Honest opinions about how to buy Appliances and Lighting.

Friday, October 30, 2009

How To Choose a Decorative Light

When I was a young lad (how often I say this these days), the proper way to size a light was 24 inches off the table and 12 inches less in diameter. It makes sense in a static way. You don't want the light in your face nor do you want to konk your head when leaving the table.

However, styles have changed. Kitchen and formal dining have changed into one great area. This has certainly impacted how we view decorative lighting. Now you are more likely to light an island and peninsula than a table. Pendants (smaller fixtures) of all types become more appropriate.

I only have one suggestion. Buy what you like. Decorative lighting is only a part of the lighting plan with ambient, task and accent being the other elements. Now perhaps, you can consider some really different pieces.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chef Classes October 31/November 1

Two worthwhile demonstrations this weekend:

Steve Brand of Upstairs on the Square will be October 31. I love this place. It is three stories of interesting decor and eclectic food.

Website address: www.upstairsonthesquare.com

Chef German Lam demonstrates on November 1. He specializes in healthy cooking. Perhaps he can do something with the 100 cookies we bake every day.

Website address: www.glamfoodsllc.com

Two Minute Training: Undercabinet Lighting

I have this new idea. Rather than reading my stream of consciousness with a few pics, we will explain each topic using Youtube videos.

In the meantime, meet Robert Joyce, Lighting Manager.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How To Buy an Over The Range Microwave

I remember when microwaves were the rage in the 80s. It was new technology invented by Amana and Litton, and everyone had to own one. 20 years later and it is no longer buzz worthy. With one exception, the over the range (OTR) microwave.

This product actually makes sense...It is space saving, places the all the cooking in one general area and combines the ventilation feature.

Now here is how you buy one:

First, buy the match to the stove, microwaves are pretty similar in terms of features and style...The looks are different

In a basic upgrade (within the manufacturer), you will have more capacity (unit is a bit taller) and more automatic programs.

Better models:

Convection: Can cook as an oven, microwave or both using the combination settings. Using both will save you half the time without losing flavor or texture.

Advantium: Cooks up to 8 times faster using high powered halogen light bulbs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Borrowed Butler

As the cooking season approaches, we will be hosting cooking demos with chefs. This sunday is Carol Macinnis from The Borrowed Butler...Excellent food, BTW

Time is noon, and she is sponsored by Wolf. On the menu is lasagna and a rustica

Maybe this is not a good space to ask what exactly a rustica is, but I guess we will

find out tomorrow

The Return of The Table Lamp

Have a look at Daren Lechner's (our designer) new display.

His displays have always been eclectic and different whereas this is modern and coolly professional. I like eclectic or a blend of many different types of styles.

Moving on, kitchen and bath are the only places which need really well planned illumination. You may need it in the hallways, so you don't clang your head at night. For the most part, in other areas, you turn it off to sleep, watch television or conserve energy (had to toss that in).

For this reason table lamps are efficient. They are portable and an effective reading or task light. A lamp can add to the style of the room, but most importantly, does not have to be considered in a fixture plan and can be added later.

Lets look at a few...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to Choose a Front Load Washer

Ok so you are purchasing a new front load washer. Good. These machines have twice the capacity while utilizing 1/3 the water and half the electricity, they also are gentler on your clothes and require less drying time.

Let's look at a few...

Here are the key differences...

1 Size: Big range of sizes yet all are much larger than a top loader. The smallest is 3.5 cubic foot, but the Electrolux tops at 4.7 cubic feet, which is double the conventional capacity.

2. Heat: The better models will heat an additional 20 degrees for whiter whites.

3. Spin: Higher spin speeds will extract more water for less drying. The average to load is 400 rpm, the average front loader is 3 times that with Miele topping out at 1600 rpm's.

4. Controls: The best machines are fully programmable down to the fabric type. Electrolux even has a 17 minute quick cycle.

5. Steam. Steam helps loosen stains on fabrics. Look at Whirlpool, LG, and Bosch for a reasonable price on a steam feature.

6. Rebates: Tons of different rebate at set times. Enough to change brands? Absolutely.

As I always caution, you don't have to over buy to purchase a very good machine...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dishwasher Controls - Front vs Integrated

I am in Chicago sans computer...good time as any to show a couple dishwashers

Regular style: controls on the front.

Integrated: controls on the top.

Love the look, but it will cost you 150 more for the same features.

A word about dishwashers: a cycle is time and temperature...so a delicate cycle is less time at a lower temperature.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Commercial LED

How was your Sunday? I spent mine in the Brookline gymnasium at their Green Expo. We showed LED recessed and undercabinet lighting.

This is Bob Joyce and said display...

But look at this new product. Cree is now marketing to the commercial/semi commercial space...

This LED drop-in replaces a 196 watt fluorescent...total wattage is only 24 with better color than its fluorescent counterpart.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change

Pat tells me its Blog Action Day. Climate change is this years topic. The Yale Blog was inspired by a Canadien who said we could all clean up our world one corner at a time. Green was the most popular topic of the day with the Inconvenient Truth and other byproducts of an overheated world.

