What is a kitchen without it's appliances? After all, the primary function of a kitchen is for cooking and preparing meals, (unless you're my mother who once looked at an apartment in NYC and didn't realize there wasn't a kitchen!). Functionally obsolete appliances can turn the joy of cooking into the agony of defeat, theyâ€™re also one of the first things a buyer will notice about your kitchen. A little paint can refresh tired looking wood cabinets but there's no hiding that harvest gold range!
If your appliances could use an update, here are some tips on how to choose the right cooktop, fridge and more.
Cooktops â€“ Gas, Electric or Induction
The choice is personal, but the preferences are fierce! Gas is very popular because there is more control of the temperature settings. With gas you can turn the heat up or down immediately & with more precision, as opposed to electric units which adjust more slowly. When shopping for gas cooktops ask about BTUâ€™s which is an energy measurement and is short for british thermal units, and variable control which addresses how long you can maintain â€œsimmerâ€ without the flame going out. Burner grates made of cast iron or metal allow for better heat transfer from the burner to the pan. Choices for fuel are either natural gas or propane, so if you are not in an area with gas available, propane is the way to go.
Electric is the most common option - these are flat top models which tend to be the least expensive option and what you will find in most homes.
Induction heat is a flat cooktop like electric that performs like fast-heating gas stoves and is gaining popularity in todaysâ€™ kitchen. With induction cooking you lose the least amount of heat from burner to pan. Itâ€™s also a time-saver because you can bring a pan of water to boiling faster than you can on a high performing BTU gas range top.
Any cooktop demands a proper ventilation system that will usher exhaust out of the kitchen. Recirculating fans may take out some of the cooking steam, but they donâ€™t move out any heat. Exterior blowers and inline blowers provide high-performance ventilation. Noise levels can vary, if you hear the sound of suction (and not the motor running) this is a good thing. No one wants to turn on the range hood and think a Cessna is about to land in their kitchen.
Conventional ovens can be gas or electric (there are even dual energy range options where you have a gas cooktop and an electric oven). Styles vary from an all-in-one cooktop/oven range to wall mounted double or single oven units. Interior size is an important factor when shopping - you should make sure the Thanksgiving turkey is going to fit!
Convection ovens are often an option within a conventional oven (or sometimes microwave-we'll get to that later). They circulate heat with a fan to cook food faster and more evenly and will help you get dinner on the table faster than a traditional oven. The downside is you donâ€™t get the standard bake/roast/broil settings.
Freestanding models slide into a space and generally protrude 6 to 7 inches beyond counter depth (a 24 inch depth is standard). Counter-depth units will look more like built-in units but be careful not to sacrifice form for function. Check out the interior cubic feet of storage for each unit.
As for configuration, French-door refrigerators (on top) with freezer drawer (on bottom) are very popular. They allow you to store pizza boxes, sheet cakes, deli trays, etc. that are difficult to fit into a side by side refrigerator. You can also choose the traditional freezer on the top/refrigerator on the bottom or a side-by-side option.
Another consideration is if you want a water/ice in the door dispenser. If you are focused on water purification, there are units that will accomplish this. Otherwise the systems simply pass water through a copper pipe in the unit and out your refrigerator door.
Microwaves can consume a lot of counter space. Microwaves built into the cabinetry are becoming very popular as well as microwave drawers which nestle among base cabinets and are very handy. Built-in microwaves over the range can also act as a venting mechanism. As mentioned above, there are many models that also have a convection oven cooking feature.
Traditional dishwashers with doors that pull from the top down are the most popular style and they can be paneled to blend with the cabinetry for a seamless look. Drawer dishwashers are another trend on the rise because they are easier to load and can be installed at various heights, based on your needs. Because they can handle smaller loads, they are also more efficient.
This is another appliance where noise levels can vary. If you want to have a conversation while the dishwasher is running, make sure to check out the decibel level on the spec sheet to see how quietly it will operate.
Now that youâ€™ve considered your appliances, think about finish. Stainless steel is still the most popular but now comes in more varieties than the traditional polished finish. Black stainless has a more muted tone and smudge free has a more brushed appearance. Both eliminate the common â€œfinger printsâ€ complaint when considering stainless steel appliances. Whatever look you prefer, stainless is still the most requested finish among buyers.
Last but certainly not least, consider energy ratings when purchasing appliances. The higher the rating the more you will save on your electric bill and energy consumption. A factor any home owner will appreciate!
Whatâ€™s more comforting than sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold winterâ€™s night? Fireplaces can instantly change the mood of a room, making it more cozy and romantic , and as a bonus may also give an extra source of heat. There are lots of choices to provide the glowing warmth of a fire, some that donâ€™t require a chimney or flu.
Now that Iâ€™ve â€œsparkedâ€ your interest, letâ€™s take a look at the broad category of indoor fireplaces.
Traditional Open Hearth Typically made of stone or brick, these types of fireplaces have existed for centuries. You can feel the heat, smell the wood burning and hear it crackling. They are not as effective at heating the room as some of the more modern varieties. Also, if you donâ€™t already have a fireplace, it will require a fair amount of construction to put in the opening and chimney for proper venting.
Enclosed Fireplaces These indoor fireplaces feature a large glass panel to view the fire as it burns. You have less heat escaping up the chimney and more entering the room. Enclosed fireplaces provide more warmth while still having the ambience of a wood burning fire.
Fireplace Inserts These are inserts that fit into your existing fireplace opening. They are enclosed, enabling you to easily turn an inefficient open hearth heating system in to one that is more fuel efficient.
Wood Burning Stoves Although not technically a fireplace, wood burning stoves are an alternative to burn wood for heating without needing a fireplace. It will, however, require a pipe to vent the smoke through the chimney to the outside. You will also need to install a noncombustible floor pad and wall surrounds.
These stoves are generally small, and the bags of pellets are inexpensive and come in quantities that are about the size of a mulch bag, making them easy to store. They're also easy to operate; they onÂly require loading pellets and igniting the flame. Because the fire is contained in a heat box there is a minimum of smoke, which lessens the smell in your home and prevents the outside of the unit from heating up. Wood pellets are made from recycled materials and are heavily compressed, which reduces the moisture content. Dry fuel creates more heat, causing the pellets to burn hotter and cleaner than their wood counterparts. A word of caution - these stoves run on electricity, so if your power goes out, so does your stove.
Direct-Vented Built-in Fireplaces This gas fireplace can be vented through an existing or newly construction chimney or you can alternatively use a pipe to eliminate more costly changes in the houseâ€™s structure.
Ventless Built-in Fireplaces Ventless built-in indoor fireplaces are the simplest to install as there is no need for a chimney or vent. However, though every effort is made to make it clean burning, it is possible that some contaminates from the gas will enter your home without a vented system.
Fireplace Conversion If you have an existing fireplace, you can get an ethanol burning insert that will slide right in. Depending on your preference, there are options for a more traditional or modern appearance.
Wall mounted Fireplaces With this style, you can actually hang your fireplace on any wall that you choose, making it double as a heating source or a centerpiece of a room.
Electric fireplaces are the most cost effective option on the market. They are easy to install and require no ventilation. Another added benefit - most allow you to turn the heating function on or off while maintaining the ambiance of a fireplace. Available in a traditional mantel surround or built within a media cabinet, they can be operated by remote control and some have different varieties of fire effects.
Doesnâ€™t it sound nice to grab a glass of wine, curl up with a blanket and sit by the fire? With all the options out there, itâ€™s possible for everyone to enjoy!