Honest opinions about how to buy Appliances and Lighting.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Did I really Say That

Following is an article in todays Boston Globe. There is no question that top mounts(freezer on the top) have declined in popularity in recent years. However, it is still the least expensive option per cubic foot and also the largest refrigerator at 21 cubic foot within a 30 inch space

I do like that my name is spelled correctly and they did use the word ubiquitious, which means to be everywhere. I love that word

The basic white fridge is a dinosaur
February 28, 2007

It's hard to imagine life without a refrigerator. But the modern refrigerator only became a ubiquitous household appliance in the 1950s. Before that, people kept food cool by storing it outside in cold weather, in cellars, or in insulated boxes that were packed with ice.

Today, refrigerators are the biggest category at stores such as Yale Appliance and Lighting, where director of sales and marketing Steven Sheinkopf says these kitchen essentials range in price from $500 or $600 for a standard box to as high as $12,000 for a designer, commercial-style fridge.
The basic white freezer-over-fridge model looks like a dinosaur compared to those with stainless steel finishes or "integrated design" models that match the wood or other exteriors of cabinets; these seem to disappear into the kitchen's decor.
Sheinkopf predicts that sales of stainless steel fridges, that "go with everything," will remain strong for the foreseeable future. New models keep popping up, such as one with side-by-side doors and a freezer underneath, called a French Door. In any case, these innovations will continue to undermine sales of the basic white box. -- LEIGH BELANGER

Buying Service Contracts

Service contracts are extensions to the manufacturers warranty, which can be either parts, labor or both. The most common warranty in the appliance industry is a 5 year, which is actually 4 years plus the manufacturers original 1 year. Think of it as year 2-5 coverage.

There are many people who believe good products should work. I respect that. That thinking would bankrupt the insurance industry, but in theory, good products should operate for longer than 5 years. Statistically, our service department completed 15,000 service calls in warranty, so there are a good fraction of new products for whatever reason need repair.

The pricing structure should be very simple. usually a 5 year warranty will cost $99-199 on basic products and more on expensive products like SubZeros and professional products depending on the store

The question of whether to actually purchase a service contract becomes strangely complicated. You buy a service contract from anywhere. The first question is: Who fixes it? The number 2,3 and 4 volume appliance dealers have limited appliance service technicians in their organizations. On the Internet, it is even worse. How can an Internet store from New Jersey service an appliance in Boston or Boise. Think about it. Yale is one store and completes over 15,000 calls per year. Can you imagine a chain of stores. My point is do not invest the money on service when a company cannot by its very nature can complete the transaction

I do not want to turn this into a service rant. My purpose is to educate, so don't plunk down your hard earned money on a contract that may be worth only as much as the paper and ink

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Most Efficient Dishwashers Available

To be honest, dishwashers are not as compelling as clothes washers in terms of water and electricity savings. As discussed in previous posts, use the air dry and shorter cycles(which do not heat the water as much) for maximum efficiency.

List as follows:

Asko, D3531, 194 KWH and 141% better than the Federal Energy Standard.
Asko D3531

Bosch/Thermador, 290 KWH and 61% better than the Federal Energy Standard.
Bosch SHE56

Frigidaire, 309 KWH and 57% better than the Federal Energy Standard.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Most Energy Efficient Washers Available

I saw Inconvenient Truth last night. It was moving to say the least, and I would recommend it as a must see. Personally, I am apolitical and fairly skeptical. We started The Green Project to demonstrate that they could save money, lots of money, by switching to energy efficient appliances. Another benefit is the savings of water and energy, which in turn is good for the environment.

To review, an average energy star washer is now 3.5-4 cubic feet, uses about 10-15 gallons of water and about 210 Kilowatts per year. The average top loader is still 2.4 cubic feet (without the agitator) uses about 42 gallons of water and about 420 Kilowatts per year. We used the Energystar guide of 8 loads per week when calculating the numbers. The numbers are even more pronounced if we consider the sizing difference. In other words, the front loader is 40% larger on average, so theoretically there would be 40% less usage with the same laundry.

There is no question that the dollar savings is substantial in water, sewer and electricity costs as well as the environmental benefit. Following are the most energy efficient washers on the market today.

