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Tips to improve and maximize air cleaner performance

Millions of people around the world rely on room air cleaners (sometimes referred to as air purifiers) to improve indoor air quality and reduce the presence of allergens. They are a valuable tool that can help ease your allergy symptoms and keep homes cleaner.

Like most appliances, how you operate and care for your air cleaner will affect its performance. Take these steps to ensure that your air cleaner continues to operate at a high level:

Change the filter regularly: Your air cleaner’s use and care manual will recommend how often you should change your air cleaner’s filter. Keep in mind that these recommendations are based on the manufacturer’s testing. How often you should change the filter also depends on how much you’re using the air cleaner and the level of pollutants in the air. If you have your windows open frequently, for example, you may need to change the filter more often. Check your filter regularly. If the filter is changing color or if you notice that a drop in the level of air coming out of the air cleaner, it’s probably time for a new filter.

No filter? Some air cleaners don’t require filters, relying instead on an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), which charges particles and attracts them to a plate. Clean those regularly. Check your use and care manual for specific cleaning instructions.

Clean the outside: Some manufacturers recommend using a vacuum to remove dust from the outside of the air cleaner. Vacuum or gently clean the dust from the outside of the air cleaner when you notice a buildup.

Take care of the rest of the room: Air cleaners are only part of the equation if you are seeking cleaner indoor air. Do a thorough cleaning of the area and vacuum regularly to remove particles so they are not kicked back into the air you breathe.

Change your furnace filter: If you change your furnace filter regularly, you might not have to change the filter in your air cleaner as often. However, a furnace filter is not a substitute for an air cleaner because it is designed to trap large particles. In addition, it is common for particles to miss the furnace filter and end up inside the home.

Give your air cleaner room to breathe: It might be more convenient to place an air cleaner against a wall and in a corner, but that sort of placement will restrict airflow and reduce performance. Move it toward the center of the room and operate it in an area free of obstructions. The more air that goes through the air cleaner, the more pollutants it will remove.

Shopping for an air cleaner? Here’s how to make the right choice

If you are shopping for an air cleaner, you will likely come across models that use different types of technologies to clear the air. More important than the method the air cleaner uses is whether the air cleaner is appropriate for the size room in which it will be used. Look for the AHAM Verifide® mark on the air cleaner packaging. The mark means the air cleaner has been independently tested for its ability to remove tobacco smoke, pollen and dust. The suggested room size for the air cleaner will be noted prominently on the label.

Tell us your top concerns with your indoor air quality.  We’d like to hear from you.

Beat the dry winter air with a humidifier

If you need another reason to dislike winter, dry winter air is a good one. It can dry out your nasal passages, which can make it tougher to bounce back from a stuffy nose. The dry air can aggravate asthma symptoms and cause dry skin. Over time, it can also damage your wooden floors and furniture and hurt the health of your houseplants.

Clearly, if you can offset the dry air, you should. And a humidifier is your go-to appliance for balancing out the air in your home as you count the days until spring. If you are shopping for a humidifier, there are a few things to consider while you’re making your choice. We spoke with Lynne Hammell, marketing director at AHAM member Kaz, which manufacturers Vicks and Honeywell brand humidifiers, for guidance.

Size of the room

If you have an idea of where you’re going to primarily use your humidifier, it’s important to know the size of your room. If you buy a humidifier that’s too large for the space, you’ll not only make the room uncomfortably humid, but also create an environment favorable to mold and mildew. Too small, and your humidifier won’t be able to adequately humidify the space. Humidifiers designed for larger spaces will have larger water tanks.

Check the labeling of the humidifier, which should have information about how big a space the model is made for. Know the square footage of your room and choose the model that’s appropriate for the space.

Warm vs. cool

Appliance manufacturers produce humidifiers that can put out either warm or cool humidity. Your choice is largely a matter of personal preference, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a cool-mist humidifier for children who are suffering from colds and the flu. However, both warm and cool-mist humidifiers will increase the humidity in your home.

Filter or no filter?

Filtered and filter-free humidifiers will both humidify the air. A filtered model will remove minerals from water before the water is put into the air. However, the filter will need to be changed regularly, possibly every 1-2 months.

