Buying New Appliances---Oh My!

sail_awayDecember 14, 2012

I have been reading this board for quite a while and am alarmed at the prospect of replacing many/most of the appliances in our 21 year-old kitchen.

We have a nice, but modest, home. Our appliances are slowly dying and, if they hold on until then, we plan to start replacing them next spring/summer. I'm trying to do my homework and getting more and more confused.

Is it really true I will pay much more for my replacement wall oven but cannot use the self-clean feature (exploding doors, ruined electronics, etc.)?

Is the average dishwasher cycle really two hours??!! I'm sure whatever DW we buy will be quieter, but two hours?

It's scary to think we will be paying much more for appliances with much shorter lifetimes.

We will not be buying high-end, professional appliances. We have neither the budget nor the room for those in our kitchen. We are hoping to replace counter tops and sink in the kitchen, as well as all, or most, of our appliances---might be able to get another year or two out of the refrigerator---but keeping the cabinets.

We're facing the following decisions: 27" wall oven, with a separate microwave in the wall above it. Trying to find something that will fit in the space and work reliably. I get such conflicting reports about different brands, I'm beginning to wonder if it really matters which one we choose.

I thought I wanted a Kitchenaid DW, but I'm still a bit afraid of the fire issue. Maybe just follow our local appliance shop's recommendation of Jenn Air? If we buy a Jenn Air package of wall oven, cooktop, and microwave, we can get the DW free. That would leave money to buy extended warranties which are backed by the local shop. I like the local shop, we have bought there before, they have been a fixture in our community for decades, and they have a good reputation. Maybe better to go with their recommendations with the extended warranty than try to shop around at different places (i.e., Sears/Best Buy) trying to save a few dollars. Over twenty years ago, when we bought our appliances from the local company, we got our appliances at a price that was competitive with any competition in the area. Plus I like the idea of supporting local businesses that have treated its customers well.

And speaking of cooktops, I know there's almost 100% agreement here that no one should buy a downdraft cooktop, but we really have no option. We are replacing a downdraft Modern Maid cooktop and there is no way to provide other venting without a VERY major reno of our kitchen. While I would love a brand new, reconfigured kitchen, it's just not possible or practical to do so, and I'm content with the layout I have now---even though I know it could be improved, it works for me.

Finally, my refrigerator is surrounded by cabinetry on all sides and must fit into a space just a bit more than 68.5" high and 36" wide. I forget right now how deep, but I have to be careful about being able to open the door completely with an island nearby. Oh, and I do NOT want icemaker or water/ice in the door, if I can get it without.

Anyone else feeling overwhelmed after reading so much information about various appliances? Twenty-plus years ago, I did my reasearch and went into the store with model names and numbers to reasearch and ended up making my selections from that list once I saw the appliances in person and got more information at the stores. Now the more research I do the more uncertain I've become.

Is it just information overload, or are others finding the same problem?

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Yes, it's true that the regular cycle on DWs now is about 2 hours - that's because of regulations to make them more energy and water efficient. Most DWs have a short cycle which may be sufficient in many cases. By the way, KA and JennAir are both owned by Whirlpool now.

Self-cleaning electric ovens are a crap shoot. Yes, they're supposed to work but yes they can fry the electronics. Best to test them out while under warranty.

You're absolutely right. They don't make 'em like they used to.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 4:05PM
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Yes and Yes: Information overload and I had the same problem.

I researched and read and researched and read. (Thank goodness for the internet!) There is a LOT of good information here at GW forums and it was very, very helpful.

It was difficult to narrow down my selections. Only time will tell as to whether I made the right choices, or not. The conclusion I came to was that we make a decision, pay our money, and hope for the best. YMMV

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 7:06PM
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Thanks, Weissman, for answering my questions about dishwasher cycles and self-cleaning ovens. I'll be sure to try out cleaning the oven soon after we get it. The DW cycle of 2 hours will take some getting used to.

Cavimum, what appliances did you end up getting? How are they doing so far? Where did you buy---big store, local appliance, online?

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 3:30AM
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sail-away: "I thought I wanted a Kitchenaid DW, but I'm still a bit afraid of the fire issue. Maybe just follow our local appliance shop's recommendation of Jenn Air?"

Not that long ago, Jenn-Air was the upscale division of Maytag, and Kitchenaid was the upscale division of Whirlpool. Then Whirlpool bought out Maytag, and eradicated everything about the company that it had acquired other than the brand names. The old Maytag and Jenn-Air factories were closed, the buildings demolished, and the real estate sold off; Maytag and Jenn-Air branded appliances now are produced in Whilrlpool factories. Today, but for minor cosmetic differences, Jenn-Air appliances are rebranded Kitchenaid appliances.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 8:24AM
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I'm only replacing one thing right now (the range) and running into the same situation you are. It is funny reading your post becasue our kitchen is also very nearly twenty years old and we made many similar decisions then based on what was cutting edge then. However, we replaced our fridge maybe 5 years ago and the dishwasher a couple years earlier. We have a JennAir downdraft range that is causing us the biggest headache because when looking for a replacement I think we have decided to go with something without the downdraft and will have to have the hassle and expense of adding venting. Our wall oven combo with the microwave on top is also 27" and doesn't need replacing right now but probably will in the near future. I did a tiny bit of research on these, and there are only a couple brands that still make this size configuration.

