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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.

Buying a toaster or toaster oven? Here’s what to consider

Whether it’s an oven, juicer or sous vide immersion cooker (they’re great for eggs), many appliances play a part in creating the perfect breakfast. But no appliance is more synonymous with breakfast than a toaster. If you are shopping for a toaster or toaster oven, you are going to find yourself faced with countless choices. They’ll range from simple “pop-up” models that do nothing but toast and cost under $20, to toaster ovens rife with features that may cost several hundred dollars.

We take toast very seriously. We understand that breakfast, which likely includes toast, can set the tone for the day, and we want to help you choose the toaster that helps get you to the right place. That’s our focus in our latest installment of our series on breakfast. (Did you miss the first two? We covered nontraditional takes on eggs and toast.) As with most appliances, it helps to spend some time thinking about how you’ll use the toaster. For help, we talked to experts at AHAM member KitchenAid for the lowdown on today’s toaster. They offered these suggestions on what to consider before you buy a toaster or toaster oven.

Capacity: How much bread do you toast in a typical morning? Do you have a large family that tends to line up waiting for the toaster? The demand for your toaster will tell you how many slices you need your toaster to handle at once. Most toasters will offer anywhere from two to four toast slots, though you may find a few models offering six. Toaster ovens will also advertise their toast capacity based on the number of slices it can hold at once. They may also describe capacity by using other foods they’re capable of handling, like pizza or meats.

Appearance: Unlike some of your other small appliances, a toaster is likely to live in full view on your countertop and become part of your decor. Make sure you choose a color and style that you like.

Bagel setting: Who doesn’t love a good bagel? Many toasters are built to handle the popular breakfast bread, with wide slots and a bagel setting. When you set your toaster for a bagel, power to the outer elements is reduced so the heat is focused on the bread side of the bagel.

Accessories: Do you need a bun warmer or sandwich rack? Some toasters come with attachments that rest a few inches above the toast slots.

Lift and descent: Some toasters allow you to use the lever to lift the toast a bit higher for easy removal. Other models offer “automatic descent,” a sensor-enabled feature that brings the bread into the toaster after you place it in the slot.

Cooking functions: Toaster ovens offer cooking functions beyond toasting, but the number of functions will likely vary by model. Typical functions you might come across are bake, toast, broil, warm, reheat. Choose your settings carefully if you’re partial to cooking or reheating meals in a toaster oven.

Hungry yet? Read the first two installments of our series on breakfast:

Cook a “shell” of a breakfast with these alternatives to chicken eggs

Toast isn’t just toast: Creative takes on a breakfast standby

Space Heater Round-Up: AHAM’s Expert Advice, All in One Place

Winter is coming, and it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to fend off those seasonal chills. To help you prepare, here’s the best of our expert advice on portable electric heaters.

These key questions will help you choose the portable heater that works best for you:

  • Will you be using the heater for temporary personal heat or to keep a room steadily warm?
  • Do you need instant heat, or can the heat be generated gradually?
  • What’s your noise tolerance?

Learn about the types of heaters available –

  • Panel heaters can 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 features do you need? Today you can easily find heaters with the following:

  • A thermostat to keep the heat at a steady temperature. Some models offer a digital setting.
  • Oscillation to distribute heat
  • Adjustable fan speeds

And finally, no matter what type of heater you end up with, AHAM recommends these safety tips:

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels before using your portable electric heater.
  • DO NOT leave operating heater unattended and always unplug heater when not in use.
  • DO NOT use your heater with a power strip or extension cord. Overheating of a power strip or extension cord could result in a fire.
  • String out cords on top of area rugs or carpeting. Placing anything, including furniture, on top of the cord may damage it.
  • Keep combustible materials, such as furniture, pillows, bedding, papers, clothes and curtains at least three feet from the front of the heater and away from the sides and rear. DO NOT block heater’s air intake or exhaust source.

Looking for further reading? We have more info on heaters here and here. You can learn more about heater safety – and order free safety brochures! – here.

On the Juice: What to consider before you buy a juicer

A juicer is sometimes the go-to appliance for people who are looking to add more fruits and vegetables to their diet. A quick search will turn up the websites of countless devotees who swear by juicing and credit it for dramatic health turnarounds.

