Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Our Panda Washing Machine - an Early Review

As exciting as it was to move from buckets, to oddjob, to our own apartment sized washing machine, all good things must come to an end.
As such, I was unimpressed the morning when we switched on the machine, it agitated briefly, and then died. Apparently agitation is contagious, as it spread to me immediately.
I tried running it on the inverter (which it hadn't done previously), and then back on the generator. Then by itself, then with a different cord. But no go.
I left it unplugged overnight and then plugged it back in. That was more exciting - it agitated briefly, and then died.
I again left it unplugged for a number of hours, but this time it was not to be revived.
We managed to drain the water out the back door. I popped the back cover off and saw no user-serviceable parts or fuses or breakers or anything useful for a tinkerer.
Loading it up and taking it to General Appliance down in the city saved me on what would likely have been an expensive in-house service call. The next day they called back - $250.00 for the part, plus labour, less the $50.00 sunk cost I had already paid just for them to examine it. I told them I would think about it, and then went online to check my options.
I knew I wanted something small and simple - that's my current style. I was all over Future Shop and Home Depot's websites, looking at their offerings. Nothing seemed to be available without special order, and even then, it was almost as expensive as a full sized unit!
I'm not sure how it happened, but eventually I found this Panda Washing Machine with a Spin Dryer. It cost less than repairing the old one, even with taxes and shipping!
It took me two days to convince Donna to at least let me try ordering it, and on Friday morning I was able to close the deal. I suspect it was going back to this that helped convince her to order promptly :).
Amazingly, it arrived on Wednesday, and I excitedly retrieved it from the back of the car and brought it to the yurts.
We set it up where the old washer had been, and with its reduced size, it made the back yurt seem even larger than before!
We put in some underwear and dish towels, some soap nuts, and then poured in a bucket of water. I was delighted to see that it agitated just fine!
Two pairs of jeans was too much for it though. You do have to be cautious about overloading it. This is more difficult when you have to carry in all the water you plan on using - you are always trying to see if you can make it wash more in fewer, smaller loads. This will likely be less of an issue when we have it plumbed in to a larger water supply.
The spinner is really great. I wouldn't even say the clothes come out damp. Somewhere between damp and dry. They can dry really quickly on the line after being spun out.
For the first few days we had it draining back into empty buckets, which I then carried outside to dump. I was a bit annoyed that it took me so long to realize I could just put its drain hose out the same hole as the previously existing drain hose. It even fit nearly perfectly!
We really like the fact that it is so simple to use and that there is actually more interaction - we know better what is happening. You can actually lift the lid while it is agitating and see if the clothes are tumbling well. This also allows you to gauge just how dirty the water is becoming.
Same for the rinse which is essentially another wash cycle that you don't add soap to - you can observe the water before deciding to pump it out. This would also give you a future option to use it as a sort of "suds saver" feature - and reuse cleanish rinse water on a second load of heavily soiled items.
One feature that I super appreciate is that without complicated electronics or motors, it runs flawlessly on our modified sine wave inverter, and at a very manageable draw in amps - I believe that in full sun, our solar panels can keep up with it, meaning that on sunny days we don't even draw down the battery bank to do laundry!
Donna and I discussed this morning how it would not be able to wash our mats or quilts - we'll likely have to relegate those to an occasional trip to the city laundromat, or perhaps some vigorous work in a large tub. But otherwise, after a week, we're still going strong with this little machine.

4 comments:

  1. It's been a while since you wrote this post. I'd love to know if you still use the Panda, and what your thoughts are on its performance. I'm considering possibly getting one to work with our solar panels. Do you know how much energy it uses? Thanks for any advice!

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    1. Hi Kendra! I did do an update on the Panda here:
      http://aikihomestead.blogspot.ca/2013/11/frozen-water-lines-already-bonus-review.html
      Then another update here:
      http://aikihomestead.blogspot.ca/2014/02/midwinter-review-of-our-panda-washing.html

      I was surprised to find it frozen up just a few days ago, but it did thaw out, and then continued to perform well. It is making a few creaking noises, and as others have reported, I'm not sure if it spins quite as well as last year, but I would still purchase another if this one died.
      On our 12V battery bank, it appears to draw about 8-10amps *while agitating*, which is about half the time it runs (it pulses back and forth, just like a regular washer, with a few second pause between flips). I find this to be really reasonable. We were more than able to accommodate it with three 95w panels, and now that we are almost triple that, I don't bat an eye at doing laundry when the sun is out.
      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions about homesteading north of the border!

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  2. Sorry if this posts twice, I forgot to sign in. Just wondering how many watts your inverter is. I have a panda washer, and would like to get away with the smallest one that will run it.
    TIA
    Colleen

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    1. Hi Colleen, thanks for reading the blog! (And writing!) - our inverter *was* a 3000 watt modified sine wave. The Panda ran fine on that. Currently I just upgraded to a 4000 watt true sine wave inverter that also runs the Panda fine. I imagine the Panda could run on 1000 watts or less fairly easily - I only ever saw it drawing about 150 watts at its peak.

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