July 27, 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

Paying for Your Next New Appliance

Household appliances are generally so reliable, having one break down takes us by surprise. The hassle of shopping for a new appliance is trouble enough without worrying about paying for it too. Plan ahead, because the dryer is not going to sound out announcements before it conks-out.

Repair or Replace?

The first decision to be made is if you really need a new appliance, or if repairs are in order. If the repair costs half the price of a new appliance, seriously consider buying new, says Mark Kotkin at Consumer Reports. According to the magazine’s research, any major household appliance more than eight years old should be considered for replacement rather than repair. The magazine also suggest you skip the repair and buy new if your appliance costs less than $150.

Budgeting

“I’ve seen a lot of people’s budgets over the years, and it seems like household maintenance is one category that people miss,” says Matt Bell of MattAboutMoney.com. People who know the age of their appliances and their expected life spans can budget better for replacements. Or they could maintain a more general emergency fund for when bad things happen. Either cash stash will help you avoid finance charges on a credit card you can’t pay off right away, said Bell.

Home Warranty

A home warranty is a service contract for an existing home that covers major operating systems, such as a furnace or a dishwasher. The homeowner buys a repair contract, often for $300 to $500 a year, and pays a service charge for each call. If many of your major appliances are near the ends of their useful lives, a home warranty might be worthwhile. But warranties are complicated, covering some types of breakdowns and not others. Pre-existing conditions and malfunctions that stem from poor maintenance or installation can be excluded. Some companies will cover all or part of an appliance’s replacement cost. Choose this option carefully.

New Refrigerator Design Reflects Consumers’ Attitudes

As stated in Twice, consumers are starting to emerge from their economic doldrums, and the renewed optimism is beginning to be reflected in more colorful and eclectic kitchen designs.

According to Thom Filicia, award-winning interior designer and host of Style Network’s “Dress My Nest,” who put his observations into practice with a recently rolled-out refrigerator line for Amana, “People are feeling more confident, and they want color that’s fresh and optimistic but still grounded and earthy.”

What’s more, the mixing and matching of favorite colors and patterns, which is a given in apparel and other rooms of the home, has finally migrated to America’s kitchens. “Consumers are no longer necessarily buying their kitchen appliances in matching suites,” Filicia observed. “People like eclecticism, and they’re mixing it up by bringing more personality and an emotional connection into the kitchen.”

“Appliances don’t have to match,” he said. “They just need to coordinate and look good.”

Filicia, who gained national celebrity as a member of the personal makeover squad in TV’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” said examples of this new kitchen eclecticism can be found in appliances from Viking, Jenn-Air and Amana, which employ a host of finishes and colors.

His own refrigerator collection for Amana includes such designs as Green Tea, a leaf pattern inspired by room color; Mojo, a striped design with bold colors; Inked, an etched pattern suggestive of body art; and Corduroy, which was inspired by classic fashion and textured like fabric.

“The refrigerator has become part of the fashion of the home,” Filicia said.

The kitchen connection was underscored by a recent Amana survey of 1,000 consumers, who identified it as the No. 1 room they would most like to see get a design facelift. The majority of respondents also identified the kitchen as the hub of their home, and while nearly a third chose the room as the best for entertaining, only 17 percent believe their kitchen best represents their sense of style, suggesting new opportunities for appliance manufacturers.

Cuisinart’s Slow Cooker

If you just have to have the shiniest, sleekest slow cooker on the block, Cuisinart has it for you. But it’s apparently got more than good looks. It holds 6.5 quarts, more than enough to feed a family a hearty dinner. It also features a 24-hour programmable cook time, a digital countdown timer, and three cooking modes. When the cooking is done, it automatically shifts to a Keep Warm mode.

Product Features
• Touchpad control panel with LCD timer display
• 24-hour cooking timer
• Off/On, Warm, Simmer, Low, and High settings
• Removable 6.5-quart, oval ceramic cooking pot
• Automatically shifts to “Warm” when cook time ends
• Brushed stainless steel housing with chrome-plated handles
• Glass lid with stainless steel rim and chrome-plated knob
• Dishwasher-safe lid and ceramic pot
• Nonslip rubber feet
• Includes cooking rack for use with ramekins or other bakeware
• Spiral-bound recipe book with 70 basic to gourmet dishes
• Instruction book
• Limited 3-year product warranty

Of course, all this comes at a price – the Cuisinart 6.5 quart slow cooker, model # PSC-650 retails for about $100.

Shopping for Energy Efficient Appliances

Here’s a great line I just read at bhrealestate.com

Every appliance has two prices: the sticker price, and the one you pay to run the appliance year-round.

