Bay Area Home Improvement Guide

The Right Appliance

What you need to know when shopping for appliances.

Selecting home appliances can be daunting. Homeowners can feel tested by the array of brands and models. Whether replacing an appliance, remodeling or building a dream home, making a bad choice can be costly now and for many years. Doing a little homework makes sense.

As with most consumer goods, for every function there are many brands and models.

Asking the right questions is the first step in making a sound choice. Determine the features that are needed in this purchase. For everyone, conserving energy and resources is important. Ask about the warranty and expected life of the product. Reliability counts.

Economics and eco-nomics are both important. Home appliances demonstrate great advances in eco-smart design and production. Buyers can evaluate both energy and resource efficiency. New products require less energy to use. Many companies also use less energy and less material in fabrication. Buyers can become conscientious consumers.

Stoves and cook tops have seen great advances in technology. For instance, Bertazzoni’s burners consume less gas and emit less carbon monoxide than most brands while 99% of the material in their products is recyclable. New induction method cook tops on the market are 90 to 95 percent efficient in heat transfer. Ovens by Gaggenau, GE Monogram, KitchenAid and others combine convection heat with traditional radiant heat for faster cooking at lower temperatures to reduce energy consumed. Insulation has also been significantly enhanced to reduce room warming, which reduces demand on the HVAC system. “Speed Cook” ovens combine such technologies as radiant heat, halogen, steam, and microwaves for significant energy savings by eliminating pre-heat time and reducing cooking time.

Refrigeration products also show remarkable improvements. French-door style models with bottom freezer drawers provide more flexible food storage and are more energy efficient. The split-door also takes less space in the room when it is open. Some brands, such as Liebherr, rely on patented technologies to keep food fresh longer. Reducing spoilage saves money. New insulation means thinner cavity walls in most refrigerators so usable interior space is increased. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC)s have also been reduced in manufacturing, reducing industrial pollution.  

When evaluating dishwashers, check out the heating elements and water jets. Many new dishwashers clean better due to relocated heating elements while using less water and soap. Dimensional water jets also improve the cleaning power. Less soap reduces contamination of the waste water. Dishwasher drawers by Fisher-Paykel and others provide excellent performance and allow small or specialized loads to run as needed, thus saving both water and energy.

In the laundry, front-load washers by Asko, Bosch, Miele and Whirlpool and others use less water than top-loaders. High-speed spin cycles remove more moisture from the wet laundry, thus reducing drying effort. These features save energy and water. Some washers heat available water to optimal temperatures for whites and linens. The reduced need for chlorine bleach reduces chemical contaminates in the waste water. A new top-loading dryer from Fisher-Paykel removes lint continuously from the heat path to reduce drying time and save energy. Eco-friendly manufacture is also typical of new laundry appliances. For some brands, such as Asko, all of the machines’ parts can be recycled.  

There are two very different ways to buy appliances: from big-box retailers and premier dealers. Big-box retailers offer limited product choices and very little decision-making assistance from the sales associates. Premier appliance retailers offer more products, brands and models. Dedicated sales people have extensive knowledge of appliances to clarify features and benefits. Doing a little homework and dealing with experts can remove the guess work from appliance selection.

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