Bosch WFMC3301, Average KWH 182 and 90% better than the Federal Energy Standards.
Bosch WFMC3301

Bosch WFMC6401, Average KWH 176 and 93% better than the Federal Energy Standards.
Bosch WFMC6401

Miele W4840, Average KWH 186 and 90% better than the Federal Energy Standards.
Miele W4840

Compact Machines 24" or less-

ASKO W6461, Average KWH 127 and 98% better than the Federal Energy Standards.
Asko W6461

Miele W1113, W1119 and W1930 Average KWH 113 and 62% better than the Federal Energy Standards.
Miele W1113

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My Favorite Lighting

This yet another totally biased blog entry. What further complicates matters is that I have contemporary tastes. The important idea behind this blog is understanding the importance of lighting. Well designed lighting does not have to cost a fortune and is integral to the environment.

Undercounter lighting: CSL, Seagull Ambience

Think about it. Meals are prepared on counters. Placing lights on the cabinets above is a good idea.

CSL is a strip of halogen lights that is available in varying lengths.

Seagull Ambience is a low voltage cable that allows for greater flexibility. Ambience is also low voltage, so it emits a whiter light.
Seagull Ambiance

Pendants: Techlighting, Hudson Valley

The demand for pendants increased dramatically with larger kitchens. As previously discussed, the kitchen and formal dining area have combined to form one "great" room in most new homes. Usually, there is a type of island in the plan. Pendants(essentially small fixtures) have become the light for these areas.

Techlighting is the premier contemporary pendant company with a profusion of color and styles.
Tech Pendants

Hudson Valley is a very decent transitional to traditional line of pendants and fixtures. Hudson also manufactures some great period pieces and most of the products are under $120.
Hudson Valley

Wrought Iron: Hubbardton Forge.

Wrought iron has become increasingly popular in transitional and traditional adaptations. Hubbardton stull forges lighting by hand.
Hubbardton Forge

Crystal: Schonbek

I say crystal, and the image that immediately runs through brains is your grandmas house(not that it is a bad thing) Crystal is incredibly interesting. Look at Geometrix from Schonbek.
Schonbek Geometrix

Monorail: Techlighting

Think of it is very updated track that is bendable and with the ability to light track heads and/or fixtures.
Tech Track

Bulbs: Compact Fluorescent, Krypton bulbs

The equation is simple 13 watts fluorescent equals over 50 watts incandescent.
Compact Fluorescent

Krypton bulbs are beautiful bulbs for chandeliers. They also use much less energy.
Krypton Bulb

Traditional: Visual Comfort

VC has some great heavier traditional pieces that even I appreciate.
Visual Comfort

Monday, February 12, 2007


These are few of my favorite appliances. Without question, this is a totally biased column.

KitchenAid compactor: This unit compacts 4 bags of trash into 1. If your chore is to carry trash outside on a freezing cold night, hitting a button is a viable option.
KitchenAid Compactor

Miele Nespresso: I almost became readdicted to coffee after we had one operational in the store. The coffee is fantastic, and it allows up to six different blends as options.
Miele Coffee System

SubZero wine storage. For about the price of an upscale cabinet, try this instead. SubZero is the only product designed for proper wine storage with two distinct temperature zones, a low E glass door that refracts light and safeguards for proper humidity and vibration control.
Sub-Zero Wine Storage

Steam oven/module: By adding moisture(steam), none of the nutrients are lost like conventional ovens. The food just tastes better as well. You can even bake brownies in these ovens.
Gaggenau Steam Oven

TurboChef Oven: Easy interface and a product with a hip retro design that cooks 3-15 times faster than a regular oven. It is new, so lets see if it works.
TurboChef Oven

Marvel Icemaker: 35 pounds of clear ice in 24 hours...After all, you can never have too much ice.
Marvel Ice Maker

Miele full size washer and dryer: It is larger(4.0 cubic) and uses only about 10 gallons of water versus 42 for a top loader. Miele also has a great control and a honeycomb drum that is the most gentle on clothes of any brand. Last year only 10 out of 19,000 service visits from our repair department were for Miele products.
Miele Laundry

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Best Appliances on the Market

I am not advocating that people should shell out 8,000 for a refrigerator or 5,000 for a wall oven. When renovating or selling a home at the top end of the market, buyers expect certain names in that category. They will not check the shingle or the heating system, but one look in the kitchen will identify to them the type of quality of construction.

Following are products to consider:

Refrigerator: SubZero, Thermador Freedom.

