Day 1 of CES 2017 left the clear impression that connected features are changing appliances at all levels, from the largest major appliances, like refrigerators, down to the smallest personal care appliances, like your electric toothbrush.
From the biggest refrigerator down to the smallest personal care item, connected features in home appliances are allowing the product to take on a greater amount of work associated with their core tasks. Rather than just serving as a tool to help you accomplish a task, they’ll give you the information and guidance you need to increase the quality and accuracy of whatever you’re trying to do, whether you’re preparing a meal or cleaning your teeth.
That means less work for you, but it could also mean a better result. For example, your oven and refrigerator could work together to suggest meals to prepare based on what you already have in the house. But it could also go a step further, like an oven automatically adjusting to the cooking time and temperature necessary for the recipe, becoming a welcome assistant for busy home cooks.
It could mean more accurate microwave cooking, as scanning the packaging of a prepared meal will give your microwave the information it needs to heat up the meal, without any input from you.
It could also mean more effective and accurate oral care through an electric toothbrush that, in addition to brushing, maps your mouth, monitors your brushing pressure and shows you via your smartphone if you’re cleaning the right places.
Manufacturers are stressing the impact of connected appliances on consumers’ overall lifestyle, including their potential to save significant amounts of time and remove some of the guesswork from tasks like cooking. Many of the appliances at CES 2017 are being shown as part of larger “smart home” suites to show how they work together and can be incorporated into everyday life.
Keep following for more updates on the appliance innovations at CES 2017. And follow AHAM on Twitter @AHAM_voice for news straight from the show floor.
They warm up your chilly office and keep your house guests comfortable all night long. Portable electric heaters give you more control over your own comfort and let you bring heat to where you need it during the cold winter months.
Like any appliance, portable electric heaters come in a variety of models and sizes, with different features. We’ve put together a guide to make it easy for you to buy your next portable heater so you can stay warm while you wait for the snow and frost to give way to spring flowers.
Heaters are classified based on how they generate heat. Your choice will depend on your heating needs:
Panel heaters could be wall-mounted or freestanding, and may include fans.
Radiant heaters generate warmth by heating oil within the unit, though the oil doesn’t need to be refilled.
Fan heaters distribute heat from an element using a fan.
Ceramic heaters use a ceramic heating element and may also use a fan to spread heat.
Infrared heaters generate heat from a surface within the heater. The heat is emitted in the form of infrared energy.
What you need to consider
There are a vast number of portable electric heaters on the market. Sorting through them all could take until summer. By then, you won’t need a heater anymore. Knowing how you’ll use the heater will help you narrow your choices. Here are three questions to consider:
Will you be using the heater for temporary personal heat or to keep a room steadily warm? The size and type of heater, and the size of the space you’re trying to heat, will be factors.
Do you need instant heat, or can the heat be generated gradually? Keeping your feet warm under your desk at work for a few hours will call for a different solution than making sure guests stay warm overnight in a chilly bedroom.
What’s your noise tolerance? Any heater with a fan will generate some level of sound. An in-store demonstration will help you decide what’s appropriate.
Heater features Personal electric heaters offer a number of features for operation, safety and heat distribution. They might include:
A thermostat to keep the heat at a steady temperature. Some models offer a digital setting.
Oscillation to distribute heat
Adjustable fan speeds
Some types of heaters may employ additional safety features, including automatic shutoff if the heater tips over, cool-touch housing, child locks, or motion sensors that automatically turn the heater off if anything gets too close.
More on portable heater safety
There are a number of steps you should take to heat your home safely, regardless of the style of heater you choose:
Purchase a heater that is safety certified. This means it has been tested by a recognized safety-certification organization. Look for a safety certification mark on the packaging or the heater.
Don’t leave your heater unattended and always unplug it when it isn’t being used.
Don’t use your heater with a power strip or extension cord. Fire can result if either overheats or if the wiring in the extension cord cannot handle the wattage of the heater.
Placing anything on top of the cord, including furniture, could damage the cord. String cords out on top of area rugs and carpeting. Never use a heater with a damaged cord.
Combustible materials, including furniture, pillows, bedding, papers clothes and curtains, should be kept at least three feet away from the front of the heater and away from the sides and rear of the heater. Don’t block the heater’s air intake or outlet.
