consumer Reports ran a combo test in 1960. I just got this May, 1960, issue today in the mail and read it with interest. I came away with some questions I hope the experts on here could answer for me.

1) Apparently there were widely varying drum sizes, with the Philco-Bendix being the smallest; CR said that their standard 8-pound load really was an overload but they ran it anyway. I noticed in the ratings, where it didn't do too badly, that it stated that this machine tangled clothing worse than any other machine tested. Would that be because they put too much in there to start with? Or was there some design defect in the tub that would cause this? I noticed that the Westinghouse combo didn't seem to suffer from the same problems that their washer was noted as having in 1960.
2) Some of the machines had 'automatic dry' capabilities, and some of the machines had only timed-drying ability. I know there weren't real electronic moisture sensors back then, so how did 'automatic dry' work? On temp alone?
3) The top-rated combo was the Lady Kenmore. It was noted that it had an 8000 btu dryer compared to 5000 btu for the others. However, it stated that for it to achieve this much hotter and faster drying, it required a 50 amp circuit. Apparently all the others required only 30, including the Whirlpool that was a virtual twin, but had 5000 btu capacity. They stated that the LK could be set for 30 amps instead of 50, thereby lowering its drying speed to that of the others. I have no idea--what amperage is required these days, and do most of our modern homes accommodate 50 amps?
4) A drawback stated for all these machines was the narrow range of acceptability for high-sudsing detergents. Oversudsing, it stated, would result in the laundry riding on top of the suds and not getting fully wet and laundered. However, they said that switching to a low-sudsing detergent would result in laundry not being cleaned as well. Is this is the experience of the experts on here? Of course, with the top loaders of the day the suds would've simply ridden above the laundry, as I remember my mama's machine doing so long ago.
5) I was amazed at the different levels of water used during the testing. It was because half of the machines were vented to the outside, and half used the condenser system. The vented machines seemed to average around 25 gallons total, whereas the condenser machines required around 60 gallons! My question-do today's condenser washer/dryer machines, as so many Euro countries use, require large amounts of water to work? The one machine listed as 'unacceptable' here was the Wards combo; it was vented but had no lint filter at all, and simply blew the lint out through the vent to the outside! They cautioned that the grass and any plants or shrubbery would soon be covered in lint...
6) They did test 3 gas dryer machines, stating all were vented. I've never owned a gas dryer; are they always vented?
7) Some of these machines had internal water heaters that would automatically kick in if the hot water source wasn't hot enough. Apparently they would continually watch the water temp and boost it through the whole cycle. Is that how internal water heaters work on today's front loaders?
8) There was a fascinating photo of the back of the Easy machine and the Philco-Bendix machine with the back covers off. It's hard to believe they're the same type of machine; the Easy has bunches of pulleys and belts, whereas the Philco-Bendix has an almost bare-looking cabinet with what looks like one belt, and a whole lot of open space at the bottom around the motor. I'd post the photo here but that's taboo. I'd hate to work on that Easy and apparently it wasn't the only one with that labyrinthine set of hardware. Do the experts on here find that the simpler design of the Westinghouse and the Philco-Bendix indeed allows for greater reliability along with easier service?

I apologize for the extreme length of this--it corresponds with my extreme ignorance of these fascinating machines. I've actually looked at modern combo units for my home, but I have a large utility room with space designed for separate machines. I worked for a physician 30+ years ago whose wife solved that problem by having two of the RCA Whirlpool combo side-by-side in their utility room. Lady didn't like transferring clothes...

Thank you for any information you can provide.

This post was last edited 12/03/2017 at 05:10

Post# 971256 , Reply# 1   12/3/2017 at 10:24 (539 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        
Reply to point 2

turquoisedude's profile picture

From what I've experienced with automayic drying systems on GE combos, a cycling thermostat was used to control the dry cycle.  The cycle would start up at full heat and when the thermostat got to a certain temperature it kicked out.  If clothes were still not fully dry, they tumbled and cooled the drum down until the thermostat kicked back in.  I did a video 'tour' of my 56 GE combo on YouTube and you can actually hear the thermostat cycle off during the dry cycle.


Also about venting of gas dryers, they are always vented - no exceptions - for safety reasons.

Post# 971259 , Reply# 2   12/3/2017 at 10:39 (539 days old) by DADoES (TX, U.S. of A.)        

dadoes's profile picture
Maytag had an electronic moisture sensor on two dryer models in the early/mid 1960s, and I think Kenmore had it on the LK in 1964.  Non-electronic worked via temperature.

Typical electric dryers nowadays still call for a 30-amp circuit.

Electric ranges typically are on a 50-amp circuit.

My house has 200-amp service.

Post# 971270 , Reply# 3   12/3/2017 at 11:43 (539 days old) by combo52 (Beltsville,Md)        
Early US Combos

combo52's profile picture

 Hi John, This could be a long topic


Gas dryers are always air flow machines because you need constant oxygen to keep the burner burning, like gas ranges they do not have to be vented outside and often are not but it is desirable mainly because of all the lint a dryer produces.


John feel free to get in touch with me directly and I will be happy to answer and questions about combs.


John L.

Post# 971271 , Reply# 4   12/3/2017 at 11:51 (539 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

1. The only thing wrong with the Philco combo was small capacity, not the drum baffle design. Philco Ford downsized the 36" Duomatic and long time Bendix dealers and service people were horrified. I think if you will go back and read the report, you will see that on average, the combos gave better washing ability than front loading washers because the drums were larger, giving more room for the plunging and landing mechanical action.