I guess my vote is to buy the different brands that are the best rated for each appliance rather than being lured by the package deal if you buy everything from the same line because some manufacturers make a really good appliance in one category while their other apppliance isn't particularly good.

We have a Kithen Aid dishwasher and have been happy with it. Our newer fridge is a french door LG, and while I love the design and layout of it (this was our reason for buying this particular brand) the interior construction is very flimsy; I doubt if I'd buy a fridge of this brand again. But, I do like the french door much beter than my old side-by-side.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 8:27AM
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Here's my 2 cents having gone through something similar over the last year, except that I've only got a range rather than separate cooktop and oven.

1. Venting: as you are replacing your countertops, you might want to consider pop-up dowdrafts at the back of the cooktop which I am guessing is on the island you mentioned. Generally speaking, a good pop-up downdraft vent will rise up taller than the ones built into cooktops and give you better venting. (The vent police will note I said "better" and and not "ideal"). There are numbers of recent threads here on this subject. If your cooktop is against a wall rather than on the island, then you might be able to tie a range hood into the existing floor-level ducting and do it without a lot of expense if you have some basic carpentry skills and are not having to deal with a tiled backsplash. There has been some recent discussion of this, as well.

2. Cooktops: IIRC, Modern Maid had downdrafts for both gas and electric cooktops. If you have an electric one, I suggest you consider replacing it with an induction cooktop. Induction produces a lot less extraneous heat than other cooktops which somewhat mitigates part of the problem with downdraft cooktops. There are numbers of threads here about induction cooktops with costs similar to or less than the JennAire cooktops you seem to be considering including models by Kenmore. (Induction might require some replacement cookware and decent sets can be had from the likes of Costco for around $200.) I recall a thread from last spring or summer which discussed reliability and durability of induction units, and it will turn up in a search here if this is something that interests you for further research.

3. Dishwashers: I did some research on cycle times when I was shopping for a new DW this summer and found, as Weissman says, DW cycles have become longer but many have a short cycle (often called something like "Quick Wash") which will run a load in about 30 minutes. The one on my new Bosch 500 series DW does about as good a job on Quick Wash as the potscrubber cycle as my old GE DW (a vintage 1972 unit that I gave to a friend 16 years ago and which is still working as well as it ever did.) For full cycles, my new Bosch (500 series) takes a little over an hour-and-a-half (100 minutes). Whirlpool-made brands (JennAir, Whirlpool, Maytag, Amana, KA) tend to have longer cycles. If you have access to Consumer Reports, their ratings include a listing for average cycle time.

4. Oven self-cleaning: When folks say theat they do not build 'em like they used to. that is in fact correct. Back in the middle of the previous century, they did not use modern circuit boards, integrated cictuits, and microprocessors because they did not have them. Now they do. A basic design problem with current ovens (whether in-wall or in-a-range) is that circuit boards are vulnerable to heat. In theory, it is possible to protect them and make them heat-resistant. (I mean, my Subaru uses ICs, too, and, despite engine compartment heat, has run trouble free for nearly 200,000 miles.) While self-cleaning often gets the blame for early oven failures (and sometimes deserves it, as with KA and Whirlpool ovens in 2010-2011), the failure may just be heat and wear from use over time contributing to a failure.

5. Consumer Reports annually surveys its membership for reliability data on appliances. That may help pick more reliable brands. Thing is, almost every brand will have some problems and that's where warranty service becomes key. Almost all of it is outsourced now and oten to low-bid, high volume mills which provide the kind of poor service that leads to the many extremely irate postings you've probably been reading. Where there is a local shop - as you have in your area --- some of that can be mitigated. Talking to the folks who actually do the service work can be helpful to picking better brands and picking brands that have parts readily available.

6. Refrigerators, there have been several recent threads about choosing new fridges for spaces like your fridge nook. One, which I cannot locate at the moment was started by (I believe) prairiemoon.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 10:28AM
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In complete agreement with the answers posted here.

"Cavimum, what appliances did you end up getting? How are they doing so far? Where did you buy---big store, local appliance, online?"

Below, I hope to answer your questions adequately. These were the best, most thoughtful decisions for us, keeping budget, our age, needs, and future resale value of our home in mind, with some minor splurging. YMMV

VENDOR - I chose a local non-chain-non-big-box-store because the independent carried the Thermador Induction cook-tops. Prices were the same as online and the local stores have installers. I could not be bothered with shopping online, having to find an installer, and wondering about who to call if potential "lemon" problems. KISS (Keep It Simple, 'Silly' is my motto)

All appliances were purchased from one store, instead of juggling installation from various stores. ('KISS' again for us) A complete (gutted to the walls) renovation was enough for me without complicating it with appliances purchased from multiple stores or out-of-state online vendors.

