Basics on major appliance shopping

Since major appliances are designed to last many years, it’s a category of products that can require a mad scramble of info gathering when it comes to picking out a replacement.  Since we want our customers to make smart decisions, we thought we’d share a few basics that can help…very similar to the shopping guide provided on our website.

Salesman and customer with kitchen appliances

Washers & Dryers – Capacity for laundry products is measured in cubic feet.  The “standard” width traditionally has been 27″ for the washer & dryer…while many nicer Whirlpool-built dryers have been 29″.  As newer, larger capacity models have been introduced, many models are now 28″, 29″ and even 30″ wide.  You always want to measure your actual laundry room space available, but with modern home designs changing over the last 20 years, most laundry rooms can fit this wider footprint…especially with luxury homes.  For traditional top load washers, expect to see capacities range from 3.5 cu ft – 4.0 cu ft…with or without agitators.  High efficiency models that do not have an agitator can range from 4.0 cu ft – 5.0 cu ft…and some new models even larger than that!  Even with these huge tubs, you’ll want to keep in mind that the washers are not designed to be filled completely with clothing.  There are many regulations on manufacturers to limit the amount of water used in each cycle, and you won’t find models that fill the tub completely any more.  Even without being able to fill them completely, many of the larger models fit double or triple what a normal load size used to be.   Front load washers have roughly the same range of capacities as top loaders…and are designed for ultra-efficient operation.  Matching dryers for either style will typically be about double the capacity of the washer, which allows clothing to spread out while drying for efficient performance.  Nicer models will have more sensors inside for delicate drying capabilities and efficient operation.  If your laundry room is not very big, or even in a closet, you’ll want to look at the smaller capacity top load washers & dryers, since they typically have a shallower depth.  Closet-depth front load models are also available.  For other applications, compact models are available that can be stacked or installed side by side.  These capacities are much smaller and models are typically 24″ wide.

Refrigerators – Like laundry products, refrigerators are also measured in cubic foot capacity. appliance_shoppingrefrig Standard top freezer models can be 15 – 21 cu ft capacity, with 18 cu ft being most  common.  With that being said, it’s hard to know what “normal” is anymore.  There are hundreds of models available in configurations like side by side, bottom-freezer, French Door bottom freezer and even all-refrigerator and all-freezer.  They are available in either freestanding or built-in designs.  Freestanding means it can sit on it’s own and has nice painted sides, while built-in will have unfinished sides and require cabinetry around it for installation.  Spaces for freestanding models can vary from as narrow as 24″ up to 36″, with typical heights from 66″ – 72″, while built-in models are available in 18″, 24″ 30″, 36″, 42″ and 48″ widths, with heights of  80″-84″.  If you have 36″ in width available in your kitchen, you can choose just about any style or capacity you want in freestanding models…but you’ll just want to note the depth of the refrigerator so it won’t stick too far into your kitchen.  Having 32 cu ft of space to store all of your Costco or Sam’s purchases might seem great, but not when it’s sticking out a foot from your cabinets in a small kitchen!

Dishwashers – There are really 2 different widths available for dishwashers – either 18″ wide models for small kitchens or the more standard 24″ width. All are designed to fit under normal countertops, but specialty, ADA-Compliant dishwashers are made to fit under lower countertop heights (typically 33″).  Beyond wash performance, many dishwashers are mreasured by how quiet they operate. You’ll see decibel ratings (dBa) on many models and a nice quiet dishwasher is 50 dBa or less…with the quietest being just under 40 dBa.  As a comparison, a library averages 60 dBa.  While most American dishwashers have always had hard-food disposers inside that get rid of food particles, many manufacturers have shifted to the European filter design to reduce the noise level of their dishwashers.  Cleaning a filter is not a big deal once a month and you still should NOT pre-rinse your dishes.  Detergent needs food residue present to properly clean your dishes.

Ranges/Stoves– While freestanding ranges are typically designed to fit in 30″ wide spaces, there are compact models made in 20″ and 24″ widths as well.  Pro-style ranges can be found in widths as narrow as 24″, but most commonly in 30″, 36″ and 48″…and even as large as 60″.  While most of these models are all-gas or dual-fuel (gas cooktop and electric oven), new induction models are available in 30″ width.  You’ll find lots of information online about how induction works, but in 2  words, it’s FAST and EFFICIENT.  In addition to freestanding and pro-style, you’ll also find slide-in models, which give a more custom, built-in appearance.  New “front control slide-in” models provide the same look, but can replace a standard freestanding range without any need for special countertop cut-out.

Built-in Cooking -When replacing built-in items like wall ovens & cooktops, you’ll want to know theWall Oven cut-out dimensions of your cabinetry.  There are standard sizes, but because of changes over the years…there aren’t always easy replacements.  Typically, items like wall ovens and cooktops have a long life-span in kitchens…and many changes can happen over 20 or 30 years! It’s not always easy to pull out your wall oven or look under your cooktop to get the cut-out size, but many dealers or installation contractors offer services to do the measuring for you and narrow down your replacement options.  Many manufacturers offer a “Fit Guarantee” that will provide a limited amount of reimbursement in case cabinet modifications are needed to make their product fit.

Microwaves – Microwaves are still an essential part of most kitchens.  You can always get a cheap countertop model and you’ll find many options in Over-the-Range models and even built-in models that can match other built-in products. Cooking power, measured in Watts, is always a good judge, but most Over-the-Range models today are 950-1100 watts, which is plenty of power to reheat coffee, make popcorn and thaw meats quickly.  You’ll only find lower wattage in cheaper countertop models. Another big difference is interior capacity,which is measured by…you guessed it, cubic feet.  Many good models are 1.6 cu ft capacity and can be found as large as 2.0 cu ft.  This does not affect the width, but some larger capacity models can be pretty tall, so you want to make sure you have enough height over your range.  (24″ is the minimum…otherwise you won’t be able to see your range controls on the back panel.)   If you are interested in finding new ways to save time in the kitchen, you’ll want to check out the SpeedCook ovens available in the Over-the-Range and Built-in styles, which use halogen light along with microwave energy to get oven-quality results in a fraction of the time.

With all of the information readily available on our smartphones today, we understand that there comes a point where there’s too much data to process.  That’s why our associates act as an extra resource to help guide you into your decision.  With the advent of the internet, our role has changed dramatically for most customers.  Instead of a sales person from year’s past that would try to sell you on a certain product or brand, we can now help curate your options and determine what models meet your needs…and what products can be available in time for your desired delivery or installation.


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