Whirlpool Duet WEL98HEBU Dryer Review
A dryer for the hopeful futurist
The most interesting thing about the Whirlpool WEL98HEBU (MSRP $1,699) is a tiny button on the control panel marked Smart Grid. Press it, and this dryer will automatically run when electricity is cheapest or when demand is lowest, saving you money and helping out an overburdened electrical grid.
If you've been waiting for a button like that your whole life, this is the dryer for you. Chances are you've got your eye on a Tesla Model S, you already own a Nest thermostat, and you've upgraded your phone within the past six months. You're an early adopter, and for the first time in recent memory, you're excited about adopting an appliance.
You're excited because the WEL98HEBU is one of the debut appliances of Whirlpool's 6th Sense Live technology, which allows for smart grid connectivity without a smart electric meter, plus remote smartphone control. It's designed to pair with the Whirlpool WFL98HEBU washing machine and matches the WRL767SIAM refrigerator.
It's expensive—sale prices are still around $1,439—and it's not one of the best-performing dryers we've tested. But it does a good job on the Normal cycle and is one of the few options out there when it comes to connected dryers—Samsung's DV457 and LG's DLEX6001V are the two others.
Design & Usability
As simple or as complicated as you want
Unlike other smart appliances, the design of the Whirlpool WEL98HEBU is much like a fractal: At first glance, it's simple, but the level of detail increases the more you zoom in. You could always press the Smart Grid button and let the dryer decide when it should run, or you can delve into the menus on the LCD screen to micromanage every aspect of your laundry. It's up to you. This dryer platform also carries many specialty cycles that can be renamed. We think this could be a great tool for leaving instructions to someone who doesn’t usually do the laundry.
Of course, the majority of features require an internet connection, and setting one up can be a bit of a hassle. First, we had to sign up and give contact information. Then we had to use another wireless capable device to make the connection. The Samsung DV457EVGSGR, on the other hand, let us connect to Internet as we would with a laptop. Signal strength may also be an issue if your laundry room is far from a router, so keep that in mind.
The usability of smart features aside, this dryer is well put together. The lines and seams are very pleasing. In fact, this dryer shares most of its design language with the Whirlpool Duet WED88HEAC. Both are sleek, striking, but not functionally unique. Bright blue indicator lights show what cycle is being selected. The recessed handle on the door is easy to pull. Plus, there’s a drum light, always a good move.
Performance & Features
It's got brains, but it lacks brawn
The Whirlpool WEL98HEBU has more features than any other high-end dryer we’ve ever seen, the most important of which is its smart grid interface. Even if you don't live in one of the few places in the US where smart electric meters have been installed, your dryer can get online to communicate with the greater electric grid to find out when off-peak hours are. Whirlpool's even collected rate and demand data from most local utilities in case your local electric company isn't smart enough for this dryer.
If you download the app (for Apple products only), you will also be able to check energy usage, turn your machine off, and get alerts if your vent is blocked or needs cleaning.
Looking past all that, the WEL98 is still a dryer, and not one of the best we've tested. The Normal cycle got our test laundry 99 percent dry in a little over an hour—around average. Things go downhill from there, though. The Delicates cycle took a little long for our liking, and the Bulky cycle really let us down leaving one test comforter only 47 percent dry. The Quick Dry cycle took only 13 minutes, but left clothes 60 percent wet.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
Smart grid technology is coming, but the Whirlpool WEL98HEBU is here now. If you can't wait for smart meters and dynamic energy pricing, but you want a washer that's connected to the wider world, this is the machine for you. Just be willing to pay extra, and deal with some growing pains.
The most important thing about this dryer is that it's among the first to offer internet connectivity. It's also one of the only smart appliances on the market to not require a smart electric meter. Remember the first-gen iPod? It's light years away from the smartphones we carry in our pockets today—but it was the first of its kind. This Whirlpool may not be the best-performing dryer on the market, but it could be the start of something great.
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