Laundry centers combine a washer and dryer in one stacked unit. They are more compact than full-size washers and dryers, and they are available in both 24- and 27-inch widths. Although the 27-inch models are the same width as full-size washers and dryers, they aren't as tall. Most laundry centers average 70 to 75 inches tall, while full-size units can reach 80 inches or more when stacked. Compared with high-end washers, laundry centers also have fewer bells and whistles. Although you'll find pricey standalone washers with digital touch pads, sanitizing cycles and a multitude of wash settings, laundry centers are simpler. They typically have dial controls and fewer temperature levels, and they don't have advanced features like delayed start timers or steam cycles. Most laundry centers require standard venting and a 240-volt electrical supply, like a standard washer and dryer.
It is also possible to get a laundry center that runs on gas (for the dryer). Experts say gas and electric dryer performance is similar, but a gas dryer may save consumers more money in fuel costs over the long run. Experts also stress the importance of a moisture sensor in the dryer, which automatically turns the dryer off when laundry is dry. This feature helps save energy and reduces wear and tear on your clothing.
We couldn't find any professional reviews for laundry centers; they aren't covered in ConsumerReports.org or Good Housekeeping. So we turned to user reviews. Unfortunately, there's no clear winner in owner ratings either. The models with the largest amount of feedback generally get mixed reviews from owners. We found only one full-size (27-inch-wide) laundry center with above-average ratings: the GE Spacemaker GTUP270EMWW (*Est. $1,325) . The washer on this unit has the basic features you'd expect to find on a standard top-loading washing machine, including nine wash cycles, four temperature options and dial controls. However, the wash basket is made of plastic, a less durable material than the stainless steel or porcelain found in most stand-alone washers.
The dryer on the GE Spacemaker GTUP270EMWW has four basic cycles. It also includes a moisture sensor, which shuts off the dryer when it senses a lack of humidity in the air. This feature saves energy and helps prevents overdrying, which causes wear and tear on clothing. The all-electric version of this laundry center requires a 240-volt dedicated outlet, like most full-size laundry centers. That means you can run the washer and dryer at the same time. However, like most laundry centers, this machine does not meet Energy Star requirements. The GE Spacemaker is also available in a gas-powered version, the GE Spacemaker GTUP270GMWW (*Est. $1,400) . Both models are backed by a one-year warranty.
We found about two dozen user reviews for this laundry center at HomeDepot.com, plus a few more at Sears.com and AJMadison.com. Owners generally like the washer's cleaning performance, and they say that it is quiet. Most also find its capacity (3.3 cubic feet for the washer, 5.9 cubic feet for the dryer) adequate for their needs. However, we saw numerous complaints that the dryer damages clothes; in particular, some owners say the lint filter has a tendency to snag buttons, zippers and drawstrings, causing them to break or rip off. We also saw several complaints about this model's reliability. Despite these problems, however, the GE Spacemaker still gets better scores and more feedback than any other full-sized laundry center.
If your space is too narrow for a 27-inch laundry center, there are a couple of 24-inch units that receive above-average owner reviews. These compact units can reside in tighter spaces, but they do so at the expense of load capacity. Some 24-inch laundry centers can plug into a standard 120-volt electrical outlet, but these models can't wash and dry at the same time, and their dryers are significantly less powerful than machines that use a 240-volt outlet.
The Whirlpool LTE5243DQ (*Est. $1,250) has a top-loading washer and is not Energy Star-certified. You'll sacrifice some capacity -- the 1.5-cubic-foot washer is about half the size found in 27-inch laundry centers. The electric dryer is also small, only 3.4 cubic feet, and it uses a thermostat instead of a moisture sensor, which is more sensitive. The Whirlpool laundry center has a porcelain-coated washtub, dial controls, three water levels, three temperature settings and five wash cycles. The laundry center is 24 inches wide and 72 inches tall. The gas version of this laundry center is the Whirlpool LTG5243DQ (*Est. $1,350) . Both have a one-year warranty.
Users at Viewpoints.com give the Whirlpool LTE5243DQ laundry center an overall rating of 71 points out of 100 in about 30 reviews. We also found an additional two dozen reviews at retail sites. Owners like this laundry center's space-saving design and they generally say the machine cleans and dries well. However, many complain that it can only handle very small loads; one user says that a whole sheet set must be divided into two loads. We also saw some complaints that the washer has a tendency to become unbalanced. This problem can cause loud noise and sometimes stops the machine cold, requiring a service call. One plus is that, because this Whirlpool laundry center requires a 240-volt outlet, you can use the washer and dryer at the same time.
Kenmore also makes a number of laundry centers, but most receive only a few reviews from users at Sears.com (the only site that sells Kenmore appliances). However, the 24-inch Kenmore 88752 (*Est. $1,450 ) has amassed about 40 reviews, with a middling 3.5-star average rating (out of 5). Like the Whirlpool LTE5243DQ, the Kenmore 88752 has a top-loading washer with a small 1.5-cubic-foot capacity and a 3.4-cubic-foot electric dryer. Other features include nine wash cycles, seven drying cycles, dial controls, an end-of-cycle signal and a one-year warranty. The dryer does not include a moisture sensor, however, and the washer is not Energy Star-certified. This laundry center runs on a 240-volt current, so the washer and dryer can be used at the same time.
Users at Sears.com are divided over the Kenmore 88752. Some users report great success with this laundry center, and they particularly praise the unit's convenience and space savings. It's also easy to use and operate, according to reviews. However, others are frustrated by its small capacity. There are also a number of reliability complaints, including broken water pumps, leaks and loud noises that develop over time. Interestingly, the gas version of this laundry center, the Kenmore 98752 (*Est. $1,475) does not seem to have similar problems. Although we found only a dozen or so reviews for this model, several of them actually praise its reliability, saying it has lasted for 10 years or more.