September 2, 2014

Appliance Repair Saga

We all have to deal with this on occasion- here’s a lighthearted look at one woman’s recent experience with an appliance failure.

Most of us are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of dealing with death, but I think they work equally well with appliance repair.

Not long ago, the electronic control panel on our stove went south, mid-meat loaf. Where moments before had been a glittery display panel reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise was now the Black Screen of Death. An ominous notation appeared: “Error F5.”

Instantly, I went into Denial. As in, this can’t be happening to me! This range is practically new! It had great ratings! I even went so far as to search online as to what Error F5 was. It was possible, I thought (see Denial, above) that it could be something innocuous. But basically Error F5 is code for “This is SO going to cost you.”

Finding out that the first available repair appointment from the Authorized Dealer was going to be nine days away made an easy segue into Stage 2: Anger. Loads of anger.

One teensy weensy component goes bad and the entire control board has to be replaced? This is felony design abuse! What was so wrong (caution: Luddite alert) with the old two-knob ranges, bake knob on the right, temp knob on the left? It is immoral! It’s un-American! It’s – no, no, I’m not turning down the appointment. But – and here we glide seamlessly into Stage 3: Bargaining – are you sure you can’t get me in any sooner? The kids and grandchild are going to be visiting next weekend and having no way to cook except a microwave is going to be really, really hard. Maybe you have a cancellation list I could put my name on? (Please?)

Like dying, it only gets worse from there, because eventually the Authorized Dealer actually shows up. The kids had been very nice about it all when they came. It wouldn’t be their last visit, they said, consolingly. And it never hurts to remind oneself from time to time how wonderful warm food tastes on a cold rainy evening especially since they didn’t get any.

But by this time, Olof and I are ready for some serious bakables. So it was with total shock when the Authorized Dealer mentions that control panels are a special order, usually 30 days. Stage 4: complete and total Depression, slams you right between the taste buds.

But during that long month, a funny thing happens – Stage 5: Acceptance. You develop an inner peace, not to mention an intimate relationship with the pizza guy. Cooking is over-rated. Vast technological improvements have been made in microwavables. You can now often recognize the animal they were made from.

So when the Authorized Dealer calls to install the new panel, you’re almost not sure you want him to come out. Especially when he tells you that the control board is $590 and labor to install $150. More, of course, than a whole stove used to cost.

But then you think about your mother’s wonderful cassoulet and about the grandkids coming to refer to you as Grammy Nuke. So you fork over the money and fix the range, assuming this was just a fluke and you’ll have many more years of life out of this appliance.

Talk about Denial.

Thermador Introduces New Steam and Convection Oven

The new Thermador Steam and Convection Oven is the industry’s first steam oven to combine three distinct cooking solutions – Steam, True Convection and Combination (Steam and Convection) – with 40 automatic food programs and nine advanced cooking modes.

The oven features 40 EasyCook food programs that automatically set temperature and humidity levels for specific foods to ensure maximum results.

Nine advanced cooking modes meet every cooking need.
o True Convection (85-450oF) – A fan on the back wall distributes the heat evenly throughout. For moist cakes, sponge cakes and braised meat.
o Steaming (95-210oF) – For vegetables, fish, sides and extracting fruit juice.
o Combination (250-450oF) – A blend of steam and convection modes. For fish, soufflés and baked goods.
o Reheat (210-360oF) – Cooked food is gently reheated. The inflow of steam keeps the food moist, and brings back the original flavor, texture and crispness.
o Proof (95-120oF) – Steam and convection modes are combined to keep the surface of bread dough from drying out. This special cooking mode enables the dough to rise much faster than at room temperature.
o Slow Cook (140-250oF) – Tenderizes all meat cuts and types, especially roast beef and leg of lamb.
o Defrost (95-140oF) – Steam and convection modes are combined. Humidity transfers heat to the food, maintaining its moisture and shape. Ideal for fruit, vegetables, meat and fish.
o Keep Warm (140-210oF) – Designed to keep food warm for up to one hour without drying it out.
o Dish Warm (85-160oF) – This mode prevents food in preheated ovenware from cooling as quickly. Perfect for ovenware and plates.

 Six Favorite settings allow automatic pre-programming for personal dishes and frequent recipes.
 The SteamClean feature steam-cleans the interior with a push of a button.

The Thermador Steam and Convection Oven will be available August 1, 2010 at high-end appliance retailers, for an MSRP ranging from $3,299 to $3,499.

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.

Win a New Electrolux Range or Wall Oven

Kelly Ripa, spokeswoman for Electrolux, is searching for the perfect turkey.  To that end, Electrolux is holding a Perfect Turkey contest.  Just submit your entry here detailing your turkey success story, or possibly better, your tail of woe.  The winner will receive a new Electrolux wall oven or range with the “Perfect Turkey” button – just in time for the holidays.

Wood-Burning Oven

This may not fall perfectly into the realm of appliances, but it is so cool, it has to be shared. The wonderful bread baking site thefreshloaf.com has a post about a wood burning oven built buy the homeowner for about $3000. The oven heats up to 1000 degrees to bake pizza followed by loaves of bread and then roasted meats. Not only that, it looks great:

wood burning oven

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Basic Appliance Care and Safety

If you are lucky, you rarely need to pay much attention to the appliances that run, some of them 24 hours a day, in your home. But to keep everything trouble free, it’s good to follow some basic guidelines for care and safety when using or installing appliances in your home. Handymanclub.com offers some simples steps for use with your washer, dryer, refrigerator, ranges, cooktops, even your water heater.

