How to choose a washing machine?

Inderjeet Singh Arora, a 26-year-old IT professional recently inquired about purchasing a washing machine in one of the large format retail showrooms in Bangalore. The sales executive showed him various washing machines; from semi automatics to fully automatics. Even though he had multiple choices, Inderjeet couldn’t pick the best one suitable to his needs.

Many of us get stuck in similar situations. Our lifestyle needs, water and power consumption, noise generated from the machine, installation area required, frequency of usage, quantity of clothes and etc. are the major factors to buy a washing machine. Often, buying decisions are driven by the consumer’s budget.

Pic: Abhishek Angad

Arora bought a semi-automatic washing machine but soon he felt that his decision was wrong. He says, "Semi-automatic washing machines are good but involve a lot of manual work needing more time. Sometimes it is not possible to manage that in my hectic schedule." Singh expressed the need for a washing machine that would come with features like delayed wash, built-in heater and others requiring less manual intervention, which he realised only a month after he had his own semi-automatic machine.

Citizen Matters did some research into washing machines best suited for various consumer needs. Basically, there are three types of washing machines – top load semi-automatic, top load fully automatic and front load fully automatic.

Semi-automatic washing machine

It is the most economical of all washing machines. The price ranges between Rs 6,000 and Rs 13,000. Water consumption is less as it does not require a dedicated, continuous water supply like fully automated ones. It consumes around 325 watts for an hour of usage. However, the wash quality is said to be around 60% of fully automated front load machines. The drawbacks of this machine are that it needs manual intervention. Also, water heating options are generally not available in semi-automatic machines.

Fully automatic: Top load machines

The price of top load machines vary from Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 28,000 depending on the brand. Clothes are loaded from the top into a drum mounted vertically and rotates horizontally. It has an agitator and pulsator – a propeller, for better wash quality. A major disadvantage with this type is that one cannot reuse water and hence, water usage exceeds that of semi-automatic machines. Also, when the washing is in progress, one cannot add clothes without switching the machine off. The power consumption of these machines is 1500 watts per hour of usage.

Fully Automatic: Front load

This is the most expensive with prices varying between Rs 20,000 and Rs. 73,000. Here, the cylinder is mounted horizontally and clothes are loaded through a door in front of the machine. All models have an in-built heater. Also, the sound produced by these machines is low, as motors are directly attached to the drum, reducing the sound by 60 percent. One advantage with this type is that it uses less water and detergents, when compared to top load fully automatic washing machines. However, the power consumption is same as the top load variety. Here, one of the biggest challenges is maintaining the glass doors. Extra precaution also needs to be taken while shifting these machines from one place to another. IFB is one of the most popular brand in this category, followed by LG.

Should one be particular about spinning capacity?

Spinning capacity of washing machines affects how much of water is removed from the wet clothes after the rinse cycle. Spinning capacity varies from 600 to 1400 rpm. Different types of clothes need different spinning capacity. Users should read the instruction manual carefully before operating.

What are driers?

Electric dryers are used to completely remove wetness from the clothes. These dryers contain heating coils that generate hot air. They of course consume a lot of power. Interestingly, some apartment complexes in Bengaluru have banned drying clothes in balconies. Some apartment builders are including dryers in the checklist of apartments. For example, two months ago, IFB supplied 250 dryers to Mantri Espana, an apartment on Outer Ring Road (ORR).

New features

  • Adding laundry in front load machines: In the middle of the wash cycle, when water level is below the door level, one can add clothes.
  • Anti-creasing: After washing, the machine will run in an anti-clockwise direction at a very low speed to remove wrinkles. This also simplifies ironing.
  • Tilting drum machine: Generally in front load machines, one has to bend down and open the door. Some machines have tilting drums so the user can easily open the glass door without bending.
  • 360 degree wash: Through this technique, water is circulated 360 degrees through the drum, the detergent dissolves completely for a better wash. The rinse is also of a better quality.

