Honest opinions about how to buy Appliances and Lighting.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Upscale Frigidaire?

Frigidaire's story always intrigued me. They were actually part of GM until 1973ish and were renown for the quality of the product. One cannot help but appreciate the irony.

Anyway for the next 20 or so years, they meandered between owners and hit rock bottom, only to be purchased by Electrolux. I really like this company, simply because they realized a huge loss by shutting and modernizing plants only to be more successful later with better, less expensive product.

They were also the first company to mass manufacture stainless steel appliances and own significant share in this category to this day. Their cooking product has been excellent and really drives their brand. For GE it's refrigeration, Whirlpool would be laundry and for Bosch it's dishwashers.

Frigidaire's dishwashers have always been rather cheap and almost appendage to a Frigidaire kitchen.

Until now...Have a look

Integrated all stainless dishwasher at $499 after rebate.....very nice.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bosch French Door

Bosch is a different company. These guys can overlook everything important in the appliance business and somehow still succeed. Their formula of unique product has worked along with some great dishwasher and laundry products.

But nobody stays lucky and good forever. Their problem of not marketing lesser expensive products is an issue especially now...Their other issue is not featuring a competitive french door...until now.

Behold (March availability)

Very like-able aesthetically as all Bosch's are...BUT, it is not shallow depth, which is 65% of the market. Ouch.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

GE French Doors

I was never a fan of GE. They had tons of products under several different labels with zero value propositions for customers, GE Profile, GE, Hotpoint, the now defunct RCA.

Two years ago, they launched GE Cafe with great new product and very different style. Special note to manufacturers and "branders" alike: People buy products first and labels second, and labels succeed only because of the product.

The success of GE can also be attributed to their new french door products. French doors are side by side refrigerators with a bottom freezer. So while Whirlpool, LG, and Frigidaire were focused elsewhere, GE stole the market with LED lighting, bigger sizes and more current styling.

Have a look at their best: The Profile PFSS9SKYSS

At approximately $2700, this is a little high subtract the all encompassing informational dispenser with just a regular one... and the scaled down piece is $350 less.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Encouraging Message to All Bostonians

Visited Miami last few days on a seminar. In a way, Miami and Boston are similar (other than culture, music, lifestyle and weather). Both cities hit their peak in the 1940s or 50s, and then as the jobs moved out, crime and decay moved in.

Then at different times, both cities were revitalized by development by the water. Boston had Fanueil Hall and Miami had South Beach. Then later it mushroomed from there. Both became desirable places to live, so people were moving back to the cities.

Except lately. Miami has available land, so they kept building and building, whereas Boston is landlocked and really cannot with a few exceptions. Have a look at Pat and several such buildings.

I stopped counting at 47 mostly empty buildings on one street alone. So imagine if you are trying to sell your home. You have lost a ton of value. In Boston, because we could not build, prices have mostly stabilized. Building and remodeling have started to return. Thus we will pull out of the recession/depression/shock early than cities like Vegas, Stockton and Miami.

Sometimes its better to be lucky...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Most Popular Post Ever

Don Henley once wrote "The more I know the less I understand". I look at the 820 posts and this one is by far the most popular...Its not my early thought provoking stuff, nor is it about SubZero, LED, Viking, GE or Bosch..

Its about NXR....Why? Here is the post with a How to afterward.

Features to Consider when buying a pro range

1. Self clean or not....?
2. Regular gas or dual fuel?
3. Grill or griddle option?
4. Low simmer/Higher output

Best Names

Simmer...Thermador...150 degrees is the lowest
Price....Viking(open burner units)
Oven.....Wolf(double convection)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Gas Vs Electric Cooking

Why have I never written this post before? Clients ask all the time. Here is the definitive answer...

Gas: The burners are more responsive with less residual heat.

Electric: Slower on the top, more even in actual cooking

Dual Fuel: Makes sense when you think about it...Gas on the top and electric below (best of both worlds)....before you run out and buy one...Electric needs 50 amp/ 220 volt. A regular gas is just 120 volt.

