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The Purchase : Productopia Tips : Washers

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Check energy efficiency. Get the Energy Star rankings of many (not all) washers by going to the Energy Star web site and querying by brand and model number. While the most efficient machine may break your budget, you can find a more efficient model that won't.

Factor in rebates. Many local utilities give rebates for replacing your old energy-gobbling appliances with new energy-nibbling models. These rebates often make the more expensive high-efficiency models close to or the same price as cheaper, less efficient models.

Consider your needs. If you're washing for a family, it may pay to buy a high-capacity/high-efficiency machine. If you're just a couple, it could take the rest of your life to recover the premium you pay for the most efficient washers.

Remember, it's features that add to the price. You can get a durable washer with basic features that will clean your clothes fine for $500 or less. When you go above that, you're paying for energy savings, metal tubs, design goodies and operating options.

Aim for the middle. The "sweet spot" for top-loading clothes washers is about $500. Paying more gets you goodies such as a bigger basket and more features, but your clothes won't necessarily be cleaner. Take advantage of the selection in this price area.

Consider a front-loader. Even confirmed top-loader fans shouldn't automatically reject a front-loader. Many people swear by them and sales are quickly growing. Buy special detergent, though; or you'll be re-running "Victory at Sea" in the laundry room.

Encourage longevity. You can expect a clothes washer to last seven to 10 years, if you care for it properly. Clean it (especially soap dispensers) regularly; get problems fixed quickly; consider buying a service contract; and wash small, balanced loads.

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