Friday, January 11, 2008

Rebirth of the Ole Duet

This blog chronicles my duel with the (GHW9150PW4) Whirlpool Duet front-loading washer. At this time our Duet is "washing" clothes for the first time since its purchase a little over a year ago. This washer was bought as a replacement for our first front-loading washer which was a Frigidaire. The orginal front-loader lasted about eight years before the tub-to-axle support broke and the washer self destructed before our eyes. This was an orginal investment of $700.00 dollars and repair parts would exceed $400.00 dollars, so the old Frigidaire had to go. Our only complaint with the Frigidaire washer was a mildew smell caused by trapped water around the door gasket; regular use of a little bleach solved this problem. Just adding a note to say this has been our experience with Whirlpool and doesn't mean that all of their products are defective. Please do your research before purchasing and remember if you havent seen anything posted about the model you plan to purchase it maybe because the manufacture changes the model as often as there is a new moon! One more thing please add year and model # information to any comments you post or blogs you host. This will help others avoid our pitfalls.

I would like to say "I'm sorry," to my wife for not listening to her complaints about the new washer not getting the clothes clean and not removing the soap from the clothes. Dear, I'm very sorry for not listening. I begain to get concerned when my sister was visting us and she complained to my wife that she was concerned about using our towels to dry with because they smelled so bad, and she was afraid that they would make her smell just as bad. At this point things started to heat up real fast, and I knew that I was going to have to do something before I found myself buying another new washer (which I considered), but what would I replace it with? If I bought a different brand front-loading washer, would it do a good job of cleaning the clothes? My first step was to contact the manufacturer, Whirlpool. The washer was still under the manufacturer's warranty period, one year. They agreed to send a service man to repair the machine. The only tool that the gentleman used while he was at our home was a flash light. It was a neat little flash light but it didn't know a thing about repairing a washer that was on the fritz. At this point I knew that the three year extended warrenty wasn't going to be much help in my quest for clean clothes and a happy wife.

Ok, lets get started. My original observation about the washer was that it wasn't using enough water to wash the clothes. The machine was only adding enough water to get the clothes wet, and you could hear them slapping around inside. The repairman had assured us that this was an energy efficient and enviromently friendly appliance, oh yes, "It's working just fine, just like the manufacturer had planned." Massive amounts of soap bubbles filled the washer. When we told him that the clothes that were washing at that time had been taken out of our clean clothes closet and were being washed without adding any soap to the wash he said that "someone" was using too much soap. I measured the amount of soap that my wife indicated that she had been using and determined that it was only 2 - 3 tablespoons of "HE-2X" Tide, the soap designed for front-load washers, in fact the same soap that Whirlpool shipped with the new washer. The repairman told us that we needed to use another brand of detegerent, we ask what would he recommend, he said, "Another brand."