When purchasing a new appliance, buyers might be tempted to buy the unit with the lowest sale price while ignoring the long term costs of running it.

Choosing a highly energy efficient appliance can save more money than the additional purchase difference and if used long enough, add to your savings. According to Energy Star, the organization the certifies the efficiency of appliances, in 2007, Americans bought enough ENERGY STAR appliances to limit emissions equivalent to green house gases from 27 million cars — all the while saving $16 billion on their utility bills, or roughly one-third their annual utility cost.

Look for machines that have earned the ENERGY STAR label, meaning they have met strict energy-efficiency guidelines. It’s also important to check the bright yellow EnergyGuide labels on appliances to see consumption rates for that model expressed in annual kilowatt hours and the approximate annual cost of running the appliance.

The article also offered some helpful shopping tips:

Refrigerators – Next to your furnace and water heater, your refrigerator uses the most energy in your home, so make sure a new fridge suits your needs. If it’s too large, you’ll waste energy cooling phantom food; too small may simply be inconvenient. Models with freezers on the top or bottom are more efficient than those with freezers on the side.

Stoves – Cooking habits should determine which is best for you. While the design and price of today’s gas and electric stoves are similar, gas stoves require less energy for stovetop cooking. If you do a lot of baking or oven use, however, the electric stove is a better option.

Clothes Washers – According to the EPA, Horizontal-axis washers (front loaders) use 50 percent less energy, less water and less soap. This translates into savings on average of about $95 a year for the average household

Clothes Dryers – ENERGY STAR does not label dryers since most consume the same amount of energy. Do, however, try to buy one with a moisture sensor that will automatically shut off the dryer when your clothes are dry, rather than completing the cycle.

Air Conditioners – Ensure correct size for your room and go for energy efficiency. If it’s cooling a sunny room, consider increasing capacity by 10 percent.

Natural gas and oil systems
– Look for the Federal Trade Commission EnergyGuide label with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. This measures the seasonal annual efficiency (ENERGY STAR furnaces have a 90 AFUE rating or above).

The added initial cost of energy efficient appliances may seem high, but the savings show up over time and they are gentler on the environment.

Use Your Appliances to go Green in the Kitchen – Plus a Few Other Helpful Suggestions

Another Earth Day has passed us and just as we make resolutions on New Year’s Day, you might have planned to change your energy wasting ways. Those New Year’s resolutions are difficult to maintain, because we often try to do too much. Making just a few small changes is helpful and can be the key to lasting change.
Lisa Abraham at Ohio.com has compiled her tips for saving energy in the kitchen. They include being creative when using kitchen appliances and modifying some eating habits.

Limit the time the stove/oven is used

Never light the oven or turn on a burner when a small appliance will do the job. Microwave ovens, toaster ovens, electric griddles, panini makers and, yes, even a slow cooker all consume less energy than a traditional gas or electric stove.

Consistently using these small appliances can make a huge difference in your energy consumption, Jackie Newgent a dietitian, cooking instructor and cookbook author of the newly released Big Green Cookbook (Wiley, 2009). said. Even though slow cookers are typically on for hours at a time, they will burn less energy than a traditional oven to prepare the same dish, such as a roast.

Look for ways to lessen the amount of time the oven and burners are on. When cooking pasta, Newgent recommends using skinny varieties, like angel hair, that will cook more quickly. She also uses a method she dubs ”lid cooking” to turn the stove off sooner.

Newgent brings a pot of water to a boil, adds her pasta and brings it up to a boil again. But then she turns the heat off, puts a lid on the pot, and lets the pasta finish cooking from the heated water.

When baking something, turn the oven off five minutes before the item is done and allow the residual heat in the oven to finish the job, she said.

Consider making one meal each week that doesn’t require using the stove at all, such as a salad.

Eat more fruits and vegetables, less meat

Newgent suggests eating one meatless meal per week. It requires more energy to produce meat than vegetables and fruits. Cutting meat out of just one meal per week can lead to significant energy savings over a year, she said.

That salad fits in well here. Think of it as a chance to be a more adventurous eater.

Run an energy-efficient kitchen

While new major kitchen appliances may not be in the budget for many homeowners, most would see an immediate savings on electric bills with the conversion.

Refrigerators should be away from sunlight and heat sources, like ovens. The warmer the environment, the harder the appliance will have to work and the more energy it will use.

Refrigerators also need breathing room — at least two or three inches of open space between the coils and the wall behind them to allow for better air circulation. Keeping refrigerator coils clean of dirt, dust and pet hair also will improve performance.

The harder an appliance has to work, the faster it will wear out.