Induction: Magnetic (electric) heat on the surface. Faster, more efficient and better in every way...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cree and LED

The cover of Investors Business Daily features Cree, a prime manufacturer of LED and a subject of frequent postings on the Yale Blog. Evidently, they blew away their earnings yesterday, far over estimates.

For commercial and industrial users, LED is almost a requirement, because the payback is almost immediate. LEDs are 90 percent efficient, emit almost zero heat and have a lamp life of 15-20 years.

So, a store planner can reduce the electrical, the HVAC (less heat to remove) and way less maintenance for bulb replacement, which is handy given these are three of the largest store expenses.

But the article also said they are looking at the residential market, which is curious...as they are already there.

Basic premise to homeowners is similar to commercial, LED will save energy, AC and heat and will require zero maintenance...Although the initial costs are higher, the payback in just energy is a little over three years.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Happened to Casablanca?

A couple of statistics for you: 46% of people have moved away from premium brands and 31% are so satisfied with lesser brands, they will never return. Brands, whether SubZero, Yale, Walmart or Sears must have a distinct value proposition or they risk losing more customers than ever.

So much for business philosophy...

Now look at it in practice: Casablanca started when a gentlemen named Burton C. Burton (not a typo) bought and copied some fans from New Orleans and then designed a bunch more named after California towns like Capistrano, Panama and Estrada. He then launched an ambitious R&D program for controls, and created the Intellitouch and other revolutionary remote fan controls.

It was so ambitious that the company went bankrupt and changed hands a bunch of times. Flash forward 10 years, Casablanca is no longer original, just expensive. Simply because, they haven't invested into their company. Now, they are about to lose more market share due to ironically, design and price.

Let me show you:

Casablanca average $450-700 (with lights)

Competition $279-350

RIP Casablanca?

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Lighting

I was pleasantly surprised by the new offerings. A few years ago, a VC group purchased some big companies, Tech Lighting, LBL, Murray Feiss and Seagull. As you might have guessed, 2009 wasn't the best year for lighting, combine that with massive debt, and you have chapter 11....This should have had an adverse effect on new designs and products...

Alas, I am wrong, because there will be really beautiful products available in 90-100 days...

Have a look:

Friday, January 15, 2010

One Sink is Better Than Two

I don't post much about plumbing, but it's an integral part of our store. It's also easy to buy. You buy a sink based on gauge, which is the nickel content composition within the sink. Lower is better, and the minimum should be 18...

The next requirements are a bit more obvious....Depth (deeper will hold bigger pans) and width. Sinks will match the base cabinets of 24, 30, 33 and 38 inches.

10 years ago, this sink was extremely popular...

I never understood the reason. Dividing a sink in this way is inefficient for washing bigger pots. It was popular, probably because the manufacturers didn't market a large single. Franke was the first, but at $1200 it wasn't exactly a bargain.
Now you can buy these styles under $600...

Have a look:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Lighting in Dallas

Every year in January, we buy new lighting in Dallas
I will post the new products next week...

However, if you want to see them now, I posted them on Twitter. My Twitter name is Yaleceo
Just friend me and have a look. Against the protestations of the lighting managers, I bought this Morocan chandelier. Hopefully, I am not the only one who likes it

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mea Culpa

Perhaps you noticed a slight drop in post quantity....I am having issues with the camera, and Pat has been promoted out of my jurisdiction...Thus, I am left to figure this contraption by myself.

I have 3 posts ready to go...sinks, stoves and the Dallas Lighting Show. Every year, manufacturers show their new products in Dallas, so it is always interesting or disappointing depending on the year. Hopefully, LED will play a more significant role.

So let me leave you with a question you must ask when buying appliances:

Who services this product? 15% of new appliances will need service and/or adjustment.

Most appliance manufacturers such as Frigidaire, Electrolux, Samsung, LG do not offer their own service and others like Bosch and Whirlpool have either minimized or entered into joint venture. Thus, you are totally at the mercy of your dealer or an independent servicer....and there aren't many who will fix products in warranty.