Keep flammable materials, such as gas and paint, away from the heater.
Don’t use heaters in wet or damp areas unless they’re designed for bathrooms or outdoor use. Heaters not designed for this may be damaged by moisture.
Periodically check the plug and outlet for a secure fit. The outlet may need to be replaced if the plug does not fit snugly or if the plug becomes very hot. Consult with a qualified electrician to replace the outlet.
Don’t plug any other electrical device into the same outlet or the circuit as the heater. It could result in overheating.
Keep children away from heaters and do not place one in a child’s room without supervision.
Heaters should be put on a flat, level surface. Only use a heater on table tops when specified by the manufacturer. Do not place the heater on furniture. It could fall, resulting in damaged or dislodged parts.
Have a warm, cozy winter. You’ll be looking for air conditioners before you know it. (And if you want to get an early start on AC shopping, we have you covered.)
Just as they give you cleaner floors and clothes, your appliances can also help you have cleaner teeth. Electric toothbrushes take some of the movement out of brushing for you.
We talked to two dentists—Ana Ferraz-Dougherty of Rolling Oaks Dental in San Antonio, and Colleen DeLacy of Lexington Dental Care and Sandusky Dental Care in Michigan—about how electric toothbrushes fit into your daily brushing routine. Like any appliance, electric toothbrushes must be used properly if you want to harness the full benefits.
Here are some of their recommendations on proper electric toothbrush use:
Brush properly. “Make sure you’re getting the inside and outside, the chewing surfaces,” Ferraz-Dougherty said. This video from the American Dental Association will walk you through the proper brushing technique if you need a refresher. Remember that an electric toothbrush is designed to do the work for you. “You don’t have to do that traditional movement,” DeLacy said. “You just have to guide the brush head.”
Store the electric toothbrush properly. Electric toothbrushes should be stored upright without a cover. “Don’t enclose it in anything,” Ferraz-Dougherty said. “The warm, moist environment promotes bacterial growth. It means you’re not really cleaning your teeth if there’s bacteria on your toothbrush.”
Change the brush regularly. Change it every four months or once the bristles show signs of wear. “Soft bristles will be easier on your enamel,” Ferraz-Dougherty said.
Choose the right-sized brush. The brush head should be comfortable and an appropriate size for your teeth, Ferraz-Dougherty said. “People who have larger teeth would want a larger brush.
Watch the pressure. Pressing too hard while brushing can hurt your gums. “Some of the newer models have built-in sensors that will give you an alert if you’re applying too much pressure,” DeLacy said.
Individuals who have trouble with the physical movements required for brushing might benefit from an electric toothbrush. “They’re good for people with limited movement in their hands, and for children who don’t have manual dexterity,” Ferraz-Dougherty said.
When brushing with an electric toothbrush, DeLacy recommends dividing your mouth into quadrants and spending a total of two minutes brushing. That means you’ll spend 30 seconds in each quadrant. Some electric toothbrushes have built-in timers to help you meet your brushing goals.
Thinking of buying an electric toothbrush? Ask your dentist for advice.
Holiday shopping. Visiting relatives. Social events. The end-of-year work rush. With everything else going on during the weeks-long holiday sprint, you don’t need to add “return a gift” to your to-do list.
While most customers find what they’re looking for, returns are an inevitable part of holiday shopping. When they happen, there’s usually a reason. AHAM worked with Bellomy Research to pinpoint the reasons behind portable (small kitchen, personal care, garment care, air treatment) and floor care appliance returns. Keeping those reasons in mind could help you avoid the hassle of a return so you can focus on what’s important during the holidays. Here are the most common reasons consumers gave for returning portable and floor care appliances:
It was the wrong appliance for the job: Aside from mechanical, electrical or functional defects, unmet expectations about performance are by far the top reason portable and floor care appliances are returned. Ask a sales representative to demonstrate how the product works, or try it yourself. Is it easy to set up? That’s important. Many who make returns say they may have kept the appliance if it had been easier to set up.
It didn’t fit: Many returns are made because the appliance is too small. Ask your retailer if you can remove it from the box to make sure it’s the expected size.
It didn’t match: Returns are commonly attributed to second thoughts about the size, color or model of the appliance. Research the purchase in advance to get a full sense of the variations that are available.