Constantly opening and closing the refrigerator causes it to lose cold air. The same goes for the oven — keep the door closed as much as possible while in use to keep the hot air inside.

Gas stoves typically are less expensive to run than electric ones.

Always have the dishwasher fully loaded before running, and consider scraping your dishes instead of rinsing them before loading, to save on water.

Newgent also noted that when cooking outdoors, choose a gas grill over charcoal because gas emits less carbon into the atmosphere.

Here is a sample recipe from Jackie Newgent’s Big Green Cookbook:

CITRUS CREAM OF CAPELLINI

13/4 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
12 oz. whole wheat capellini or angel hair pasta
1/2 cup organic heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted organic butter
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 3 tbsp. juice)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black or white pepper, or to taste
1/3 cup freshly grated organic or locally produced Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup raw pine nuts (optional)

Bring 6 cups fresh water and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the pasta and return to a boil. Cover and turn off the heat. Let the pasta ”lid cook” (cook covered while the burner is off) until it is al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Place the drained pasta back into the dried saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the cream, butter, lemon juice and zest. Cook while stirring until the pasta is hot, about 1 minute. For a thinner sauce, add the reserved pasta cooking water. Add remaining salt and pepper.

Pour the pasta into a serving bowl or serve directly from the saucepan. Sprinkle with the cheese and parsley. Top with the pine nuts, if using, and serve.

Makes 6 servings, 1 cup each.

Has Stainless Peaked?

I’m enjoying my stainless steel appliances and plan to add to the look by replacing my range hood with a stainless version, but I’m sensing that stainless may have some serious competition on the horizon.  I’m not alone with that thought, the Home and Garden people at nj.com, feel the same way:

“I think stainless has peaked,” says Mark Karas, vice president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. That doesn’t mean stainless is going away, he says, just that it won’t get any more popular than it is now.

“If they’re replacing an appliance, they tend to stick with what they had before,” says Marc Blumenthal, vice president of B&B Appliance, with stores in Euclid and Middleburg Heights, Ohio. “If they’re remodeling, they look at it like a clean slate, a chance to do something new.”

Here are some other options:

“Integrated” is the big word in appliances these days. Refrigerators, dishwashers and warming drawers are being fitted with panels on their fronts that match the cabinetry, for a more seamless look.

Black is back. Karas says people with darker finishes on their cabinetry like black because it is not as strong a contrast as stainless or white would be. Don’t think black hides messes, Karas says. Black is reflective and shows more than you think.

White is a classic look for white or light-finish cabinets. Be careful with white, Karas says. Different manufacturers use different shades of white, and your appliances may not match.

You can go retro with vintage-look appliances.  Elmira Stove Works offers refrigerators, stoves and range hoods in glorious ’50s shades and colors.

Looking for something new? Jenn-Air recently unveiled its oiled bronze finish. It’s a deep metallic brown. Reviews, Blumenthal says, have been mixed.

So, if you are about to start a remodel, or are planning to replace many of your appliances soon, your options still include the shine of stainless, but you have a wide variety of choices opening up too.

Shopping Tips – Save Money, be Satisfied

Once you’ve read through our articles on choosing a kitchen appliance and have narrowed down your decision, it’s time to shop.  A good place to start is with your budget.  Knowing what you feel comfortable spending and sticking close to that number will help you to enjoy your new purchases.  One good way to stay within a budget is to decide which appliances you want to splurge on and which ones can be more economical.

These tips will help as you search:

  • Shop for the best buys. Don’t just assume that an appliance warehouse has the best bargains. It’s true that such companies buy directly from the manufacturers, but it’s also common to find a group of smaller dealers who pool their resources to buy bigger volumes at discounted rates from the factory.
  • Consider the value of warranty along with the price. Ask about the extent of the warranty. Which parts are covered? Does the warranty include labor? Will the warranty be honored by another dealer?  In most cases, an extended warranty might no longer be a good investment.
  • Check on installation requirements.Each appliance may have its own requirements. An icemaker on a refrigerator, for example, requires a water line. A downdraft fan on a cooktop eliminates the need for overhead ventilation, but the vent pipe needs outdoor access. Some installations may require the service of a plumber or electrician before the installation.  This will add to the total cost.
  • Find out what is included in the price. If an appliance requires professional installation, ask if that is included in the purchase price. If you decide to install the appliance yourself, be certain the installation charges aren’t included in your purchase price.
  • Although new appliances are a fairly long term investment, they’re not a lifetime commitment like they were 30 years ago,  so take your time deciding, but remember you can upgrade as your budget permits.  So, use these and our other tips and then relax and enjoy your new appliances.