Trial: Panasonic washing machine with Hybrid Dry Lite technology
A washing machine with a dryer function that isn’t a washer-dryer! How well does it work?
We tested the drying function of the Panasonic NA-V85FC1WAU washing machine with Hygiene Dry Assist. It might sound like a washer-dryer, but it’s not!
Panasonic NA-V85FC1WAU is primarily a washing machine, but with an additional drying function, intended to help dry small loads of clothes.
Washer-dryers are not hugely popular in New Zealand despite space becoming more of a premium in our modern homes. This is likely to be due to top loaders being New Zealander’s washing machines of choice for many years, and our houses historically having separate laundries with space for a washer and a tumble dryer. Or maybe it’s just that we prefer to dry our clothes in our fabulously windy outdoors?
Either way we were interested in the potential of this new hybrid. Would its marketing claims stack up?
How does it work and does it dry?
We were surprised to find that the drying function in the Panasonic NA-V85FC1WAU – provided by Panasonic’s new Hybrid Dry Lite technology – doesn’t work like a normal tumble dryer. Instead, the unit spins for 20 minutes with the heater on, stops and tumbles for around 30 seconds, and then repeats this cycle. Initially we thought that something was wrong, until Panasonic confirmed that this is indeed the intended drying procedure (more on this later).
The machine has several drying options. We trialled them all but found the results very hit and miss, and often our clothes came out damp and not ready to wear.
This is not really surprising. In the spin cycle, clothes invariably clumped together, limiting their exposure to the warm air provided by the heater and resulting in damp patches. You might get lucky sometimes and find your clothes have spun spread out, letting them dry properly, but other times you’ll get clumping and damper clothes. We’re guessing that the short tumble every 20 minutes is intended to solve this issue but found it doesn’t really work well enough.
Three drying settings but similar results
The drying function on the Panasonic NA-V85FC1WAU has three options – Lite Dry, Finish Dry and Hygiene Dry.
Lite Dry has two settings – 120 or 180 minutes – for a maximum load of 1kg. The example load given was five shirts. Lite Dry is intended to be used straight after a 1400rpm spin cycle.
We tested the Lite Dry setting for 120 minutes first, using five t-shirts of differing weights, after they’d been through a normal wash with a 1400rpm spin at the end. We recorded power consumption during the drying cycle, and took readings of humidity and temperature near the exhaust vent.
During drying, humidity around the exhaust vent increased from 50% to a maximum of 93%, so the machine was definitely removing moisture. The temperature in this area also increased, from 22°C up to 32°C.
But after 2 hours we still had damp t-shirts.
We ran the test again, this time with the maximum 180-minute cycle. Would the extra 60 minutes make a difference?
First, we weighed the t-shirts to make sure we weren’t overloading the machine. Dry they weighed 673gm, so well within the maximum recommended load of 1kg. After a wash and 1400rpm spin, we weighed them again: the wet weight was 1117gm.
After 3 hours of drying, the t-shirts’ weight had dropped to 704gm, so the Panasonic had removed 413gm of moisture. Not bad, but this still left 31gm of moisture in the shirts, and they were still too damp to wear.
So, we washed the shirts again, repeating the test, and this time the final weight came to 680gm, leaving just 7gm of additional moisture. The shirts were pretty much dry apart from a few small lightly damp patches. A better result, but it did demonstrate how hit and miss the drying function can be.
Our recorded humidity and temperature readings during the longer cycles were similar to before.
Finish Dry has three settings – 30, 120 or 180 minutes – for a maximum load of 2kg. It’s intended for clothes that have been hung out but are not quite dry enough. The example load given was one pair of long pants, a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, underwear and a towel.
We tried Finish Dry with our five t-shirts that hadn’t been fully dried using the Lite Dry setting, but after 30 minutes they still weren’t ready to wear. So, we went all out and ran the 3-hour Finish Dry cycle with a single lightweight towel, but this also came out damp.
The cycle configuration was no different to the Lite Dry – a 20-minute spin followed by a short tumble – and our temperature and humidity readings were also similar.
Hygiene Dry has two settings – 120 or 180 minutes – for a maximum load of 0.5kg. It’s intended to be used for bacteria elimination, with the example load given consisting of one shirt, two pairs of children’s trousers and one pair of socks.
In our test, we put in three lightweight t-shirts, weighing less than the 0.5kg recommended maximum, but after 120 minutes of Hygiene Dry, they were still damp.
Panasonic’s new tech
Panasonic has secretly snuck this new dryer tech into a few of its new washing machines. Maybe it’s trying to persuade us that one appliance can do the job of two and then, hopefully, move us towards purchasing one of its fully featured washer-dryers with full Hybrid Dry functionality.
A normal washer-dryer can usually handle a little over half its washing capacity (e.g., a current Electrolux washer-dryer with 10kg washing capacity can handle up to 6kg for drying). The largest load the Hybrid Lite Dry system can manage is less than this, so it’s clearly aimed at drying small amounts of clothing that you can’t wait for to dry on the line.
It's actually a pretty neat idea – maybe you have a shirt or pair of trousers that you need for work in the morning, or your kid’s favourite jacket got muddy when they need it for school the next day, and you have no other way of drying these items. Bung them in the Panasonic for a wash, then pop on the hybrid drying function and, hey presto, they are ready in the morning.
Or at least that was the marketing concept.
What Panasonic had to say
At this stage we felt we’d done enough testing, so we fed back our results to Panasonic NZ, and they kindly discussed the findings with their engineering team in Vietnam.
In particular, we questioned why the drying cycle was designed with mainly spin and little tumbling?
To remove moisture, both air flow and heat are required. The heat in the Panasonic NA-V85FC1WAU is supplied by a small 300W heater, while air flow is provided by the spinning of the drum– the drum sucks in air from outside the tub, circulating the warm air.
We were interested to know why they didn’t use a fan to circulate the warm air and just tumble the clothes instead. The answer was that using a fan and heater together means the machine must be classified as a washer-dryer, instead of just a washing machine.
The engineers also mentioned that as the machine pulls in air from outside the unit, if the ambient air temperature is too low then it may not function correctly. However, in our tests the ambient room temperature was a constant 22°C, which was adequate.
How much does it cost to run?
As with all washing machines and dryers, most of the energy is used by the heater unit. In this case, there was only a small 300W heater, and in our tests the 3-hour cycle used 1.2kWh of electricity. That equates to 29 cents for the full drying cycle, at current average electricity costs.
Great potential, with limits to its use
We really wanted the Hybrid Lite Dry function to work flawlessly – it’s a neat idea after all and we applaud Panasonic for adding some new tech to its machines.
However, if you follow the manual’s guidelines, you’ll often be disappointed with the results. The settings are quite confusing, especially considering they are all much the same (all the settings ran the same cycles, used the same amount of power, and kicked similar amounts of heat and moisture out of the vent). It’s also frustrating that the maximum cycle you can set is only 3 hours, as there’s bound to be times when a longer cycle is required to dry clothes overnight.
You should also be aware that the system vents the moist air it removes directly into the room – unlike most tumble dryers, which either are vented outside or have a collection reservoir.
We think this system will be most useful for clothes that are partially or nearly dry, as opposed to damp clothes that have just finished a wash and spin cycle.
We’ll keep an eye on what improvements Panasonic makes to this functionality. It’s likely that a few tweaks to the cycle and heater could result in a more reliable system.
The Panasonic NA-V85FC1WAU will be put through our full lab test in the next few months, so we can see how well it performs its primary function as a washing machine.