It was an unwanted gift: Some who returned appliances did so because the appliance wasn’t something they liked or wanted.
What you can do: Research is the key to avoiding returns. These tips will help you choose the right appliances, whether you’re buying them for yourself or as gifts:
Go “hands on”: Many retailers will demonstrate how the product works and let you see it in action before you buy. This can eliminate confusion about issues such as size, performance, and quality.
Read and watch online reviews: There are limitless resources online for consumers to learn about a product, and potential features that affect decision-making. Videos are both abundant and valuable because they allow you to see the actual product being used. (Here’s how to get the most out of product reviews.)
Research the product through the manufacturer’s website and owner’s manual: Appliance makers strive to be clear about the features and benefits their products offer. Whether online or on paper, they provide extensive resources that allow the consumer to understand what they are buying.
Contact the manufacturer directly: This is perhaps the most important tip, but many shoppers don’t realize it’s an option. Only 40 percent of people surveyed said they had spoken with the product’s manufacturer before returning an item. Most manufacturers have resources to answer your questions and resolve almost any issues before a return becomes necessary.
We hope this advice helps you have a happy, healthy, return-free holiday season!
There’s no shortage of home appliance reviews or of people looking to share their opinion. A simple Google search for a product you’re thinking of buying, whether it’s a washing machine, vacuum or mixer, will likely produce more reviews than you can wrap your head around. Maybe some are positive, some not so much. So how do you know which to believe?
We talked to an expert in product reviews to get her take on how to get the most out of a product review. Carolyn Forte, a 35-year veteran of Good Housekeeping and director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Home Appliances, Cleaning Products and Textiles Lab, is one of the people who has a say in whether a product receives the coveted Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. She says product reviews need to be read with a critical eye, and you need to look beyond the number of stars an appliance receives.
Keep in mind that consumer reviews are based on one user’s experience with a product, not on a full-scale test of the product’s performance.
“Look at what’s behind the reviews,” she said. “These are consumer reviews, so keep those in perspective. Look for scientific, performance-based reviews. Start with those and look at other online reviews from users. Don’t look at one without looking at both.”
The most valuable consumer reviews will likely come from a reviewer whose situation is similar to yours. For example, if you’re shopping for a vacuum and don’t have a pet, you might not want to form an opinion on a product based on a review written by somebody who shares a home with three cats. Their cleaning needs will be very different from yours. If you have children and live in a house in the country, a review written by a single, urban apartment-dweller will offer a different perspective.
Read the details about the reviewer’s experience, not just their overall impression of the product. “What are they complaining about?” Forte says. “If it’s a particular feature, maybe that’s important. Discount those who seem to be ranting and put it into context. If it’s negative, be skeptical with an eye toward why it’s negative.”
Product reviews conducted by media should also be read thoroughly and critically, Forte says. Consider how they reached their conclusion. They should be transparent about their testing process. “Look for places that are upfront about how they test,” she says.
Want to hear more from Carolyn? Next month, she’ll launch her new column, “Ask Carolyn,” in which she’ll put her decade of expertise to work by offering advice on what you need to know to make your household chores quicker and easier!
Combine the right appliances with some culinary knowledge, and you have the tools to take your meals from ordinary to memorable. And now that we’re into the biggest cooking season of the year, it’s time to step up your kitchen game. AHAM is here to help. We interviewed two seasoned professional chefs about how appliances help them get the job done in the kitchen. Here’s what they had to say about their favorite appliances, their advice to aspiring home chefs, cooking at the holidays and how they apply their pro cooking techniques at home.
Lance Nitahara Lecturing Instructor, Culinary Institute of America.
Former winner of the Food Network’s “Chopped” and contestant on “The Iron Chef”; Certified Pastry Culinarian, Certified Hospitality Educator
Appliances for Cooking Success Stand mixer: A traditionalist may prefer knead by hand, but a mixer will help you get the same results. The mixer is also your ally for mashed side dishes. “It’s hard to replace mixing doughs by hand, but I rarely do it anymore,” Nitahara said. “If I’m doing a pasta dough, I’ll put it in a mixer with a dough hook. It comes out more consistent. I’ll do it by hand if I have to, but I don’t have to if my stand mixer is right there.”