Filter-free models, obviously, don’t require changing filters. But, you may notice an accumulation of minerals, possibly as a fine white dust, on the outside of a filter-free humidifier. However, some models come with demineralization cartridges, which need to be replaced periodically.

You’ll probably also notice a difference in the way filtered and filter-free humidifiers put moisture into the air. Filtered models are evaporative and use a fan to put humidified air into the room. Filter-free models put a visible mist directly into the air.

Maintenance and care

All humidifiers, whether warm or cool, filtered or filter-free, require regular cleaning and maintenance. Before you buy, take a look at the models you’re considering and think about how easy they might be to clean. Do they have detachable parts that can be placed in a dishwasher? Are there narrow openings that might be difficult to clean? You’ll need to wipe down the inside of the tank regularly, so make sure the humidifier you choose has an opening large enough to reach inside. Keep

The cleaning process will vary depending on the model, but in general, it’s a two-step process that involves descaling and disinfecting. Descaling breaks down any minerals that may have accumulated on the humidifier. Disinfecting will kill any germs that have built up. You’ll need bleach for disinfecting, vinegar for descaling, plus a cloth or brush. Follow the cleaning instructions in your humidifier’s use and care manual.

Keeping the humidifier clean is even more important if you’re using it to ease a cold, allergies or asthma, as a dirty dehumidifier can put contaminants back into the air.

It’s a humidifier, not a diffuser

People sometimes confuse humidifiers with essential oil diffusers. Never put anything but water into a humidifier. Oils or other substances can damage the humidifier’s tank and mechanical parts. Diffusers, which tend to be much smaller than humidifiers, and are designed to accommodate oils.

Color accents, more ovens and sleek finishes: Designers talk 2018 appliance trends

If you’re redesigning your kitchen, take time to think through what you’re looking for and the styles and finishes that appeal most to you. Your decisions will impact your living space for years to come.

Though trends come and go, it’s likely they’ll have an influence on your choices in appliance style and finish. And since you’re going to live with your kitchen and its appliances for several years, it helps to look down the line to think about not just what’s hot now, but what elements of your kitchen design and appliances have worked well for you, and what you’ll be happy with in the long term.

Those planning a redesign or remodel of a kitchen or those likely to purchase new appliances this year will want to read this. We spoke with three designers to get their predictions on the kitchen appliance trends that will dominate in 2018. Here’s what they had to say.

Alana Busse, Alana Busse Design, Simi Valley, California

Variety in finishes: Want to add some color to your kitchen? While stainless steel appliances remain popular, the days of having white, black or stainless as your only choices are in the past. “Now’s really an exciting time, because you’re seeing all these colors, Busse says. “Now, we’re seeing some new stuff. We’re seeing black stainless, and orange and red colors in ranges. Gold and blue are really big this year. Everyone wants their cabinets plain, and the appliances are kind of the bling, the showpiece. Nobody walks in and says ‘nice cabinets.’ They say ‘That range is amazing.’”

Wine chillers: People who are remodeling tend to enjoy their wine, but some more than others. Busse estimates about 70 percent of her clients who are remodeling their kitchens install some sort of wine refrigerator, often an under-cabinet model. “It’s normally about 24 inches wide, 24 inches deep,” Busse says. “It has the dual zones.” The client’s love of wine plays into the size of their wine chiller. Those that have the space and know their wine might install a full-sized wine chiller that’s about the same size as a regular refrigerator, Busse says.

Under-counter ice: Just like their wine, remodelers are also looking to keep their other drinks cold by having ice ready to go. They’re looking for under-cabinet ice makers and showing a preference for bar ice, Busse says. “Or, they’ll want pellet ice,” she says. “Some really like that if they’re going to do frozen drinks.”

Flat fridges: Homeowners are showing a preference for integrated refrigerators, Busse says. “When they’re closed, they’re really flat and in line with the cabinetry,” she says. “We see people buying stainless or paneling the refrigerator.” If a client goes for a black stainless refrigerator, they tend to get all their appliances in black stainless.

