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Having replaced most of the kitchen appliances last year, we had hoped to avoid buying a new washing machine. Sadly our old Hotpoint had other ideas earlier this year so we needed to find a replacement quickly that could meet the demands of our family of five. After looking at models in stores and online, we settled on the Hotpoint WMD962P as a replacement. ===Price and Availability=== Prices varied widely but we found the cheapest supplier at the time of purchase (March 2011) to be the Co-Operative Electrical where we paid £309.99 including delivery. For extra peace of mind, we also chose to take out an extended five year warranty for £94.99. This model is still widely available for a similar selling price, from stockists including the Co-op, Tesco Direct and Comet, with the Graphite (G) version tending to cost slightly more than the White (P) model. ===Installation=== My husband is not a big fan of DIY but managed to install this machine into our existing washing machine point without too much trouble. The main difficulty was actually manoeuvring the machine into position as this is a very heavy piece of kit, even though the dimensions are broadly similar to most standard sized freestanding washing machines. (Dimensions in CM are: (H)85.0 x (W)59.5 x (D)59.9) Like most modern machines, this is 'cold fill' only so the hose supplied only needs to be connected to the cold water supply and the machine itself heats the water to the required temperature. This isn't a problem now that most people tend to wash at lower temperatures (40 degrees or less) but does mean that the hot wash cycles are particularly lengthy. (The 90 degree wash takes up to two hours and twenty minutes to complete.) ===Capacity and Energy Rating=== The Hotpoint WMD962 was chosen partly because of our previous positive experiences with the Hotpoint/Indesit brand but mainly because of its generous drum capacity. I have three young boys (including a very messy ten month old son) so do get through lots of laundry. This monster of a washing machine can deal with up to 8kg of dirty washing - double the capacity of our previous machine! I find that this large capacity, alongside its eco-friendly A+ energy rating, makes the machine very economical to run as I need to do far fewer loads of washing each week. In practice, I find that I can manage with just doing one big wash every couple of days, without leading to a backlog of dirty washing, which is a real time saver, as well as reducing overall running costs. ===Ease of Use=== At first glance, this machine does seem a little complex as there are lots of different programmes, features and various buttons to press. The front is particularly cluttered, with no less than twenty different buttons to choose from! I do wonder whether this couldn't have been stream-lined slightly, with more of the buttons being multi-functioning perhaps. Despite this, the machine is actually fairly logical to operate, with the LCD screen very helpfully indicating the programme selected alongside the temperature, spin speed and length of cycle. A new user will certainly need to refer to the user manual, to get to grips with the range of programmes on offer and how to operate.them. Fortunately, the manual itself is fairly concise and accessible with the instructions laid out simply and clearly, so it is easy to come to terms with just how the machine functions. There is also a key to most of the programmes printed on the left of the machine, which is particularly useful as the symbols do not actually correspond to those traditionally used on clothes labels. The powder compartment is one of the unusual features of this model as it actually opens to the side, rather than pulling straight out. This did take me a while to get used to, although this design is easy to access to add powder or fabric softener. The whole drawer can actually be removed completely, to allow for thorough cleaning inside and behind the drawer to prevent a build up of powder or, worse, mildew. The process of removing the drawer (and particularly putting it back again afterwards) is fiddly enough to put me off doing it too frequently, but not so difficult to prevent me from cleaning it at all. ===Features=== This machine really does appear to do it all! There is a range of settings suitable for different fabrics and types of load. As well as the regular cotton washes (set in three different temperature increments 90, 60 and 40 degrees), there are synthetic cycles, a silk setting, Bath & Bedding programme, cold wash (the Eco wash) and even a setting suitable for hand wash only woollens. I have found this delicate setting very useful when I am blatantly ignoring the 'surface wash only' warnings on kids toys and nursery items! I particularly like having the ability to customise the different settings too so, even though there isn't a specific programme for a standard 30 degree cotton wash, I can manually adjust the temperature (and/or the spin speed) down to my preferred setting. There are some settings that I find less useful and I would like the instruction manual to be a little more informative about certain cycles and their benefits. There is a 'reduced creasing' setting, for instance, which is clearly designed to reduce creasing during the wash and reduce ironing time. What I would like to know is whether this compromises the wash in offer areas and, if not, why can't they incorporate this as standard in the other settings? It's not as though there is great demand for extra creased laundry, is there! Likewise, the 'time saver' setting shaves around twelve minutes off a 40 degree cotton wash. I do wonder just where these extra minutes are taken from and just what exactly is lost by doing a quicker wash. I'd be interested to find out whether there is less rinsing or spinning time, for example, just so I can gauge whether this setting is suitable for the load that I'm actually doing. Despite these minor quibbles, I do think this machine offers such a range of programmes and features that I really don't think there is anything more that it could actually do to laundry! The machine even has its own memory which can be programmed to remember your favourite setting! ===Noise Levels=== One of the features of this machine is its 'super silent' technology. Prior to buying this machine, I had read various reviews and found it very amusing that some reviewers described this model as very quiet, whilst others complained that it was too noisy! The