Pros: When it works correctly, it save water and energy, and is gentle on clothes.
Cons: Getting it to work well is a juggling act.
We bought the Equator Energy Efficient Ventless Clothes Processor EZ 3600CEE in November of 2000, and after using it for over a year, we're ready to go back to the standard washer and dryer we left behind.
If you aren't familiar with the Equator, it's a combination (one drum) laundry machine. You put the clothes in, set the wash and dry cycles, and take the clothes out when they're done. The concept is terrific: a horizontal wash drum that is gentle on clothes and uses very little water and detergent. After washing, the clothes are spun at very high speed, and much of the remaining water is spun out of the clothes. Then, the clothes continue on into the dry cycle during which a condenser removes the remaining moisture.
The advantages are many. First, you don't have to use as much water as a conventional washing machine. Second, you use less detergent. Third, the condenser system doesn't need a heat vent as conventional dryers do. Fourth, because there is only one drum, you don?t have to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer when the wash cycle is over. Last, the machine takes only about half the space of apartment-sized washer/dryer combinations.
The disadvantages? The drum isn't very large, so you can only put about one-third to one-half the clothes you would put in a regular machine. Second, the high speed spin cycle sounds like a small jet taking off! If your floor isn't solid, or your load of clothes are out of balance, the machine will shake, rattle and roll! Third, the condenser-based dry cycle takes much, much longer that a hot air dryer.
As I've said, we've had the machine for a little over a year. In that time, we've found the system very difficult to use. We had to learn to use less detergent, and lots more fabric softener - it keeps clothes from sticking together when tumbling. Because of the small drum we also had to get used to doing two to three times as many loads, and waiting much longer for the machine to do its work. When the clothes were finally "done," they were "dew" damp, and they had to be taken out of the machine, and laid on a rack for a few minutes to dry enough to be folded and put away.
.It is a change in most people?s idea of how to do laundry, but we got to the point where we had a pretty good handle on using the machine. Then, about two months ago, the machine became less and less efficient. We couldn?t understand what we might be doing wrong, and tried a bunch of things to correct the problem, but the clothes were no longer coming out "dew" damp, but instead were "wet" damp! Finally, I called Equator, and the courteous advisor suggested that the impeller in the unit was clogged. She recommended that I call a service technician to clean the impeller.
Because we live in an area that has few Equator knowledgeable service people, I asked for the directions for impeller cleaning, and did the cleaning myself. I removed the top panel, found the bolts that hold the impeller housing, and removed it. Wow! The impeller was completely plugged with lint. I cleaned it, and the Equator is working again like it originally did. (The Equator has a lint filter which needs to be cleaned regularly, and we did so faithfully, but we never found very much lint in the filter. Now we know why! The impeller was trapping much of the lint.)
I don?t believe most consumers are going to want to remove the unit cover, remove the difficult to get at bolts that secure the housing, remove the impeller, clean it, and put the parts back together again. I expect that I?ll have to do it again in about 6 months or so, and I?m not looking forward to it.
The bottom line: If you need a very small unit, or have no way to vent a dryer, or need to be really conservative about water usage, the Equator might be a good choice for you. For the rest of us, a conventional washer and dryer is probably the best choice.