If you are ready to jump into the world of juicing, there are countless models available across a broad price range. They might have different capacity, attachments or speeds. In general, juicers fall into one of three categories depending on the manner in which they extract juice from the fruits and vegetables. centrifugal, masticating and triturating.

While all three types are more than capable of filling your glass, they have different ways of getting there. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of each.

Centrifugal 

Pros: They’re easy to use and extract juice quickly. “Less than a minute in most cases,” says Garrick Dee, who runs the juicer review and recipe website Juicing With G. They also don’t require as much prep work, but Garrick recommends looking for one with a wide mouth to accommodate more produce.

Cons: Centrifugal juicers tend to be louder and, in Garrick’s opinion, don’t do as good of a job extracting juice from leafy greens.

Masticating

Pros: Masticating juicers do a good job on leafy greens, are quieter and produce a better yield than centrifugal juicers, Garrick says.

Cons: Juicing with a masticating juicer requires more prep time and takes longer, Garrick says. They also tend to cost more than centrifugal juicers.

Triturating

Pros: Triturating juicers, Garrick says, yield more juice from both fruits and vegetables because of an adjustable cap that controls back pressure. “They’re another great tool for leafy greens.”

Cons: They often are the most expensive option, and they take up a lot of space. They may require some hands-on assembly. “The twin gears have to be assembled in a specific order, so there is a learning curve involved,” Garrick says. And, more parts means more cleaning is involved.

What to consider when shopping

There are three broad questions you should consider when you’re looking for a juicer:

  1. How often will you use the machine?
  2. What type of produce are you juicing?
  3. How much are you willing to spend?

“If you’re juicing lots of leafy greens, you can go with a horizontal auger juicer,” Garrick says. “It won’t clog up like a vertical auger juicer. The pulp ejection port of a horizontal juicer is straight, so there’s very little risk of clogging, while a vertical juicer has an L-shaped port that can clog if you don’t chop fibrous greens like celery.” However, a vertical juicer might work well for you if you’re juicing more fruits, or an equal amount of fruits and vegetables, Garrick says.

Care 

Like any appliance, juicers need regular cleaning and care. “Make sure to wash it immediately after using it,” Garrick says. You might be able to put some parts in the dishwasher, but others may have to be washed by hand. Consult your juicer’s use and care manual for specific cleaning instructions.

Safety 

Dee suggests you look for a juicer with these safety features:

  • Locking arms: “Look for something with a locking arm that locks the blade, bowl and cover in place and will prevent the motor from starting when it isn’t locked,” Garrick says.
  • Overload protection: Some juicers include features that shut off the motor if there’s an overload.
  • Food pusher: “Make sure the juicer has a food pusher that pushes ingredients through the feed chute down to the blade or auger,” Garrick says. “The last thing you want is dangling your fingers in those areas.” 

Other routes to juice

Juicing has countless advocates who swear by its health benefits, and it is one way to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Other appliances can help put you on the road to healthier eating, too.

Vacuum away indoor and outdoor allergens

Autumn leaves

Allergies tend to grab our attention when the seasons change and symptoms rear their ugly heads. In the fall, tree pollen tends to get the blame for our respiratory misery. Other common allergens like dust mites can cause trouble all year long. Regardless of whether your allergy symptoms are seasonal, regular and proper vacuuming should be part of your allergy prevention strategy.

We have one piece of advice allergy sufferers might love: If possible, somebody who doesn’t have allergies should do the vacuuming. But these tips will help cut down on the amount of allergens in your home no matter who is behind the vacuum.

Use an effective filter: HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters remove more than 99 percent of allergens with particles larger than .3 microns. They can be helpful in removing common allergens like dust mites and pollen. Micro-lined, two-ply vacuum cleaner bags will help prevent those dust particles from blowing back into the air.

Vacuum more than just the floor: Vacuum upholstered furniture, mattresses and drapes regularly. All can harbor allergens.

Don’t forget about the hard surfaces: Use a stick vacuum to remove pollen and dust mites that might have settled onto hard, non-carpeted surfaces.

Other appliances can help, too: Pollen comes out in the wash, and washing your clothes in hot water can remove dust mites. Your dehumidifier, air conditioner and room air cleaner can also help you get the upper hand on both outdoor and indoor allergens.

