Upgrading Appliances

Appliances offer versatility, improved efficiency.

From dishwashers to washing machines, upgrading your home’s appliances may not only be easy on your eyes, but also easy on your wallet thanks to improved energy efficiency.

“Refrigerators are at least two times more efficient today as they were 10 years ago,” notes Dean Freiheit, co-owner of Appliance Village Company. Both washers and dryers are also more efficient. “A big advantage of front-load washers is that they use less than half the water but have the capacity for bigger loads compared to top-loading washers,” Freiheit says. “And the dryers spin faster, so they can dry faster. A family of four can save about 12,000 gallons of water a year, and that can add up to significant savings on water, electricity or gas.” And keep in mind that public utilities often offer rebates when you purchase some energy-efficient appliances.

Front loaders are also coming down in price, so they’re suitable for many remodeling budgets. And while they’re typically larger than their top-loading counterparts, you can gain space above by adding a countertop over the washer and dryer – something you can’t do, of course, with a top loader. If you’re worried about wear and tear on your back from bending or hunching to reach into a front-loader, look into options for putting your washer and dryer on a stand, Freiheit says. While white still dominates the market, Freiheit says, black, red, silver and blue washers and dryers are gaining ground as popular color choices.

In the kitchen, it’s all about shallow-depth refrigerators. A typical refrigerator may jut out five to six inches from its neighboring counter – a look that may make your kitchen look choppy or bulky. Shallow-depth refrigerators, on the other hand, lend a sleeker, streamlined appearance because they are nearly counter-depth. “You don’t want to have a huge refrigerator taking over your kitchen,” Freiheit says. The shallow depth, however, may mean sacrificing a bit of space for juice, milk and veggies. Many shallow-depth refrigerators are just 23 cubic feet, compared to 25 cubic feet for standard models, he says. If you can’t spare even an inch of space, look for manufacturers that offer a taller refrigerator – some now stretch to 72 inches or even 84 inches tall, Freiheit says. A French door refrigerator with a freezer below continues to be a hot trend, he says. If you don’t want to give up your ice or water dispenser, you may not have to – some manufacturers now offer a French door model equipped with those handy dispensers.

Not to be outdone, ovens and ranges also have more options and convenient features that may soon have you wondering how you ever lived without them. Those smaller 8-inch burners that frustrated family-size cooking have given way to 12-inch burners, Freiheit says. Some ranges also boast a low-wattage fifth burner in the middle, where you can keep food warm while enjoying a relaxing meal. Bridge burners are another popular feature, essentially turning an entire section of the stove top into one large burner. Things are also heating up in microwave oven technology, Freiheit says. GE boasts that its Advantium, for instance, features Speedcook technology that can deliver oven-quality food up to eight times faster than a conventional oven, with multiple cooking modes, including broiling and browning.

To keep all of your shiny new appliances looking shiny and new, be sure to wipe up spills or splatters immediately. Always check with your manufacturer for cleaning directions, particularly for the more finicky flat-top ranges, Freiheit says. And don’t neglect the two chores that many homeowners dread – vacuum your refrigerator coils regularly and get your dryer vent cleaned. Vent cleaning may mean a call to the professionals, but it can prevent a disastrous fire, he notes.

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If you have questions about building or remodeling, call Rochester Area Builders at (507) 282-7698.

Copyright 2007 Rochester Area Builders, Inc. No part of the Remodel It Right Handbook articles may be reproduced or printed without written permission from Rochester Area Builders, 108 Elton Hills Lane NW, Rochester, MN 55901. Phone (507) 282-7698.