Manufacturers look to settle the issue of vibrating washers

Consumer Reports News: June 16, 2009 01:56 PM

The Beach Boys famously sang about good vibrations, but when it comes to washing machines, there's nothing good about vibrations. Not only do washers that vibrate too much make a racket but they can also cause structural damage in your home. Sound unlikely? Check out the discussion about washing machines and vibration in our laundry appliances forum.

Vibration is a bigger issue with front-loaders than it is with top-loaders, since front-loading machines spin more rapidly than top-loading models. Also, their drums rotate on a horizontal axis, meaning vibrating energy is transferred perpendicular to the floor (up and down); with a top-loader, the drum spins on a vertical axis, so the vibrations are moving along the plane of the floor contained within the washer.

Information on vibration appears in the troubleshooting guides from most manufacturer. Their standard advice is to check that the washer's leveling feet are in firm contact with the floor and to ensure proper load size and distribution. (One way to do this is to add a few towels to balance the load.)

Minimizing vibration has become a selling point for manufacturers. Samsung touts its patented Vibration Reduction Technology, Whirlpool plays up a six-point suspension system, and at this year's Kitchen/Bath Industry Show & Conference, LG featured the WM3001HWA Ultra-Capacity SteamWasher front-loader running through a full cycle while perched atop four wineglasses (shown).

Our engineers have developed a way to test vibration. It involves placing each washer on a simulated floor hooked up to a triaxial accelerometer. This sophisticated sensor measures three properties of vibration—acceleration, amplitude, and velocity—as the washer cycles through two eight-pound loads.

While every top-loader scored an excellent for vibration in our last test, results varied widely for front-loaders. Several models, including the Samsung WF448AA and the Whirlpool Duet Steam WFW9600T, scored a very good, making them suitable for laundry rooms in main living areas, in particular second floors. But others, like the Maytag 5000 Series, earned only a fair, so they should be installed on a concrete slab, say in the basement or garage. Check out the vibration scores in our ratings of washing machines (available to subscribers).

An after market for antivibration products has sprung up. One of the latest is VibeAway, an antivibration pad made from recycled-tire rubber ($24.50 for a set of four). Recesses in the top of the pads keep the washer's feet from slipping, claims manufacturer B Green Innovations, Inc. (Watch a video of a vibrating washer on the VibeAway Web site.) Good Vibrations and Shake Away Vibration Isolation Pads promise similar results.

We haven't tested any antivibration pads, but some posters to our appliances forums have given them positive reviews.—Daniel DiClerico | | Twitter | Forums | Facebook

Essential information: Read our latest report on washers and dryers (available to subscribers).

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