Appliance compliance: Make sure they fit your needs before buying in

In this Garth Road laundry room designed by Reveal Builders, a top-loading washer was preferred. While front loaders have made strides in fan technology, top loaders are still the most popular—and less expensive—option. Photo: Andrea Hubbell In this Garth Road laundry room designed by Reveal Builders, a top-loading washer was preferred. While front loaders have made strides in fan technology, top loaders are still the most popular—and less expensive—option. Photo: Andrea Hubbell

Traditional wisdom says fall is a great time to buy appliances, as that’s when manufacturers crank out new models and retailers drop the price on older equipment. But, according to several local retailers, that’s not necessarily so.

“I wouldn’t say there is a typical timeframe,” says Jeff Kramer, a sales consultant for the local outpost of high-end appliance specialist Ferguson. “It comes and goes,” agrees Mike Heimlich, appliance sales specialist for Lowe’s on Rio Road. “Our biggest time is the end of spring, beginning of summer.”

Nevertheless, if you’re in the market for appliances this year, you’re in luck, because there are some cool things happening right now, both in the kitchen and laundry room.

Get cooking

The newfangled things you’re seeing in high-end kitchens on home improvement shows aren’t as prevalent as you might think, according to Heimlich. Kegerators, wine fridges and other purpose-built appliances are few and far between. Kramer agrees—the maintenance on some of those appliances is cost prohibitive—but he does point out outdoor kitchens are getting increasingly techy.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some practical innovations happening in the indoor cookin’ place. Take stainless steel, the must-have appliance material for two decades now. Everyone wants it, but it can get monotonous. Enter stainless steel with updated and sometimes colorful finishes. Kramer says GE has introduced a slate color, KitchenAid offers a black stainless created with an acid treatment, and some pro-level ranges like Vikings come with optional coated finishes—think black, gray or even shades of red and blue.

“It had gotten to the point where the options were stainless or put a wood panel on the stainless,” Kramer says. “In the last two or three years, we’re getting away from so much stainless steel.”

Heimlich says his kitchen customers have shown a renewed interest in convection ovens, which use a fan to circulate heat around food so it doesn’t have to be turned and allow for faster cooking times. “The [fans] have been appearing in more and more ovens and are starting to filter down from the premium models to the midrange models,” he says.

Kramer points to a final innovation in an unlikely bit of cookery—the microwave. He’s seeing designers embrace the functionality of microwaves and make them easy to access via drawers.

Where are the folding machines?

Turning to the laundry room, Heimlich says the next big thing in dryer innovation is steam drying. The new technology makes clothes come out with an already-pressed look, saving users the step of ironing.

Washers, at least the front-loading kind, have also made some strides, with new fan technology designed to eliminate the mildew smell that often develops as water collects in the units. That’s long been the biggest complaint buyers have had when it comes to top-loading units’ more compact competitor, according to Kramer.

“For the past five to six years, the fix was to leave the door open to allow the unit to air out, but that didn’t always make sense because of space,” he says. “Now they turn on a little fan after the wash cycle is complete, and it air dries the unit. That was huge—it was our biggest constraint to selling those washers, and they have corrected it.”

Heimlich agrees his customers have shown interest in front loaders that don’t smell like gym locker rooms, but they’re still split on whether the front loader stands up to the traditional top loader. His preference? Top loaders, because they tend to be less expensive. Money talks.

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