Ventilation and combustion (dryers, water heaters, ranges and cooktops)
• Clean the clothes dryer’s lint filter before or after each load. Check behind the dryer for trapped lint. Clear lint from the exterior vent often. Lint buildup results in inefficiency and excessive wear and can even pose a fire hazard. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 15,500 fires each year are associated with clothes dryers.
• Use only metal ducting for gas dryers because they run hotter than electric machines. Rigid rather than accordion-pleated ducting is best for airflow.
• Never vent clothes dryers or water heaters into the house to supplement heating.

Plumbing (washers, refrigerators and water heaters)
• To prevent leaky or bursting waterlines, check washing machine hoses for signs of wear. Consider replacing rubber hoses with newer braided stainless steel hoses.
• Check the screens at either end of the water hoses and remove sediment that may have collected there. This is especially important after road construction or water-main work has been done in your area.
• Periodically check that the washing machine is soundly footed and level so the hoses and the drain hose do not come loose.
• If a dishwasher’s tub doesn’t empty after operation, detach the drain line from the household drain and clean any debris from the line.

Gas (dryers, ranges and water heaters)
• Never use an oven as a room heater — combustion pollutants resulting from fuel-burning appliances can cause illness or death. Have gas appliances serviced periodically to ensure they burn with the proper mix of air and fuel.
• Be sure all vented appliances are checked for backdrafting. (This is one reason that it’s important for a city building official to inspect newly installed vented appliances.)

Electric
• Diehard DIYers may bristle at this warning from the CPSC — nonetheless, it’s a lifesaver. Never attempt to repair a microwave oven — because they use high-voltage power, they can pose a risk of electrical shock even after they are disconnected from the power source.
• Use dedicated circuits for large appliances such as washers and dryers.
• Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces.

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.

    Choosing Kitchen Appliances – Ovens, Cooktops and Hoods

    Choosing new appliances is one of the biggest decisions homeowners make when remodeling their kitchens. You can’t make a good choice if you don’t know what’s available and what suits your needs. here’s some advice on choosing your oven or cooktop from appliance.net and HowStuffWorks.com

    First, ovens:

    The traditional range or stove, a single unit with cooktop above and oven below, is an affordable, space-conserving solution still chosen by most homeowners. But it’s just one of the cooking options offered today.

    Some serious home cooks choose commercial-style stoves with six or eight burners instead of four, basting and grilling functions, and built-in warming ovens. (Real commercial stoves pose special challenges, such as special ventilation systems and noncombustible walls and floors, when used in the home, so commercial-style may be easier to live with.) Other people love the new modular cooktops that let you add burners, downdrafts, griddles, deep-fry and steamer units, woks, rotisseries, and grills. And these are just a few examples of what’s available!

    The first decision in range shopping has always been gas versus electric. Many serious cooks prefer gas for its instant response, precise controllability, and lower operating cost over time. Others praise the evenness of electric heat and the lower initial cost of the appliance Today, you can get the best of both heating methods with “dual fuel” ranges that let you mix gas and electric heat sources; for example, gas cooktop burners and an electric convection oven/broiler. Convection ovens, most often electric, use heated air to cook up to twice as fast as conventional ovens that rely on radiant heating action. You can even get a combination microwave/convection oven.

    Electric coils are the most popular kind of electric burners, and the least costly. Smooth-top surfaces are offered with one of three heat source types: radiating electric coils beneath the glass surface, halogen burners, or magnetic-induction elements. All require thick, flat-bottom cookware. If gas is your choice, sealed burners are easiest to clean, and a pilotless ignition system means no hot spot when burners are off. Commercial-style glass stoves offer high BTUs (British thermal units, the measure of cooking heat) and high style. They require heavy-duty ventilation systems.

    What about controls? Controls that are located on the front or on the side of the appliance are most common and convenient, but universal access means just that: While someone in a wheelchair can reach front-situated controls easily, unfortunately, so can a curious toddler. People with young children may prefer controls located on the backsplash, out of reach of exploring fingers. Wherever they’re located, controls should be easy to understand and operate. Top-of-the-line ovens may include electronic temperature readouts and touch-pad, rather than knob or dial, controls.

    There is also the option of under the counter ovens that blend into the kitchen design rather than stand out. Just be sure the oven is designed for under the counter use. This type of oven can have a cooktop installed directly over it or elsewhere in the kitchen. On eof the considerations in choosing a cooktop is ease of cleaning. “For easiest cooktop cleaning, consider ranges with ceramic glass cooktops housing electric or halogen burners; simpler knobs and handles; and a top and backsplash constructed from a single piece of metal, so there’s no seam to collect spills. Self-cleaning ovens come in two varieties: one that uses a high-heat cycle that turns cooked-on spills into ash you can wipe away, another that offers a continuous-clean function.”

    On to hoods:

    If you don’t have a ventilation fan above your cooktop that vents to the attic or outside, you’ll want a range hood with ventilation fan built in. Why? Even if you don’t find some cooking odors objectionable, vaporized grease can dull beautiful new kitchen surfaces, and moisture can compromise the efficiency of home insulation. The solution is an updraft range hood that funnels cooking grease and smoke into one area so that the fan can draw it through a duct to the outside.

    Filters capture additional grease and odors. Look for range hoods that come in copper, stainless steel, and other good-looking, easy-care materials, or customize a standard hood with ceramic tile to create a major focal point, furthering your decorating scheme. As an alternative, down-draft ventilation, usually part of a cooktop or grill, also employs a fan and duct arrangement. Units that rise above cooktop level provide the most effective venting.