Here’s another opinion on the stackable appliances. Although it’s probably too late for the person who originally posted, it may help someone else who is reading this later.
We have struggled along buying used $75 machines for years. Being a military family and moving around a lot, we have alternated between government housing overseas (where appliances are already supplied in the housing) and renting a home in the U.S., where we have used these secondhand monsters. Now that my husband has retired and we are settled in one place, we were replacing our washer or dryer on a fairly regular basis (we have gone through five used machines over a four-year period, counting both washers and dryers that have died). We also have a rather large family (ten children still at home) so a washer and dryer are VERY important to us. :o
When we came into a bit of money that we wanted to invest wisely rather than just “blow” on groceries, we decided to get the frontloading washer and the dryer that stacked on top. I can say nothing but good about the washer. It uses far less water (we realized approximately a $20 savings the first month’s water bill) and gets the clothes cleaner without having the irritation of pantyhose, tights, and brassieres getting entangled in the agitator (there is no agitator).
Contrary to popular belief, it IS possible to add clothes mid-cycle, at least with my GE model. You stop the machine, allow the water to finish dripping (you never see the water level in the window; it is below the door altogether), which takes 30 seconds, and stick the extra article of clothing in. Yes, it’s a little more complicated than just picking a lid up and tossing a sock in, but the water savings FAR outweigh an occasional lack of organization that needs to be overcome. :-/
Possible downsides to the frontloader: You need to make sure you are using a low-sudsing detergent, but most detergents (even the cheap ones) fit this description now anyway. If you have a bad back, you may find it difficult to bend down to unload the machine.
Now the dryer: The salesman told us that we would save a lot of electricity if we replaced our old dryer with the new one that stacked on top of the washer. I have no way to verify whether this is true or not in our particular case. We have used the dryer practically nonstop since buying it, because the weather has not been conducive to hanging clothes outside. In another month, we’ll use the dryer only on rainy days. (With laundry for twelve people, I cannot simply put the laundry off to another day. We do 2-5 loads every day, and sometimes even more. And sometimes we wash too much clothing for even the washlines to handle and end up using the dryer anyway.) Check the sticker on the appliance; it gives a basic idea on how much energy that appliance uses compared to other appliances of its type. Generally, you can expect to pay more for an appliance that’s low on the energy-usage scale.
You can go to the library and find the Consumer Reports’ annual Buyer’s Guide and compare features on the front loaders if you are concerned about which brand to buy. The frontloading washers at Lowe’s range from around $700, which is what we paid for ours, to over $1000 (the control panel looks like it’s computerized, and has far too many gadgets for me).
I’m very satisfied. ;D