29 thoughts on ““Smart” Appliances”

  1. We recently had to replace a three-year old GE that no longer worked properly probably due to a bad controller board. Every repair person recommended ditching the machine for a new one. They said the machines today are typically good for three years and that we should consider them to be disposable. I found a controller board online for $200. I could have replaced it myself. But I was not about to do that only to discover there may have been other issues with the machine. So, we bit the bullet and searched for a new machine. The article is exactly correct. You cannot adjust the water level in many models, and most (top loaders) do not have agitators. We went to Best Buy (Pacific Sales) and purchased an Insignia 4.1 cu ft for ~$450. A feature I particularly liked is a glass window on the lid. I always questioned why top loaders didn’t have a glass window to allow you to see what is happening, like: is it even working; is there too much soap; not enough water, etc. In that regard, it had the critically important setting to allow extra water. (That’s why you need to see what’s happening).

    FYI, we learned that the water level is government controlled and the manufacturer is fined if they do not meet that spec. We were told that GE is the only company that has a water level switch and they actually pay the penalty fee because of it. I am not sure how Insignia got around that, but it has a “extra water” setting. Anyway, so far so good. If it fails after warranty then well just buy another one, cheap. BTW, all those settings are ridiculous and are used only once: to sell the machine. All you need is water temperature, water level, agitation intensity, and duration. Everything else is nonsense.

    1. ” I always questioned why top loaders didn’t have a glass window to allow you to see what is happening”

      Because with those old washers you’d just lift up the lid to look. Probably cheaper and more durable like that.

      1. “Because with those old washers you’d just lift up the lid to look. Probably cheaper and more durable like that.”

        You can always do that. But when you do, the machine stops. So, you have no idea what is happening when it is running. For example, regarding water level, the clothes tend to float when the agitator is not running. So you don’t know if the clothes are close to the top of the water because they have floated, or because there is not enough water. You cannot see if the agitation is actually moving the clothes from top to bottom and back, and the rate at which it is doing it.

        1. “But when you do, the machine stops.”

          I guess my parents must have disabled the top-open sensor because our washer never did.

    2. A big part of your problem was the appliance was made by GE. They used to make good appliances but no more. We bought our house new less than 7 years ago. It came with GE appliances, so we bought a GE refrigerator to match. One interesting feature is that the medal shelves in the freezer shrink and collapse. Gee, who knew metal contracts when it gets cold?

      The built in microwave had to be repaired about 2 years after we moved in. The GE dishwasher was crap from the word go. It had a detergent reservoir in the door with springs to counter the weight. Those springs broke about 15 months from new. We had them replaced and they broke again a few months later. We didn’t bother repairing it again. The dishwashing quality was terrible. When it quit workin a couple months ago, we replaced it with an excellent Bosch dishwasher. It’s better in every way, especially in how well it cleans the dishes.

      I will never again buy a GE appliance. They’re crap. I’m only waiting for the refrigerator to show signs of failing before replacing it. Whatever I buy, it won’t have any of that ‘smart appliance’ nonsense if I can help it. There is no rational reason why a kitchen appliance needs to be connected to the Internet. The Internet of Things is a solution in search of a problem and most of it has poor cyber security. I’ve read reports of a smart refrigerator being hacked to make it a spambot.

  2. What I find remarkable about the whole thing is the lack of justification for these products in the first place. Reminds me of the hubbub over smart homes. We’re supposed to put all this expensive gear in our house and businesses for what? Not having to get up quite as much? Monitoring the fish tank by iPhone? What’s the killer app here?

    1. The killer app is increasing the price of the machine so the manufacturer can make more $$$. Like the massive increase in electronics in cars in recent years; no-one really needs them, but it’s a cheap way to justify charging more for your cars.

      I mean, I guess you can use your phone to tell your washing machine to run while you’re in the Bahamas, but it’s not much help when it can’t load the washing by itself.

      1. @Edward M. Grant;

        It’s not true that an app to turn on your washing machine and dryer from the Bahamas isn’t useful. It’s just not useful to you. It is, however, very useful indeed to a hacker who wants to burn down your house.

  3. A lot of this has to do with government regulation. But here is an idea. Why not use 3D printers, to print washers, and dryers? Also, lets print a lot of other things. Dish washers, shower heads, and toilet parts, or toilets. The EPA could then enact all the regulations they want. But the American consumer does not have to buy anything that the EPA, or any other government agency recommends.

    1. Consumer grade 3D printers have a long way to go before they can do that. Even the commercial grade printers can’t compete with traditional manufacturing for large scale production.

      1. “Even the commercial grade printers can’t compete with traditional manufacturing for large scale production.”

        But that’s irrelevant unless I need a part right now. So what if it takes two weeks to produce a widget on my 3D printer, if I don’t need it in a hurry?

        Heck, I think our washing machine took more than two weeks to arrive after we ordered it, and then needed a warranty call and a safety update before it worked OK.

        A washing machine does seem like something that’s unlikely to be printable any time soon, but the ‘3D printers can’t compete in mass production’ argument is a common one and not a very good one. It only matters to mass producers, not to people making stuff at home.

        And, in many fields, they’re already better. Airbus said a while back that they’re printing ever more parts for their planes, because they’re better, lighter, cheaper and faster to produce than traditional methods.

        1. The kind of 3D printers that can make quality metal parts is still too expensive for home use. That may change one day, but not today.