Food processor with attachments: Another time-saving must for the aspiring chef. It’s worth your time to read your operator’s manual and find out if you’re getting the most use out of your attachments. “The regular food processor with attachments for grating and mixing are essential,” Nitahara said. “If I have to grate a ton of cheese, I’m not going to do it by hand. After being in an industrial kitchen, there are certain things I won’t do by hand. I know the time investment. It won’t change the quality and it’s the same amount of cleanup.”
Oven and range: The heat distribution in your oven will affect how your dishes turn out. “Whether you’re going with gas, electric or propane, look for a stove that has a good convection fan,” Nitahara said. “You’re not paying that much more for it. It cooks so much more evenly. If I’m doing baked items—pastry or dough, or things that have to be browned on top like potatoes au gratin—the convection current of air evenly distributes the heat across the item. Because of the convection, you have a more even transfer of heat and you’re getting a faster cook time.” Don’t forget about ventilation. “You’ll need a good ventilation system if you’re doing a lot of meats and high-heat cooking. It’s absolutely important if you’re doing a lot of searing.”
Cook like a pro Top skill for the budding chef: Organization and knife skills. “One of the running problems most people in the U.S. have is space. If you aren’t organized, it’s going to be dreadful to prep or cook for a large number of people. The next would be knife skills. You need to learn how to cut things without cutting your hand off. Now, with technology and appliances, a lot of things get done for you.”
Holiday cooking: The holidays are about spending quality time with friends and family. But you’ll miss out on that if you’re stuck in the kitchen. That’s why you should do as much prep as you can in advance. And forget about all the tricks you may have heard to know when a turkey is done cooking, and invest in a digital meat thermometer. “Never use that plastic pop-up, and forget about time per pound,” Nitahara said. “Take the temperature of the turkey. It should be a minimum 165 in the thickest part of the breast. Make sure it’s thawed out. If you have a 25-pound turkey, you need to bring it into the fridge six days in advance.”
John Dion Associate professor, culinary arts, Johnson & Wales University; Independent and collaborative foodservice and educational consultant
Appliances for cooking success Digital thermometer: Thinking of frying your turkey this Thanksgiving? You’ll want to have a good digital thermometer on hand. “I like them for their exactness,” Dion said. “They’re easy to read.” A fryer thermometer will help you keep the oil right around the 300 degrees necessary for a low, slow fry, Dion said.
Immersion blender: “I love my immersion blender,” Dion said. “It’s multi-purpose for your smoothies and fruit dishes, even making your own mayonnaise, aiolis and vinaigrettes.”
Oven: Dion is also a proponent of convection as a tool for more precise cooking. “You definitely have to have convection now,” he said. “It’s great to see more convection ovens coming out. Ideally, it’s best if the fan is variable and you can adjust the speed.” However, if you have spices to toast, save them for a conventional oven where they won’t be blown around by the fan.
Range: More burners can be a blessing on a busy day in the kitchen. “In my last house, I had a 36-inch, six-burner range, which was wonderful.” If you can, consider adding an induction cooktop to your center island. “What I like about induction cooking is there’s no flame, so you’re keeping the surface area cool,” Dion said. “It’s going to be more efficient than gas, and I can be precise. If I want to melt chocolate, I can set it at 78-79 degrees. It’s more about the precision temperature than anything else.” Of course, if you use induction cooking, you’ll need cookware made from cast iron or another magnetic material. Don’t skimp, Dion advises. “I have restaurant quality pots and pans,” he said. “You’ll get better heat distribution. The cheaper ones get too hot and the handles start to smoke up.”
Refrigerator: Organization is an indispensable skill for cooking success, and your refrigerator can help you stay on track. “I look for height, plenty of adaptable shelf space, and compartments,” Dion said. “I’m partial to double doors so you’re not opening the whole thing at once.”
Cook like a pro How to choose appliances: Look for quality and durability. “In homes, you don’t beat them up like you do in a restaurant, but they should be able to take a beating,” Dion said. “Look for good craftsmanship. Pay a little more and get a better quality product.”
Top skill for the budding chef: Knife skills and staying on schedule. “You have to know how to cut,” Dion said. “We don’t teach speed, but we teach to work like you don’t have enough time.