As I have spent 3 years researching and 2.5 blogging, we can effectively lower our power consumption and affect climate change at the same time. It really isn't hard, and yes you will pay more initially, but you will have an almost immediate payback.

Change a world, change a bulb:

In a previous post, I showed a whopping $100 savings per month by using LED bulbs. You probably are not going to spend that kind of dough, so buy compact fluorescents. 60% more efficiency, 10 times the life and 2/3 less heat than an incandescent. Buy it at 2700 degree Kelvins, so the light will be similar to an incandescent.

They don't make them like they used to....thank heavens.

Your 20 year old refrigerator in the basement is costing you $200-250 per year to operate. Your old top load washer has 50% less capacity and is costing between $100-150 a year more to operate than a front loader....These things aren't antiques and have increasing value.

Its simple. Conserve, but use better technology. We use less power, less electricity, less resources...better climate.

Its in There

Lets look at a line of fixtures and lamps from Holtkotter

This is really beautiful product. But why is this Holtkotter lamp...

More expensive than this lamp from their competitor Besa?

Simple. Its manufactured better: Better materials, metals and finish....Lighting has always been different than appliances. In appliances there are different levels of good with a small percentage between the best and the rest of the pack.

Lighting has three levels, the best, good and throw away. The best would be companies like Holtkotter with better materials, sockets, so the light will look better in comparison to the cheaper competition.

Good is typically a copy or knock off of the better original.

A throw away is a cheap copy of the original: Here is how to spot one so you don't pay an electrician twice.

1. Hangs crooked
2. Transformer buzzes
3. String is frayed
4. Light flickers

Would I buy a good light...sure. Is the best worth it? Like anything, that depends...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day?

I never understood Columbus Day. How can someone discover something when people were already there? But it is interesting to see retailers usurp holidays as marketing opportunities: Presidents Day, Valentines Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Christmas, which is now defined as Halloween to roughly January 1.

If you want to time a sale properly, look for any holiday when Monday is a holiday. That's the key. Except of course for friends and family, Presidential stimuli (plural for a reason) and cash for clunkers.

In the meantime,in a recession understand as the consumer you have great power over people like me and huge industrial companies. Let's look at an example...

You are looking at some of Bosch's best appliance...approximately 25% cheaper than it was 2 years ago. Not bad.

Friday, October 09, 2009

My Thanks

We now have 77 friends (not including Twitter)...pretty amazing. Always good to have friends.

Thank you to the folks at NSTAR and National Grid for comarketing us for the $169 rebate. Somehow selling EnergyStar refrigerators at $349 seems much easier.

Now lets learn...Get your video players ready. This is an oldie, but goodie...

Incandescent first then LED equivalent...

If you look at the way the incandescent (which is only 10% efficient and emits 300 degrees) spins the meter...think of what 12 will do...

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Lets look at Bosch dishwashers:

What's strange is half are 2009 and the other half are 2010. I cannot tell the difference, so I probably wouldn't spend the extra money for a 2010.

All you need to know about dishwashers in general:

1. Cycles: Monitor time and temperature. For example, a delicate cycle is less time with no heat boost. Pots and pans is a longer cycle with heat.

2. Drying: Typical European dishwasher has no heat drying as the residual heat from the wash combined with Jet Dry will dry the dishes. American dishwashers have an added heat (and energy) dry as an extra option.

3. Controls: Controls could be on the face or hidden on the top.

4. Filter: American dishwashers have a grinder, and Europeans have a filter.

5. Quietness (funny nobody asks if they actually clean): Although all are better than your present dishwasher..Typically the Europeans will be quieter, but the difference between the quietest brands and models is not detectable by the human ear.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sign of the Times

Most manufacturers are caught. The life cycle of a product between idea, design, development, manufacture and then to the store is around 3 years. Flash back 3 years ago and the appliance industry was on a roll with record shipments.

Well times have changed. In June, appliance shipments nationally were down 29%, which begs the simple question: What about all the new products designed from when times were good.

In order to keep factories working, most manufacturers have offered rebates, which are 10-25% of the product. Electrolux has opted for a more radical approach...

They give it away.

Lets look at this professional range. Its decent with two self cleaning convection ovens and 6 burners (no grill or griddle, however.)

The $1500 hood is free with purchase...probably not on the drawing boards 3 years ago.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Less is More

For no apparent reason, lets discuss cooking or more specifically the differences between slide in and freestanding stoves...

Basically, freestanding stoves have controls on the back and slide-ins have the controls on the front.

Have a look...



The Electrolux freestanding and slide-in are pictured for a reason, because the slide in is on average $500 more. Slide-ins look cleaner in a kitchen. Without a backguard, you can customize your backsplash.

The skinny: Slide-in nicer, freestanding less expensive...

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Annuity

As you know, we have a partnership with NStar and National Grid and are rebating EnergyStar refrigerators $169.

So this Frigidaire 17 cubic foot becomes $349 after your rebate...

With energy standards improving at 18 cents a kWH to run, you will save over $100 versus the same refrigerator purchased just 10 years ago, and over $200 savings over one purchased 20 years ago...

Not a bad deal for $349.