November 28, 2014

Appliance Lifespans

We’ve said it before, here, but we’ll say it again, below we list some approximate lifespans for household appliances.

Average appliance life span in years

Compactors: 6

Dishwashers: 10

Disposers, food waste: 9

Dryers, electric: 12

Dryers, gas: 12

Freezers: 11

Microwave ovens: 9

Ranges, electric: 16

Ranges, gas: 17

Range/oven hoods: 11

Refrigerators: 12

Washers: 11

Water heaters, electric: 13

Water heaters, gas: 11

Air-conditioners, room: 9

Air-conditioners, central: 11

Boilers, gas: 20

Dehumidifiers: 7

Furnaces, gas: 15

Furnaces, oil: 17

Heat pumps: 12

Courtesy of heraldnet.com

Best Stores for Buying Appliances

When you’re shopping for a new appliance, you want a store that will provide good prices, helpful staff and ease of service along with a good selection.

Unfortunately, two surveys from the Consumer Reports National Research Center show that no one retailer seems able to provide it all.

CR did find some cause for hope. Abt Electronics, in the Chicago area, and independent local stores garnered high praise from shoppers who bought a major appliance in the past year. For small appliances, independents also rated highly, along with Costco, though the standout was Amazon.com, as in past years.

CR’s rankings for shopper satisfaction came from more than 21,000 respondents to its 2009 Appliance Shopper Satisfaction Survey. It also commissioned a separate, nationally representative Home Gripes survey of 1,405 homeowners about their experiences shopping at home stores.

Only Abt Electronics scored better than average on price for major appliances. For small appliances, Amazon.com and Costco got readers’ highest marks for price for the second year in a row.

Here’s more from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Consumer Reports:

Besides price, the expertise and manner of a store’s sales staff were key reasons for choosing a major appliance retailer, according to the CR Shopper Satisfaction Survey. But respondents to the Home Gripes survey cited difficulty in finding a useful salesperson at all as one of their chief shopping annoyances. Salespeople who were arrogant or even nasty were especially bothersome for women.

Independent retailers, Abt Electronics and Pacific Sales in California received top marks for having salespeople knowledgeable in major appliances. The trio also stood out for service rendered; Best Buy scored below average for its staff. For staff expertise and service in small appliances, independent local retailers scored best. Among major retailers, only Lowe’s stood out; and for service, Sears scored above average.

Around a quarter of major- and small-appliance shoppers chose retailers based on their reputation for high-quality products. Retailers varied significantly on both counts. Poor selection was a complaint for less than 5 percent of respondents to CR’s Shopper Satisfaction survey. But almost a quarter of small-appliance shoppers at Sam’s Club complained that the store had too few brands or models available for selection. For major appliances, no store scored better than average for shopping ease.

For major-appliance product quality and selection, Abt Electronics and Pacific Sales scored best; for selection, Home Depot scored below average. For small-appliance purchasing, Amazon.com and independents stood out for quality and selection. Shopping for small appliances in stores was more varied, with independent retailers getting top marks for shopping ease, followed by Sears, Lowe’s and Best Buy, which all scored above average.

Stores that push extended warranties were among the top annoyances in CR’s Home Gripes survey. In the Shopper Satisfaction Survey, respondents who bought a major appliance were much more likely than those buying small appliances to be hit with an extended-warranty offer.

For small appliances, Amazon.com’s storage of shipping addresses and payment preferences might have contributed to its high score for checkout ease in the Shopper Satisfaction Survey. Independent retailers also received top marks, followed by Costco. For major appliances, no retailer scored worse than average. But Abt Electronics and independents fared best.

Recall: Slow Cookers by Sensio Due to Fire Hazard

Name of Product: Slow Cookers

Units: About 25,000

Importer/Distributor: Sensio Inc. of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Hazard: The slow cooker’s control panel can overheat and melt, posing a fire hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: Sensio has received 60 reports of the control panels of the slow cookers smoking, melting and sparking and three reports of panels catching fire. Fourteen incidents resulted in minor damage to countertops. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This recall involves the Bella Kitchen 5-quart programmable slow cookers. Only slow cookers with model number WJ-5000DE and date codes 0907 or 0909 are included in this recall. The slow cookers are black and “Bella Kitchen” is marked on the control panel. The model number and the four-digit date code are printed on a label on the underside.