Holiday cooking: Don’t think of a holiday meal as a one-day cooking project. It isn’t something you should expect to knock out in a few hours, so start in advance. “Prep, prep, prep,” Dion said. “Start a couple of days ahead of time.” Cut the vegetables you can in advance and prepare the dining area. “Know how long it takes something to cook,” Dion said. “If you put your turkey in the oven two hours before your guests show up, you’re not having turkey.”
Even the most dedicated neat freak might cringe at the thought of cleaning their oven. But putting it off can make cooking more challenging.
Over time, residue from cooking and spills can build up and become a drag on oven and range performance. And the “leftovers” that build up on the bottom and sides of your oven can also make the food you prepare taste different. (We’re guessing neither you nor your guests would appreciate the subtle flavors of the charred residue of several meals in their entree or dessert, but we could be wrong!)
Grease and grime can clog the burner and affect performance. Sugary spills on glass cooktops with traditional elements can damage the glass.
Fall behind on cleaning, and before you know it, your range looks like this.
Instead of waiting until it’s unavoidable, clean your oven and range after every use. That may sound like a lot, but it’s the difference between a guaranteed quick and easy job and one that could require significantly more time and elbow grease. Make cleaning a regular part of your cooking and baking.
Clean every part of your range. That means the oven walls, glass cooktop, burners, finish, and knobs. Each is made from different materials and therefore may require a different approach. Your appliance’s manufacturer will be able to provide instructions for each.
What to use: This is where it gets tricky. Appliance manufacturers test many cleaners on their ovens and ranges, but it’s impossible to test all of the options that are on the market. Your oven’s use and care manual may have some suggestions, as will the labels of the specific cleaners. You can’t go wrong, however, with warm soap and water or a white vinegar and water solution, which are unlikely to damage any finish. Avoid cleaners with abrasive qualities, as these could scratch the oven’s finish. Some manufacturers recommend carefully using a razor blade to clean stubborn dirt from oven glass.
Technique: Again, consult your appliance’s use and care manual for specific instructions. Avoid steel wool and similar products, which can damage the finish. Go with the grain (not in a circular motion) to avoid scratching, particularly if your oven has a stainless steel finish. Wait until the oven cools before you begin cleaning to avoid burning yourself. That could take a while, so be patient.
Self-cleaning: Many ovens offer self-cleaning features. Traditional self-cleaning means the oven will heat to an extremely high temperature—as high as 900 degrees—while the residue is burned off. You will not be able to open the oven during a self-cleaning cycle. Oven racks and all pans should be removed during the cycle. After the cycle is complete and the oven cools, you should be able to easily wipe out the ashes. Many manufacturers are now offering a steam cleaning option as well. These models heat water to a boiling point and utilize steam to soften anything in the oven for easy cleaning.
Is it time to change your refrigerator’s water filter? Be careful about where you buy the replacement. Many consumers, perhaps attracted by lower prices, are being duped into purchasing counterfeit water filters. These convincing but fake filters, which can be nearly impossible to distinguish from the real thing, may put consumers’ health and property at risk.
Only one of these filters is genuine. Can you tell the difference?
AHAM and its refrigerator members Amana, Beko, Blomberg, Bosch, Electrolux, Frigidaire, Gaggenau, GE, Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, LG, Maytag, Miele, Samsung, Sub-Zero Wolf, Thermador and Whirlpool, along with testing and certification organization NSF International and the Water Quality Association, in the Filter It Out campaign to call awareness to the significant problem of counterfeit and deceptively labeled refrigerator water filters.
Counterfeit water filters are being sold online every day. But even though these products may appear identical to those sold by legitimate manufacturers, their performance is anything but. Counterfeit filters are illegal, and often don’t deliver on their promises or function near the level of authentic filters. Impurities found in some parts of the US water supply, such as lead, asbestos, pesticides and insecticides may not be filtered out by counterfeit or deceptively labeled filters. Even scarier is the fact that the consumer may not have any indication that these and other contaminants are not being removed from the water they drink. The water doesn’t look any different, so consumers assume it is being filtered.
The blue water means that contaminants are present, even after the water was run through a non-genuine filter.
And unlike the water filters made by legitimate brands, counterfeit water filters are not designed, tested and certified to fit your refrigerator. A poor fit could damage the refrigerator and cause leaks that could lead to costly property damage.