Storm preparation: How to keep frozen and refrigerated food safe

If you’re preparing for a major storm like Hurricane Irma, stocking up on enough food and water should be part of your plan. And it’s also essential to have a plan to keep your food safe to eat during and in the wake of the storm, especially if you lose power.

Eating food that hasn’t been stored properly can lead to a number of foodborne illnesses. Those can be serious under normal circumstances, but the potential lack of access to medical care during a severe storm makes avoiding illness even more important. Additionally, many foodborne illnesses can cause vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration. The condition can quickly become life threatening if you don’t have access to sufficient water.

Hurricane season lasts into November, and winter storms blow in soon after. Be prepared to keep your food safe during any serious storm with these important safety tips from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Use a thermometer: Monitor the temperatures in your refrigerator and freezer. Refrigerators should be kept at between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, freezers at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature in the freezer is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, the food is safe to eat or refreeze. Any perishable foods that have been refrigerated and kept at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours should be thrown away. Hint: Look for a thermometer that sends the temperature directly to your mobile device or can be monitored remotely. Otherwise, don’t open the door to check the temperature until the power is back on.
  • Make and store ice: If your freezer can make ice, make as much as you can starting days before the storm is set to arrive. You can use the ice to help keep the food cool if you lose power, or use it in a cooler. You may also freeze containers of water. The ice will help keep food in the freezer cold, and you may also drink the water when it melts if your water supply is cut off. Tip: Buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator cold for extended periods. Fifty pounds of dry ice keeps an 18-cubic-foot, fully stocked freezer cold for two days, according to FDA.
  • Move food to the freezer: Leftovers, milk, fresh meat and other foods that can be frozen should be moved from the refrigerator to the freezer. They’ll last longer if the power goes out.
  • Keep coolers handy (and the ice to fill them): Food will stay safe in refrigerators for about four hours after a power outage. Move them to ice-filled coolers if the power is off or is expected to be off for longer.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed: Only open them when necessary when a power outage is a possibility, even if you haven’t lost power. This will help keep the temperatures in both down.
  • Keep the freezer full: A full freezer will keep food frozen for about 48 hours if it isn’t opened. That time is cut in half, to 24 hours, if the freezer is only half-full.

What to keep, what to toss

The CDC offers these tips to help you decide what is safe to eat and what should be discarded:

  • Any food that has come into contact with flood or storm water should be thrown away. This includes containers with screw caps, snap lids, crimped caps,twist caps, flip tops, snap-open, and home canned foods.
  • Throw away any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • Thawed food that still contains ice crystals may be eaten or refrozen.
  • Throw away any canned foods that are bulging, opened or damaged. Cans that have come into contact with flood or storm water should be washed in a solution of 1 cup bleach and 5 gallons of water.
  • Never use potentially contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash your hands, wash or prepare food or prepare baby formula.

Never rely on a food’s smell or taste to determine whether it’s safe to eat. When in doubt, throw it out.

Expert Dishwasher Tips to Make Your Dishes Shine

 

Over their more than 130-year history, dishwashers have radically altered the post-meal ritual of “doing the dishes.” Besides taking most of the work out of scrubbing and drying, dishwashers use far less water than it takes to do the work by hand. They also sanitize dishes and can even rinse away food allergens.

Loading and unloading the dishwasher is part of the kitchen routine, and many dishwasher users habitually select the same cycles and settings every time they wash the dishes. That’s okay if you generally wash the same number of dishes that require the same level of cleaning. But if your needs change—say you need to wash pots instead of dishes, or you’re cleaning up after a particularly messy meal—taking advantage of different cycles can help save you time, effort and energy. Your dishwasher can most likely handle most food-related messes — they’re tested to deal with the worst.

Navigating the seemingly endless options of dishwasher models and features can be daunting, and it helps to have a guide. We reached out to Carolyn Forte, Good Housekeeping’s director of home appliances, cleaning products and textiles and a longtime friend of AHAM, who has worked with hundreds of dishwashers over the course of her career.

Cycles

Most dishwashers come with a variety of cycles to allow you to adjust the level of wash depending on what you’re washing, and how much cleaning is needed.

  • Rinse: Appropriate for very light cleaning jobs
  • Quick: These may range from a half hour to about an hour, Forte says. They’re made to tackle lighter cleaning jobs.
  • Normal: For your day-to-day, average dish needs
  • Pots and pans: For larger, perhaps more heavily soiled cookware

On many models, you’ll also find specialized cycles, like anti-bacterial, sani-rinse and others.

