Washer/dryer combos, which are not to be confused with stacked washers and dryers, have one drum. A washer/dryer combo’s drum is where you put in all your dirty clothes. It is also known as the spin basket or tub. The size of the drum, which is usually measured in cubic-feet, determines how much water the washer/dryer can hold, and therefore how many clothes. One cubic foot equals 28 liters of water. A standard washer/dryer combo drum will be around the 2-4 cubic feet range, which is most smaller than a normal washer or dryer that are separate. Pay attention to the actual construction material of the drum, as that plays a big role in how durable the washer/dryer is. In addition stainless steel, construction materials include porcelain and plastic, which are not as reliable and have problems with hot water and speed. Over time, the heat from the combo can literally melt the plastic or porcelain so the drum becomes warped. High speeds add to the breakage, and once the drum is shot, the washer/dryer combo needs to be replaced. Stainless steel is considered the best choice because it is very durable in the face of hot water, and can spin very fast without breaking down.
Washer/dryer combos are known for their compact size, so you have to run much smaller loads than you would with a standard washer and dryer. You should also know that many washer/dryer combos have different wash and dry capacities, since drying usually takes a pretty long time. This means you have to run several small loads in one day, and run ones smaller than the maximum capacity if you want your clothes to get really dry. Most washer/dryer combos can handle a 10-15 lb load.
The speed of a washer/dryer combo determines how long you have to wait for a load of clothes to get clean and/or dry. Combos measure speed in RPMs, which stands for revolutions per minute. This is a handy measurement for washer/dryers, since the clothes literally spin around inside the drum. Faster speeds are also more effective at agitating dirt and other grime from your clothes. Many combos have variable speeds, so you can choose to run a load very quickly if you are in a hurry, or more slowly if you need to get out deep stains. Delicate fabrics should be run on a slower speed or else they get wrinkled or even damaged. For the most affordable combo, a 1200-RPM max is standard, while faster (and more expensive) machines can reach up to 1600 RPMs.
All washer/dryer combos include wash programs for specific fabrics and functions, though they do not have the same number of programs. The price on combos tends to go up with more programs, since the programs provide more versatility. With a lot of programs, you can wash anything from bulky beach towels to delicate silks and nylon. Cycles are always labeled and include names like hand wash, wool, sanitary, speed, and so on, so you do not have to guess what fabrics require what temperature or speed. You can expect between 10-12 wash programs on most washer/dryer combos, and as many as 14 on more advanced models.
One of the main selling points of all-in-one washer/dryer combos is that they take up significantly less space than standard washers and dryers. You are getting one machine instead of two, and washer/dryer combos are almost always smaller than just a single washer or dryer. Combos that have a smaller drum/capacity can take up as little as two-square feet and fit in narrow places like closets. A combo unit also weighs a lot less than even just one standard washer or dryer, so they are easier to transport during a move or around an apartment. Combos can weigh between 150-200 pounds depending on their capacity. Many of them even come with wheels for added convenience, so you do not have to concern yourself with lifting the machine when you are moving it around your place. For elderly people or people with disabilities, this is especially important.
Since washer/dryer combos are designed for smaller living spaces like condos and apartments, most brands attempt to make machines that are quieter than the average washer and dryer. This is an important distinction because standard washers and dryers can be very loud, making it impossible to use the machine at night or in the same room as a television or radio. Apartments where you have thinner walls and neighbors also require very quiet washers and dryers, or else you will get complaints. Be on the lookout for tri-phase and direct-drive motors, which tend to operate relatively quietly. Features like a LoDecibel Quiet Operation further muffles the noise, so you can use the machine pretty much any time or day or night, even in an apartment with neighbors, sensitive infants, and/or pets.
There are two ways that a washer/dryer combo can be designed for drying: vented or ventless. Vented was the standard for years, and involves setting up a window kit so the machine can vent its hot air outside. However, many apartment complexes do not even allow vented drying, so ventless drying is becoming a lot more common and popular. Ventless drying uses the hot air instead of releasing it, so it goes back into the drum and is recycled to help evaporate the moisture from the wet clothes. When the drying cycle is complete, the hot air goes into a condensation chamber. Drying clothes in a washer/dryer combo are notoriously tedious, so you should expect your clothes to take 4+ hours to get really dry. Many people speed up the process by drying smaller loads than what the machine can hold.