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3 things you should ask yourself BEFORE you buy an appliance
- How am I going to use this appliance and how long do I expect it to last?
- Is this an appliance that will match accompanying appliances?
- Who would you LIKE to buy your appliances from?
Energy Savings: Refrigerators use up a lot of energy because they have to be kept on at all times. That being said, an Energy Star-rated fridge won’t save you that much compared to other new fridges — about $75 a year, according to Markovich. That can add up to quite a bit of money over time, however, and if you inherited your current fridge from your grandma, the energy savings is much more considerable.
Models: Refrigerators come in a number of different styles: you can get one with the freezer on top, the freezer on the bottom or the two side by side. Our panel of experts declared the bottom freezer models a popular and smart choice, as the fridge get used more often than the freezer and it’s annoying to constantly have to bend down to get your milk and eggs. The panel also praised models with French doors because they don’t have as wide a swing when opened. Those models tend to cost more.
Features: Ice and water dispensers are popular, but are subject to repairs. Adjustable shelves give you more flexibility in arranging items, and split or half shelves allow room for taller items. Temperature-controlled drawers help keep your fruit and vegetables fresh.
Things to keep in mind: Measure your current space before heading to the store. You don’t want to get a refrigerator that isn’t going to fit in the allotted area.
Cost: Anywhere from $850 up to $2,500 depending upon what bells and whistles you want. $1,500 is a good median price.
How long will it last? About 10 years.
Energy savings: Stoves are not on the list of Energy Star-rated because they aren’t big energy hogs.
Models: The big question is: gas or electric? The answer depends upon what your utility company offers. Many consumers say they prefer gas, but Markovich argues the difference is negligible. The hottest new model (no pun intended), however, is the induction range. Popular in Europe, it runs on electromagnetic technology and wastes far less heat than gas or electric. You need magnetic cookware to operate it properly, however, and these ovens are don’t come cheap (about $2,000 and up), though prices are dropping.
Things to keep in mind: Cleanability is a big factor. You want a range top that will be easy to keep clean.
Features: Dual ovens, a fast-growing feature that allows you to cook two meals at two different temperatures, save time. Convection ovens, which use fans to circulate the hot air and thus trims roasting times, also are popular.
Cost: A decent smooth-top range will cost you $750 to $899 and up.
How long will it last? 12-15 years.
Energy savings: Most dishwashers today use only a couple of gallons of water compared with the 15-gallon models used a decade ago. The downside is that they could take longer to get your dishes clean.
Features: Hidden controls concealed on the edge of the dishwasher are popular, but that means you might have trouble seeing what cycle you’re on. Adjustable racks are good because they help fit large pieces of dishware easily. Steam assist is designed to help remove caked-on food. Hard food disposers keep gunk from getting stuck in your filter. Fan assist dryers help remove standing water, and built-in water softeners can help in homes with hard water.
Things to keep in mind: Washing performance and noise level are the two most important factors you’ll want to consider when purchasing a dishwasher.
Cost: $400-$600 mid-range; $800-$1,100 for a higher-priced model.
How long will it last? 7-10 years.
Energy savings: Tougher Energy Star requirements took effect this month — washers now have to use 11 percent less energy and 20 percent less water to qualify for the rating. If you want the greenest model available, then be sure to ask for one that meets the latest standards when shopping.
Models: These days, you have a choice between traditional top loaders and front loaders. The latter is considered the more popular and efficient model because it has a larger capacity (i.e. it holds more close). Front loaders tend to be less noisy but vibrate a lot more.
Features: Some dryers come with a sensor that can automatically tell when your clothes are dry and shut off. Similarly, some washers have smart dispenser containers that hold washing detergent and dispense the correct amount automatically.
Things to keep in mind: The less energy and water your washer and dryer use, the more time it will take to get your clothes clean. Some models can take as long as 100 minutes. Also, the higher the rpm rate (or the faster the spin cycle) the more water the washer will extract out of the clothing, meaning less drying time. If you’re buying both, remember that a good washer is far more important than a good dryer.
Cost: A quality front-loader can cost about $1,200. If you’re buying both washer and dryer, expect to spend about $1,700.
How long will it last? 8-10 years.
For more information on the Energy Star program, visit www.energystar.gov
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