How to avoid buying a counterfeit water filter
It’s often difficult even for experts to tell the difference between a legitimate model and a counterfeit. Sometimes, they’re only distinguishable by differences in weight. Consumers can avoid purchasing counterfeit water filters by buying replacements only from trusted manufacturers. Filter it Out has tips on how to avoid purchasing counterfeit and deceptively labeled filters.
How Filter It Out is fighting the problem
Filter It Out is pushing back against counterfeit and deceptively labeled water filters through the combination of a public awareness campaign, testing that shows the ineffectiveness of the counterfeits and educating regulators and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, who often are the first to come into contact with counterfeit products, to flag suspect shipments before they have the opportunity to reach consumers.
Late October usually brings beautiful autumn colors and more comfortable autumn temperatures. Unfortunately, sniffles, sneezes and colds are often close behind.
“It’s a trifecta this time of year,” said David Stukus, M.D., a pediatric allergy and asthma specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and associate professor of pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine. “The most common cause is circulating viral infections as kids go back to school,” Stukus says. “The other would be changes in the weather pattern, which can cause worsening symptoms that are often preexisting. We have ragweed and mold spores, especially on rainy days and when the leaves collect in the fall.”
Things might not be much better indoors for those with dust mite or other environmental allergies. As temperatures drop and the windows are closed, those allergy symptoms can get worse.
Depending on the symptoms and cause, the course of treatment might include use of a humidifier or dehumidifier. Here’s how each could help:
Humidifier: “For people with chronic nasal congestion or postnasal drip, we’ll often recommend running a humidifier in the bedroom at night,” Stukus says. Only use water in the dehumidifier, he says. “We never recommend putting any kind of medicine, herbal treatment or essential oils inside a humidifier,” Stukus says. “Diffusing medicine through these products can cause irritation of the skin, nose and lungs.” The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends only using distilled or demineralized water in humidifiers, as the minerals in tap water can increase bacteria growth and produce a dust that makes symptoms worse. Use the humidifier in the room in which you spend the most time. Typically, that means the bedroom. Clean the humidifier regularly to avoid mold and mildew development, which can make symptoms worse.
Dehumidifier: Those who have allergies to dust mites will want to aim for a less humidity, as the microscopic mites tend to thrive in a humid environment. A dehumidifier can help. “If they have high humidity levels in their home or obvious mold growth, that would be a good indication to get a dehumidifier,” Stukus says. AAAAI suggests keeping the humidity level in your home between 30 and 45 percent.
There’s no single course of treatment for allergies, so it’s essential to see a physician who can conduct the proper examination and testing to find out what’s causing the symptoms. Don’t try to self-diagnose. “[Diagnosis is] complicated and highly individualized,” Stukus says. “You really need to know what’s going on with that person to provide the best course of treatment.”
Looking for a way to remove some of the pollen and allergens from the indoor air? Room air cleaners certified through AHAM’s certification program have been certified and verified by an independent laboratory, assuring consumers that the product will perform according to the manufacturer’s product claims for suggested room size and the reduction of three common household particulates: tobacco smoke, dust and pollen, commonly referred to as the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR).
If the storm requires you to evacuate, unplug appliances except for refrigerators or freezers before leaving. Turn off gas and electricity if your home is damaged or if you are instructed to do so.
Do not turn on or plug in any appliances after a flood, as doing so could cause an electric shock or fire.
Flooding may cause gas appliances to move or break. Leave immediately if you smell gas or suspect a gas leak. Turn off the gas and leave the door open.
Clean and sanitize all hard surfaces, including countertops, concrete, plumbing fixtures and any portable appliances. This is critical to remove and to prevent mold. Use hot water and dish detergent to clean, and a capful of bleach in a gallon of water to sanitize. Wash your hands with boiled and cooled or sanitized water after cleaning.
Wash any contaminated clothes in a laundromat or machine in a location that hasn’t been flooded if yours hasn’t been inspected, serviced and cleared for use.
If you use a wet-dry vacuum during cleanup, follow all manufacturers’ directions to avoid electric shock.
Be prepared to replace your appliances. While it’s possible that some may be recovered, don’t use them until they’ve been thoroughly inspected by an electrician or qualified technician who can assess whether they’re safe to use.