COOK-TOP - Our decision for Thermador over Bosch induction cooktop came down to aesthetic layout of the controls. Bosch has the "pot sense" that Thermador does not, which is awesome and I wish the Thermador had, but controls layout was more important to both Hubby and me. Personal preference, and all that. :-)
Bosch, who owns and makes Thermador, is also less expensive. Difficult decisions.

ALL brands of induction get good ratings at CR magazine. I went and physically looked at various brands (several times) before I could decide. It really helps to see them in person. Some brands have 'square' elements and I could not overcome the aesthetics of that look. My 60 y/o brain kept saying "burners should be round." Round burner design visually softens and provides a nice balance against all the square corners of the cooktop, raised panels in the cabinet doors, etc.. Again, it all really comes down to personal preference.

I seriously considered location of the largest burner/element in brand decision. First, it made more sense to me to have the largest burner toward the back of the cooktop, where the telescoping downdraft is located. Second, I could not see any practical sense of having to reach over a large/wide boiling/frying pot/skillet, in order to stir a smaller pot located right behind it. That seems counter-intuitive to me, a skin burn waiting to happen, no matter what type ventilation system is used.

DOWNDRAFT - We had a 26 y/o Jenn-Air w/downdraft (probably like yours) in an island and bedroom upstairs over it. No chance at all of a vent hood. We went with telescoping downdraft and these are N0T CHEAP!. (However, the current line of Jenn-Air downdraft cook-tops did not appeal to me; IMO they look cheap) I chose Thermador mostly because it raises up higher than some other brands. The difference in price from the Bosch (who makes Thermador) was not a big one, so I stayed with the same brand as the cooktop.

DISHWASHER - decision was really, really, reeeally difficult between the two finalists, Bosch and KA. Both are good DWs. I splurged for the 3rd (cutlery) rack on our Bosch 800 Plus series DW and I really like it for spatulas, steak knives, and small items. Only drawback is remembering the rack even exists when I unload the DW. Duh. Forty years of no 3rd rack . . . this old dog has some new tricks to learn.

OVEN - single Elux wall oven due to good CR rating, good reputation here on GW forum, and the easy-glide pull-out racks factored into decision. Separate cubby for disposable microwave. A dead m'wave in the combo oven set off the whole domino chain of renovation. Newer m'waves don't last as long. Disposable (sad, isn't it?) counter-top style in a cubby was the best option for us.

REFRIGERATOR - current one is 12 y/o and in good shape. We did not replace it. I had some minor repair work done to it recently, and asked the repair guy if there is a brand out there that is worth buying. His answer was 'no', which was the feeling I got from reading the forums here. I'll cross that bridge when I have to, and not a day before.

Everything was installed a month ago, and so far, so good. Hubby and I both love the induction cooktop, which I had never, ever, heard of before I started reading this forum here at GW! These forums are a goldmine of info.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 11:52AM
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Hi, I'm reviving this thread and want to thank everyone for their helpful input and also apologize for not responding sooner.Shortly after my last post my 86 yearold father had surgery, then post-surgical complications. When I first checked back, I couldn't find this thread and gave up. I decided to try again today, and I'm glad I did because the information is helpful.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 2:20PM
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I hope your father will recover soon. It's hard on them at that age and all best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.

I have decided with all the appliances we have had to replace recently that you can make yourself crazy with research and then still end up doing the wrong thing. Cost doesn't equate quality anymore it seems. I would advise to get something that appeals to you looks wise and cost wise and not to get too hung up on details. All the new things will function as intended and it's pretty much impossible these days to find anything that was as good as the old days. I have been brand loyal throughout my married life but with everything made in another country, it's not the same. But I would not spend 3K on a dishwasher or any appliance. My KA refrigerator was nearly 3K and that is as high as I would go. Everything else in my kitchen is KA and I am dreading having to replace any of it since it is top of the line KA from about 15 years ago.

I plan to stay low tech when the time comes for the rest of the kitchen so that there are fewer things to go wrong. I also find that they are basically the same machine mechanically just with fewer options which I don't seem to use. YMMV though. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 6:59PM
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gr8day, I can't tell you how reassuring your response is! We are working on a modest budget, as we choose not to go into debt to do this. While I would love a complete kitchen redo, changing the layout and updating everything, we can't/don't want to do that. With a disabled child who depends on us entirely, elderly parents who need some help, and my desire to possibly take early (semi-) retirement, it's just not a good choice for us. Frankly, I'm grateful that we can come up with funds to replace appliances as needed and even, hopefully, update the countertops which are > 20 years old but we could probably get by with if we had to. I just really want a new sink (preferably undermount), which will require a solid surface rather than the laminate we have now. Anyway, after all the angst trying to make the best decision, your post comes at the right tme. Thanks.

I have another, specific question about cooktop material, but I think I will start a separate thread.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 12:44PM
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