Home appliance vendor Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR), maker of such well-known brands as KitchenAid, Roper, and, of course, Whirlpool (and while it tries to keep this mum, of many of Sears' (NYSE:S) Kenmore appliances as well), spun out a string of bright white results this morning. The company missed just one spot, and we'll get to that in a moment.

The archrival of both Maytag (NYSE:MYG) and General Electric (NYSE:GE) continued its string of recent successful quarters, posting earnings growth over the year-ago quarter of 13% on sales growth of roughly 9%. Not bad.

The one caveat to those results is found on the company's free cash flow statement, which shows the true meaning of Whirlpool's assertion that it "improved" free cash flow by $125 million over last year's results. Technically, that's true -- in the sense that less negativity is an improvement over more negativity. Nonetheless, the company remained free-cash-flow-negative for the first two quarters of this year, with its $82 million in cash from operations more than offset by $131 in capital expenditures.

These past six months of free cash flow negativity look like just a blip on Whirlpool's cash flow history, however. Over the past four quarters, the company has exhibited a marked tendency to massive free cash generation. Still, the new data on this quarter's free cash flow means that the numbers given on the company's Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) Finance page, for example, are out of date. Whirlpool's current enterprise value-to-free cash flow ratio, based on today's stock price and including this morning's results in the trailing 12-month free cash flow numbers, gives the company an EV/FCF ratio of not 14 (bargain-priced), but of $5.8 billion/$239 million = 24 (not such a bargain).

Even if the company is able to continue turning around its free cash flow problem, these last two quarters' results will take a good six months to work their way off trailing 12-month screeners such as Yahoo's, resulting in Whirlpool remaining hidden from many value investors. That presents a buying opportunity for Fools who have faith that the company has entered into a new cycle, however. And while waiting for others to realize the shift, Foolish income investors can feast themselves on the company's tasty 2.7% dividend (about 50% higher than what is on offer by the S&P as a whole).

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no interest in any of the companies mentioned in this article.