Thread Number: 79232  /  Tag: Modern Automatic Washers
Why do frontloaders use so much less water?
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Post# 1031585   5/2/2019 at 15:46 (1,764 days old) by DE409 (Maryland)        

Was reading today about water usage; my Maytag Centennial TL probably uses around 19 gallons on a regular load. There is a Whirlpool FL that uses 7 gallons. Whats the big difference?

Are FL any good? Harder to work on? I always liked the TLs for ease of maintenance.

Post# 1031586 , Reply# 1   5/2/2019 at 15:58 (1,764 days old) by henene4 (Heidenheim a.d. Brenz (Germany))        

In a TL, laundry has to be suspended in water in order for proper agitation.

A FL drops laundry from a height onto the surface of the drum causing agitation.
Water here just aids as a solvent, basicly, allowing dirt and detergent to intermix.

Thus, you need far less water for that, to much water hinders cleaning sometimes as it cushions the tumbling action to much or dilutes detergent to far.
Less water means hotter water with the same energy usage as well.

7gal is a little ambitious and probably refers to an 8lbs load in the Normal cycle.

Usually, with 2gal per pound, you can get a wash and 3 rinses in low but good enough water levels.

Same as with TLs here: full loads are more efficent on a per pound calculation.

FLs have a few more wear prone parts.
On a TL, tub bearings only have to carry significant forces during unbalanced spins and the suspension is only wear down during spins as well - loosely speaking.
Suspension has to be more elaborate as well.

Working is harder in the sense that there is more going on in the washer. Springs, dampers and pipes on any point around the tub basicly.

Post# 1031587 , Reply# 2   5/2/2019 at 15:59 (1,764 days old) by henene4 (Heidenheim a.d. Brenz (Germany))        
Oh on the topic if they are any good.

Course they are.

Otherwise we wouldn't have been using them almost exclusively for the past 60 years over here...

Post# 1031634 , Reply# 3   5/2/2019 at 23:46 (1,764 days old) by earthling177 (Boston, MA)        

I will disagree slightly with Henrik on a couple of points.

First, most bearings favor only one direction of operation; top-loading machines require the bearing to both resist forces side-to-side (from spinning or rotating) and up-and-down (to support the basket and/or agitator/impeller). No bearing is excellent for that -- roller bearings would not do well with supporting the weight, ball bearings wear out faster in this mode than in other modes, and the bearings that set rollers at a 45 degree angle, which in theory would help in this mode, are not very good at hight speeds for spinning.

In contrast, a front loader has the vast majority of the load toward the floor, and, even though the weight is kept in cantilever, the forces that would tend to move the axis into-and-out of the bearing in a front-loading configuration are smaller (this is the same direction that the "weight" would show up to the bearing for a top loading machine).

People make a *big* deal of the cantilever situation, but a washing machine is a very light duty thing for such bearings, a *car*, or worse, bus or truck, is much harsher and no one even blinks when they see a car. At least here in USA, the "bearing supports a cantilevered load" is used against FLers as propaganda, no one ever mentions it in cars or machine-tools.

The second thing I've often seen is the "front-loaders are more complicated" and/or "have more wear parts".

I don't think so. Front-loaders were always very simple machines, particularly when compared to top-loaders, particularly 60 years ago.

Very few FLs had a transmission, for example. They were much more often than not just bunch of pulleys and belts, with a simple solenoid to activate the spin. A lot of them, particularly the ones built in the 60s and 70s didn't even use anything but one belt between two pulleys, and a motor that went from 2 to 16 poles or equivalent. Granted, they did not have the faster spin, but they were dead simple.

People get stuck on the door boot thing, but the truth is that plenty of the most popular toploaders *also* had a very similar boot, but it was "hidden" between the basket and the tub where regular people would never suspect it.

*Currently* FLs got very sophisticated, with lots of electronics, but from that point of view, it's no different, most TLs here are also filled with electronics and controller boards etc.

