Washing your clothes without all that agitation

#451 in a series of true experiences in real estate
January 2004, Hills Newspapers

We kept running into people with the super new Calypso clothes washers, and they raved about them. “Less water,” they said, “Swishes the clothes back and forth. Larger loads because there’s no agitator.”

And good looks, too, we thought, but how good does your washer have to look? And they’re expensive, around $1000 each, which seems like a lot for a washing machine.

We didn’t bite, but kept gathering endorsements as we met more owners who loved their Calypsos. Then, about a year and a half ago, we started thinking about replacing our old washer.

My 20-year-old son had developed into a clean freak. He was washing several daily loads of clothes, probably wearing them out from so much agitation. Energy consumption was also worth considering.

We went to Sears, Sears because numerous appliances I’ve purchased over the years have proved reliable, plus Sears has their own repair people. There were the Calypso machines, each marked with a bright yellow Energy Star sticker. “When used with a gas water heater,” the notice boasted, “cost to operate the Calypso washer is only $15 per year.”

We found that rather exciting although we had no idea what the cost was for electricity to run our old washer. And no mention was made concerning water savings.

But, wow, the features! The computerized controls on these machines provide numerous washing options. Eight different cycles are available, all named, including Bulky Items, Ultra Handwash, even Wool/Silk. Also, pre-wash and pre-set soaking (kinda like a crock pot), default settings for water temperature that can be changed with the push of a button, and a lighted panel that displays, as the clothes churn, the time remaining until the load finishes.

Standing there, staring at the control panel, I had visions of washing comforters and my kids’ sleeping bags, also sweaters and jackets. Maybe I wouldn’t have to take anything to the dry cleaners anymore.

Plus, there was a $150 rebate being offered. And so, we bought our own Calypso, rung up at $1250 total, including tax and warranty. Our only hesitancy was due to its computerized heart. We looked at one another and said, “Uh oh, there’s trouble, it’s gotta be like cars.”

In the old days, parts could be opened, fixed when broken. But with computers, for sure something will go wrong, and the only fix will be replacing the computer. And that’s got to be expensive. Thus, the need for an extended warranty.

The washer is good. It is surprisingly quiet while washing and does take a larger load than our old center-agitator washer. I really can’t tell if it washes things any cleaner or if they are less worn, and I don’t know if we are using less water and electricity.

There is one odd thing, more of an annoyance than anything: When I transfer clothes to the dryer, pant legs are wound in circles, shirts are in tight tourniquets. But I shake them out, and they dry fine.

All in all, the Calypso has been quite dependable; nary a hiccup until last week when it stopped still.

When the machine quit, we raced to discover if it was still under warranty. It is. We read the what-to-do section of the manual to see if we could make it operational again. Failing that, we called Sears Service. Yes, they could come, but not for 7 days.

My son drove off to the laundromat to wash his daily duds, several different times. Finally, the appointed day arrived. The Sears guy came, and just like an old-fashioned repairer, he took things apart and jiggled connections until he found a loose one in the control panel. With that, he went to his truck where, lucky for us, there was another panel of the right type, and it was duly installed.

But the machine still wouldn’t work. More investigation revealed a burned out fuse. A tiny little, easily replaced fuse (but only by a repairman who has one) was the cause of the failure.

We’re back in business again, for now. Good thing we paid for the extended warranty. Without it this service call would have cost $662.

I really don’t understand why the world is becoming computerized. And I’ll bet this washer – because it is computerized – will not last like the old washer, for twenty years or longer.

More and more, things we depend upon to be dependable are designed to be disposable. Water heaters, for instance. They used to be almost indestructible, those big old cast iron types that gave a continuous supply of hot water, and did so for a lifetime.

And cars, prior to the computerized versions, were far more approachable. You can’t simply take off the cover of the carburetor when your car doesn’t start, spray the inside with Quick Start, and drive away. With today’s cars, whatever is wrong has something to do with the computer, something that will have to be replaced by a mechanic.

Even TV’s were easier before. There were cautionary warnings about being electrocuted but it was possible, if careful, to find the tube that had blown, then go to the store and buy a replacement. Those days are over.

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