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Appliances Buying Guide

Appliances are an essential part of every room of your house, but especially the kitchen and laundry room. They are also responsible for a considerable amount of your home's energy use, so it's especially important to do your research and buy wisely. Take a look at this guide to learn about the various types of appliances you'll need in your house and find tips for buying the best models for you.

Types of Appliances

Types of Appliances

Appliances encompass a large variety of products. To simplify matters in this buying guide, we have grouped them into five categories: cooking appliances, other kitchen appliances, laundry appliances, room appliances, and vacuums and floor care. Take a minute to read about these types of appliances, and then continue on to find out about product features and purchase considerations for each type.

Cooking Appliances

You will likely purchase more than one cooking appliance to outfit your kitchen. You may opt for an all-purpose range, which combines a cooktop and oven, or purchase a separate cooktop and wall oven or ovens that allow you more design flexibility and provide extra cooking space. Microwave ovens and warming drawers provide additional convenience, helping you to warm leftovers in a hurry or keep dishes warm until all family members make it home for dinner.

Other Kitchen Appliances

These appliances include dishwashers to help ease cleaning tasks and a variety of refrigerator types. A refrigerator/freezer combination is the most common setup for storing perishable foods, but you can also opt for a full-size refrigerator next to a full-size freezer, or supplement your standard refrigerator with a beverage refrigerator, a chest freezer, or another compact refrigerator to suit your storage needs. Icemakers, trash compactors, and wine cellars bring additional convenience to the kitchen as well.

Laundry Appliances

You can choose from a variety of washers and dryers to set up a laundry area that suits your space requirements and your household's needs. High-efficiency top-loading washers and front-loading washers offer improved energy efficiency, while laundry centers that include both the washer and dryer in the same unit can conserve space in small homes. Today's new irons and steamers help streamline laundry chores by removing wrinkles and freshening up clothes between dry cleaner visits.

Room Appliances

These appliances help ensure your living environment is comfortable and healthy. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers add or remove moisture from the air to maintain an optimum humidity level—protecting wood floors and furniture and preventing the growth of bacteria and mold. Air purifiers help remove impurities from indoor air; these are especially helpful for people with allergies and asthma. Air-conditioners and ceiling fans help keep rooms cool in the summer, while space heaters can provide extra warmth in cold months.

Vacuums and Floor Care

A variety of floor-care appliances can help keep your floors clean and improve indoor air quality. Vacuums—available in several configurations, including upright and canister models—offer versatile cleanup for a variety of flooring types, while steamers can provide deep cleaning for carpets and hard floors. A central vacuum, built into the structure of your home, is expensive, but it streamlines vacuuming chores because you don't need to drag a heavy machine around your house to clean the floors.

Product Features

Product Features

Although features will vary greatly depending on the type of appliance you are purchasing, you'll want to look for features that enhance convenience and ensure safety. You may also want to look for features that help you customize the product to suit your needs—whether that means being able to run the appliance at various speeds or being able to change the look with a custom panel. In general, here are a few smart features to consider when shopping for appliances.

Easy-to-Use Controls

Whatever the appliance, the controls should be convenient and easy to read. Digital controls can offer more precise options, but they may be more difficult to learn how to use. Consider what type of technology you feel most comfortable with, and look for safety features as needed to keep your family safe. (For example, you might want to consider lock-out controls on cooktops and ovens to ensure children don't accidentally turn on these appliances.)

Easy-Clean Surfaces

A variety of appliances include features that make them easier to clean. The smooth tops of electric cooktops make them easy to wipe down, while sealed burners on gas cooktops can ease cleaning tasks. Faux stainless-steel finishes available on many kitchen appliances can give you a professional look while resisting fingerprints.

Replaceable/Washable Filters

Many types of appliances—including air purifiers, vacuums, and refrigerators with in-the-door water and ice—include some sort of filter. Make sure these filters are easy to access when you need to replace or clean them. Also, be sure to find out the cost of replacement filters before buying the appliance.

Versatile Style Options

Consider features that let you customize the look of your appliances. Many kitchen appliances allow you to add a custom cabinet panel to the front to integrate the appliance with surrounding cabinetry. Ceiling fans with reversible blades let you easily change the look of a room without a lot of hassle.

Adjustable/Variable Settings

Look for features that allow you to customize the appliance for your specific needs. For example, many dishwashers come with adjustable racks to accommodate different dinnerware, and vacuums often include variable floor settings to better clean both bare floors and carpet. Adjustable settings can also help you control the noise level on humidifiers and air purifiers.

Purchase Considerations

Purchase Considerations

As you are comparing appliances, think about how you'll use the appliance and how much space you have, as well as how much capacity you require. Knowing where you plan to install the appliance will help you find the best model for your needs. Also take time to compare energy efficiency, as appliances have a large impact on your monthly utility bill. Consider what features will be more convenient for you, and look for colors or finishes that make the appliance as stylish as it is practical.

Convenience

No matter what type of appliance you are purchasing, be sure to look for models with features that will streamline chores, such as easy-to-use controls and easy-clean surfaces. Timers and delay-start options allow you to run the appliance when it won't interfere with other activities or when electricity rates are lower. Good lighting in refrigerators will make it easier to see food stored inside, and an on/off switch on the handle of a vacuum is easier to reach. Many of these features may not seem essential, but you'll be glad to have them if you use the appliance regularly.

Energy Efficiency

Appliances account for almost 20 percent of the average household's energy use, and many new appliances are much more energy-efficient than older models—so upgrading appliances can significantly lower your monthly utility bill. When shopping, look for the Energy Star label. Appliances that are Energy Star-certified use less energy than standard models and are tested to ensure overall quality and performance.

Safety

A well-designed appliance can help you keep your family safe. When shopping, look for safety features such as hot-surface indicator lights on cooktops, auto shut-off features on irons, and child lock-out controls on ranges and ovens. Be sure to carefully read the manufacturer's instructions, and use the appliance in the way it was intended. Take extra precautions if young children are in the home; for example, you'll want to make sure a humidifier can't be pulled off a shelf, and opt for a cool-mist humidifier rather than a warm-mist model in children's rooms.

Style/Finish

Stainless steel is a popular finish for kitchen appliances and can help you create a cooking zone with a sophisticated, professional look. Many other household appliances, such as vacuums, humidifiers, and irons, are available in bold colors and sophisticated designs. Washers and dryers are also available in colors so you can make a style statement in your laundry room, too.

Placement/Installation

Knowing where you will install the appliance helps you determine the best type to purchase. For example, do you want to install your microwave oven on the countertop or over the range? Different models are designed for different installations. Will you install your washer and dryer under a countertop? Then opt for front-loading machines. Or choose stackable units if you want to corral your laundry-room clutter in a closet. When looking at cooking appliances, keep in mind that you'll need adequate ventilation—so choose a range or cooktop that won't overpower your current range hood, or plan to purchase a larger ventilation unit. If you plan to purchase an air purifier, place it in a bedroom or another area that's used frequently to maximize the effectiveness of the unit.

Size

Be sure you carefully measure your space before heading out to the store so you can be sure your appliance will fit well in the allotted space. Consider capacity as well as size to ensure you'll have enough space in your refrigerator or freezer to accommodate regular shopping trips, and room enough in your washer and dryer to easily handle laundry chores.

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