The *closest* thing to a modern FL as to simplicity of construction is the Fisher&Paykel TL that also doesn't have a transmission. Most of the other TLs are filled with complicated clutches, splutches, or full-fledged transmissions. Those used to be cheaper to make than electric motors way back then, but that had more to do with how much labor costs changed, making those parts (particularly the ones that needed to be machined as opposed to poured into a mold) was always more complex and work intensive.

People often look at external things like dispensers, but the original frontloaders did not have dispensers either, just like the toploaders, and currently a lot of machines, front- or top-loading have the same or very similar dispensers anyway.

Post# 1031638 , Reply# 4   5/3/2019 at 00:28 (1,764 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Bringing this back on home...

launderess's profile picture
Query was "Why do frontloaders use so much less water?"

Answer is compared to traditional top loading washing machines that submerge laundry in water, h-axis washing machines rely more upon the "beating saturated laundry against a rock" type of action.

That is with h-axis washing machines only enough water is used to saturate the load (to various degrees), but not submerge. Laundry is then moved about in tub to be lifted and dropped against itself and sides of tub. This action works the concentrated water/detergent solution through textiles providing cleaning.

Remember the laundry pie that covers all types of washing.

Mechanical action
Water (amount)

Any decrease in one means the others must increase to compensate.

H-axis washing is far more gentle than the mechanical action of a central beater. As such cycles are longer to compensate.

H-axis washers use less water than top loaders, so again ditto.

There are two main ways of doing laundry. One either moves textiles through water, or moves water through textiles. Top loaders tend to do the former, while h-axis the latter.

This is why top loaders run with far shorter cycles than h-axis. The more brutal central beater provides stronger mechanical action that forces laundry through a highly diluted wash water. Rinses can be one or maybe two because higher amount of water is used, and again product is diluted in all that water.

Generally and borne out of decades of testing and use h-axis washers will produce cleaner and better results with less wear to textiles than top loaders with central beaters. All this using less water, energy and chemicals than top loaders.

Commercial/industrial laundries never went with top loaders, but remained with h-axis machines. Laundromats are another story, but outside of North America there two h-axis washers dominate and have dominated.

Proof of this is the vast and bewildering array of stain treatments, boosters and other laundry aids American housewives (or anyone else) doing laundry needs when top loaders dominated. This and the heavy use of chlorine bleach which hides a multitude of sins.

Post# 1031640 , Reply# 5   5/3/2019 at 01:04 (1,764 days old) by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

Wow, a very cogent discussion!  I've been using my FLs for about 10 years now and I do agree they are much kinder to fabric, I see little wear on anything.  Would never go back, ever.


Just a little side story that really does not add much to the discussion but...  I'm at the end of a head cold, last week it was at it's worst I but I put my TL into double duty.  I tossed a load of whites in and tented it to act as a vaporizer of sorts.  All the steam really did help by sinuses, but honestly I cringed at the amount of water it took to fill the tub.  I used to do 5, 6 or more loads a week, hate to think of all the water that I went through compared to now.  I might do 2 or 3 loads twice a month partly due to th larger capacity.  Would love to have one of the new LGs or the Electrolux posted about in another thread.

Post# 1031647 , Reply# 6   5/3/2019 at 02:56 (1,763 days old) by DADoES (TX, U.S. of A.)        

dadoes's profile picture
MattL:  ... but honestly I cringed at the amount of water it took to fill the tub.
That's my reaction when using a deep-fill toploader after 8+ years of Calypso (but I do still use them on occasion).

Post# 1031657 , Reply# 7   5/3/2019 at 05:15 (1,763 days old) by appnut (TX)        

appnut's profile picture

I'm the same as Matt.  A lot less wear, I'd never go back to a top loader if I can help it, better stain treatment, onboard heater allowing higher temps than your water heater and still save energy.  