Steam ovens: Multiple ovens are generally part of a remodel plan, and steam ovens are popular requestes. “Everyone wants a steam oven,” Busse says. “Every client swears their food tastes better than ever before, from making meat and vegetables to reheating pizza.” Two ovens plus a microwave/convection oven are a regular part of remodeling plans. “If we can fit it, sometimes even a warming drawer.”

Loretta Willis, Loretta’s Interior Design, Atlanta

A personal touch: Willis encourages clients to add a design element that personalizes their kitchen, and that could be an appliance. “Featuring an appliance is a good way to personalize the kitchen,” she says. “That’s your color, you’re proud of it. If it’s offered in an appliance, go for it. A good designer can work that into the space.”

More burners, more ovens: Consumers want to be ready for any kind of cooking or entertaining situation, and they’re designing their kitchens with that in mind, Willis says. “Buy the largest cooktop your space can accommodate,” Willis says. “Five to six burners is ideal.” Second ovens are also popular, regardless of whether the homeowner is a serious cook. “Even if it’s not an everyday need for the homeowner, it’s a great resale feature,” Willis says. Induction is also gaining popularity as consumers look to shorten the time they spend cooking.

Commercial goes residential: Recent trends have residential kitchens incorporating elements that used to be the domain of commercial kitchens, Willis says. “Basically, you need two ovens. If you entertain, you want a warming drawer and at least two ovens. Maybe one can be a combination microwave/convection steam unit. Your stove top might not just be a cooktop, it could also be a grill. Many homeowners are also incorporating coffee stations.

Cool cooling: Homeowners are looking for additional cooling appliances beyond the traditional refrigerator and freezer. Kitchens, Willis says, are being designed in “zones.” “If you have kids, they might have their own zone—a pull-out refrigerator for water, soft drinks, or yogurt. I think you’ll need an entertainment zone, where you’ll have space for the wine chiller and beverages. It could be a second area for the overflow that maybe your refrigerator can’t accommodate.

Easy access to portables: Do you have a portable appliance that you can’t live without? Homeowners are building in coffee stations and keeping other portable appliances in mind during the design process, Willis says. “I love the look of a kitchen zone that’s just for a breakfast bar with built-in coffee appliances,” she says. “Then, I’m seeing the appliances you don’t use as often—the heavy mixers, the food processors—can actually be stored in the lower cabinet with a lift, a spring-loaded action on the shelving to bring it to counter height. “

Technology: Expect charging stations to become a regular feature of new kitchens. And while consumers are interested in smart technology, it will also require them to incorporate new habits to take advantage of the new features.

Toni Sabatino, Toni Sabatino Style, New York

Jewel tones, black stainless, and matte black: “The design industry will follow the fashion industry and we’ll see more jewel tones,” Sabatino says. “Ranges, in particular, you’ll see some statement colors emerging. Over the past year, we’ve seen things like turquoise. Color in a range is definitely going to happen.” Expect to see more black and black stainless in other appliances. “Stainless has been the go-to for sort of an authentic restaurant vibe,” Sabatino says. “Black stainless seems to offer practicality from a fingerprint standpoint, while playing off the black matte trend.” Color will also show up in other appliances. “I see more copper and brass warm tones for statement range hoods,” Sabatino says. “I find that either the cooking appliances make an impactful statement or not. They’re either understated or standouts.”

Garden City, NY: January 23, 2018— A kitchen redesign by Toni Sabatino Style. © Audrey C. Tiernan

Kitchens gaining steam: Multiple ovens will become standard in kitchens, and steam ovens are here to stay. Steam ovens tend to be popular with health-conscious consumers, Sabatino says. “A steam oven has that sous vide quality. When you reheat something, it doesn’t feel like a leftover. It gives a renewed freshness.”

Modularity throughout the kitchen: We’ll see more modularity in refrigeration and perhaps in cooking, Sabatino says. That means column refrigeration, undercounter refrigeration, and refrigerators with convertible sections that can switch between freezers, fresh food storage and wine. “We’re allowing options because more people are opting for fresh food as opposed to canned, frozen or boxed.”

Connectivity: Sabatino sees usefulness in connected appliances that can send signals and update appliances. Adoption may increase as new generations seek to remodel their homes. “I think that as the consumers who have grown up with connectivity become a larger part of the homebuying market, that segment is bound to increase.”

