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Put Safety First When Purchasing Second-Hand Appliances

We all like to find good deals, and you may be on to finding some great ones this Labor Day weekend.  But, put safety first if you are considering a second hand appliance.   AHAM urges consumers to consider the following tips before purchasing a second-hand portable appliance:

  1. Ask the age and working condition of the appliance you want to purchase.
  2. Check for frayed or damaged power cords, switches and parts.
  3. Inspect for tampering and inquire about any repairs performed on the appliance.
  4. Make sure all parts, including the owner’s operating manual, is included with the product. The owner’s manual provides important performance and safety tips.
  5. Has the appliance been the subject of a safety recall? Recall notices are available from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Remember to check back through the life of the appliance for recall notices.

If you’re in doubt, purchase a new appliance instead! You could be getting mush more than you bargained for if you aren’t careful.    And, those selling a second-hand product should use these guidelines too, to determine if the unit should be sold or simply discarded.

Stainless Steel Continues to Grow in Popularity

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If you’ve been shopping for appliances lately, seen a home improvement program or browsed a design magazine, you’ve probably noticed a lot of appliances with stainless steel finishes. There’s a simple explanation for that: it’s become the most popular finish for the “core?? kitchen appliances (refrigerators, dishwashers and ranges). Ten years ago only 20% of core appliances had stainless steel finish but by 2014 that number had grown to 49%! Stainless is also a popular finish for vent hoods, microwaves and even portable appliances such as coffeemakers and toasters.

What used to be a finish reserved for mostly higher-end models now extends to more budget-conscious  models. Many consumers are attracted to the finish’s sleek, contemporary appearance, especially those of us who grew up in a time when every kitchen we stepped into had appliances that were white, beige or even avocado green or harvest gold!

For someone who is thinking about redesigning their kitchen or simply replacing their existing appliances, the appliance’s finish is one of the top concerns. Some questions to consider include “How will stainless steel integrate with my current or new cabinets???, “How can I avoid having a cold, industrial look in my kitchen??? and “How easy is stainless steel to keep clean??? AHAM has assembled a few resources to help you. HGTV has some suggestions from designers on how consumers can take advantage of the benefits of stainless steel and other materials:

You can soften the cold shine of stainless with granite and ceramic, says Karen Sciascia, designer for A Matter of Style in Cheshire, Conn. In a traditional or contemporary kitchen design, Karen favors cream-colored granite counters to offset the cold shine of stainless appliances. “The mica in the stone really picks up the soft gray color in the stainless,” she says.

Read the complete article here. SFGate also has some tips on what colors blend well with stainless. Finally, Bob Villa tells you how to keep those new stainless steel appliances looking like they just came out of the showroom.

Save Money and Help the Environment with these Energy Saving Tips

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Everyone would like to use less energy and reduce their monthly electricity bill. AHAM has assembled some quick and easy tips to help you reduce the amount of energy your appliances use. Every bit adds up.

  • If you are replacing your refrigerator, do not use the old refrigerator as a second refrigerator because it won’t yield energy savings. Properly recycle the appliance. The store where you purchased the new refrigerator likely will pick up and dispose of your old one for no charge.  You can also visit the ENERGY STAR website for information about their Responsible Appliance Disposal program.
  • Allow hot foods to cool before placing them in the refrigerator, and always cover foods that may release moisture in the refrigerator.
  • Limit opening the refrigerator and freezer doors.  Label foods or use clear food storage bags to easily identify foods.
  • Scrape, but do not pre-rinse, dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.  Dishwashers do a great job of cleaning soiled dishes.
  • Take advantage of your dishwasher’s “eco?? option that reduces water use, or use the no-heat air dry feature.
  • Use the proper load size setting for each load of laundry or use the automatic setting if your clothes washer has it to ensure you’re not using more water than necessary. Also, use cold water settings whenever possible.
  • Always clean the lint filter on the clothes dryer after each use.  A clogged filter will reduce dryer performance.

How do you save energy at home?  If you have energy saving tips, share them with us!

Five Appliances that Save You Money

Espresso iStockMediumIf you find yourself stopping off at a coffee shop before work each morning, lugging home cases of bottled water from the grocery or always eating out, you might want to look at how home appliances can save you money. Even better, most of them you probably already have in your kitchen so why not start saving money right now?

Coffeemakers—Save on pricy coffeehouse blends by brewing your morning cup at home.  Resisting a $3 cup of coffee will save you nearly $1,000 per year!

Freezers—Stock up on frozen foods when they are on sale. Last year, nearly 2 million home freezers were shipped for sale as consumers realized the savings in stocking up on frozen sale items.  Also, remember to shop for an ENERGY STAR freezer to save even more on energy costs.

Water filters—Use a water filtration system in your refrigerator instead of buying bottled water.  This practice will save you money, and will help the environment by reducing the number of plastic bottles that clog landfills.

Portable electric heaters—Turn down the heat and use portable heaters in rooms that are used frequently.  Keeping the thermostat down will save money while portable heaters provide direct and quick warmth.

