How to Choose a new range, refrigerator or microwave

To me, the kitchen is the heart of the home.  The appliances can help make or break the comfort of your kitchen and choosing can be daunting.  The kitchen is where everyone gathers.  Talking over dinner, a glass of wine while nibbling appetizers at the counter, a cup of coffee.  The stuff on the stove or in the oven makes the whole house smell good and inviting.  No use having a piece you hate to use!

The first thing is deciding what are the most important uses for you.  Appliances are a major investment that will live in your house for years.

If you cook a lot and for large numbers, then maybe a range with stove top and oven are not for you – maybe you need two wall ovens.  If you buy a lot of fresh goods all at once you probably want a large fridge.  If, like me, you have another freezer as a frozen pantry, having a large freezer in the fridge itself is not so important.

So here are some things to consider, based on each machine:

Microwave:

  • What do you use it for? Mostly heating left overs?  Then maybe not one so big if you don’t need to worry about putting whole pans inside.
  • Do you have space on the counter?
  • If it goes over the stove, will it also act as a venting system? Do you have the ability or someone to help install the venting hardware?
  • If you use a microwave for cooking, how many watts/what strength do you need? The watts will be listed on the box.
  • Would a microwave drawer suit your needs best?
  • How much do you want to spend? Inexpensive models may be less than $50, but prices can go over $200 for lots of features, larger size and more cooking watts.
  • Do you need/want features like defrosting, popcorn or quick on?
  • Do get one with a turn table – food that revolves around will heat more evenly.
  • For cooking or reheating large meals, consider a microwave with a metal rack – lifting up the food helps it heat more evenly.

Refrigerator:  so many choices and options!   What configuration works best for your needs?

  • a side by side, refrigerator on top, and freezer on the bottom, or vice versa? Freezer drawers – 1 or 2?  Double doors as in a French style, so popular?  (I have this, and I love it!)
  • what internal configuration is important to you? Shelves that can move or slide back for extra height? A double door, so the main door stays closed but little hands can open up the outside door to get a quick juice box?
  • Deli and meat drawer a requirement?
  • 1 or 2 crisper drawers so you can keep fruit and vegetables separate?
  • Do you want/need water and ice dispenser on the door?
  • What exterior surface -white, stainless steel, black, bronze steel? How important are fingerprints, and how often can you wipe the front and handle to keep them shining?
  • A clear window so you can see inside?
  • Or maybe you want built in refrigerator and freezer drawers in cabinets…or maybe the door covered with a panel that matches your cupboards?
  • Don’t forget to look at energy ratings, which will give you an idea of how much it may cost to run it per year.
  • And of course your price range – more features, more money.
  • To get really fancy, even a TV, or computerized panel that can even keep your shopping list and sync it with a phone app – no judging, but who really needs this? Make a list!

 

Stove-top, Ranges and slide in’s – Stoves or ranges come in a variety of configurations too.  Part of your decision will be based on available space.  If, like many of us, your cabinetry is spaced to allow for a standard 36” range or slide-in, then getting something larger is not an option unless you are remodeling and moving some cabinets.  Ditto with wall ovens.  And if you don’t have already existing lines for gas, then a plumber (or a handy husband) will be needed to install and service set up with a local supplier.

  • First, what type of fuel: gas/propane, electric, a combination in a duel fuel? Or go over to an induction stove top?
  • Price – this varies so widely, from a few hundred dollars to thousands
  • How big? One oven or two?  Or separate wall oven units?
  • Color and style?
  • What kind of features do you need or use: convection, warmer drawer or burners, self-cleaning? Roast vs. bake settings? Broiling, preheating and timed cooking?
  • Control knobs in the back, the front, or on the side?
  • Bottom drawer for storage?
  • For the electric stove top, a glass top or coiled burners? I have had glass tops for years, mostly because I hated cleaning the burner trays.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each.  Glass is easier to clean, but don’t drop anything on it.  I use my cast iron on it all the time, but it may scratch.
  • Color? Style? If you want a antique period looking range like those made by Elmira Stove Works, then cost will be a lot more than a basic entry level stove.

If you have the luxury of outfitting a whole new kitchen, then it pays to buy all the appliances at once in a matching surface, from one place.  Often you can get a deal when purchasing more than one piece at once.  More likely, though, like me, you have what you have and it must run until it dies – and then I get the fun of choosing a replacement.

To save money, check out the scratch and dent corner of an appliance store.  Often a small scratch, missing shelf or a ding (often on the back or side where it’s not even noticeable) can really reduce the price. The dealer can’t sell them full price, so the piece is marked down.  Same goes for older models when new lines come in.

Traditionally the best time to buy appliances is the end of the year, like a new car, when the new models roll out.  September and October are traditionally the best months when new models come in, though in some cases, new refrigerator models arrive in the spring.

There is no right or wrong in choosing an appliance – it’s jut getting the one that meets your needs.

What are the most important things to you when choosing an appliance?

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