2. The autodry controls were the time/temp type control. In these, while the heating element runs, the timer motor does not run. When a set operating temperature is reached, the heater cycles off and the timer motor begins to run. When the air temperature drops, the heater cycles back on and the timer motor shuts off. These cycles continue until the timer reaches the cool down portion during which the timer motor runs continuously until it reaches the "OFF" position. The exception to this was was the modulating 37,500 BTU gas burner on the 29 inch Kenmore combos where the burner came on at full input and then the flame diminished as the moisture level in the fabrics diminished so less heat was needed to maintain the 160F drying temperature.

3. The Lady Kenmore electric combo had the capability of using 8000 WATTS of drying heat on 50 AMP electrical circuit. This equaled 27,297 BTU of gas heat.

4. I have never seen clothing "floating" on top of suds in a tumbler washer except when too much water is used for lightweight fabrics; mixed in, maybe, but not floating. CU had an attitude about low sudsing detergents, possibly because they hid poor turnover in Maytag Automatic Washers and, truth be told, were not as effective as some high sudsing products. My friend's mother used a capful of Wisk in her WP combo when Wisk came in the metal cans and the cap was small. The WP combo only used three gallons of water in the sump to run the wash stream beyond what was used to saturate the fabrics.

5. Yes the condenser combos used between 1/3 (Maytag) and 1/2 gallon of water per minute of drying time. Those that extracted better used less, all things being equal. Also, the condenser combos that used a fan as part of the drying operation tended to be more efficient in the drying operation. The colder the cold water used for condensation, the more efficient the operation was, too. In places like Florida with warm ground water in some places, the drying operation could be prolonged. The Duomatics, both 36" and 27" electric condenser models that used a fan to circulate air during dry were much faster drying and used less condensing water than the Philco Bendix machines that did not use a fan.


7.Basically, yes, but modern machines use the heaters to give a profile wash which allows the water temperature to be raised gradually over the duration of the long wash period. The Kenmore and WP combos held the timer advancement until the selected water temperature was reached. The early GEs and the Maytag, ran the heater if the water heating option was switched on and roughly 4 KW of heat over a 10 to 15 minute wash period could put a lot of heat into the 2 machines which unlike some modern front loaders, had heavily insulated outer tubs.

8.The Philco Bendix machine was the only combo that had a suspended mechanism so it needed space in the cabinet to swing a bit during spin. No other combo in 1960 had a suspended mechanism like the Philco Bendix design so they were solidly mounted to the baseplate and the cabinets were filled with components. Back in this time, there were only heavy mechanical pieces of equipment to do things that are done with solid state components today. It was like trains that first used steam to transfer power from burning fuel into mechanical action with lots of heavy metal linkage and valves and later used electricity to transmit the energy from burning fuel to electric traction motors. These old machines used crude speed changer mechanisms that were cheaper, but more space consuming, than a transmission. What you see in the back of the Easy is two motors at the top of the machine. One was the motor for tumble action and a solenoid to use a belt to operate the blower. The other was the Accelux motor which was pulsed on and off to achieve the surge spin action. That was their approach to speed changing. Their weight helped to stabilize the machine, but even with them, the feet had to be mounted into cups that were attached to the floor. The other reason that the Philco Bendix looks empty is that the model tested did not have a blower.

This post was last edited 12/03/2017 at 13:22
Post# 971275 , Reply# 5   12/3/2017 at 12:15 (539 days old) by johnrk (BP TX)        

Thanks to all of you for the information. I still think these machines are cool, but I think I'd be like the radiologist's wife. I'd want two simply because, at least today, they'd take so long before I could do a second load. But these are sure attractive! I've purchased the brochures--I feel so fortunate that dozens of these manuals and brochures are available, I think I've bought at least a couple of dozen over the recent past. The 1957 Economat is a real beauty. Turns out that on top of white, there were 3 pastel colors and 4 special order colors, one of which looks like bright red!

These old brochures and owner's manuals are fun anyway, always showing some June Cleaver-type dancing around in a shirtwaist, enjoying not having to do any work with their lovely combo machines-

Post# 971279 , Reply# 6   12/3/2017 at 12:32 (539 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

The machines were cool and fascinating. They represented the dream used in Duomatic ads, I think, that they would make wash day disappear. I remember when one of my mother's Home Economist colleagues came to our home, sat on our sofa and opened this wonderful binder with information about the gas model Duomatic. It had to be the gas model because the woman worked for the gas company. I know we had the new Kenmore washer in the basement and had gas run to the house by this time. The electric model was introduced in December of 1952 and the gas model came out later in 1953. Oh that I could have been able to read and not just look at the pictures. I sat right beside the lady and she seemed amused at my interest, but did not take time to show me all the pictures. She did not stay long because mother was not interested in any dryer and we had a washer.

As to the time consumed for a complete wash and dry program, all of the owner's manuals stressed doing wash as it accumulated instead of waiting to do all of it one or two days a week, which made sense given how little attention to the process was required.

Post# 971322 , Reply# 7   12/3/2017 at 16:41 (539 days old) by Gyrafoam (Roanoke, VA)        

I have an early 60's, Gas Philco-Bendix Combo.
I have washed normal sized loads in it for years and have no issue with it's capacity or capabilities.
It has reliably cleaned everything I've ever put into it.

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