Advancements in technology continue to increase the IQ of our 'smart-homes', from the virtual, voice-activated assistants like Amazon's Echo to Wi-Fi-based climate control like Nest. Now one room in the house is finally getting more smart-options.
While the standard for laundry in American households is usually a washer and dryer set, all-in-one combo machines common in European households have been growing in popularity within American homes over the last few years.
What's the difference?
The most obvious difference is clear, where one unit typically washes and another dries, you instead have one machine that does both. But how is this possible and why is it only now gaining traction in the US market?
The technology itself is by no means a new development. The all-in-one machines standard in other countries are ventless drying machines. What is common in the United States are vented dryers that pull room-temp air from your home, heat and tumble your clothes in it, then the exhaust is blown out of your home through a vent.
The vented drying process uses and spends a lot of energy. If you're doing laundry in the dog days of summer or record-lows of winter, the washing and vented-drying process you probably use is even more wasteful, as you are taking climate-controlled air (the air you're either paying to heat or cool your home) and expending extra energy to heat it for your clothes. Plus, vented dryers are larger and take up more space - as does the separate washing unit. The energy inefficiency factor of American machines alone is enough for some countries to have banned the use of these machines, like Switzerland.
There are two types of ventless dryers, condensation or condenser dryers and heat-pump dryers.
Condenser dryers are the most popular of ventless dryers. They take in the air surrounding the machine, pass it through a condenser to heat it up and then tumble your clothes in the warm air. As the warm air fills with moisture from your clothes, it exits the drum and loops back to the condenser where it cools off, leaving water in the condenser which either gets pumped out or stored in a reservoir. Like vented dryers, there is energy expended to initially heat the air, but is significantly more energy-efficient than vented dryers.
A heat-pump dryer differs from a condensation dryer in just a few ways. Instead of a condenser, a heat-pump dryer uses a refrigerant system that can be heated and cooled, making it the most energy efficient dryer.The hot air coming from the drum is cooled to release the moisture. As the air cools, the heat energy is transferred into the heat-pump which reuses the energy to warm up the cool, dry air and send it back into the drum. Heat-pump dryers are the only system reusing energy, as such, its energy footprint is typically cut in half.
Ventless and combo machines only make up about two percent of the U.S. market. Until now, most of these combo machines were seen mostly in residences with space or venting limitations. Part of the reason behind this is consistent with why the all-in-ones are more common in European countries. If you think about it in terms of old-school, new-school, Europe is the 'Old World.' Its cities are older and more compact and these traits carry over into their infrastructure. Smaller residences with dated plumbing and ventilation left little option for anything but the all-in-one machines.
As more companies adopt EnergyStar standards, green-living and high-efficiency appliances, consumer habits are largely trending toward options with less environmental footprint, which is certainly a benefit of the all-in-one machine. Cue known, trusted names in home appliances like Whirlpool, LG, Miele, Bosch and Samsung to release all-in-one machines, now for American consumers. Flush with options from known-brands, it's understandable that more people in the US are getting curious about the all-in-one units.
What are some other advantages and disadvantages of the all-in-one machines compared to the standard washer and dryer unit set?
- Space - One machine takes up half of the space of a traditional two-machine setup
- Energy - All-in-ones do not require heat ventilation for exhaust and do not use as much energy as vented dryers
- Cost - Ventless drying is more cost-efficient than vented drying. Your electricity bill should be lower, not to mention construction costs if you have to install proper ventilation systems before you can even hook up a washer-dryer set
- Gentle - Without the excessive heat of a vented dryer, the drying process may be gentler on your laundry, prolonging its quality and life
- Less Maintenance - Ventless systems tend to require less cleaning and mechanical maintenance than washer and vented dryer sets
- Size - For many years, the standard size of all-in-one units has been just 24 inches wide with 4.1 cubic feet of load capacity. This is about half the size of a full-size vented dryer's capacity. Brands like Whirlpool and LG are among the first to manufacture full-size all-in-ones, but be prepared to pay the price for 'innovation' until the novelty wears off and lowers the price of these machines.
- Convenience - With an all-in-one machine, gone are the days of running multiple loads of laundry simultaneously by using both the washer and dryer at once, which is helpful if you are pressed for time, need clean lights and darks simultaneously or if your household burns through large loads frequently
- Time - All-in-one machines take longer to complete a load of laundry, typically three to six hours
There are significant advantages and disadvantages to traditional washer and dryer sets as well as the all-in-one units. If space is not an issue and your household generates laundry quickly and in large quantities, the individual set may be most functional for you. In smaller spaces where laundry accumulates more gradually, the all-in-one could fit your needs and serve your budget.
The good news is the Tide products you've known and trusted for years are compatible with both laundry systems!