Pros: Uses little water, has large capacity, washes quietly, is good-looking, gently washes delicates.
Cons: high initial cost, musty smell, breakdowns, more expensive HE detergent.
After five years of ownership, with the last six months nothing but tinkering and babying the machine, I've decided to replace it. Getting it to complete a wash cycle is a time-consuming chore, and the Sears repairman discouraged me from spending the money on a service call, based on his experience with this particular washer.
A five year product life is disappointing, considering my previous Kenmore (a mechanically simple toploader) lasted seventeen years.
The September, 2005 issue of Consumer Reports lists the Kenmore Elite HE3 4586 number one among front loaders. This rating may have generated unrealistic expectations for the HE3. Looking back over almost five years using this machine, I would probably not buy it again.
The biggest issues are the musty smell and the repeated break-downs. Machine "walking" occurs, too, even with a level installation.
It cleans well using little water, but this type of washer takes longer than a top loader.
On the other hand, it excels at washing delicates, comforters, and sleeping bags. Its wash cycles are exceedingly quiet and conserve astonishing amounts of water. It has a sleek, high-tech look.
I wanted a front loader with extra-large drum capacity for sleeping bags, super-gentle tumbling action for lingerie, and very stingy water usage. The HE3 uses only 10.5 gallons per wash. I liked the concept of using the tumbling action to clean the clothes rather than a center agitator post. Clever.
I had to use the manual and go online to find out how to do repairs when the machine began to stop mid-cycle. The machine was having a drain cycle issue, which I was able to correct myself. By now there is a lot of repair information online, posted by technicians and disgruntled owners. There's a lot you can do yourself to fix the machine instead of calling for service. Check it out.
Water accumulates in the rubber gasket lining the door, and probably under the drum, too. You can buy a product to eliminate the smell temporarily, but the odor will return after a week or so. This is a real downside, as even leaving the door ajar, wiping the gasket clean, and running a cycle with the freshener, does not eliminate the odor for more than a week.
Don’t overload the washer just because the manufacturer says you can load in 400 pounds of laundry and water. Yes, they really do say that in the manual, and it was confirmed by a Sears technician! Obviously, the clothes would put outward pressure on the door and interrupt the seal of the door gasket.
Automatic Water Level – The machine senses the size of the load and automatically mixes the water level with the detergent in prescribed amounts, then injects first a concentrated solution of soapy water onto the dry clothes, tumbles them clockwise and counterclockwise, periodically spritzing the clothes with the washing solution. Then it automatically adds the minimum amount of water needed to finish the job.
Automatic Dispensers – The detergent, bleach and softener are poured into a three-compartment tray to the left of the control panel on the front. Maximum pour lines are easy to see. I have read that bleach splatter stains have been a problem.
Wash Cycles, Automatic Presets – There are five preset cycles. You can throw in the clothes, choose a cycle by pressing a button, and start the machine with a second button. It’s that quick and easy. The basic 5 cycles are:
Whitest whites: Hot/cold, fast speed tumbling, 1:10 min, additional rinse, high speed spin
Heavy duty: Hot/cold, fast speed tumbling, 1:05, high speed spin
Normal casual: Warm/cold, medium speed tumbling, 45 min, high speed spin and a load cooling process to reduce wrinkling
Delicate: Warm/cold, low speed tumbling, 35 min, low speed spin
Handwash: Cold/cold, extra low speed tumbling and soaking, extra low speed spin
There are two extra cycles: Rinse & Spin, Drain and Spin
There is one custom programmable cycle.
On the five basic cycles, you can change the cycle time, water temp, spin speed and number of rinses
NOTE ON THE WASH CYCLES
Another aspect of a front loader that a convert from top loaders must get used to is the longer cycle times.
Since the removal of dirt and stains results from detergent penetrating the clothes through the gentle abrasion of the clothes tumbling against each other, the cleaning cycle is longer .
For example the “Whitest Whites” cycle takes 1 hour and 10 minutes including the rinse and the spin. If the machine senses too many suds, the word “SUD” appears in the digital read-out and the machine automatically starts an additional rinse, adding still more time to the cycle. Yesterday I added HE detergent just slightly over the Maximum line, and the machine went through the SUD routine after the regular routine, which ended at minute 50, and added about five to ten minutes to the total cycle.
There’s a countdown timer, which shows the time remaining in each cycle. It is useful to know the length of the cycles so that one would know when exactly when to start the Delay Start function, which on this machine has a 12-hour delay. The 3t and the 4t have a 20-hour delay, I understand.
Our clothes are not that dirty and I don’t use bleach or softener. I’m pleased that the wash comes out exceptionally dry due to high spin speeds (sturdy wash cycles) and unwrinkled and fluffy (delicate wash cycles). Drying time is dramatically reduced, increasing energy savings. This machine is very quiet until the spin cycle. The spin cycle roars.
The results of the Handwash cycle are excellent. The wash comes out clean, well-rinsed, fluffy. I've done down comforters and sleeping bags with great results.
BENDING DOWN TO LOAD THE MACHINE
I did not buy the $199.00 13” pedestal/drawer. There's also a 15”. The door on the HE3 opens easily with one hand, and it's easy to throw the wash in. The pedestal might be a nice amenity for some.
Adaptive variable speed motor – adapts to load size; max 1050 rpm spin; five spin speeds
Stainless steel inner tub – rust free
Automatic water level – ensures efficient water use
Automatic temperature control- corrects too cold water problem
Automatic detergent, bleach and softener dispenser – releases at proper times in cycle
Dynamic Balance –detects and redistributes off balance loads
Push Button Control – in my opinion preferable to touchpad controls
SUDS routine- detects extra suds and automatically starts extra rinse
Annual operating cost - $14.00
Gallons Used per Wash – 10.5 gallons
Came with an instructional DVD
Automatic door lock –keeps kids out
Add a Garment – 8-minute window for adding forgotten items
Status/Cycle Lights- indicate where in cycle
Delay Wash –do the wash when the rates go down at night
Control Panel Lock- locks wash settings during cycle
A lot of people have had bad experiences with this machine. I've had more trouble with it than I had with my top loader, it is true. Again, I probably would not buy another Kenmore front loading machine.
See my review of the Kenmore Series 80 Dryer I bought to go with this washer: http://www.epinions.com/content_194349141636
You may also be interested to read my Kenmore Elite 1630 Dishwasher review: http://www.epinions.com/content_219118407300
With Spring and Summer coming, you might be interested in my review of a fun and humane product, the Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinkler, to keep away pesky animal intruders from your garden!: http://www.epinions.com/content_223428185732