Frigidaire FFLE4033QT Laundry Center Review
Frigidaire pairs a dryer with a high-efficiency washer in this compact laundry center.
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Note: This product is currently unscored. Our scores are based on comparisons of similar products using industry standard tests. We have not yet tested enough all-in-one laundry centers to make a statistically significant analysis of the category.
April 16, 2015
If you live in a condo, apartment, or small house with in-unit laundry, chances are you have a laundry center stashed away in a closet somewhere. Laundry centers are single structures that feature a top-load washer on the bottom with an attached dryer on top.
Laundry centers have traditionally lagged behind their full-size counterparts when it came to stain removal and efficiency, but competition from European-style 24-inch compact machines has forced the industry to up its game.
That's where the Frigidaire FFLE4033QT (MSRP $1,699) comes in. This all-new unit includes a 3.8-cu.-ft. washer beneath a 5.5-cu.-ft. dryer, and is also the world's first high-efficiency laundry center. Gone are the days of clothes-shredding pole agitators, replaced now by a more efficient and effective impeller design. Compared to other laundry centers, like the Maytag MET3800XW (MSRP $1,399), the FFLE4033QT's washer uses significantly less water, and is gentler on clothes. The dryer, too does a perfectly suitable job on just about everything... except for large comforters and other bulky items.
The new model also features a legible control scheme right at eye level, and looks great in a dark gray finish. If you're looking for a stacked top loader combo, Frigidaire's FFLE4033QT isn't just the latest—it's also the greatest.
By the Numbers
As the first high-efficiency laundry center to hit the market, the Frigidaire FFLE4033QT (MSRP $1,699) definitely breaks some new ground. Water consumption was surprisingly low, and cycle lengths were on par with larger machines.
Overall stain removal was decent compared to top load washers in a similar price point, while drying was equally strong... as long as you don't plan on cleaning something too large and bulky.
Design & Usability
Tall, dark, and simple
Aesthetically, the Frigidaire FFLE4033QT actually looks pretty darn good for such a basic machine: A Classic Slate finish looks unexpectedly stylish, while the cohesive structure gives it a sturdy appearance.
Despite it's towering height, however, both individual sections are actually somewhat small: The washer has a 3.8-cu.-ft. drum, while the dryer is 5.5-cu.-ft.
That should be enough for one or two people, but washing large items like duvets or heavy jackets may require a trip to a laundromat.
Another ergonomic drawback involves the doors. Because of the position of the dryer, the washer door can only be opened to a 45° angle. This means you may find yourself reaching in to fish around blindly for that last stray sock. And when you stand up? Be careful, or you might hit your head on a half-opened dryer door.
We calculate stain removal performance using stain strips. These strips of cloth are mechanically coated with household substances like cocoa and red wine. Placed in an eight-pound load, the strips undergo the Normal, Whites, Delicates, Heavy Duty, and Quick cycles. After they're done, we analyze them with a photospectrometer—which measures color—to see how much of each stain has been lifted.
When compared to the entire universe of washing machines—compact and full-sized—the FFLE4033QT placed in the middle of the pack for stain removal. The Normal cycle was strongest, and earned its best results against red wine and cocoa. The Heavy Duty cycle fared about 2% worse overall, but removed 3% more sweat stains. We attribute this to the fact that the Heavy Duty cycle used four more gallons of hot water.
The Whites was 4% less effective than the Normal cycle, and needed an hour and ten minutes to complete.
The Delicates cycle was 5% less effective than the Normal cycle, but reduced the wear on clothing by floating the load in 22 gallons of water, rather than 11 for the Normal cycle. It was also far gentler on clothes.
Coming in last was the Quick Wash cycle. It only need 22 minutes to finish, but the rush curtailed stain removal down to 10% less than that of the Normal cycle.
Efficiency comes down to how much a washer will cost you to run. To measure resource usage, we hooked the FFLE4033QT to water and electricity meters. Based on national electricity cost and use patterns, we estimate that this Frigidaire will run you about $47 per year to run.
How much excess water a washer spins out is also important. The more saturated a load of laundry is, the more work your dryer has to do. Your dryer is essentially an energy hog, so the less time in the dryer the more money you save. In this regard, the FFLE4033QT didn't do very well. On average, it only spun out about 36% of excess water. We like to see numbers closer to 50%.
Controls & Features
Easy access, with a low learning curve
One of the major advantages of a laundry center's design is the unified control panel. If you stack an individual washer and dryer, the dryer's controls may be more than five feet off the ground. Here, the FFLE4033QT sandwiches its controls between the washer and dryer, well within arm's reach and right at eye level.
Speaking of controls, we found a mix of old-school and new-school approaches to this appliance's functionality. Older models let you choose the spin, temperature, water level, and cycle on the washer. Newer machines let you simply choose a cycle, and the onboard computer figures out the rest. The FFLE4033QT has a little of both: You pick a cycle and temperature, but the rest is out of your hands. It's a nice middle ground for both the washer and dryer, as temperature is the one variable that consumers are more likely to customize.
