Let local experts teach you a thing or two
Picking out appliances can be overwhelming, but take heart. These New Hampshire appliance experts can help you sort through the newest trends and questions about quality.
Many professional kitchen trends are making their way into home kitchens. French-door ovens, touch controls on stoves, steam ovens, sous-vide attachments that gently boil food under water, as well as industrial style ovens, ranges and hoods are available from several major brands.
But the real revolution is how appliances can now be synced to our smartphones. GE’s WiFi Connect lets you run appliances from your smartphone, and their version of Bluetooth, called Chef Connect, allows its range to speak to the microwave, syncing up clock times and automatically turning on vents and lights when the cooktop is in use. LG SmartThinQ technology lets you preheat your oven or run a load of laundry from wherever you are.
Refrigerator manufacturers are also using new technology. “Samsung has a fridge with a TV in it, so when you’re shopping you can look in your fridge,” says Rob Madonna, store manager of Baron’s Major Brands in Plaistow. “You pay a premium for that technology, but it doesn’t cost them that much more to provide it, so it will come down as the novelty wears off.”
Madonna also says stainless steel is here to stay. “I’ve been hearing it’s a phase for 20 years and it hasn’t changed. A lot of people like the newer version, which is black stainless steel, so we are seeing a slight growth in that since it is easier maintenance. Slate stainless steel is also popular.”
Figuring out which brand is best can keep you awake at night — possibly reading consumer reports. “I would say the biggest misconception out there is the trust that people have in the consumer reports,” says Madonna. “You’ll find that two of the top three rated brands are two of the top three brands we fix the most. My consumer report is my service tech. I talk to the guys who go out and service stuff.”
One such service tech, Paul Lanouette of Maps Appliance Repair Service in Epping, agrees: “Do look at online reviews more than a paid consumer report. For example, in order for me to get listed on the Better Business Bureau, I have to pay $500 a year. But, if you look online, you can see plenty of my reviews.”
Another is Tim Sprowl of On Broadway Appliance, who encourages clients to see the bigger picture. “Customers often swear off a brand when they have a problem,” he says. Sprowl usually tries to explain that, to sum it up, they really don’t make them like they used to. These days, he says, manufacturers are required by the federal government to make appliances compliant with energy-
efficiency standards. “Now you’ve got more controls, variables and sensors that monitor everything to save on energy, [meaning there are] many more parts that are subject to failure,” he says. “If they made them so they’d never break, you would never buy them, because they’d be too expensive.”
“You can get a fridge that lasts a lifetime, but it will cost you $8,000,” says Madonna. “Manufacturers have to keep price points at levels that consumers can afford. Also, government energy standards change every year, so manufacturers are forced to redesign the product, which increases research and development costs.”
How long can consumers expect their appliance to last? “Studies say the length of life for a unit is about 7-15 years,” says Sprowl. “Fridges and dishwashers tend to last longer.”
Buy a Service Plan, Buy American
These experts encourage consumers to simply get an appliance that does what they need at a price they can afford, and to get a service plan from the seller. “I think the service plan is a smart way to go, and most people are pretty happy they’ve bought the extended warranty, such as the 3- to-5-year. One or two service calls on a newer model is not unusual, nor is a $200 fee for the call. The service plan really pays for itself in most cases.”
This is especially true if you buy from a large retailer like Sears or Home Depot, says Lanouette. “If you go that route, then you just need a service plan,” he says. “I would also recommend to try to buy American-made, because the parts are much more available. Stay away from the foreign ones such as Bosc, Samsung and LG — they work well, but, when they don’t, they are very expensive to fix.”
“My personal preference is to buy American,” says Sprowl. “Not that foreign appliances aren’t good — I just care about our country. If you are buying Whirlpool or GE, then you are helping our economy.” Additionally, he says that American appliances are on par with or are better than their foreign counterparts.