Portable storage: People want easy access to their portable appliances, but don’t necessarily want them in full view all the time, Sabatino says. “One of my favorite solutions is the pocket-door tall cabinet, where you have power and the doors aren’t impeding use. You see more sliding or slotting doors in the urban environments.”

Watch for These Retail Trends in 2018 and Beyond

In case you haven’t heard, retail is changing. You have probably heard the stories of classic brands closing stores and shoppers migrating to online sales. But it might surprise you to hear that construction spending on retail establishments has actually increased—up by more than 10% in 2016, and that store openings are also on the rise.

In fact, 9 of the top 10 leading online retailers also have brick-and-mortar locations. So while the evolution is undeniable, it hasn’t done away with the time-honored tradition of heading out on a weekend afternoon, family in tow, to shop for new appliances.

What will retail look like this year? The challenge for appliance retailers is to make themselves stand out, says Melissa Williams, director of global retail services and business strategy for UL. You might notice some changes as big box retailers, who typically sell many of the same appliances, seek to compete among themselves and online retailers in areas beyond just price.

If you watch closely during your shopping trips, you might notice signs of these three trends in retail in 2018 and beyond:

Appliance “training”: With the emergence of connected and smart features, appliances are also evolving. As retailers offer appliances that incorporate the new features, they’re also going to have to show some customers how to incorporate the features into their routine. “I could see stores having training modules in how to use all this new technology,” Williams says. That might mean a “connected home” section within the store, she says, showing how features like voice-controlled appliances work. “Right now, most users don’t even know how to use that technology. You’ll see more education on connected technologies in retail stores.

Private labeling: As retail brands look to compete with each other on more than just price, we could see more of them launch private-label brands. That could spread to appliances. “Now, you aren’t in a price war,” Williams says. “The consumer will have more choice and not be forced into the cheapest price. Retailers don’t want to sell the same refrigerator anymore. They want a differentiator. It’s a huge opportunity for manufacturers.”

More interest in product roots: Both Millennials and Generation Z believe in the importance of good corporate citizenship, Williams says. This means they’ll look at products beyond typical considerations like price and brand, Williams says. “Customers—Millennials and Generation Z—are very interested in seeing the full scale of the products,” she says. “They want to know where it was made, in what facility, how it will ship.” Customers are showing a stronger interest in political and societal issues, and they will expect retailers and brands to offer information about where, how and with what materials a product was made. They are likely to pass on purchases that don’t align with their values. Both customers and retailers are also going to want more information about the true cost of manufacturing a product, Williams says.

Connected appliances make their mark at CES 2018

It wasn’t so long ago connected and smart appliance features might have been considered novelties. Based on the appliances on display at CES 2018, connected and smart features have now evolved from concepts with potential to real solutions that, someday, consumers may not be able to imagine living without.

And despite the impressive evolution, there’s still the sense that manufacturers are just getting started.

Appliances shown at CES 2018 included products already on the market and those in development or near release. The innovations weren’t limited to major appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers and ranges. They’re also making an impact in portable appliances. Newer ideas, like robotic air cleaners that can sense the air quality in different rooms and go where they’re most needed, were also drawing attention. These air cleaners, exhibited as prototypes, can also follow preprogrammed patterns or be controlled manually.

Manufacturers touted the potential for connected appliances to improve household health and safety. This air purifier works with a smoke detector to turn on automatically when smoke is detected. It was shown as part of one of a number of complete smart home concepts, which exhibited both individual appliance features and ways in which the appliances can work together to provide additional benefits.

This electric toothbrush works with mobile devices to track brushing and uses sensors to monitor the user’s pressure and motion, signaling the user if they need to correct their technique or spend more time on a certain part of their mouth. It’s another example of connectivity’s potential to strengthen the contributions of appliances to a healthy lifestyle.

Connected features are also giving appliances a more personal touch. Manufacturers highlighted ranges and refrigerators working together to improve the cooking process through recipe generation and automated cooking functions. Some features also allowed personalization of dietary habits and goals. A connected refrigerator could take those dietary needs into account when it suggests a recipe.

So what’s next? Manufacturers continue to add features aimed at giving consumers more of their own time back. If you hate folding laundry, you might be interested in this laundry-folding robot, which could be the first of its kind.

