April 23, 2014

High End Appliances – What are You Getting for Your Money?

Stainless steel looks beautiful in the kitchen, but shine doesn’t necessarily equal performance. Do high end appliances (many with those gleaming finishes) really rate having such high price tags? Sometimes they really do. But that doesn’t mean you should rule out mid-priced options. As mid-priced manufacturers start adapting some of the features the pricier models have to theirs, the average homeowner is able to get in on the fun.

If you, as most consumers do, want to know what you are getting for your money, Bill LaHay has gotten it all down for you in the ReadingEagle.com. We can start with what you get for the big bucks in ranges:

Like the hearth of a primitive home, they’re often the centerpiece of the modern kitchen, with typical price tags from around $4,000 to $10,000. This doesn’t even include some exclusive European brands.

The heavy-gauge stainless-steel housings account for some of the cost, but that’s just a start. Control knobs are beefier, oven racks are heavier and multiple halogen lamps light the oven compartment.

On the cooktop, large-capacity gas burners kick up the heat with a wide range of control, from a delicate simmer to a high-output setting for fast boiling or searing flavor into meats. In 36-inch and larger sizes, you can also add grills or griddles to the burner mix.

Look for ratings around 15,000 Btu (British thermal units), a measure of heat energy. The burners are fitted with continuous cast-iron grates, and most have an automatic reignition feature that lights an accidentally extinguished flame instantly so gas fumes can’t accumulate to dangerous levels. Electric ranges use sophisticated electronics to achieve similar levels of burner speed and control.

Down below, a gas or electric oven will feature a convection mode with concealed elements or burners and a fan to circulate air. Every feature is designed for durability, for faster or more even cooking, or for more control over the process. That’s also true when you purchase a separate cooktop and oven, a better option in some kitchen layouts.

Refrigerators, of course, have a different kind of temperature-control issue, but larger capacity, better access to contents, heavier shelving and hardware, multiple cooling zones and options for built-in design are what you get when you go high-end. Expect prices to start at around $5,000 in this category.

Finally, there are premium dishwashers. Stainless-steel liners, better motors and extra insulation keep them running quieter. Some versions sport hot-water boosters, optical scanners to “read” the water quality and adjust water use accordingly, and enough cycle options to keep even the most obsessive cook happy.

Some are configured as drawers and others accept cabinet door panels so they’ll blend inconspicuously into your kitchen. Best of all, these are still affordable, with typical prices ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.

It’s not true in every instance, but brand names can often indicate what category an appliance is in. You’ll find these pricier “premium” goods sold under names such as Dacor, DCS, Gaggenau, GE Monogram, KitchenAid, Miele, Sub-Zero, Thermador, Viking and Wolf.

There’s nothing wrong with splurging on this top-notch stuff when you have the budget for it, but don’t assume that more affordable goods won’t serve you just as well. The field of mid-priced appliances with stainless-steel cabinets and other quality features has grown faster than any other segment of the appliance market.

Amana, Bosch, Electrolux, GE Profile, Jenn-Aire, Kenmore, LG and Maytag are just some of the brands that offer these exceptional appliance designs at half the cost of goods sporting the high-end price tags.

There’s no end to the list of “must-have” amenities for the modern kitchen, and most of these manufacturers round out their lines with warming drawers, ice makers, wine chillers and other products. Big kitchens can accommodate all of these goodies, but in many homes they can easily cramp the kitchen and rob storage space.

Focus first on the essentials, and then see if other specialized appliances make sense. Even if budget isn’t a factor, you’ll be happier if your kitchen looks less like a machine shop and more like home.

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