Sold exclusively at: Kohl’s Department stores from July 2009 through December 2009 for between $20 and $40.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should stop using the slow cooker immediately, unplug it and contact Sensio for information on receiving a full refund.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Sensio toll-free at (888) 296-9675 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. CT Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s website at www.acbpromotions.com/sensiorecall

Newest Microwave Features

Microwave ovens have been around for over forty years during which most people used them for exciting tasks such as heating leftovers, warming coffee and making popcorn.  There were those adventurers that added to their cooking repertoire by preparing whole meals in the microwave.

But how to improve a product whose entire purpose is to be simple? Oven makers right now are betting on steam. Sharp has a $1,000 microwave that uses steam to cook more thoroughly, keep food moist without adding fat and help heat penetrate better (consumers fill a water reservoir attached to the oven). Whirlpool Corp. offers steam in a combination microwave-ventilation hood, starting at $349. It’s a space saver because it goes over a gas or electric range.

Steam microwaves are aimed at people who are in the market for an oven with special features, but not necessarily a microwave. “For anyone looking for a steam oven, it’s much cheaper than the other options,”  says Jason Hughes, associate director of product planning and development at Sharp Electronics, a unit of Sharp Corp., in Japan.   Conventional steam ovens cost upward of $2,000.

Now could be an opportune time to introduce new features. The number of meals Americans prepared at home using a microwave rose 9.5% to 47 billion meals last year, the first usage increase in decades, according to NPD Group.

Consumers are “actually doing a lot more meal preparation” in their microwaves, says Bob Schiffmann, president of R.F. Schiffmann Associates Inc., a New York consulting firm.

New-and-improved microwaves face big challenges. “Not every customer’s lifestyle is the same,” says Sue Bailey, director of major-appliance product management at Viking Range Corp., which has introduced a $1,275 microwave in a pull-out drawer that sits under the kitchen counter. Viking says it may come out with a steam device. “Some want steam, some just want things a little more quickly, and others just want a little more space” inside, Ms. Bailey says.

“It’s a product that still hasn’t been perfected after all these years,” says David Lockwood, director of consumer insights at Mintel International Group, whose research indicates 93% of households have a microwave oven. “It still doesn’t do everything people want it to do,” he says.

It may be simply a matter of sex appeal. Boxy, noisy, at times smelling bad, the microwave oven hasn’t inspired the kind of lust and romance that a trophy refrigerator or oven marketed as professional-grade commands from upscale homeowners.

The average microwave lasts only about eight or nine years, Mr. Lockwood says, and many consumers own microwaves that cost less than $90. “The average buyer still wants the cheapest possible solution,” he says.

You can read about the history of the microwave oven in our article “The Microwave Oven-a Brief  History”

Energy Star Credibility

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy recently outlined a new two-step process to strengthen the credibility of the Energy Star brand.

Step 1: Testing. More aggressive product testing will be required in the future in order to be Energy Star-certified.

DOE began tests at third-party test labs on six of the most common appliances categories:
• freezers
• refrigerator-freezers
• clothes washers
• dishwashers
• water heaters
• room air-conditioners.
DOE noted that these appliances account for at least 25% of a typical homeowner’s energy bill. It will test about 200 basic models in the coming months.

The agencies are also developing a new system to require all products seeking the Energy Star label to be tested in approved labs and require ongoing verification testing.

Step 2 Enforcement.