So much for the repairman. Having spent twenty-five years working in industry as an electronics technician, servicing NC (numercial control), CNC (computer numerical controlled) equipment and working with PLC (programmable logic controller) technology, it just seemed the right thing to do to take over some of the control functions of the washer with a little of my own equipment. Having spent some time looking on the web for information on my washer (Whirlpool Duet GHW9150PW4) I found a service manual for a 9100PW0 and PW1 washer. The picture in the manual looked just like my washer, the only difference that I could see was mine was a 9150PW4 (the 4 ment revision four). Four should be better than 0 or 1, right? That's what I'm thinking. Well, after pulling the top off the washer I could see only one difference in my washer and the one pictured in the manual. My #4 revision and 50 numerically advanced model didn't have a water flow transducer like the ones pictured in the manual. Oh, the CCU, which is the computer brain box that controlls the washer, had a port for a flow transducer, but had nothing plugged in that port. The problem with our washer all along has been that it doesn't use enough water to wash the clothes during the wash cycle when soap is added, yet it uses the same amount of water to try and rinse the clothes that had inadequate water to clean them, leaving soap in the fabric to harden in the dryer...perfect conditions to harbor bacteria, thus creating an odor. For my money the problem with my washer is that it does not use enough water to do the job. Before I ever removed the top of the washer and before I found the manual for the 9100 series Duet washer, I knew that the manufacturer would use a pressure transducer to determine the level of water in the washer, so it was no suprise that I found one when the top came off. My first thought at this point was that this fix was going to be a lot easier that I thought. Water level too low to clean or rinse the clothes, the pressure transducer that determined the amount of water that the washer would use must be defective! I found a great site for repair parts ( You can buy any part that you want for your appliance, so let's get a new pressure transducer and solve the problem with out even breaking a sweat. The thing was less than $40.00, and when it came in it was identical to the one in the washer, even the calibration; the new one worked just like the orginal one did. Nothing had changed. The washer still would not dispense adequate water to do the job. Before spending any more money I would have to take time to do some testing to determine if the machine could be made to wash clothing sucessfully if the amount of water used could be controlled. To do this required me to sit with the washer through the entire wash cycle and control the amount of water used for each cycle. I accomplished this using two standard power strips that were equipped with on/off switches. Using the two power strips, I cut the female receptical off of two extension cords and used the cords with the male end pluged into the powerstrips and attached the other end to the cold water valve. The second cord was attached to the line feeding the drain pump. With this setup I could control the amount of water entering the washer and could drain and refill the tub as often as I liked during the cycle. With many nights under my belt sitting at the washer missing all the good tv programs, I determined that the washer could sucessfully wash and rinse cloths if given enough water to do so. It was at this point that I realized that I had become the ole washwoman while my wife sat in her chair watching my ball games. Actually she hates most any television program that I like, so that anytime I looked out of the laundary room to get a glimpse of what was on, you guessed it, it wasn't something that I would watch. My wife always says that I would watch anything but this experence with the washing machine has proved this wrong, there are some things on TV that I won't watch!

Ok, it was time to do something and get out of that laundry room. I never realized just how much work was involved in keeping clean clothes for the family and my wife had been doing it for years by herself without complaint. You can bet the next time she complains about some machine that she uses, not doing a good job, I won't ignore her. I'm still doing all the washing, but there is a light at the end of this tunnel. If I could control the OLE DUET with two ordinary powerstrips and sucessfully wash and rinse clothes, I could come up with some automated way to do it and get back to enjoying some TV.

It just so happened that hanging by the door in the man room was a little device that would ultimately free me from the drudgery of wash day everyday and create a little excitement in my life again. Doing something with all that junk that I've collected over the years that just hangs around collecting dust and quite oftens elicits a response from my wife that I will not be able to write about here, looks good to me.

This is my solution, not necessarily yours, but I decided to try and write this to hopefully get others to work on solutions to this and similar problems. I am using a small single chip based processor and board solution from Comfile Technology to monitor and control water levels in the washer and to have the ability to control draining of the water, allowing me to sucessfully wash and rinse a load of clothes without having to sit by the washer throughout the whole cycle. Remember the pressure transducer that I mentioned earlier, it has four functions: tank empty, Level 1, overfill, suds condition. The pressure transducer contains at least four sets of dry contacts that are used to signal the CCU in the DUET, indicating when there is no water in the tub, when there is water in the tub but not to the required level, when the desired water level has been reached and when there is a high-suds condition. This is all done with a single pneumatic connection to the lower side of the tank. The one function that I have not spent a lot of time trying to understand, how it works, is the high suds condition contact. If I'm in charge of the amount of soap used per load, this function should never be required. Thus, I have no need at this time to understand how it works, but it may be interesting sometime to try and understand this feature.

