A while back, fizzygeek and I decided that we'd like to get a front loading washer for our next washer. We then also decided that when the current one broke, we'd get a new one instead of fixing it. Our existing machine is one that I'd bought used in 1992 or so, and it worked generally pretty well. But on Christmas eve, it sprung a leak. Actually, we'd found water near it a few other times, but attributed it to imbalance or overloading. This time, we'd gotten home from a party, and fizzygeek was in a particularly good mood. "We have bellies full of sushi, my boyfriend is happily playing video games, and all is well with the world", she proclaimed. A few minutes later, loud and unhappy language erupted from the kitchen. The washer was leaking badly, and the water was coming through the kitchen ceiling. The time had come for a new machine. Later investigation revealed that a plastic coupling in the filler tube had gotten old and cracked, and we could have fixed it, but we had already decided we wanted a new machine.
So the research began in earnest. We quickly nailed down a range of machines, and then started reading reviews and comparing engineering. One of the benchmarks was the industrial Wascomats we used at the laundromat. Those beasts were built to last forever. We considered getting one on the used market, but they used 3-phase power (which we could have gotten around by replacing the motors with single-phase ones and rewiring the control system), but more importantly, this was a second-floor installation, and these machines are designed to be bolted into a poured concrete floor. We investigated the Whirlpool Duet series and the Sears HE series (which turn out to be the same machine). We were confused by the reviews, as some people loved them, and others had their clothes torn and knotted. Eventually I think I figured out why: many delivery people take off the shipping locks on the truck (where their tools are), and then haul the machine into the house. The suspension on front-loaders is fairly delicate, and getting hauled around without the locks pulls the springs out of shape. Then the door seal and the drum don't line up right any more, and clothes get caught in the resulting gap. We figured this out right after we'd found an apparently good deal on a scratch-and-dent Duet and went back to take a closer look. Sure enough, the shipping locks weren't installed, and there was a largish uneven gap. We elected not to buy that machine.
The new front runner became the lower-end Sears front-loader (really a GE), but we were also looking at the Bosch line. I kept tripping over glowing reviews of the Miele, but couldn't find any for sale. The Miele page did mention faults in other designs (it turns out the Bosch's tilted drum, which gives a nice height and angle for loading clothes has the tendency to wad them all up in the back/bottom). The demo Sears had the same big rubber door-drum seal, and it looked like it had been installed slightly twisted. We were becoming wary of these "boot" seals, as they were mentioned in reviews for many machines as a source of problems. I noticed a local store listed Miele, so went to visit them. They recommended the Duet, as well as the GE Harmony top-loader (which is really an LG). I wanted to see a Miele, so the fellow directed me to Appliance Distributors, which is where they got their Miele machines. The phone number he gave me turned out to forward to another number that was out of service, but we'd just gotten a new phone system at work, so I figured it might have misdialed somehow. A reverse lookup revealed an address a few blocks from where I work. I drove out there, but the property was for rent. I had done a web search on the name, and remembered they were on Bogle drive in Chantilly. I still wanted to see this mythical machine, so I punched that street into the GPS navigator and drove on down. This was a high-end appliance showroom aimed at contractors, with scads of drool-worthy industrial strength stoves, refrigerators, wine coolers and whatnot. I found the Miele, it was a jewel of a machine. I also noticed the European version of the Bosch. One of the salespeople (Max) came over and I explained what I was looking for. He asked if I had considered Asko. I admitted I'd barely heard of them, and didn't know anything about the company or their products. He led me over to one and explained the features and construction. It turns out he owns one, and bought another one to install in a rental property he owns. I liked the design, clean and efficient, and no boot seal (the door worked more like the Wascomat). And the drain motor was mounted on the front of the machine, accessible via a little door, so if coins or pins got in the wash, you could remove them yourself. I asked for a price quote on the low and mid line Asko, the Miele, and the GE (which they also stocked). The Miele was expensive ($1600)! The GE was $640, and the Askos were $900 and $1200.
Back to research. Sure enough, people liked the Asko machines. The older ones (pre-1998 or so) had problems with their motors, but the new design seemed solid. It turns out that one of the vanes in the drum is removable, giving another avenue for removing errant clothing. Solid 3-year warranty. The washer also incorporates its own water heater, so you can dial in any desired wash temperature (from 85 to 205°F). I told fizzygeek about all of this, and she wanted to see the machine too. We both had a look at it, and decided the base model Asko was the one we wanted. Her parents had given us some money toward a new washer, so the price tag wasn't a problem. The only issue was that this washer wanted 220V 20A power. This was to support the built-in water heater (the reviews pointed out that washers with 110V built-in water heaters were very slow). The Asko was actually designed to plug into its matching dryer, but as our existing dryer works, we weren't getting a new one. Happily, the existing washer outlet was up to code, so it was an isolated 20A circuit. Even better, the adjacent breaker wasn't being used, so switching it over was neat and easy. A call to Max revealed that the cord had the ground prong the same direction as the cord, so I installed the correct new outlet with the ground prong down so the cord would hang nicely. We opted to have the machine delivered, as we had not enjoyed carrying the old machine up the stairs. The delivery people did a great job, carted off the old washer, and even lifted the new washer into the drip pan for us.
We had considered repairing and freecycling the old washer, but that would have involved hauling it off to a storage locker, finding the right part, finding someone who wanted it who had a truck, and the logistics just weren't appealing. The new washer only needed a cold water feed, so we got a cap for the hot tap, just in case it decided to leak one day. The washer actually has two doors. The usual glass porthole door is mounted to the washer suspension, so it doesn't need a flexible seal. And a fold-down oven style door sits in front of it, giving a plain blank front to the washer when closed, and offering a handy surface for laundry handling when open. Several reviews had mentioned that the (very high speed) spin cycle sounded like a jet engine. They weren't kidding, I'm probably going to record it, it's a cool sound. The suspension is first-rate, the house doesn't shake when the washer is running like it did with the old one. It's a cute little thing, noticably smaller than the machine it replaced, but has plenty of capacity. It doesn't look like it, as the loading opening is smaller than the drum, but it is capable of washing a queen-size comforter or 13-14 bath towels at once. Our king size comforter we'll just take to the laundromat and wash in the big Wascomat like we always have.