SubZero is the name in the appliance business with an 88% awareness level with consumers. They do manufacture a great product with 2 compressors, vacuum seal and magnetic crispers, which are designed to keep food fresher longer.
Sub-Zero Fridge

The Thermador Freedom collection is brand new. It is designed in "towers" or components meaning the refrigerator and freezer are not attached so they can be placed anywhere. The whole line is integrated, so it fits inside a cabinet.
Freedom Fridge Freedom Freezer

Pro Stove: Viking, Wolf

Viking is basically the inventor of Pro ranges back in 1989. The Viking look is still a signature in most high end homes.
Viking Range

Wolf is owned by SubZero and is a real innovator in this category with 2 convection fans, light up knobs and retractable clock.
Wolf Range

Wall Oven: Wolf, Miele

Miele is a great wall oven. The company outsources almost nothing so their repair rate is excellent, and Miele has a rotisserie, pizza stone and the Master Chef control system. Master Chef will allow a consumer to cook any dish using preprogrammed recipes. The interface is incredibly easy, but then again company does have 270 people just manufacturing controls.
Miele Wall Oven

Wolf is another interesting product. The controls retract and like their pro range, Wolf employs 2 convection fans for even baking.
Wolf Wall Oven

Dishwasher: Fisher-Paykel, Miele and Bosch

There is something about dishwasher drawers that seems to intrigue people. Fisher-Paykel uses two drawers instead of the standard standard dishwasher one door. It is also offered as a single drawer as well.
Fisher & Paykel Dishdrawer

Miele manufacturers the most upscale dishwashers over $1000. They have unique features such as plate guard plus and unique drying capabilities in an incredible reliable machine that is designed to safeguard china, crystal and silverware.
Miele Dishwasher

Bosch is the most popular selling dishwasher in the high end. Quietness and high temperature washing are the hallmarks of this dishwasher.
Bosch Dishwasher

Induction Cooktop: Thermador

There are many induction tops in the market, but the Thermador has a center element that is lightning quick.
Thermador Induction

There are certainly other brands and products of note: Coffee systems, compactors, warming drawers and steam ovens, for example. We will cover them in later posts for further differentiation.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More stainless

So you have warmed to the idea of replacing your existing appliances with stainless steel. That is a good start. As I have said in my last post, it is cost effective, because there are no contractors, permits, etc. Of course, you should always check your options. Granite counters are another excellent investment for resale as are cabinets and bath fixtures. Stainless appliances are the least painful financially and time consuming.

At a certain selling point, a renovator has to decide whether it is worth spending money for more upscale equipment. In the Boston world of inflated real estate, the category is 450 to 750,000. At this level, you should consider a certain wow factor, so the appliances have a more active role in selling the unit. Consider this: we all know the shingle on the roof, the HVAC system and the basement are more important than the appliances, but when was the last time anyone ever asked about any of these critical features.

People understand brands. The upside of knowing this is picking the right brand, and you do not have to spend a fortune doing so. Buy a well known brand like Jenn-Air or KitchenAid and spend under $5,000

Here are two of my favorites

The Jenn-Air pro has a slide in convection range with a French door refrigerator, integrated dishwasher and over the range microwave. I love the handle style.
Jenn-Air Package

The KitchenAid package has a more "softer" handle style and a side by side instead of a french door refrigerator.
KitchenAid Package

As we sit here in Feb 2007, these options are less than 5,000. Next couple of posts will be the most upscale products on the market

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Basic Stainless Steel Kitchens

I was in appliance sales before my evolution(or demotion) to marketing. Its funny, but people who are very different would ask the same question. "What would you buy for your house" they would ask, looking for the magic answer.

The reality is that there is no right answer. People have different syles, spatial constraints and needs, so there can be no one size fits all remedy. The next few posts will be dedicated to consumers that either want to "flip" their units quickly or in the next few years

In the 90s and early 2000s, it really did not matter what people purchased, because real estate sold itself regardless of its offering and contents. When real estate slowed in 2006, buyers could be more selective. Sellers now have to actually sell or differentiate their units for the first time in almost 20 years.

But what if you purchased a unit at the height of the market and did not have a horde of money to invest in the property? The two best rooms to invest in a home are without question the kitchen and bath. Of these areas, the cheapest way to upgrade without spending much is by purchasing stainless steel appliances. Of course, I am biased, but there are no permits, contractors or hassles when simply changing existing units. The purchase price of a basic stainless steel kitchen with decent appliances is roughly $2000.
Maytag Package

$2200 buys a pro style kitchen with a convection oven and larger refrigerator with icemaker
Frigidaire Professional Package

$3299 buys a french door refrigerator with decent equipment.
Amana Package

Quick tip: Stay within the same brand because rebates increase dispropotionately to the amount of pieces purchased. There will also be a uniformity of styles.