Just like many of the other Internet of Things appliances that have been slowly trickling into our homes over the past several years, smart washers are a new class of device that can hook up to your smartphone or tablet via an app, and transmit vital data about their daily operation to you in realtime.

But how do they work, and do you really need to drop all that extra coin for just a few added features?

What is a “Smart” Washer?

First off, it helps to know what distinguishes a regular digital clothes washer/dryer combo from a “smart” washer.

While many of the latest washers you’ll find at your local Sears or Best Buy will have full-color touchscreens that you can use to acutely customize your laundry cycle, only a select few also contain the option to hook themselves up to your home’s WiFi network for additional capability. By linking either with the Nest thermostat or their own proprietary iOS and Android apps, smart washers can do everything from alerting you when a load is finished and needs to be transferred over, to using “smart tumble” features which will keep your clothes wrinkle-and-mildew free until you get back home.

One of the biggest problems that most people have with doing laundry from their home is that for the most part; they can’t leave until it’s totally done. If you leave a set of wet clothing in a washer more than an hour past when the cycle completes, you run the risk of your clothes starting to take on a mildew musk, which sort of defeats the purpose of washing them in the first place. Similarly, if you leave your clothes in the dryer too long after it’s done, everything inside will wrinkle, leaving you with another half of a day ironing out every last garment until the process is finally done.

Smart washers are able to notify you via an app as soon as the load is done, and at your command, will lightly tumble the clothes every couple of minutes to be sure they have enough air flowing through until you have the opportunity to intervene. The same bonuses can be applied to the dry cycle as well, lightly moving the clothes around indefinitely until the dryer detects you’ve come back home via your link to the local WiFi.

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Last, if your smart washer is one of the few that fall under the “Works With Nest” moniker, the two can actually talk to each other without your intervention needed at all. The thermostat, which tracks whether or not you’re in the home automatically, will tell the washer whether or not anyone is around to move things over. If not, the air-tumble cycles will be automatically initiated, giving you as much time as you need to run to the store, drop the kids off at soccer practice, and still make it back in time to avoid any laundry from stinking up the joint or putting your iron to work.

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Do You Need One?

Not really. Sure, if you’re someone who finds yourself doing laundry while also running errands on a Sunday, then having the knowledge of when each load is done and needs to be moved over can be the difference between a fresh-smelling set of sheets and a mildewy pile of clothes that needs to be run through twice.

But you could just set a reminder on your phone, or even ask Siri to do it for you. Just tell Siri “Remind me to change the wash in 45 minutes”. You’ve just saved a ton of money over buying a smart washer.

According to the manufacturers, the adoption of smart washers hasn’t been nearly as rapid as they may have hoped. According to a statement from appliance giant Whirlpool, the company has been struggling to convince consumers of the value that smart washers have over traditional setups.

One of the biggest problems is that smart washers can often be multitudes more expensive than their standard counterparts, with most topping over $1,500 just for the individual washer or dryer. Not only that, but the company’s own “WashSquad” app – which just debuted at last year’s CES, has already been pulled from the app store due to a lack of user interest and a number of reported issues getting it to connect properly in the first place.

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Comparatively, you should only expect to pay about $1,000 for a solid machine with almost all of the same features – just a lack of WiFi connectivity. Why a chip or two costs an extra $500 at the least is still up for debate, but many believe it’s the companies themselves simply trying to upsell a product that looks like it’s a luxury, when it could just end up being another gimmick that’s hooked itself onto the Internet of Things train in the hopes that the consumer wouldn’t notice.

So then, it seems at least in the case of smart washers, the level of convenience you get out of them is not exactly worth the initial cost of entry. Sure, it’s a neat idea to have a pair of appliances that text you whenever you need to pay attention to them, but the price difference is enough to scare off all but the most IoT obsessed among us.

Image Credits: Whirlpool 1, 2, Samsung

Profile Photo for Chris Stobing Chris Stobing
Chris Stobing is a writer and blogger from the heart of Silicon Valley. His work has appeared in PCMag and Digital Trends, and he's served as Managing Editor of Gadget Review.  
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