Q: My wife and I are concerned about the movement toward low-water appliances. She heard on the radio that the government will be tightening water-use requirements, and how tests of the new machines are failing, with people frequently having to rewash clothes because they don't come out clean with one cycle. How is washing everything twice going to save water?
We have a 40-year-old Kitchen Aid dishwasher that still works fine, but its days certainly are numbered. And our Whirlpool washer and dryer are both more than 10 years old. Do you think we should replace these appliances before the new regulations kick in so we will have appliances that actually get things clean?
A related e-mail comment from another reader: My appliance store told me that the washers that use lots of water no longer can be made because of federal rules. I must have maximum water to remove all soap because of sensitive skin. I purchased a Speed Queen AWN432 in December for that reason.
A: I have a Speed Queen AWN432, and although it has been discontinued, you may still be able to find one in stores. Though new federal rules for water and energy use have ended production of traditional agitator models like the AWN432, it does not mean you are stuck with washing machines that barely get the clothes wet.
The new Speed Queen models TR3, TR5 and TR7 use a spray rinse on the Eco Cycle, but will do a full tub wash and rinse with the other cycles. The new models have an agitator, but the washing action has changed. I'll be trying one soon, but in the meantime you can see it compared to a low-water front loader under the Washability section on speedqueen.com.
Some low-cost options are available. The Amana NTW4516FW (amana.com) has a deep-water wash option, as does the Kenmore 20222 (kenmore.com). Both list for $499, usually sell for $399 and often go on sale for $299. Neither one has the high-quality feel of more-expensive machines, but I'd rather have either one of them than a high-efficiency top-load washer that tries to clean clothes by slapping them around in a puddle of water, barely getting them wet.
My response to the question about replacing the Whirlpool washer and dryer is to keep using them until they cannot be economically repaired. They came from a time before appliance quality went completely downhill, and both could be good for another 10 to 15 years. Likewise, the old Kitchen Aid dishwashers were built like tanks, but even when it needs to be replaced I would not worry about the cleaning ability of new dishwashers. The overwhelming majority of complaints about low-water appliances are about washing machines, not dishwashers.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.