So before buying (best time) ask that question...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How to Light a Kitchen

10 years ago, I probably would not have written this post. However, the merging of kitchens and dining has created more to illuminate....

Let me show you how:

Task Lighting: This is the skeleton of the plan. It is recessed or track as the overhead with undercabinet lighting for the counters. Approximate spacing for the recessed/track should be 18-24 inches from the cabinet and 3-4 feet apart.

Accent: Highlighting objects. Typically a low voltage track or recessed targeting a piece of art or glass (Crate and Barrel does this very well).

Decorative: Chandeliers, pendants and sconces. Yes they can also provide other functions, but should not be relied upon for task applications.

Ambient: The most neglected element of lighting is the hardest to explain. Ambient is ceiling illumination or up lighting.....Creates a warmer atmosphere.

Monday, January 11, 2010

GE vs Frigidaire

I have to respect Electrolux. They bought Frigidaire in 1993, and promptly shuttered the factories and retooled. They were the first to aggressively market stainless steel by 5 years. They have dominated the lower middle to middle commodity products.

Until now. GE has lowered their prices to compete in this segment. The best two (non Bosch) well capitalized companies are now vying for business. Ultimately You will win, but which is better...and is the GE stated strategy just marketing or actual execution.

Lets look at a couple of popular ranges:


The GE 5 burner range in stainless is $999...Nice range, but the Frigidaire has a griddle burner as well as convection for $200 less.


GE is better looking with stainless handles and accents, but it is 10% more.

Perhaps there will be more price changes next month.

Friday, January 08, 2010

How to Buy a Pro Cooktop

Really easy post. Cooktops really accomplish two functions. They heat and simmer. Typically a high output burner on a professional unit is about 15,000 BTU in comparison, a 10 year old range is 10-12,000 BTU. A lower simmer should be around 700BTU

Professional cooktops are great at both, but before you spend $2300 dollars, look at this Miele with two high output burners at almost $1000 less as regular cooktops are becoming more powerful

For a versatile high output with low simmer 15,000 at the high and 500 BTU at the low
look at Wolf

For the best simmer, look at Thermador, which is intermittent at an almost frigid 200 BTU

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

How To Buy Appliances

How to buy appliances...first post of the year promises to be long. First question is what appliances, so lets assume a kitchen of everything.

The mindset:

Start with a budget and not the budget plus 30%...lets be disciplined.

Step 1: Is it replacement or resell.

Replacement is easy. Go to step 2. Resale is different. I would first look at comps in your area, and buy at least at that level or greater. Name brands like SubZero at the high end, and Bosch in the middle are enticing. For example, the two ranges below are the same, but one says Bosch and the other Frigidaire...Buy the Bosch. People are enamored of brands (what shirt are you wearing now?) just be mindful.

Step 2: What do you use/ what will you use?

Features like convection, fifth elements and power elements are great if you use them or will use them....if not buy the cheaper unit and save the dough. In this case the difference between a straight self cleaning and convection double oven is about $550.

Step 4: Rebates...I have said this before. Rebates could be up to 30% of the products value. If we look at the affordable luxury segment of Bosch, Frigidaire Professional, GE Cafe and KitchenAid with similar features, rebates could be the clincher....These brands will all cook, clean and refrigerate. $1,000 rebate difference would convince me...Have a look

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Winter Classic

Gearing up for another year of blogging. It will be our fourth year as we now have over 800 separate posts.

By reading this blog, you should be able to buy appliances more confidently by understanding features, benefits and of course rebates.

You will also be familiar with all different aspects of lighting and how to apply them. Basic elements being decorative, task, accent and ambient lighting. Yes, you will be your own lighting designer.

On Wenesday, we will start with a general, how to buy appliances in 2010. Then a general lighting post and plumbing post.

For now, have a look at the greatest sports event in Boston in a long time...The Winter Classic hockey game in Fenway Park...Wednesday, we go to work...