The agencies have taken action against 35 companies in the last 4 months to enforce compliance with Energy Star as well as with DOE’s minimum appliance efficiency standards. A news release details some of the enforcement actions taken in 2009-2010, including:

• July 2009: Subpoenas issued to AeroSys Inc. to obtain air-conditioner and heat pump documentation.
• Sept. 2009: AeroSys required to provide product samples for DOE testing to verify models met U.S. federal minimum energy efficiency standards.
• Dec. 2009: DOE and EPA took steps to remove Energy Star labels from 20 LG refrigerator-freezer models that had been shown, via testing by multiple independent labs, to consume more energy than allowed by Energy Star criteria.
• Jan. 2010: DOE signed a Consent Decree with Haier regarding actions to address four Haier freezer models, including two Energy Star models, that were consuming more energy than reported.
• March 2010: EPA terminated its Energy Star relationship with US Inc./US Refrigeration based on a history of logo misuse, unresponsiveness, and failure to comply with program guidelines.

Other actions addressed problems with lightbulb and showerhead manufacturers.

The agencies noted that Energy Star violations receive much media attention but account for a small percentage of total products in the program. A recent independent review found 98% compliance.

The Microwave Oven- a Brief History

I remember my parents first microwave; my father insisted my mother needed this newfangled  appliance, and she was equally insistent that it would, and I quote, collect dust.  Fast forward 35 years or so, and she’s using her newest stainless steel model daily.

I was a kid when that first microwave appeared and never gave much thought to the technological progress it represented – how it came to be sitting there- ’til now, so…

Here’s a quick overview of the history of the microwave oven:
1945
Percy Spencer of Raytheon Co. discovers microwave heating after finding that microwave energy had melted a candy bar in his pocket.

1947

Raytheon produces its first microwave oven. It costs between $2,000 and $3,000, and is intended for commercial use.

1960′s

Companies are developing countertop microwaves, like this Litton model.

1970′s

Microwaves start to become widespread. Primary buyers are men, who purchase them as gifts for their wives. (My Dad probably thought he had thought of a unique gift.)

Early’80′s

Orville Redenbacher introduces its first room-temperature microwavable popcorn.
1987
Barbara Kafka’s “Microwave Gourmet,” a cookbook for those who want to do more than heat leftovers and make popcorn with their microwaves, hits shelves.
2009

Heinz introduces the Beanzawave. It is 7.4 inches tall and is said to be the world’s smallest microwave. 

Recall: General Electric Coffee Makers From Walmart Due to Fire Hazard

Name of Product: General Electric®-branded 12-cup digital coffee makers

Units: About 900,000

Importer: Walmart Stores Inc., of Bentonville, Ark.

Hazard: The coffee maker can overheat, posing fire and burn hazards to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: Walmart has received 83 reports of overheating, smoking, melting, burning and fire, including three reports of minor burn injuries to consumer’s hands, feet and torso. Reports of property damage include a significant kitchen fire and damage to countertops, cabinets and a wall.

Description: This recall involves General Electric®-brand 12-cup coffee makers sold in white or black. The digital coffee maker has programmable functions and plastic housing. The GE logo is printed on the base of the coffee maker and the model number is printed on the bottom of the base. Model numbers included in the recall are:

169164 – Black

169165 – White

No other models are included in this recall.

Sold exclusively at: Walmart stores nationwide from March 2008 through January 2010 for about $30.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled coffee makers and return the product to any Walmart for a full refund.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Walmart at (800) 925-6278 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at www.walmart.com

CPSC is still interested in receiving incident or injury reports that are either directly related to this product recall or involve a different hazard with the same product. Please tell us about it by visiting https://www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/incident.aspx

Just How Much Energy is That Appliance Using?

My computer stays on through the week, only getting shut off on the weekend.  My answering machine and TV stay plugged in, their little red lights glowing in the night.  I do turn off the treadmill between uses and the DVD player too.

My energy habits are probably similar to many Americans.  If you’re wondering how much energy you’re wasting, or conversely, saving by turning appliances off, check out this energy calculator from GE:

This is a really cool tool that calculates  how much power each appliance consumes in watts or kilowatthours.  Alternatively, you can see how much each appliance costs to use in dollars, and how much it consumes in equivalent gallons of gas.

Some appliances are marked with a blue star indicating that an  EnergyStar model is available or click on the green star to see how much energy (and money) you’ll save with a new appliance.