Cook at home—An electric oven turned on for one hour on 350ºF only uses 2kWh of electricity, costing just 24 cents.   The cost of dining out can add up quickly when you add in drinks, tips and tax.   Try cooking at home for a low-cost meal.  Tons of free recipes can be found online from AllRecipes.com, Food.com and Food Network just to name a few.

Keep Your Clothes Dryer Operating Safety and Efficiently with These Tips

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Proper installation and maintenance of clothes dryers are an important part of ensuring that the appliance performs as designed.

The dryer venting materials are an important factor in dryer performance and safety. AHAM recommends the use of rigid sheet metal or corrugated semi-rigid sheet metal venting material. Never use coiled-wire foil or plastic venting material.

Are your clothes taking longer to dry than they used to? Dryers need maintenance like any other appliance. In order to keep sufficient airflow around the heating source, lint must be removed from the dryer and vent. Lint and dust can build-up over time and reduce airflow, resulting in decreased performance, by not allowing air to circulate freely through the dryer. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer, where lint can be trapped. Clean the lint filter before and after each load. The interior of the appliance and venting system should be cleaned periodically by qualified service personnel. Keep the area around the dryer clean and free of clutter.

Dryer Do’s

  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions on installing the dryer and vent system.
  • Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid sheet metal or corrugated semi-rigid sheet metal venting.
  • Clean the lint filter before and after each cycle.
  • Inspect venting system behind dryer to ensure it is not damaged or crushed.

Dryer Don’ts – Do NOT dry the following items in the dryer:

  • Anything containing foam, rubber or plastic (i.e. bathroom rugs, non-slip mats).
  • Any item which the dryer manufacturer’s instructions specifically state “dry away from heat.”
  • Glass fiber materials (unless manufacturer’s instructions permit).
  • Materials on which there was anything flammable (e.g., alcohol, cooking oils, gasoline, spot removers, dry-cleaning solvents, etc.). These should be dried outdoors or in a well- ventilated room, away from heat even if they have gone through the wash cycle. Flammable substances give off vapors that could ignite or explode.
  • Fabric soiled with cooking oils.

A complimentary copy of AHAM’s Clothes Dryer Safety brochure can be obtained by sending a request to info@aham.org. Large quantities of the brochure, as well as those on preventing range tipping, portable heater safety and cooking safety, can be ordered through AHAM’s online store for a nominal shipping fee.

Kitchen Redesign Regrets

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Many of us would love to have the kitchen of our dreams, equipped with beautiful appliances, cabinets and countertops, and one that will surely impress family and friends at a get-together. For some, those dreams became nightmares when their kitchen redesigns didn’t go as planned. Readers of This Old House magazine share some of their experiences of when kitchen remodeling went awry.  Some kitchen can remodels can be stressful – and expensive – experiences. This Old House suggests you follow these tips when planning to remodel to help make the process go smoother:

4 Steps to Fewer Regrets

1. Invest in the best quality materials and workmanship you can afford. A shoddy job will have to be redone sooner, creating more waste and costing you more in the end.

2. Know your needs and plan ahead. Choose materials that will stand up to kids, clean freaks, dogs—whatever’s “real” in your world.

3. Listen to the experts. Kitchen designers, architects, and fellow remodelers all know things you need to learn—the sooner, the better.

4. Go with your gut. If you’re second-guessing yourself now, chances are you’ll be smacking yourself six months down the road.

Do you have any advice from your kitchen remodeling experience?

Worrying about Fall Allergies?

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Think it’s too early to begin worrying about fall allergy season? Think again! According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology  (ACAAI), fall allergies can be especially bothersome to those who are allergic to pollen and ragweed. In particular, ACAAI states that hay fever and autumn leaves can trigger allergic reactions. They note:

Hay Fever – Hay fever, a term from a bygone era, actually has nothing to do with hay. Instead,  it’s a general term used to describe the symptoms of late summer allergies. Ragweed is a common cause of hay fever, which is also known as allergic rhinitis. The plant usually begins to pollenate in mid-August and may continue to be a problem until a hard freeze, depending on where you live.

Pesky Leaves – Some folks might find it difficult to keep up with raking leaves throughout the autumn. But for allergy sufferers, raking presents its own problem. It can stir agitating pollen and mold into the air, causing allergy and asthma symptoms.

One of the best methods of combating allergies is to purchase an AHAM Verifide® portable room air cleaner. Room air cleaners that are 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).

Tips to Consider when Buying your Next Vacuum

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Canister or upright? With a bag or without? These are just a few of the questions you might have when trying to decide which vacuum to buy. Finding the right one can be more difficult than you think, especially if have pets, have limited storage space or have to carry the vacuum up a flight of stairs. If you’ve shopped online or in the store then you probably know that vacuums come in a variety of styles to fit every budget – just like cars.