Post# 1031658 , Reply# 8   5/3/2019 at 05:47 (1,763 days old) by Frigilux (The Minnesota Prairie)        

frigilux's profile picture
Longtime member of the front-load fan club here, as well, and for all the reasons listed above. As much as I’ve enjoyed the truly vintage top-load experience of a Speed Queen, I will undoubtedly make the switch back when the new SQ front-loaders appear at the local dealership.

In my experience they clean better, use substantially less water and energy, spin the load much drier, and use less detergent/bleach/etc. I certainly wouldn’t have employed front-loaders from 1986-2017 had they not done a sterling job.

Having said that, the top-loader wins in ease of loading—and especially unloading—in the tight quarters of my apartment building’s laundry area. The open door of a modestly-sized SQ front-loader will literally come within a hair’s width of bumping into the neighbor’s Kitchen-Aid set, which resides opposite mine.

Post# 1031664 , Reply# 9   5/3/2019 at 07:29 (1,763 days old) by DE409 (Maryland)        

Thanks all! Very interesting stuff.

Post# 1031702 , Reply# 10   5/3/2019 at 16:00 (1,763 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

launderess's profile picture
Read somewhere that some old school top loaders used nearly 50 gallons of water to complete a normal cycle. That is just an insane amount of water.

Post# 1031703 , Reply# 11   5/3/2019 at 16:06 (1,763 days old) by henene4 (Heidenheim a.d. Brenz (Germany))        
Highest usage cycle

Ran my towel load today.

Prewash, main wash, 4 rinses, each with full interim spins; 140F maintained for 40min in the main wash, full 1600rpm final spin, then dried.

All in all not more then 42gal and 3kWh of usage, if even that.

Even when translating that to US FLs, no way a TL could compete with that.

Post# 1031705 , Reply# 12   5/3/2019 at 16:15 (1,763 days old) by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

I hope there was a decimal missing in the previous post....

Post# 1031707 , Reply# 13   5/3/2019 at 16:18 (1,763 days old) by henene4 (Heidenheim a.d. Brenz (Germany))        
No decimal missing

That's a 6 fill cycle, all really deep fills.

7gal on average per fill for about 12lbs of towels with interim spins of 1000rpm.
160l is the max this washer can use basicly.


For perspective, the same cycle with the same load but without prewash and water plus and extra rinse would clock in at about half that, 80l or 21gal.

Edit edit:

One should possibly add as well that it uses about the same at rated capacity (8kg or 16-17lbs) and on the label cycle the cycle is condensed to a 3 fill cycle with about 54l usage equal to about 14gal.

This post was last edited 05/03/2019 at 18:06
Post# 1031708 , Reply# 14   5/3/2019 at 16:23 (1,763 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

launderess's profile picture
Sums things up nicely:

As does this: www.greenbuildingadvisor....

Basically what one looks for (at least in USA) is water factor, that is amount of water required per pound of washing. The other measurement is modified energy factor which measures energy used for same.

Post# 1031714 , Reply# 15   5/3/2019 at 16:58 (1,763 days old) by DADoES (TX, U.S. of A.)        

dadoes's profile picture
Circa 1976 WP super capacity 18 toploaders took 27 gals for a full fill (volume of clothes notwithstanding).  54 gals plus spray rinses for a typical wash/rinse.  81+ gals for Perm Press with a double cool down ... depending whether the cool down drains were 1/2 of the tub more or less.

Post# 1031725 , Reply# 16   5/3/2019 at 18:47 (1,763 days old) by kenwashesmonday (Carlstadt, NJ)        

My 1972 Maytag A606 will wash a load of 8 bath towels, rinse them quite well, use 40 gallons of water total, and it's finished in less than 1/2 an hour.


There's more than a few ways to do your laundry well.