Beyond those minor adjustable settings, there's not much else going on here. You have the option of adding fabric softener for washing, plus there's a switch that toggles an Energy Saver mode. Other than that and the ability to turn the cycle chime on and off, that's all there is.
Despite the slim feature set, the cycle list is rather comprehensive. Each option for both the washer and dryer is actually something useful, like Presoak or Bedding for the washer and Cotton Towels for the dryer. Unfortunately, the analogue nature of the dials and the lack of any timer screen means there's absolutely no way to know when your laundry will finish.
The workhorse Normal cycle was easily the best mode we tested. 100% excess water removal was recorded after cycles than ran about 1 hour on average. The Normal heat setting (independent of the Normal cycle) got temperatures up to a peak of 142.8—ideal for this kind of cycle.
The Delicate setting was a bit strange compared to any other dryer we've tested. Cycle stopped after just 30 minutes and removed a mere 60% of excess moisture. This was the only test we ran on the Low setting, and temperatures peaked at 104.5°F.
Now, our loads are comprised primarily of industry-standardized cotton items that are thicker than the sheer or light garments you'd like dry on a Delicates setting. That said, we've never seen results like this before, so material type can only stretch so far as an excuse.
This Frigidaire does have a designated Quick Dry setting, in addition to a 60 and 90 minute Timed cycle. Quick Dry averaged just 25 minutes for our tests. That's not as fast as some other dryers, but with 88% moisture removal we can't complain all that much. Temperatures here peaked at 139.3°F.
Heavy Duty on Normal heat was used for our Bulky test, in which we swap out our standard 8-lb. load for a large, squishy comforter. This was the only test that unequivocally failed. After about 56 minutes on average and temperatures peaking at 144.4°F, our comforter was only 65% dry. Now, you can dry large items in this Frigidaire; the catch is, you'll have to shift the item around several times during the cycle to expose wet spots that get sucked into the middle where sensors can't penetrate.
As good as the rest, and does it for less
This Frigidaire washer's stain removal capabilities are on par with other top loaders in its price range. The difference is that it uses significantly less water. Based on average U.S. electricity costs and use patterns, we estimate that this laundry center will cost about $47 a year to clean your clothes. Compared to a standard top loader like the Whirlpool WTW8000BW, you'll save about $150 in water and electricity over ten years' of ownership.
Fortunately, that reduction in water use didn't cut back on stain removal. Surprisingly, the Normal cycle proved the best, even compared to the Heavy Duty cycle. At an hour and eleven minutes, it also was the longest cycle we tested. During that time, it did well against red wine, blood, and cocoa stains—a range of substances that vary in pH and chemical composition.
Heavy Duty was the other cycle of note. Although it's overall cleaning ability wasn't as strong, it did fare better against sweat and oil stains compared to the Normal cycle. We attribute this to the fact that it uses four more gallons of hot water, and recommend it for undershirts and gym clothes.
Most of the cycles on the FFLE4033QT took an hour or more, with Heavy Duty taking a little less time than Normal. The Quick Wash cycle needed only 22 minutes, but its relatively poor cleaning performance should be reserved for when you have only a few items that just need refreshing.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
A great workhorse machine, but avoid large loads
Up top in the dryer, we measured similarly strong results. Normal only took about an hour and didn't get too hot. The Quick Dry cycle, too, did a great job with our smaller loads, only taking about 25 minutes on average to finish.
The Heavy Duty cycle, on the other hand, didn't do a great job tackling our fluffy comforter, but that's something we attribute more to the size of the drum than the efficacy of the sensors. 5.5 cu. ft. simply isn't large enough to tumble a bulky item—but you can remedy that by flipping it inside out during the cycle.
The Delicates cycle was a bit of an oddity. With temperatures set to low, it took only 30 minutes but only got clothes 40 percent dry. We tried it with the temperature set to Normal, and got similar results. We don't think this is a major problem, though. Most consumer use a Delicates cycle for thin or sheer fabrics, which take less time to dry than the standard cottons we use for testing.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
Raising the Bar
Niche appeal, but a clear winner in its field
The Frigidaire FFLE4033QT is literally a niche product. It's aimed at a small segment of buyers, and designed to fit in a tight laundry closet. You're either looking for a machine like this, or you're looking at something completely different. If you are in the market for a laundry center, though, this high-efficiency model is about as good as it gets... so far.
As a washer, water consumption is much lower compared to the competition, though overall stain removal was just average compared to standalone top loaders in its price range. The top half delivers great drying performance out of is workhorse Normal cycle, too, though you may want to just schlep down to the local laundromat for bulky items.
At the end of the day, the Frigidaire FFLE4033QT is a smorgasbord of compromises, driven by size. It will never wash or dry as well as the best standalone machines—but it's a superb option for folks with space constraints.