As consumers focus on making sure their homes are as clean as possible, as well as their overall health and wellness, having the right laundry setup has become even more important. For example, about 87% of home buyers1 want a dedicated laundry room, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). But what do they want in laundry appliances?
We chatted with Andrew Schueneman, Product Marketing Manager-NAR Laundry at Whirlpool Corporation, to learn about today's top laundry appliance trends, generational preferences, popular features and more:
What do today's home buyers expect in a laundry appliance?
Today's buyers want washers and dryers that are quality built, that will perform as well or better than their previous machines, and are more resource efficient. They also want washers and dryers that look good in their space with updated design, colors, and aesthetics. Some consumers desire more traditional setups and styles like knobs and agitators while others are looking for newer features, like Load & Go™ dispensers that allow them to skip adding detergent to every load, or WiFi connectivity that allows them to remote monitor, set, and control their appliances.
Older generations might look at laundry as a "set it and forget it" sort of appliance. How has smart technology changed the laundry experience and given people a better appreciation for what these appliances can do?
Consumers who purchase some of the newer machines equipped with smart technology are in for a real treat! Although it might seem strange as to why you'd want or need to connect with your laundry units, I think the technology can be really freeing. You can monitor the status of the machines and get alerts when laundry is done to help with your daily productivity. You can also remotely control the cycles and options selected so you don't have to rely on someone else in the household to know how to best care for your laundry. More importantly, it gives consumers control and confidence in their laundry by offering tips on how to wash a certain type of load, or checking remaining detergent levels and even setting it up so the machine can automatically order the detergent when it's running low.
Stackable washers and dryers are growing in popularity because they can free up space in condos, apartments and smaller spaces. What other trends or product developments are you seeing?
Flexibility is certainly one trend I'm seeing. Whirlpool brand recently launched the first-ever Top Load Washer with 2 in 1 Removable Agitator that allows consumers to choose whether they want to wash with the agitator pole in or out. Along with that, we're seeing an increase in the connected machines, which allow for more freedom in how and where to monitor and control the appliance. With everyone continuing to spend a lot of time at home, I'm also seeing more of a desire from consumers for color and style options when it comes to laundry, including non-white finishes such as Cashmere or Metallic Slate.
What are some of the laundry features that resonate most with consumers?
Consumers are looking for ways to make doing laundry easier. Some want the customization they can control with features such as removable agitators or a Pretreat Station, which allows consumers to soak, scrub and wash all in one spot with a built-in faucet and pretreat brush. Others are looking for their laundry appliance to get things done for them. For example, for heavily soiled loads, selecting MaytagⓇ washers with the Extra Power button can help boost stain-fighting performance. WiFi and connected units are also on the rise for added convenience and control.
Some washers include agitators, some don't. Are manufacturers trying to phase them out, or is there just more choice to meet various consumer needs?
At this point it's really down to consumer preference. Neither choice is being phased out but we're always looking for ways to better innovate in that space. Whirlpool's Top Load Washer with 2-in-1 Removable Agitator is a perfect example of giving the choice back to the consumer based on what they want to wash - whether it's a load of clothes or a bulky duvet.
Ventless dryers were introduced several years ago. Are those a popular option, and what trends are you seeing?
Ventless dryers are a great solution for those who are looking to be a bit more efficient or for those who don't have the capability to vent externally. They offer installation flexibility that you really can't find with a vented dryer. As the technology in this space continues to improve I would foresee this becoming a better option for many consumers in their homes and laundry rooms.
Reliability has always been a hallmark of the best laundry appliances. How has that evolved over the years?
Quality products and reliability are at the forefront of every project and product we bring to market. These are extremely important to a company like Whirlpool that has been making appliances for over 100 years. We're constantly striving to improve the quality of our products, and give consumers the confidence and peace of mind that they're buying reliable appliances. We still assemble nearly all of our washers and dryers here in the U.S. and are very proud of that. For example, our full size, residential washers and dryers are being produced in Clyde and Marion, Ohio.
Millennials and Gen Z are buying more homes than ever, and they are concerned about the environment. What are they looking for in a laundry appliance that can help assure them that it has the lowest carbon footprint/highest energy conservation possible?
Millennials and Gen Z do have more concerns about the environment and resource efficiency than previous generations. They're looking for confirmation that the washers and dryers they're buying are more efficient and have features that help them live more sustainably. Features like Delay Start give consumers the ability to schedule a cycle to start when electricity or water are not during peak times, while ENERGY STARⓇ certified models may help lower water and energy usage. Ventless dryers are also appealing to millennial and Gen Z consumers since they tend to use less electricity when compared to traditional vented dryers.