Other features

  • Agitator and Pulsator: Agitator helps the clothes move to and fro, giving a scrub-like quality wash. Pulsator pulses the water through the clothes and hence the wash is gentle.
  • Ceramic heaters: These are non-rusting heaters.
  • Controls and wash cycles: All automatic washing machines come with digital control and LED display. Options to customize the wash as per the needs are also available.

Almost all brands are available in Croma, Girias and Next. The brands include LG, Samsung, Whirlpool, Videocon, Godrej, Onida, IFB, Electrolux, Haier, Bosch, Siemens. The price range varies from Rs 6,000 – Rs 75,000.

Benny Clement, Customer Service Executive, Next, HSR Layout

"Most of the demand for semi-automatic machines is from students and those living alone. Automatic top load machines are also in demand with 60 percent of sales coming in this segment. The price of semi-automatic machines has remained constant with marginal increase over the last two years. Top load machine rates have gone up by Rs. 2000 per unit, and front load by Rs. 3000 per unit"

Narasimha Nayak, Sales Promoter, Girias, Bannerghatta Road

"Only 30 percent of consumers demand front load fully automatic washing machines. IFB is most sought after brand. In this category, we have products priced between Rs. 17,100 and Rs. 73,000."

Anil Kumar Singh, Assistant Department Manager, Croma, Adugodi

"We ask customers their needs like number of family members, frequency of usage, water sufficiency and then recommend the category to buy. IFB, LG and Samsung are the top three brands customers look for. These are products which people look for once in 4 years. Croma has brought out its own brand of washing machines with quality assurance and more features at a low price."

Tackling water and power problems

1. Hard water: Some washing machines have built-in filters to treat hard water. Companies such as IFB have introduced a patented filter technology to dilute the magnesium and salt content of the water. Hence, salts do not stick to the drums of the machines. Also, external water softeners are available in the market to neutralise the water.

2. Power outage: Most automatic washing machines have the capability of resuming wash from the same point. So sudden power outages will not affect washing.

3. Water shortage: Front load washing machine use 1/3rd the water used by top loading machines.

4. Voltage fluctuations: Some machines have built-in circuits to handle voltage fluctuation.

AMCs: Most companies offer AMCs with different policies. It is advisable to clarify the terms and conditions from vendors and technical service providers. According to most large retailers, almost all brands have some service issues.

Citizen Matters also spoke to some local washing machine technicians and found that water leakage and motor issues are the most common problems. Also, unavailability of spare parts is a problem with some washing machines.

What large format retailers had to say

Citizen Matters spoke to various large format retailers including Croma, Next and Girias to gauge buying trends. Almost all of them mentioned IFB is a popular brand for front loading washing machines. For top load washing machines too, IFB along with LG, Samsung and Whirlpool are in demand. Around 60% of consumers demand top load washing machines owing to the moderate pricing and good features. Discounts are available at these retailers during the festival season with some offering scratch cards and others offering free gifts. However, Anil Kumar Singh, Assistant Department Manager, Chroma, says, "We don’t give heavy discounts; we believe in good service to the consumers."

Factory Seconds

If you don’t care about scratches or dents then you can also look for factory seconds. Sreyash Factory Second Outlet in Jayanagar sells branded electronic products damaged during transportation. Discounts vary from 20-40 percent. According to the company, one-year warranty is provided by the respective brands.

The Bangalore based company Green Dust can also be a destination for discount lovers. It is a shopping website that offers unused, surplus, overstock or refurbished branded products.

North vs South!

According to a survey of the Indian washing machine market by TV Veopar Journal, a trade magazine of the Consumer Electronics and Home Appliances Industry in India, "the northern region of India leads with a 38 percent market share, followed by the southern region at 30 percent. Interestingly, north Indians prefer semi-automatics, whereas their southern counterparts prefer fully automatic washing machines."

Citizen Matters too found out that in Bangalore around 60 percent of buyers choose fully automatic top load machines while semi-automatic machines contributed to 10-20% of the total sales.

About Abhishek Angad 54 Articles
Abhishek Angad is a Staff Journalist at Citizen Matters.

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