By Mariette Mifflin. Housewares/Appliances Expert
Mariette Mifflin has been covering housewares and appliances for About.com since 2005. Read more
An all-in-one washer/dryer (also known as a combo) is an appliance that can wash and then dry your laundry in one machine. Shopping for one unfortunately can be confusing since they are sometimes also referred to as washer dryer combos and that term is also used by some for a stacked (dryer on top of washer) laundry set. This article refers to one appliance that does both functions.
However, because of the ventless and easier installation, many have found this appliance to be the best choice when installing a traditional laundry pair is either not possible, space is very limited or just to avoid coin-operated laundromats and be able to wash/dry at home.
Though they do have their quirks, consumers like this laundry option and find ways to resolve these concerns. It's also a good choice for RV's, cottages or boats.
Is Capacity & Style Suitable for You?
Though some models have slightly more capacity than others, most all-in-one washer dryer combos have very small capacities, in the 2 cu. ft. or 11 lb wash load range and that may be stretching it. This means only small laundry loads can be done such as one queen sheet and 4 pillow cases.
And since the drying is done after the washing in the same unit, you lose the time-saving convenience of being able to wash a load while one dries. Cycle times will seem long, since this is a combined washing/drying time.
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In short, operation times are long, loads must be small, but it beats waiting for an empty dryer at a coin-op.
Installing an All-in-One Washer/Dryer Unit
Most washer/dryer combos are ventless so there's no exterior dryer venting required and they plug into a standard electrical wall outlet. However, you do need access to hook up to water (in and out). These units are generally compact - about 24" wide and a smaller depth.
For this reason, some have found it easy to place in a closet, bathroom or even under-counter in the kitchen. Many models have wheels and connection kits available for a portable to-the-kitchen-sink operation. Their compact nature, non-permanent hook-up and ease of installation makes them a great choice for small spaces, condos or apartments.
Washer/Dryer combos are mostly all high-efficiency front-loaders and most are Energy Star rated. On the whole, they are very energy efficient for electricity as well as water. Review the specific model's manual to confirm whether HE
detergent is to be used in the appliance you are considering.
Features of Combo Units
While you can either wash or dry only in a washer/dryer unit, many love to be able to set it to wash and then dry, especially if they choose delay start to do their laundry while away. A word of caution regarding full wash/dry cycles, though handy, it's easy to forget to choose the right settings to avoid wrinkles or to pull out items you would rather hang to dry.
As with most high-efficiency washers, preset wash cycles tend to be very long, but quick settings or the ability to reduce times where needed is a plus. A choice of temperature and wash options, along with a permanent press cycle is a must.
What Consumers are Saying
Consumers find combos very handy and have found ways around what they don't like. Clothing dries using condensation. not heat like most dryers - leaves clothing feeling damp with a lot of wrinkles - hang immediately after 'cool down' period ends. In minutes it will be dry. Small loads can be unbalanced - a towel in with the load helps distribute weight. The steam dry is gentler on clothes than heat.
Combo units have no lint filters - items are more linty and ducts must be cleared periodically. Have it serviced under warranty. How often depends on lint, pet hair etc. Savings add up when you're not using a laundromat .
Washer/dryer units cost between $600 - $1500 which is less than what you'd pay for a high-efficiency laundry pair, so there are savings buying one appliance rather than two. And when it comes to being able to do laundry in an apartment, cottage or RV without having to go out with a roll of coins, you can't beat this convenience.
As for operational costs energy-wise, there can be very good savings using this dual purpose machine, but only if the load capacity suits your lifestyle and you can reduce and customize the cycle times to meet your needs.
Learn More About Buying Laundry Appliances
You can find other helpful tips on buying washers and dryers that can help when buying a washer/dryer combo machine.
General Consumer Tips
Depending on what you pay for a combo laundry machine, you may want to consider an extended service contract. In order to understand how the machine works, it's important that you read the manual. Especially to know how the child safety lock works; it may not work as you would likely assume.