In order to accuratly control water level, I added the missing water flow transducer that Whirlpool left out of my model. I got it through, they seem to have about anything one might want to repair that old appliance. The flow transducer cost within a dollar of the price of the pressure switch. It might have been possible to have recalibrated the settings of the pressure switch, and I still plan to try someday soon to do just that, because I am looking for a simple and inexpensive way to solve this problem for the many people out there who spent their hard earned money in good faith with a company that at one time had a good name in the business and produced quaility products. From what I have been reading, this has changed. I hope its not too late for Whirlpool to regain quaility as their number one product. Ok, I'm stepping down from the old soapbox and getting back to the job at hand, getting the ole duet washing clothes sucessfully. To do this I needed my little PLC to know just how much water had entered the machine. It might be possible to do this without a flow device, if one would take the time to build a data look-up table based on time and pressure to determine how much water had entered the machine in a given time interval, if water pressure stays constant. I chose to take the simple way by adding the little flow device. It works like a small water wheel enclosed in a watertight housing; as water flows through the device, the wheel turns and a magnetic reed switch responds to a passing magnet attached to the internal wheel. The purpose of the PLC is to monitor the reed switch and determine when to shut off the water, based on a preset value that was determined by trial and error. It was not important to me to know how many gallons of water entered the machine, but just to control the level of the water in the machine. All that I had to do was set the internal counter in the PLC to zero, turn on the water and see the number of pulses registered by the PLC when the water level reached the desired level. Once this is known its very simple to have the PLC repeat this process each time you run a load of clothes. You will spend a bit of time determining how much washing and rinsing are required to clean your cloths, but the fact that the washer will now do this means you have won the battle and it's only a matter of a little fine tuning to get what you paid for in the first place. I plan to continue this blog with more specific information on how I solved the problem for the OLE DUET and if successful, an easier and less dramatic solution to the problem.

One thing that I don't know is how many models of the DUET will not do a good job cleaning clothes. If anyone with a DUET is having problems getting their clothing clean and soap free, please include the model number of your machine if you decide to comment on this blog. Just go to Google and type in "Whirlpool Duet and Stinky Towels," and see for yourself who's having problems. I've listed the link to this site.

Please people when you leave a post about your problem give us some specifics on your machine this will let us know if it is a single model that has problems or if all of the manufactures products are junk. Manufacture, Model, Model Number

My email address is ( ), I would love to hear about your machine and what you have done to solve the problem. I read a post by someone that said they wanted to load clothes in their washer, add detergent, hit the start button and walk away to do something else. This is what we are doing now, no special washes without clothes, no special additives, no problems!!! Just added water and problem was gone.

I would like to add at this time that I have just finished watching the 42nd Super Bowl (GO GIANTS) and washed a load of clothes without having to sit by the washer, there were two winners today!!! :)

I would like to get some pictures added to the blog but before I do this I would like to find some time to try and refine the packaging of the little controller. At this time the unit is mounted on a plastic cutting board purchased from Wal-Mart. The controller is a single board unit, the I/O ports opperate at twenty-four volts DC and require me to add two seperate I/O cards. One of the cards is a four-point relay card with isolated contacts, this card is used to mirror the output of the four contacts in the pressure transducer and connects directly to the CCU in the washer. The pressure transducer interfaces directly to the controller board at twenty-four volts since the unit just uses dry contacts, nothing special is required. The other I/O card is a solidstate four-point relay card which is used to control both the hot and cold water valves and the drain pump. The flowmeter has a magnetic reed switch which supplies a dry contact thus allowing a direct connection to the controllers 24vdc input point. Now comes the fun part, the controller I'm using doesn't have a way to directly input 120vac so I had to add three 120vac relays which convert the 120vac signals from the CCU that control water valves and drain pump so that my controller could follow the cycles of the washer and know when water was required and when it was time to drain water from the machine. This works great but adds overhead to the project and I would like to come up with a method to directly interface the CCU in the washer to my controller. That's it for now, it's back to work.

OK so I'm a little lazy, at least at this time I have put the top back on the washer, picked up my tools and cleaned the area up just a bit. No pictures at this time to prove it though. Now that I'm back to watching TV at night it's hard to want to get up and start working on packaging for the unit. If I'm ever to be completely free again it will have to happen. You'll notice in one of the pictures a couple of switches dangling from the dryer vent pipe, these will allow you to add either hot or cold water if needed, when adding bleach or fabric softner or even soap if you waited until the washer quit filling with water, waiting for a commercial!! I'm sure you want be able to see the short piece of wire attached to an I/O point in the lower lefthand corner, of the picture of the processor board. This will stop water flow by just touching it to one of the twenty-four volt lugs that you see daisy-chained in the picture (red wires). I tried to explain to my wife the other day, knowing about this wire is like knowing where the fire extinguisher is located, in case of fire!!! This is when she told me not to worry that I would be the only one that needed to know about that wire!!! Darn, not attached at the hip anymore but I still have a ball and chain to contend with for the time being. Looks like when the weather warms up it's going to be time to get out the ole saw and hammer and get started on that new control panel if I ever want to break free. Oh by the way the two white boxes mounted on the wall to the right of the washer are my tankless waterheaters, they provide all of the hotwater for the main part of our home, the kitchen has it's on small tank style unit. They do a great job for what I paid for them ( aprox. $250 each ) some years ago but I'm thinking that I can improve on them with some new technology, this may be one of my next blogs. Either the hot waterheaters or with spring coming on maybe the ole home built zero turn radius hydrastatic mower will be next. OK I've got to get back to work so that's it for now.