Post# 1031732 , Reply# 17   5/3/2019 at 20:34 (1,763 days old) by geoff (Cape Coral, FL)        
sorry to be a waster

geoff's profile picture
We have a 450 foot well that was guaranteed to never run out of water. We of course don't pay for water . I use thousands of gallons of water. We pay a flat sewer fee every 3 months. We were told by the town that if we metered our well, we would pay less for sewer taxes. No way are we doing that because I use so much water. I have a top loader that uses 27 gallons per full fill. I had considered a front loader because I do believe that they clean better. I chose a huge top loader because that is what I am used to. It cleans beautifully and I am very happy with it. To each their own I suppose.

Post# 1031758 , Reply# 18   5/4/2019 at 06:12 (1,762 days old) by mrboilwash (Munich,Germany)        

mrboilwash's profile picture
Frontloaders have not always been more water efficient than toploaders of a similar capacity, at least not in Europe.
The average water use of European FLs in the 1960s and 70s was about 180 liters which is more or less 50 gallons. Many of them did not spin at all between rinses even in a normal cotton cycle and if they did there was usually no way to keep them from sudslocking. Hence they still had to be waterhogs to ensure good rinsing. Their low energy use however made all the difference compared to a TLer.

Post# 1031772 , Reply# 19   5/4/2019 at 10:08 (1,762 days old) by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Besides risk of sudslock

launderess's profile picture
There has been considerable debate in at least commercial laundry community over extracting between rinses for h-axis washers. This has gone on largely ever since "washer-extractors" came upon the scene in 1950's.

One side feels that extracting wash between rinses forces dirty water through laundry which will act as a strainer. In their minds best to rinse via high dilution which is achieved not just with high water levels, but fact each successive rinse bath is in cleaner water. This of course means using relatively large amounts of fresh water.

OTOH those who favor any sort of extraction (even if short pulse of low speed) feel it enhances rinsing and makes that process faster because less such cycles are needed on average.

The older SQ washers at local laundryette didn't spin between any of the rinses IIRC. But then again maybe they did before the final rinse, cannot recall.

The newer and more "energy efficient" SQ washers have short pulse spins between first rinses then a really good one before final.

Obviously if you don't extract wash fully between rinses the load will absorb less water in subsequent cycle. This is one reason why not extracting between rinses means using more cycles. You basically are (again) counting on dilution to get most of soils, chemicals and whatever out of the wash.

Interestingly on most modern domestic front loaders various "sensitive", "no crease", "easy cares/permanent press", etc... cycles do not extract between rinses. This and or maybe there is a gentle pulse or slow spin. Recommended recommended under loading (usually half of capacity)for some of these cycles increases the water to load ratio which should result in better rinsing.

Tunnel washers that are rapidly coming to dominate commercial laundry industry do not extract between cycles; they cannot by design. Instead laundry is moved through progressively cleaner batches of water then finally extracted.

Post# 1031797 , Reply# 20   5/4/2019 at 15:54 (1,762 days old) by LowEfficiency (Iowa)        

lowefficiency's profile picture
>> First, most bearings favor only one direction of operation; top-loading machines require the bearing to
>> both resist forces side-to-side (from spinning or rotating) and up-and-down (to support the basket and/or
>> agitator/impeller). No bearing is excellent for that -- roller bearings would not do well with supporting the
>> weight, ball bearings wear out faster in this mode than in other modes, and the bearings that set rollers at
>> a 45 degree angle, which in theory would help in this mode, are not very good at hight speeds for spinning.

Is that really a problem though with proper bearing selection?

For example, tapered roller bearings handle all kinds of continuous hard loads in service as automotive wheel bearings, including high side loads at speed. I'm not a subject matter expert, but a quick look at the SKF website shows all kinds of tapered roller bearings with extremely high speed ratings... such as the SKF 30202 which is rated for 17,000 RPM use with a do-not-exceed limit of 20,000 RPM. If our washing machine baskets could hold together at that speed, we wouldn't need dryers at all! :D

Post# 1031842 , Reply# 21   5/5/2019 at 02:08 (1,762 days old) by earthling177 (Boston, MA)        

Dave (LowEfficiency) asked:

« Is that really a problem though with proper bearing selection?»