reality is that it certainly isn't totally silent - after all it's an electrical appliance washing your clothes. The initial stages where the drum is filling with water and the final 'pump out' stage are actually pretty noisy, which is probably due to the sheer amount of water used per wash. During the main body of the wash, however, the machine is actually surprisingly quiet, producing just a gentle swish- to the extent that I've even gone back to check that the machine is still on mid-cycle. Even the spin cycle is much quieter than its predecessor, meaning that it's possible to enjoy a meal in the kitchen even when the programme is mid-spin. Should the noise level ever become an issue, it is even possible to pause the programme at any point, simply with a single press of the 'on' switch. This is a particularly handy feature at the start of the cycle as the machine will automatically unlock when paused (providing the drum hasn't yet filled with water) and I can pop in that lost sock or dirty bib that somehow always misses the start of the wash! Once a programme has completely finished, the machine alerts me with a few loud beeps (audible from the next room) and the door is automatically unlocked so the washing can be removed and hung out immediately. ===Cleaning Performance=== As a family, we have put this machine well and truly through its paces. Our clothes (particularly boys' jeans and baby's bibs and tops) are usually pretty dirty and often stained. I tend to do a full load, taking advantage of the machine's generous capacity, on a 40 degree cotton wash. After the first few washes, I did feel that the machine wasn't managing to clean the dirty laundry quite as efficiently as our previous Hotpoint and certain items were coming out still heavily stained. To be fair, I do use Fairy Non-Bio powder (due to our family's sensitive skin) which isn't particularly strong on stain removal but this is the same powder that I've always used and the overall cleaning performance was clearly reduced, although this was probably due to the sheer amount of dirty clothing in the wash. Since then, I tend to wash at the same temperature but add on the 'super wash' setting, which adds an extra boost to the washing. (It seems to use extra water and adds an extra five minutes or so to the overall length of the cycle.) This simple step does make a noticeable difference to the cleanliness of the laundry and it is now very rare that I have to return anything to the wash. One aspect that I was pleasantly surprised about is the 'Quick Wash' settings which offer either a 60 minute programme at a 60 degree wash or a 30 minute programme at 30 degrees. I was sceptical that any cycle could get clothing properly clean within such a short period of time but this is actually very effective and has proven extremely handy for those last-minute school uniform or PE kit household dramas! I do only use small loads on this setting however. I also make use of the 'mini load' setting for smaller loads of washing and find that this works well. On this setting, due to the extremely fast spin speed (1600 RPM) I find that the washing actually comes out really hot and surprisingly dry, so the washing dries incredibly quickly. (This is obviously less noticeable when I wash a full load, particularly if I've boosted the wash with a 'Super Wash.) The 1600 RPM is the default spin speed for most of the cotton washes, with the spin speed being much lower for more delicate fabrics. I do feel that this spin speed can be quite tough on clothing, however. I have noticed that a couple of items of clothing are showing signs of wear and tear (such as tiny holes appearing on the fabric.) This has been an issue with 'cheap' items of clothing such as a cheap set of boys underwear and an old top of mine that has been well worn. The majority of my clothing has remained undamaged but I would be wary of washing anything particularly thin or delicate on such a high spin speed. Fortunately, it is very easy to adjust the spin speed for each wash, it is simply a matter of remembering to do so as the machine will default back to 1600 for the next wash. ===Reliability=== Despite only owning this machine for three months, I have already had one incident where the machine has failed to drain and abandoned the wash mid-cycle with an error symbol flashing up on the LCD display! A quick google led me to believe that the F:05 error I was seeing indicated a blockage within the pump. Our machine is still well within its initial warranty period but my other half insisted on 'having a look'! Turns out the pump is very well secured with a clip that would be damaged if removed, making the pump very difficult to access, so that is probably better left to the experts. My husband did manually drain the machine using the hose at the rear and that alone (or possibly just the motion of tilting the machine) seems to have cleared any blockage. There has been no repeat of the problem over the last few weeks so I'm hoping that it has resolved itself, although I am glad that we opted for the extended warranty, just in case this is the start of things to come! This incident did make us concerned that the machine might not be quite as robust as older models, potentially 'too clever for its own good!' On the other hand, it is actually quite reassuring and helpful to have the exact fault indicated via a code on the LCD display. At least that way, you can have some idea about what might be going wrong and avoid being ripped off by any potentially unscrupulous repairmen! Personally, I do have concerns that the additional of extra electrical components and features, as well as the basic mechanical functions of the machine itself, may make this more prone to breakdown. I very rarely pay for extended warranties but did think that the peace of mind in this instance was well worth the additional cost. ===Recommendation=== Despite a couple of issues with the cleaning performance on larger loads and the recent scare with a potentially blocked pump, I do feel that this is a suitable machine for a larger family. It has a wide range of features, the option to personalise settings such as temperature and spin speed and has the sheer capacity to get through a decent amount of washing in one go. I feel that, overall, this offers excellent value for money and is a model that I would recommend. I would exercise caution, however, and opt for an extended warranty particularly if the machine is going to be in regular use with larger loads.
Short name: Hotpoint WMD962P