Top positive review
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Just what I was looking for!
on May 13, 2012
NOTE: It's my understanding that the AWN542 and AWN542S are the same machine (they only changed the model number).
UPDATE: As of 12-09-14, I've had this machine for just over three years. There have been no problems or service calls, and I have no regrets regarding my purchase.
After sixteen years of use, and without a single service call, my top-load Maytag washer finally bit the dust. I could have had it repaired. But an estimated 3,000 wash loads had worn away the porcelain finish in the tub leaving it as rough as sandpaper. As a result, my clothes were coming out worn looking after only a few washings. It was a great machine that served me well, but the time had come to say goodbye.
Because of the worn tub I'd already been looking at new washers off and on for over a year. They've certainly changed a lot in the last sixteen years. For one thing, front-loaders were mostly unavailable when I bought my Maytag. Plastic has replaced many of the parts that used to be made out of metal. And basic analog controls have been replaced with electronic touch-panel circuits and LCD screens. What was once a relatively simple appliance has "evolved" into a complex, computer-controlled, electronic device with the ability to display multiple error codes. Error codes? My old Maytag couldn't display error codes. It just worked.
From what I've seen and heard from others, washer reliability and longevity has gone downhill over the years. Why? I believe part of the problem is the complexity of the newer machines (lots of electronics). But more than any other reason, I think the market is driven by consumers who want something new and cheap to buy every few years. As a result, newer machines aren't really built to last. When I bought my old washer I expected it to last fifteen years or more with little or no trouble. I wonder how many new washers on the market today will last sixteen years and wash 3,000 loads of clothes without needing a single service call? Not many, I'll bet.
I've looked at a lot of plastic-clad washers that seem destined for the scrap heap in five years. The manufacturer could build them to last a long time if they wanted to. But in doing so they'd probably have to double the price. In order to keep the price low, longevity and reliability are no longer at the top of the list. Just like computers and cell phones, most washing machines made today have become throw away devices. And yet, who can blame the consumer for throwing away their washer when the repair bill is almost as much as buying a new machine?
As I continued to do my research for a new washer I had to decide whether to purchase a top-loader or a front-loader. They each have their advantages and disadvantages. I know several people who have front-load washers. They've told me that their machine uses very little water and detergent. That's good. They've also said that it spins so fast that the clothes don't need as much time in the dryer. That's good too. On the other hand, they've told me that the door must be left open between uses to avoid mold or funky smells. In addition, the machine needs to be periodically "refreshed" with special cleaners, bleach, or programmed cleaning cycles to keep odors under control. I can honestly say that in all the years I've used top load washers, I've never once had to leave the lid open or periodically "refresh" the machine to avoid mold or nasty smells.
Having determined that I'd much prefer a top-loader, the question then became, "Which one do I buy?" Many of the top loaders on the market appear to be simple, basic machines. Further investigation reveals that a lot of them contain sophisticated circuitry and are essentially controlled by a computer. It's not that I have anything against computers. I use them all day in the office where I work. And I used one to write this review. But do I really want my washing machine to be controlled by a computer?
Before purchasing my Speed Queen I considered several other washers, including a GE Hydrowave washer (model GTWN4000MWS). Although this machine doesn't have a transmission and is supposed to be very quiet, the direct-drive motor is controlled by circuitry that can display ten (10) different error codes by way of a flashing green LED located on top of the motor. One salesperson that I talked to about this washer suggested it would be a good idea to plug it into a surge protector to protect the electronics in the event of a power surge.
GE's own website describes how the consumer can "reset" the Hydrowave washer if it quits working because of a power spike or some other problem: Unplug it for one full minute, plug it back in, then lift and close the lid six (6) times within a twelve second period. Are they serious? Thanks, but I really don't want a washer that may periodically need to be "rebooted".
After much research and consideration, I decided that what I wanted was a simple and rugged washing machine that would last me many years without any trouble (like my Maytag). I wanted a machine that didn't contain any sophisticated circuitry or computers that might get fried by a voltage surge. I also wanted a washer that allows me to manually set the water level in the tub, rather than an electronic sensor in the machine making the decision for me. Lastly, I wanted a stainless steel tub that won't wear out like the porcelain tub did in my old Maytag.
I looked at the new Maytag top-loaders. The models I saw that have stainless tubs also have electronic touch panels instead of analog switches. I did find a model with analog controls that allows me to manually set the water level, but it didn't have a stainless tub. I also looked at some other brands but couldn't find what I was looking for. I began to wonder, "Doesn't anyone make what I really want?" Luckily, there is.
Alliance Laundry Systems (the maker of Speed Queen) makes a lot of laundry equipment for use in commercial applications. They have a well-known reputation for making rugged, reliable machines. The AWN542 is a no-nonsense washer made very much like the way washers were made twenty or more years ago. It's not the least expensive top loader you can buy. But then again, you won't need to spend a dime on an extended warranty because it comes with a factory three (3) year warranty. The tub is stainless steel so it will never wear out. And although it doesn't have the biggest tub at 3.3 cubic feet, my old Maytag was only 2.9 cubic feet in size. I've washed a queen size comforter in the Speed Queen and it worked just fine.
Unlike some machines that won't allow you to manually set the water level, the Speed Queen still has an adjustable switch that lets you decide this for yourself. However, I don't like the fact that even on the "Extra Large" water setting this machine doesn't fill up the tub as high as it did in the older models. This is due to newer government efficiency standards that reduced the water level in top-load washers. If you need more water in the tub you can hold down the reset switch until the machine fills up to the desired level. For a more permanent solution, you might look around on the Internet and see if anyone discusses how to adjust the water level in this machine.
The maximum spin speed is 710 RPM, which is higher than my old Maytag. I find the noise level to be about the same or a bit less than my old machine. Although it's not what I'd really call quiet, it's certainly not loud or annoying. Doing a long soak in this machine is simple...just raise the lid. When you close the lid, it picks up where it left off. By the way, that's another nice thing about a top-loader. You can easily add a missed piece of laundry to the machine during the wash cycle.
Speed Queen uses a balancing system in this washer that really works. I've washed both small and large loads, and it has never walked across the floor or even moved a fraction of an inch in the spin cycle. This model also has an extra rinse switch. Another nice feature on this machine is the Fabric Selector Switch. This feature gives you the ability to independently control the agitation and spin speed in most cycles. For example: In the Regular cycle, you can select a fast or a slow agitation speed. You can also select a fast or a slow spin speed. My only complaint about this feature is that the selectable speeds are only referenced by fabric type. For example: One of the selections is marked "Knits". You'll need to refer to the owner's manual to discover that this setting will provide you with a slow agitation speed and a fast spin speed.
Will this machine be reliable? Will it last sixteen years like my old Maytag? Only time will tell. However, I can tell you that it appears to be well built. It may not be flashy to look at, but it doesn't contain electronic touch-pad controls, a computer, or an LCD display to go bad just outside of the warranty period. In the event that something does go wrong, I don't think it's going to cost a fortune to have it fixed.
You won't find Speed Queen for sale at Best Buy, Lowe's, Home Depot, Sears, etc. They're sold mostly at independent appliance dealers who actually know something about the products they sell. And one last thing. A lot of the other machines that I looked at were made in Mexico or Korea. I like the fact that Speed Queen is made in the USA.