Well, it depends quite heavily on who you ask. And, I am probably not the right or best person to ask. If you knew my dad, you could ask him, or I might ask him when I visit him in July or so. He was a professor of mechanical engineering since before I was born and retired in the last decade.

So, what you are getting here is essentially second-hand info, but I grew up hearing all about that kind of stuff.

Yes, a tapered roller bearing, usually a bed set at about 45 degree angle, can support such loads better. You will usually need 2 of them though. And they are way more expensive than a regular bearing.

I may be wrong, but I have never heard of *any* vertical axis washers using such bearings to support the basket/agitator, they may use them elsewhere in the transmission.

This market is riddled with manufacturers trying to cut every corner to save a few cents.

A regular ball bearing *will* more than likely outlast the machine, if the seals hold, and they save money on the seals too, instead of getting the highest quality stuff. Engineering is often a place where you need to balance how long something will last vs. how much they cost. It's true that a washing machine bearing generally wears out a bit faster then if it were in another machine, but if people are doing laundry right, the seals are more than likely to hold and the bearings will not be the main cause of trouble.

Also, sure, you can ask Timken, SKF, and many others for specialty bearings for nearly any situation. SFK, I believe, started making a special bearing for FL washers back in the 70s or 80s, and the whole purpose of the bearing was to enable the manufacturers to shorten the amount of space in the back of the machine, so you could either have a smaller machine for the same size/capacity basket, or you could have the same size machine with a higher capacity.

I find it hard to believe, however, that bearings for the speeds you quoted are for automotive wheels, those are much more often under 1,400 rpm and even more commonly, under 850 rpm for the common speeds.

In any case, my whole point is that the things people tend to say to poo-poo horizontal axis machines in US are often not true, or just partly true, and even now they've been disappearing, because the washing machines manufacturers are now making horizontal-axis washers and lost interest in hurting their competitors.

      -- Paulo.

Post# 1031862 , Reply# 22   5/5/2019 at 10:33 (1,761 days old) by johnb300m (Chicago)        

johnb300m's profile picture
I agree Paulo.
Front loaders get a bad rap for bearings not because of the inherent design of the front loader itself.
But because the manufacturers use the very cheapest bearings and seals they can afford.
And leave it up to the jaded engineers to sort it out with the pittance of a budget they’re given.

Post# 1031863 , Reply# 23   5/5/2019 at 10:47 (1,761 days old) by henene4 (Heidenheim a.d. Brenz (Germany))        

While there are bearings that can support loads in more then 1 dimension, those are often more expensive and can't quite absorb the same forces in each direction for the same size and price.
And those bearings often if not always need to placed in pairs to create a symmetric load patern.

Thus it is more common to just use 2 bearings or if loads in one direction are minute to just slightly increase the rating of one bearing to absorb the additional loads.
Most bearings can actually absorb loads in 2 dimensions, just that one dimension is orders of magnitude less loadable and overloading in that direction is way more damaging way faster.

You can quite exactly calculate the lifetime of a bearing under certain loads and conditions.
And the lower the requirements there are the cheaper you can make them.

Much of that comes down to lower material and precission requirements.

Which in turn can also interact with sealing of bearing in question.

There can also be many ways a bearing can fail.

The running elements, be them balls or zylindric shape, can wear down uniformly. That wear happens gradually and can be verry much reduced by good lubrication.

If those elements are manufactured badly they can wear down unsymentricly causing much faster wear.

If the material run of the rotating elements creates larger particles wear on the bearings is faster.

And once a bearing ages and there is more play in it, quickly changing loads over time can cause even faster even more catastrophic wear (hammer on nail principle, especially significant with the highly hardend brittle materials used in bearings).

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