          1. How much of a washer *needs* to be metal, when you get right down to it? I would think that the tub could potentially be plastic, depending on the material used, the thickness, and so on.

  4. I recently had to replace my washer and dryer – the old washer rusted out. I went with frontloaders (dictated by me doing a laundry room remodel) and the “HE” (High Efficiency) problem was as many have indicated; awful. I went with Maytag (US made) and add some water and Trisodium phosphate, plus good detergent. Seems to work okay, but yeah, I don’t like the electronic stuff.

    I recently went new car shopping. I ended up canceling any plans for a new car, because what I found revolted me. Incredibly stupid stuff, like a roof antenna in the rear middle of the roof (several models!) that made the roof rack near useless, near useless “donut” spares with no room for a real spare tire, and built in “connected” which means built-in spy on board, so I’d have had to rip apart the dash to disconnect it one day one. They can keep the dang thing. (Though, if I can find a car with 4WD or small SUV without these issues, I’m back in the market.)

    Low flow shower heads and kitchen faucets? No thanks. I like full flow, much more useful. (helpful hint – most low flow are that way due to restrictors, and restrictors can easily be drilled out.)

    Low flow toilets.. I hate ’em. Had nothing but trouble with them. My house, though only 5 years old, has all full-flow older toilets. I have absolutely no idea how this happened – must have been a toilet-installing burglar or something.

      1. I moved last year, and the apartment has low-flow shower heads. With the restrictor in place, the flow is awful. If I take it out, the drain can’t keep up and by the time I’m done, there’s 8 inches of water in the tub, which takes about 10 minutes to drain. So I actually am thinking about drilling the restrictor out to get some kind of inbetween.

  5. Though it’s illegal, if you slip a plumbing supply shop a twenty, they will sometimes remove the flow restrictor for you. Did that last time I went to a Kohler distributor.

    1. It’s not actually hard to do, you just have to know how. With the head that came with my apartment, you have to take the ball joint apart, which just involves unscrewing a plastic ring.

  6. Bought a washer without an agitator a few years ago and it was worthless. Didn’t clean the clothes. Took forever.

    And then it failed after about 3 years.’

    So the washer I have now has an agitator. Works much better.
    Wished I could have kept my old 15 year old washer going as it worked great, was simple, and the repair man told me to never get rid of it – they don’t make them like they used to any more.

    but it rusted out and couldn’t be repaired unless I was willing to peruse dumps to find replacement tubs and the like.

    Bought a new car in 2016 and refused to get the packages that stop the car for you if you are going to hit something or adjust the speeds based upon radar.

    Too much hackable computerized control. I fear a massive collision, one day, because a hacker decides to muck with the car computers out there.

  7. I recently started using a Kenmore HE agitatorless washer, and it is by far the best I have ever used. Its stain setting actually removes stains, some of which had been in for years.

  8. Larry J, I go along with the Bosch dishwasher being good. I rate it better than that – all machinery should work as well and do its job as quietly and efficiently as the Bosch dishwasher we installed 9 tears ago.

    1. Our Bosch dishwasher is rated at 44dB. You can be standing right in front of it and barely hear it running. It’s so quiet, the installed a red light that shines on the floor to let you know it’s running. It does a far superior job of cleaning dishes than the GE dishwasher, and ours has a 30 minute cycle option when the dishes aren’t very dirty. So far, we love it. We owned a Bosch dishwasher in our previous home, so we had no hesitation about buying one for the new house. It’s everything a dishwasher should be.

  9. I have this same LG washing machine, which replaced a Kenmore I’d had for almost 20 years. I find the suggestion that people had to “trick” the LG by pouring in buckets of water silly. I had no trouble using the manual override controls on the front (visible in the photo) to wash my clothes with plenty of water.

    That said, I did find plenty to dislike about the LG, foremost among them the lack of an agitator which is necessary for things like full-sized bed pillows, which merely floated. Another complaint speaks to the “matching” dryer (I got mine as a set). While you can wash 15 or more pairs on blue jeans in the cavernous washer, the dryer can only handle four or five at a time.

    And then the LG warranty proved worthless. The “certified” LG repairman refused to do warranty service, and complaints to LG were met with what you might call disdain. Makes me worry about the LG TV I bought.

    So, yeah. I should’ve had the Kenmore set repaired.

    1. “I had no trouble using the manual override controls on the front (visible in the photo) to wash my clothes with plenty of water. ”

      Depending on how much work it is, it seems like it might be tedious to do that every single time. (Probably less tedious than putting extra water in, though.)

      1. That should seem silly, if you think about it. How could it be more “tedious” than operating a “dumb” appliance? The wash cycles all have standard presets, just like a dumb washer. In my case, I select a wash cycle (usually “normal,” but there is a “heavy duty”) then select a temperare (the preset is warm/cold, I like cold/cold) and hit start. The only way the LG is magic is when it’s part of the IoT. Then it can come on by itself, see if there’s a load, figure out what kind of load, then consult your presets and/or load a saved program, and do the wash. Why would anyone bother? It can’t DRY the clothes!

  10. Btw, for some of the folks here, plumbing’s not that hard, other than old fashioned things like “sweating” copper pipe. Most modern non-copper plumbing goes together with threaded fittings, or can be retrofitted by anyone who feels up to using wrenches. For the less ept, there are SharkBite fittings, which are basically foolproof. They also don’t last as long, bit once you’ve installed one, replacing it in a few years is easy enough.

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