Here is the link to the repair manual for the 9100/9200 series Duet ($FILE/Duet%20Job%20Aid.pdf ). If anyone is trying to work on their own washer this manual should help. You'll find a schematic for the unit at the end of the manual, this really help me determine the correct connections to the CCU that I needed to make my control system be able to monitor and control the water level in the washer. I think you'll find it interesting to see the amount of water required for a cycle listed in this manual. I may be repeating myself but after reading the information on the required amount of water used for a complete cycle I used a large plastic tub placing the drain hose in the tub I ran a complete heavy load cycle and recovered less than half the required amount listed in the manual. When the cycle was complete, including an extra rinse cycle with and added extra rinse the tub contained only seven "7" gallons of water.This just reassured me that I was on the right track.

Here is a link to a great site for repair parts and advice. ( )

This is a link to a tech manual for I think a Kenmore machine, a Whirlpool clone. ( )

This link takes you to the Whirlpool instructions on how to clean your washer and get rid of the mold smell. ($FILE/UD28-9.pdf )

This is an on going project as I have time I will add specifics, part numbers, pictures and links when available.

Good News
I hope to have good news to add to the blog soon. My sister is coming tomorrow to spend a couple of days with us and if you remember she is the reason that this crises came to a head in the first place. She had told my wife that she was unable to use our towels because they smelled bad. This was not good for me because I had been trying to ignore the problem because I knew it would mean ethier spend a lot of money that I didn't have to spend or it ment spending a lot of time trying to solve the problem. You guessed it I chose the latter. Tomorrow I will put all of my work to the ultimate test when my sister inspects our laundary. May the force be with me!

This whole process could be so simple if we could get the word back to Whirlpool and hope that they would respond by suppling their repair techs with the parts required to make their product do what it should have done before it was ever offered for sell. Just supply us with recalibrated pressure trasducers, add flow meters to those models where they were left off and upgrade the CCU firmware to work with these new parts.

Water Water every where and this could help get some of it in the washer to clean your cloths.

You know a creative guy could solve this water problem by going to RED LION CONTROL and purchasing a programmable timer and using a double pole double throw relay (120vac) to make a set/reset function to select hot or cold water. With just a little expermenting to determine the time required to fill the washer to a functioning level with water, letting the hot water signal from the CCU set the relay to direct the output of the timer module to control the hotwater valve and then when the washer calls for cold water use this signal to reset the control relay allowing the timer output to be directed to the cold water valve. This could help someone salvage an other wise useless appliance. Oh use the hot and cold water signals from the CCU to start the timer when the washer is calling for water!!!

***Be sure to take a look at my other post, Mike's Duet (look under my profile section for additional post). Mike solved the problem by resetting the water level function on the pressure switch. It only takes a small screwdriver and a little time!!!
Thats what I'm talking about. Great job, Mike. I'm sure this will really help some folks out with their machines with no expense involved!

Please see my other post by viewing my profile (View my complete profile ). You will find this at the top left corner of my blog, Rebirth of the Ole Duet. GOOD LUCK! I've started posting emails in the comment section of my blog, at the bottom of the blog. Check it out and let's us hear about any success stories.

Email me with your results at ( Remember to include the machine name, model number. This will help others. If you have a link to schematics to your machine, please include it with your email. Thanks

See- ya again soon.
Joe T.