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Unvented washer-dryer combos use one tub but have drawbacks

In addition to stacked laundry centers, there is another class of combined washers and dryers called washer-dryer combos, which wash and dry clothes in the same tub. Consumers load their dirty laundry, make their selections and then remove the clean, dry items when the drying cycle is done. These washer-dryer combos are compact (usually 24 inches wide), and use a standard 120-volt electrical supply (gas versions are not available). They also do not need to be vented to the outdoors. These features make them attractive to apartment dwellers and others who don't have traditional washer and dryer hookups -- outside dryer vents and a 240-volt outlet. With these washer-dryer combos, water is pumped out of the drum through a hose, so users do need a sink, drain or tub nearby.

Although washer-dryer combos are an option for those who cannot use standard washers and dryers, there are some significant drawbacks. Their capacity is generally smaller than that of full-size washers, and it also takes much longer to process a load of laundry. The standard drying cycle is one hour, but many owners report that clothes take several hours to dry completely. Many users say they take out some wet laundry and dry their clothes in two batches to speed drying time. User review sites such as Epinions.com are full of owners who say drying times are long, and this is one reason why most washer-dryer combos get poorer reviews than full-size washers and dryers.

One washer-dryer combo performs better than others, according to users: the front-loading LG WM3987HW (*Est. $1,600) . This model is larger than most: 27 inches wide with a 3.6-cubic-foot capacity. It has nine wash cycles, including a germ-killing sanitary cycle, and a rapid-spin cycle to remove as much moisture from clothes as possible before drying starts. There are six drying programs, and a moisture sensor turns the dryer off automatically when laundry is dry. However, the LG WM3987HW does not meet Energy Star requirements for washers. LG's warranty covers parts and labor for one year, the motor for 10, and the stainless-steel washtub for life.

We found more than 300 reviews for the LG WM3987HW washer-dryer combo at various retail sites, including LivingDirect.com, HomeDepot.com and Amazon.com. However, there appears to be some overlap among these reviews, as some of them are pulled from the LG manufacturer site. On most sites, the LG WM3987HW earns ratings of 4 stars or more from users, many of them apartment dwellers who are thrilled to have an alternative to taking their clothes to a laundromat. In addition to its compactness and easy installation requirements, owners like this combo's larger-than-average capacity, energy efficiency and good washing performance. They also appreciate the convenience of being able to load their laundry once and walk away, rather than having to move clothes to the dryer.

However, like most washer-dryer combos, the LG WM3987HW gets complaints about drying times that can exceed three hours for a full load. Some say clothes sometimes come out damp at the end of the cycle, but others say it's just high humidity from the condenser dryer and the clothes dry almost immediately with a quick shake. Users at Amazon.com are less enthusiastic, giving this unit a score of 3 stars out of 5 in about 35 reviews. We saw many complaints about reliability at this site, with several users reporting multiple breakdowns in the first two or three years. In addition, some owners report that obtaining service from LG is a real hassle. A few users say that an extended warranty -- usually described by experts as a waste of money -- is a must for this "very, very complex machine."

LG also makes a smaller washer-dryer combo, the LG WM3455HW (*Est. $1,600) . This 24-inch-wide model has most of the same features found on the LG WM3987HW. However, it has a smaller capacity (2.3 cubic feet) and a higher spin speed (1,300 rpm), and it does not include the special anti-vibration system found on the larger LG model. This is one reason why the LG WM3455HW does not fare quite as well in user reviews. In the 50-plus reviews we found at retail sites, we saw several complaints about excessive vibration. Users say that it is important to take the time to make sure the machine is perfectly level, and they note that adding rubber pads under the legs also helps. Otherwise, the pros and cons of this machine appear to be similar to those of the larger LG WM3987HW. However, drying times are long, reviewers say, and wrinkling can be a problem, especially if clothes are not removed promptly. The smaller LG machine is also available in a stainless-steel finish as the LG WM3455HS (*Est. $1,700) .

A less expensive option for those who need a combo unit is the Haier HWD1600 (*Est. $900) . This unit is one of the most inexpensive washer-dryer combos available, and it's also very compact --  just 23.5 inches wide and 33.5 inches tall. On the downside, it has a smaller capacity --just 1.8 cubic feet -- and fewer features. It has only six wash cycles and three drying cycles, and its maximum spin speed is 1,000 rpm. Other features include a moisture sensor, an electronic control panel and a one-year warranty.

We found about 40 reviews for the Haier HWD1600 at LivingDirect.com, with an overall rating of 3.8 stars out of 5. In general, users like this machine as a washer but dislike it as a dryer, with several users complaining of poor drying performance even after a lengthy drying time. However, other users say that this combo's drying performance is fine as long as it is not overloaded and recommend doing smaller loads every two to three days. Another user also notes that the 60-minute timed cycle appears to work better than the automatic cycle, and anything that is still damp can be thrown back in for a 30-minute touch-up. The 20 or so reviews we found on other sites had similar comments, except that we found a few complaints at Amazon.com about this washer-dryer combo's reliability. These users report complete breakdowns within the warranty period and getting the runaround from Haier when they tried to get their machines repaired.

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LG 3.6 CF FRONT LOAD WASHER DRYER COMBO
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New: $1,599.00   
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Haier HWD1600 1.8 Cubic Foot Combination High-Efficiency Washer and Ventless Dryer
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New: $999.00   
Average Customer Review:  

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