AHAM has assembled some buying tips courtesy of HuffPost Home:

  • Keep in mind what you’ll use your vacuum cleaner for the most: “The toughest job for a vacuum is deep-cleaning carpets, which is what our research says is the number-one job people want in their vacuum. Equally important is being lightweight enough that it’s not hard to push, pull, lift and generally maneuver. Third is durability,” says Consumer Reports Senior Home & Yard Editor, Ed Perratore.
  • DO: Buy a vacuum that works with your lifestyle. “We test for pet-hair pickup and find that some models do very well at getting up what their pet sheds without the hair wrapping around the brush. Neither uprights nor canisters have the edge there. For apartment dwellers, the size of the unit matters a lot. If you have lots of carpets, we recommend bagged uprights since they tend to have the best airflow and suction. If you don’t want to lug around an upright and also maybe vacuum stairs a lot, consider a canister. And for general pickup of spilled dry items and dust, many people also have hand, stick and even robotic vacs–though you can’t count on them for deep-cleaning.”
  • DON’T: Forget that it’s all about HOW you use the vacuum. “There are a few ways to vacuum “wrong.” Never vacuum water or even a wet floor; use a wet/dry vac instead. Change your bag or empty your bin promptly; it affects available airflow. Ditto for the filters; inspect them every couple of months. If you vacuum up something big like a sock, turn the vacuum off right away–besides blocking airflow, you could break the belt, which is there to protect the motor. And if you vacuum a bare floor like wood or laminate and don’t turn off the brush (or don’t have a brush on/off switch), you’ll wear away that floor’s finish over time.”

View the complete article here.

Also, GoodHousekeeping.com has advice on keeping your vacuum running smoothly for years to come. Here are a few of them:

  • What’s the difference between a canister and an upright vacuum?
    A canister vacuum is generally more versatile. Like uprights, canisters handle carpets, but they’re also great at cleaning bare floors, vacuuming stairs and sucking up dirt from corners.
  • Which is better — a vacuum with a bag or a bagless vacuum?
    Neither is better. The Good Housekeeping Institute tests show that both clean equally well. Which you buy depends on personal preference. Bagless cleaners save you the trouble of having to buy extra bags, but they can be messy to empty, and the filters and dust containers must be kept clean. While vacuums with bags keep dust and dirt contained, they are tricky to retrieve an earring or small object that gets sucked up accidentally.
  • Do more amps mean better cleaning?
    If you’re tempted to buy a model with the highest amps, horsepower or watts, you might want to think again. These numbers are simply measurements of the electrical current used by the motor. A vacuum cleaner’s performance depends on airflow, the amount of suction it produces, and other factors including the overall design and attachments.

You can find more Good Housekeeping tips here.

What is induction?

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If you’ve shopped for a new range or cooktop recently, you may have seen some are induction. Although induction has been around for quite a while, it’s only recently started to catch on as home chefs look for an alternative to electric burners. In fact, 15 percent of electric cooktops shipped last year included an induction burner! This is a three percent increase from 2013.

So what is induction and how does it work? An induction burner looks very much like an electric smoothtop burner and is heated using an electromagnetic field whereas a conventional electric burner uses radiant heat. Unlike cooking with a conventional electric burner, induction burners only transfer heat to magnetized pans so you could place a chocolate bar directly on an induction burner without it melting! Therefore, you’ll need to make sure your cookware is induction-capable and you can do this by simply holding a magnet to the underside of the pan or pot. Additionally, induction is also highly energy efficient since heat is only transferred directly to the pan

If induction has piqued your interest, you can learn more  through any manufacturer’s website or, CNET’s website has additional information behind the science of induction. Lastly, several years ago The New York Times published a detailed article about the pros and cons of induction.

Need a New Room Air Conditioner? Check Out These Tips Before You Buy!

As the summer heat bakes much of the U.S., you might find yourself in need of replacing that old (and probably less efficient) room air conditioner. Before going out to the local home improvement store, you should check out the directory of AHAM Verifide® room air conditioners.  Room air conditioners carrying the AHAM Verifide mark have been independently-tested to perform to manufacturer’s claims for cooling capacity (measured in BTUs per hour), Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) and electrical energy in Amps. Additionally, for units carrying the ENERGY STAR designation, AHAM’s energy verification of the unit ensures that the product meets ENERGY STAR criteria.

ENERGY STAR’s website has some great tips for purchasing room air conditioners:
•    Consider a unit with controls. Controls such as a digital readout for the thermostat setting, and a built-in timer help you adjust your unit to use less energy.
•    Check the yellow EnergyGuide label. This label helps you determine how much energy it takes to operate the model, compare the energy use of similar models, and estimate annual operating costs
•    Look for a unit whose filter slides out easily for regular cleaning. Clean filters help keep your unit in good working condition.
•    Select the unit with the highest Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) for greater savings. The EER is the cooling capacity in BTUs divided by the watts.

And when you do buy that new room air conditioner, here are some tips courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy to keep it running smoothly for years to come:
•    The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean its filters.
•    Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system’s efficiency significantly. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.
•    Outdoor condenser coils can also become very dirty if the outdoor environment is dusty or if there is foliage nearby. You can easily see the condenser coil and notice if dirt is collecting on its fins.
•    At the start of each cooling season, inspect the seal between the air conditioner and the window frame to ensure it makes contact with the unit’s metal case. Moisture can damage this seal, allowing cool air to escape from your house.
•    In the winter, either cover your room air conditioner or remove and store it. Covering the outdoor unit of a central air conditioner will protect the unit from winter weather and debris.