Choosing the right cycle

Your use and care manual will offer a description of the capabilities of each cycle. “If you have lightly soiled dishes, normal or quick wash should be fine,” Forte says. “If you have stuff that’s baked or dried on or it’s after a normal meal, you should do an auto cycle. If you have really baked-on stuff or cookware, go for the pots and pans cycle. Know what you’re putting in and use the features to get the best clean.”

Racks

While you’ll still find plenty of models with two racks, some manufacturers have added third racks to handle certain types of dishes and flatware. “One area dishwashers have distinguished themselves is racks,” Forte says. “You’ll find folding racks, clips to hold plastic lids, special jets for water bottles. If you do wash those, they’re also very helpful.”

Smart and connected features

Like many other appliances, dishwashers are steadily incorporating smart and connected features that offer functions like remote operability and repair diagnosis. Forte has worked with models that allow users to start or stop the dishwasher with their mobile device, and others that report when something in they cycle has gone wrong, like a blocked spray arm. Some models offer leak alerts and may even shut off when a leak is detected. Voice controls are also arriving. “Were seeing dishwashers that are Alexa-enabled,” Forte says. “You can start and stop it remotely.”

Get the best wash

Now that you know about dishwasher features, it’s time to talk technique. How can you minimize the dishwasher headaches like dishes that don’t quite get clean, cups that flip over and collect water, and dishes being knocked around during the cycle? How you load the dishes matters. “Some people are meticulous, some don’t care,” Forte says. “You have to load it right. If the water can’t reach it, it won’t get clean. Look at what the manual recommends. Make sure nothing is blocking anything else.”

  • Pots and pans should go on the bottom, upside down, Forte says. “Make sure they aren’t blocking each other.
  • Bowls can go on the bottom or top.
  • Glasses should go on the top rack. “Rest them against the tines, don’t put them over the tines,” Forte says. “It can put spots on the glasses or stress the glass.”
  • Spoons should be placed alternately up and down in the flatware basket. If you have a grid over the basked, they can all be placed with the handles facing down.

More dishwashing tips

“Make sure you use enough detergent, but not more than you need,” Forte says. “If you have hard water, you might need more detergent.” And you might not have realized that your dishwasher needs to be cleaned once in a while, too. Clean the filter regularly to dislodge any food waste. Look for detergent specially made to clean dishwashers, and follow the instructions in your use and care manual.

Induction introduction: A primer on induction cooking

When induction cooking first hit the scene, induction was considered a high-end appliance feature. Now, with more models hitting the market, it’s within reach for just about anyone interested in making the switch to induction.

In case you want to give induction cooking a try without installing a full cooktop, portable, one-burner induction appliances or even hybrid surfaces are available.

While the percentage of electric surface cooking units and electric ranges that include induction is still relatively small, it has risen steadily in recent years. According to AHAM factory shipment data, 15 percent of electric surface units included induction in 2016, up from 8 percent in 2010.

The difference: Unlike gas and electric ranges, induction ranges use a magnetic field to transfer heat directly into the pan. Neither the burner nor the air around the burner are heated, meaning what you’re cooking heats up faster. But only the pan, and what’s in it, will get hot. Not having hot burners reduces the potential that nearby materials can ignite while cooking, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. Also, it’s unlikely that the burners will be accidentally turned on, since they won’t heat without the proper cookware on the burner, the NFPA says.

You may need to buy new cookware. Induction burners will only work with cookware made of magnetic metals, such as iron or stainless steel.

Hint: The cookware package will normally state which type of range the cookware can be used with—gas, electric or induction. Cookware with a flat bottom will get you the best results.

Induction also offers more precise temperature control. You can even cook delicate items like dairy or chocolate for long periods, without worrying about fluctuations in temperature. It will take some practice, though, as induction cooking gets you to your desired temperature faster than gas or electric. Water, for example, will boil in about half the time. You’ll need to get used to the faster heating times.

The design of induction ranges, and the fact that they don’t get hot during cooking, can also lend itself to easier cleaning. Since the burners don’t heat up, spills aren’t going to burn onto the cooktop. (Though gas and electric ovens are easy to clean, if you do it right.)

Thanks to AHAM member Viking Range for the information on induction cooking.