Appliance Science

You don’t need an advanced degree to get the latest and greatest refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers. All it takes is a quick trip to a modern showroom. You’ll find appliances that can save time and energy whether you’re whipping up chocolate chip cookies or washing the crumbs out of the dishtowel.


No matter what the appliance, energy efficiency is a crucial selling feature, says Greg Schaffer, vice president of Contract Sales at American TV and Appliance. The company’s large builder and designer sales division works directly with designers, builders and other industry professionals in new construction, remodeling and apartment replacement. This gives Schaffer and his team broad exposure and the ability to identify trends quickly. And right now energy efficiency is the biggest one around. Schaffer says manufacturers even offer models that beat government energy efficiency ratings, and homeowners can really see the savings in their utility bills.


One word: induction. “Induction is definitely the big ticket right now,” Schaffer says.

Induction cooking is faster and more energy efficient than traditional gas or electric stovetops. Basically, the stovetop induces an electric current in the pot and therefore heats it directly. The stovetop doesn’t get hot, so induction stovetops are also safer than traditional electric, which can be burn hazards. The only drawback is that some require magnetic cookware. Those with cast iron or stainless are already set, but consumers with copper pots and pans (and most other types of cookware) will have to replace them or forego induction.

Schaffer says price points have come down, so most homeowners can find induction cook tops or ranges in their budgets. Some models also combine induction and traditional electric burners by including two of each.


Speed-cook convection ovens heat up instantly, dispensing with pre-heat time. “The cooking process is significantly faster,” Schaffer says. “That’s really what people are after.”


It’s not enough for appliances to work well. They have to look good, too. Schaffer says more and more manufacturers are putting emphasis on design. You’ll notice it in handles, doors and other features. As each brand develops its own distinctive look, however, homeowners will find benefits in brand uniformity throughout their kitchens. “All the handles will match. All the curves on the doors will be the same. All the colors will be identical,” Schaffer explains. “It’s a visual brand language.”

That’s not to say that homeowners shouldn’t pair a Sub-Zero refrigerator with a Wolf range. Coordinating finishes makes it easy to blend brands in a single room.


In refrigerators, the hottest doors are French, which offer the benefit of side-by-side styling on top with a pull-out bottom freezer. In-door water and ice are still available, so consumers don’t have to trade one convenience for another. “People are in their refrigerators a lot more than they are in their freezers,” Schaffer says. “The French doors blend consumer behavior and ergonomics.”


In kitchens, it’s still stainless steel. New coatings virtually eliminate the streaking and smudging that used to frustrate homeowners, so you won’t feel the need to polish up your appliances every time the doorbell rings. White and black are still around, too, and some retro lines carry vintage colors.

Where things get a little adventuresome is laundry rooms. Homeowners can choose from bold reds and blues along with the standard white. It’s not quite as risky as putting an orange oven in your kitchen, and homeowners seem to appreciate the broader color palettes for their washers and dryers.

– Jennifer Garrett


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