What appliance innovation would make your life easier? Tell us in the comments below.

Read more CES 2018 coverage from AHAM.

CES 2018: Connected and smart features evolve

Just a few years ago, the concept of a “smart” or “connected” appliance might have meant some aspect of the appliance incorporated connectivity, or that the appliance could be monitored or controlled through a mobile device. Based on the appliances on display at CES 2018, it’s clear that smart and connected appliances are evolving quickly, and the capabilities of appliances are growing. The new features are removing layers from household chores like laundry, dishes and cooking, and appliances are gaining more of an ability to adapt to users’ habits and fit more seamlessly into their day-to-day lives.

Voice control, one of the standout features at last year’s CES, was again a mainstay in major appliances at CES 2018. Many are compatible with off-the-shelf virtual digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Some are even incorporating AI to learn your habits so they’re ready with the features you need. Laundry appliances can learn how you tend to wash your clothes and choose the most appropriate cycle, based on what you tell them and what you’ve done in the past. Connected features also allow you to keep a closer eye on your appliances’ performance.

The new wave of appliances accepts voice commands, but the appliances also “talk” to each other. Several manufacturers were showing ranges that work with refrigerators, with refrigerators suggesting recipes based on what’s available, and sending the oven temperature and preheating instructions to the range.

Functions that were once manual are now becoming automatic. This range hood  turns on automatically when it senses steam. You may have noticed it looks more like a monitor than a range hood. It’s another example of the multi-function features that continue to emerge as smart and connected appliances evolve. Using the screen, consumers can access other appliance controls and make video calls.

Connected and smart features also have the potential to build a stronger bond between appliances and health. This refrigerator works with an app to collect information about what you’ve eaten, the calories consumed, and your exercise patterns. It uses both to make suggestions based on available foods. Once you’ve made your selection, cooking instructions are sent directly to the range.

Refrigerators are also gaining the ability to assist with the shopping process. This model works with Amazon dash, so you can quickly re-order items when supplies are running low.

Follow us on Twitter @AHAM_voice for more updates from CES 2018!

CES 2018 Preview: Six questions on home appliance innovations

CES always provides its share of flashy headlines and jaw-dropping media clips. Appliance manufacturers, including many AHAM members, will be displaying their appliance lines and looking to stand out with the latest innovations, features and designs.

So what will be the top appliance themes at CES 2018? There are too many innovations to list here, but it’s safe to say lifestyle, connectivity and convenience will be in the spotlight. And we expect to find many ways to answer these six questions:

Will voice control continue to grow? Voice control was indisputably the hot appliance feature at CES 2017, with appliances incorporating Amazon Alexa and other tools to allow users to adjust oven temperatures, washing cycles and access other features. We could get a better idea of the role voice control will play in appliances as the technology develops and consumers incorporate it into more aspects of their lives.

Will we see more connectivity in personal care appliances? In addition to simplifying tasks, connected and smart features can help consumers keep a closer eye on their health. Connected personal care products, like toothbrushes that monitor how well you’re cleaning, are one path for that. We’ll be on the lookout for more health-related features as we comb through the appliances on display at CES 2018.

What other roles will cooking appliances take on? Several newer appliance models are incorporating easy access to recipes into their features, with some even automatically adjusting their temperature based on a recipe or a scan of a frozen meal. Other features are sure to emerge as manufacturers look to take more of the time and labor out of cooking.

What’s next for connected refrigerators? As a regular “meeting place” inside the home for many families, refrigerators have become the host for many new connected features for both entertainment and household tasks like preparing grocery lists and recommending recipes based on what’s inside. It will be exciting to see how their role evolves as manufacturers incorporate more elements of connectivity.

What design elements will stand out? While CES is all about technology, many manufacturers also take the opportunity to show off their newest designs, like black stainless and smudge-free finishes. Will any new design or colors take the stage at CES 2018?

What’s the future of floor care? While robotic vacuums have been around for a number of years, manufacturers continue to innovate with features like mapping, voice control, fall prevention and advanced navigation. We’ll see what other floor care innovations, robotic and otherwise, are underfoot at CES 2018.

