AppliancesConsumer Guides

Selecting Major Appliances

When updating a kitchen or laundry room, you’ll need to make important decisions about appliances. In a typical kitchen, the appliances represent a total investment of $3000 to $5000. Today, consumers face a wide selection of sizes, technologies, configurations and styles. This guide will explain your options and help you make informed decisions that make sense for your lifestyle and budget.


It makes a great deal of sense to evaluate carefully your appliance choices according to energy efficiency. For some appliances, you have a choice between natural gas or electricity as a power source. In general, gas is a less expensive source for any activity involving heating such as dryers, hot water heaters and furnaces. Even if your home is not currently hooked up to a gas line, check with the gas company before ruling out gas appliances. The utility company may be able to connect your home.

Energy efficiencies also come from the materials the appliance is made from. Different materials heat and cool at different rates. The amount and type of insulation used in the appliance is another important factor.


Choosing an appliance that is the right size is important. In general, if energy is expended to accommodate a small, specific space, rather than a large one, energy savings will accrue. Most appliances come with energy labels. These are bright yellow labels that indicate the average total cost of energy the appliance consumes per year.

Finally, there is the issue of speed, the faster the machine completes its task the less time it consumes energy. This is one of the reasons that microwaves are so energy efficient.

Durability and Maintenance

Everyone is concerned with the longevity of the appliance and whether it will be reliable. With service calls easily costing you a $100 or more, you don’t want a machine that’s going to give you problems. The two best sources for information of durability and reliability are Consumer Reports and appliance repair firms. Consumer Reports often does ratings on appliances.


Keep in mind that many people pay a premium for a machine that does everything under the sun, only to discover that they never get around to figuring out how to use all those fancy functions. Look at all the features available before you purchase. Have a salesperson show you how to activate those features. Then think carefully about whether these features will really enhance your lifestyle. For example, to some people, an icemaker is an expensive, unnecessary extravagance. For others, it’s an absolute necessity. Only you can decide what’s important.


More and more people are moving laundry equipment to an alcove near the kitchen. Meanwhile, people are starting to use the kitchen as both the primary eating room and the hub for entertaining. This means many consumers are paying more attention to how aesthetically appealing their appliances are. Even if it isn’t that important to you, keep in mind that it is likely to make a difference to potential buyers should you ever want to sell your house.


In general, most new appliances are much quieter than ones made only a few years ago. If you have an older dishwasher, for example, you’ll be amazed at the quiet hum of the new machines. Many machines now come with a decibel rating to help you compare noise levels. If this information isn’t displayed on the visible labels, ask the salesperson to check the manufacturer’s literature, decibel differences of ten or less are not likely to be noticeable.

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