AHAM will be at CES 2018 to report on the latest innovations in major, portable and floor care appliances. Follow us on Twitter @AHAM_voice for live updates.

AHAM’s Top 5 Posts of 2017

Before we jump into 2018, let’s take a moment to revisit our most-read posts from 2017. We covered a wide range of topics, from chef-approved ways to grill indoors, to keeping your home safe after a hurricane. That variety is evident in our top posts of the year.

We are grateful to our readers – thank you for taking the time to click, read and share our content last year! Without further ado, here are your favorite pieces from 2017.

Is your water filter counterfeit? Keep your family safe – learn to spot the signs of counterfeit water filters.

Safety, security, warranty: Why it’s important to have your appliances repaired by authorized providers In the long run, authorized repairs just make sense for you and your appliances.

Kitchen redesigns: Appliances, Cabinets and Space Designer advice on how to balance function and style.

The Facts on PACs and RACs: Should you choose a portable or room air conditioner? AHAM helps you decide what type of air conditioner is best for your home.

5 questions to ask before buying a used appliance These key questions will make you an informed buyer.

Central Vacuums: Built-in floor care

When you think of vacuuming, you may think of pulling your vacuum out of a closet or dragging it up the stairs from the basement.  What if you only had to grab the hose and plug it into an inlet to begin this dusty and daunting task?

Millions of homeowners in the U.S. and Canada rely on their central vacuums to take care of dirt and dust. Central vacuums are built into the home, with the collection unit often placed in the basement, garage or attic. Owners plug the hose into inlets spaced throughout the home and vacuum just as they would with any other vacuum. Multiple attachments and power heads are available.  In some homes, a special kick plate can be installed in areas where crumbs, or dust pile up — such as kitchens — so you can sweep dirt into the opening for it to be sucked into the central collection unit.

If you’re the type of person who likes to keep your floor cleaning power ready to go at the flip of a switch, a central vacuum may be the way to go. We spoke with Natalie Fraser, sales manager with Vacumaid, and Sarah Busch, marketing manager for H-P Products, both AHAM members, to get the story on the benefits of central vacuums and what you need to know if you’re thinking about making the switch from portable to central floor care.

What’s different

Venting: Many central vacuum systems are vented to the outside of your home, meaning there’s a greater chance the dirt, dust and allergens that you vacuum will be completely removed from your immediate living space. The small particles that might make it past the canister are vented outside. While not all systems are vented outside, most manufacturers recommend external venting.

More power: Central vacuums tend to have three to five times more cleaning power than portable vacuums.

Volume: With collection bins that hold 7-9 gallons, central vacuums have a larger capacity than many other types of vacuums.

Ready access: Central vacuums include a number of attachments to allow you to quickly vacuum. Instead of retrieving your vacuum from the closet, you can just flip a switch. Like portable vacuums, central vacuums come with a number of attachments, including retractable hoses, dusting brushes, crevice tools and hardwood floor brushes. Standard hoses are 30 feet, with options for longer hoses up to 50 feet to allow you to reach everywhere dust settles.

Your options

There are several types of central vacuums available. Some models may have central bags, which need to be changed periodically, depending on how often you vacuum. There are also bagless models, for which you’ll have to empty the canister as needed, and cyclonic filter models. In addition, some central vacuums convert to a wet-dry system, which can save the day if your basement floods or your hot water heater bursts. Central vacuums are sized according to the square footage of the home. Ask a retailer what’s best for you.

Installation

Obviously, it’s easiest to install a central vacuum while a home is being built. But they can also be installed in existing homes, provided the walls can be accessed. The process includes placement of the unit and the installation of inlets and piping. The job can usually be done in a day or less.

You probably won’t place an inlet in every room, so think about placing them in or near high-traffic areas in the home or places you’ll vacuum more often than others, like dining rooms, kitchens or living rooms.

AHAM’s Holiday Cooking Roundup

Tis the season! If you are hosting for the holidays, you are probably right in the middle of menu-planning and making grocery lists. Is there more you can do to prepare for feeding the whole family? AHAM has advice from the experts in cooking for large groups – chefs! We have rounded up our best chef advice to make this year’s holiday cooking a breeze: