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Physicians share their allergy prevention advice

Ragweed. Pet dander. Tree pollen. Mountain cedar. Regardless of what’s causing your allergy symptoms, the sniffling, coughing, sneezing and itching are a major downer any time of the year. Before you reach for the antihistamines, look around the house. Odds are you already have many of the tools—your appliances—that can reduce the level of allergens in your home and help you breathe a bit easier.

AHAM spoke with two allergy experts, Corinna Bowser, M.D., of Narberth Allergy & Asthma in Narbeth, Pa., and Sakina Bajowala, M.D., of Kaneland Allergy in North Aurora, Ill., who shared their advice on how your appliances can help you find allergy relief:

Vacuum: Vacuums with HEPA filters can be helpful in removing both ground allergens, like dust mites, and airborne allergens like pollen. A stick vacuum may be a convenient option to help you remove dust mites from the hard surfaces in your home between regular cleaning sessions.  Finally, consider having someone who doesn’t suffer from allergies do the vacuuming.

Room air cleaner: Air cleaners also utilize HEPA filters to remove allergens from the air. Do you have pets? Keep an air cleaner running in the room or area where the pets spend their most time and in the room where the allergic person sleeps. “Running a HEPA filter can help to reduce the levels of allergens in the air by up to 50 percent,” Bajowala said. “The air filters can help trap a lot of the allergens and make the air more suitable for asthmatic or allergic patients to breathe.”

Air conditioner: Air conditioners will help filter outdoor allergens and keep them outside. Combine them with a room air cleaner for an extra layer of protection. “Many patients with asthma and allergies do a lot better in air conditioned environments,” Bajowala said. “Both room and portable air conditioners can be helpful.”

Dehumidifier: The dreaded dust mite thrives in a human environment. “The more people, animals and humidity, the more dust mites,” Bowser said. Dust mites live year round, which means you have to take year-round precautions. Dehumidifiers can help reduce the humidity in your home and give the mites a less-favorable environment. “The recommended humidity is under 50 percent,” Bowser said. Bajowala recommends purchasing a humidity monitor to check your levels. Keep in mind that any appliance that uses water has the potential to grow mold, so follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning.

Washing machine: Dust mites tend to thrive in mattresses. You can help kill the mites by washing your linens in hot water. Washing machines will also help remove outdoor allergens like pollen from your clothes. “The pollen that covers cars is the same stuff that settles in our hair and clothes,” Bowser said. “It can become airborne again.”

Dishwashers: This isn’t related to seasonal allergies, but Bajowala recommends that anyone who lives in a home where someone suffers from food allergies wash their dishes on a sanitize cycle. “It does a better job of cleaning the surface and not transferring [allergens] from dish to dish. Hand washing can leave food protein behind.”

Finally, it’s important to visit a doctor to see if you can find out what’s causing your symptoms. “It helps to get tested and see what you’re allergic to,” Bowser said. “You can then focus more on what’s causing it and get the right advice.”

Advice from a dietitian on how your appliances can help you eat healthier

From your oven and ranges, to your refrigerator and freezer, to your blender, your appliances, when used properly, can be one of your best tools in your efforts to eat healthier. Much of healthy eating comes down to planning and preparation, says Tamara Melton, MS, RDN, LD, founder of LaCarte Wellness, a corporate wellness consultation firm in Atlanta. Melton is not only a registered and licensed dietician, she’s also a busy working mom who loves to cook and regularly puts the meal prep tips she offers her clients into action for her family.

“You don’t have to have the fanciest appliances, but having high-quality appliances that you know how to use can aid someone who is trying to eat healthier,” Melton said. “They help store your food and cook it well. It’s really important.”

While your appliances can’t do all of the work for you, they’ll make your path to a healthy lifestyle much easier. You’ll have to put in the prep time, though, so Melton recommends carving some time out of your week to prepare the foods you’ll eat. Melton offered her advice on how to take advantage of your kitchen appliances:

Refrigerator: If you organize your food for easy access, you’ll be less tempted to grab your phone and order takeout. Put your food in easy-to-access containers so the ingredients are easy to grab when you’re making the next meal. Slice up vegetables and fruit and store them in sandwich bags for snacks. Keep snacks for the kids within their reach on the lower shelves of the refrigerator. Want to save time in the morning? Boil eggs in advance and store them in your refrigerator until you’re ready to eat.

Freezer: Melton bakes muffins and quick bread and stores them in the freezer, defrosting them in the microwave for 15-30 seconds for an on-the-go breakfast. She’ll also freeze extra portions of spaghetti, chili and other dishes to take for lunch or serve as leftovers.

Rice cooker: The rice cooker gets a lot of use in Melton’s home and is a cornerstone of her cooking. “I cook most of our grains in there,” she said. She regularly takes advantage of the rice cooker’s convenience to prepare grains like couscous, quinoa, bulgur and farro. “I’ll put rice in with chicken broth, coconut milk, cilantro. I’ve made quinoa that I’ll take out and make into a Greek quinoa salad.”

Oven and range: “I like to make a lot of one-pot dishes,” Melton said. “We do a lot of roasted veggies.” The range and oven are used to prepare healthy foods for that night and later in the week. “I can walk away from it, and prepare some for the rest of the week.” Pay attention to your cookware and invest in quality saucepans, sauté pans, roasting dishes and dutch ovens, Melton recommends.

Microwave: The microwave oven can be the best friend in the kitchen for busy parents. Melton has a large microwave that she uses to quickly steam vegetables and defrost proteins. “We have steamed veggies as a snack,” she said. “Now that school’s back in, I steam veggies three times a week. The microwave is really important.”

Blender: The blender is an essential tool for making healthy smoothies and juices that can get the kids to eat their fruits and vegetables without them even knowing. Try one of her favorites: ½ a cup to a cup of cottage cheese, a cup of frozen berries, a cup of orange juice and a bit of honey. Add a hard- boiled egg (from the refrigerator), a muffin or quick bread (from the freezer, defrosted in the microwave) and coffee, and you have a convenient, healthy breakfast.

Toaster oven: Take advantage of your toaster oven to reheat leftovers with a smaller appliance and cut down on food waste, Melton recommends. It’s may be a more efficient option than your oven for reheating smaller portions.

How you arrange your appliances can also affect how willing you are to cook a healthy meal, Melton said. She recommends keeping the appliances you use regularly within easy reach. Make sure you reserve enough prep space as well.

Stay cooking with these kitchen appliance safety tips

An excited mother and her happy children cooking a roast together in the kitchen

When used properly, home appliances have a proven and extensive track record of safety. Appliances are rigorously tested for safety long before they make it to retailers’ shelves. Many of the accidents that involve appliances are easily preventable.

John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL, has been involved in the appliance safety and testing business for more than 50 years, earning the informal title of “Mr. Safety.” He recently spoke with AHAM and shared some of the kitchen appliance safety knowledge he’s gained over more than a half century spent in and around appliance testing.

Don’t touch hot surfaces: Manufacturers design portable appliances to be carried and handled in a way to reduce the risk of injury. In the case of cooking appliances, handles and knobs are often designed to stay cooler than other parts of the appliance when the appliance is in use. “All crock pots come with two handles, and that’s the way you should carry it,” Drengenberg said. If a knob or handle breaks, contact the manufacturer for a replacement. Only the manufacturer’s parts will have been tested with that appliance, and improvising or using one intended for a different model could create a risk.

Unplug your appliances…: Any appliance, regardless of whether it’s turned on, poses the risk of electrical shock. Unplugging the appliance when it isn’t in use will drop that risk to nearly zero.

…but don’t let that cord hang: “Cords are a snagging hazard,” Drengenberg said. A child can be injured by a falling appliance or burned by cooking appliances like crockpots or deep fryers. Some models include breakaway connectors to reduce the chance that an appliance will fall if the cord is pulled.

Don’t toast your toaster: Toasters and other portable appliances shouldn’t be stored near ranges. The heat from the stove can melt or damage the outer surface of the appliance. That both damages the appliance and could create other hazards if the inner components are exposed, Drengenberg said.

Keep  plugged-in appliances away from the sink: Plugged-in appliances used near the sink might fall into the sink, creating an electric shock risk. “Now it’s turned on, in a sink full of water, in a metal sink,” Drengenberg said. “It’s a perfect storm.”

Treat blades as knives: Most food processors include interlocks to stop the blade from rotating when the appliance is taken apart for cleaning, Drengenberg said. But the blades on blenders and food processors are sharp and should be handled with care during cleaning. “When you’re washing the blender or blade, it’s a sharp cutting tool,” he said.

Set the proper microwave cooking time: Care for a potato or some popcorn? Cooking those two foods for too long is a common cause of fires in microwaves, Drengenberg said. When fires happen, it’s often because the user mistakenly put too much time on the microwave and forgot the food was cooking, he said. Manufacturers have installed sensors in many models to shut the oven off in case of fire. If there’s a fire in your microwave, turn it off and keep the door closed. Opening the door could make the fire worse.

Watch what’s cooking: Most of the more than 100 million ranges and cooktops in use in the U.S. are used safely. But unattended cooking remains a leading cause of household fires in the U.S. and the leading cause of cooking fires. Monitor what you’re cooking when your range or oven is in use. AHAM, appliance manufacturers and UL are working to reduce cooking fires through technical developments and consumer education.

Prevent range tipping: Never use the oven door for support or as a step. Check to see that an anti-tip device has been installed on your range.

Read your manual: The instruction manual for your appliance should include ways to reduce hazards. Appliance safety standards from UL contain a list of “important safeguards” that are to be included in instruction manuals, Drengenberg said.

Do you have a question about kitchen appliance safety? Ask us in the comment section, and we’ll get an answer from “Mr. Safety.”

How to keep appliance repair costs under control

Woman Looking At The Repairman Repairing Dishwasher
Appliances play a major role in your life, and it can be stressful when they break down. But when they do, you want a quick, inexpensive repair. That may not always be possible, depending on the nature of the issue and service required to address it. But how you initially respond can reduce the chance that you’ll be surprised by a hefty repair bill.

First, it helps to understand how your bill is calculated. Time spent on the repair is not the only factor. There are a number of costs that go into hiring a repair technician, including:

  • Tools and testing equipment
  • Parts
  • Vehicle maintenance, gas and insurance
  • Training
  • Clerical staff

Some of the bill you’ll receive following a repair visit has already been determined before the technician arrives at your home. That might include a trip charge or diagnostic charge, which many technicians charge to travel to your home to investigate the issue. Once the technician arrives, many companies bill for time in 15-minute intervals.

Before you call, check to see if the issue you’re having with your appliance can be resolved without a technician’s visit. Make sure you check power sources, plugs and fuses before making a service appointment.

If you still need help, check to see if your appliance is still under warranty. If it is, some or all of the costs of repair may be covered, depending on the nature of the problem. However, you’ll need to choose an authorized service technician—a service branch owned by the manufacturer or an independent business recognized by the manufacturer to do in-warranty service on the product. Working with a repair technician who is not authorized could cost you in the form of a voided warranty and a much larger bill for parts and service.

It’s a good idea to select an authorized service technician even if your appliance is no longer under warranty. They are most likely to be familiar with your appliance and will likely have access to the tools and parts necessary to make the repair.

How to find a technician: Check the appliance’s use and care manual or call the manufacturer’s customer service line for a list of authorized technicians. Many manufacturers also include lists of authorized service technicians on their websites.

When you call, have the following information ready:

  • Any receipts from previous repairs. These can serve as proof of excessive service or related problems and may help in obtaining manufacturer assistance should problems occur after the warranty expires.
  • Appliance model number
  • Appliance serial number
  • Purchase date

After the visit: Keep your receipt and stick to the technician’s instructions on any preventive measures to reduce the chance that the problem will happen again.

AHAM Verifide, Energy Star, Energy Guide: What they mean

AHAM Verifide®. Energy Star. Energy Guide. What do those appliance labels mean?

They aren’t just labels. If you take a closer look, you’ll get valuable information on how much energy the appliance uses, and how much you might be saving.

AHAM Verifide: This signifies that the appliance meets certain attributes of the AHAM Verifide program, including volume, energy, and for some products, performance. All products that carry the AHAM Verifide mark have been randomly selected and independently tested against rigorous federal energy test procedures. You’ll find the mark on clothes washers and dryers, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, room air conditioners and room air cleaners. AHAM Verifide is a voluntary program, meaning appliance manufacturers decide whether or not to participate.

Energy Star: You’ll find the blue ENERGY STAR label on certain major appliances like clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, dehumidifiers, refrigerators, freezers and refrigerator-freezers, as well as lighting, residential heating and cooling systems. The label, launched by the Department of Energy in 1992, means that the products have been independently tested in labs to ensure they meet certain energy-efficiency criteria. AHAM has been approved by the Department of Energy as a verification body for ENERGY STAR products. This means AHAM can administer testing to ensure that products seeking the ENERGY STAR designation meet the program’s criteria. Like AHAM Verifide, participation in ENERGY STAR is voluntary for manufacturers.

Energy Guide: The yellow Energy Guide label provides a snapshot of how much energy the appliance uses. You’ll get an estimated yearly operating cost compared to other models and an estimate of how many kilowatts the appliance uses each year. The manufacturer, model number and capacity are listed. Energy Guide labels may also contain the ENERGY STAR label if the product meets those criteria. The Federal Trade Commission requires Energy Guide labels to be put on clothes washers, refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, dishwashers, room air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps and pool heaters. Manufacturers are required to test their products using Department of Energy procedures and report the results to the FTC.

Buying energy efficient products is just one step you can take to reduce your energy costs. Need more ideas? Take a look at AHAM’s energy saving tips.

Appliance buying tips for Mother’s Day

Little cute girl with her mother eating orange while cooking. Kitchen interior. Concept for young kitchen hands

Mother’s Day is the biggest day of the year for portable appliance sales, and with good reason. Millions of people are looking to show their mothers how much they love and appreciate them with a gift that will give your mom a few minutes of escape, provide some comfort and relaxation, or even take over a chore entirely. Appliances can provide all of those. Here are a few tips from AHAM to help you make this year’s Mother’s Day gift a memorable one:

Get Mom what she wants: Mother’s Day is all about mom! Does your mom have her eye on a particular appliance? Surprises are nice, but ask enough questions to make sure you’re buying the color, style and model she wants. Odds are she’ll appreciate that more than a surprise. A recipient not liking or wanting a gift is one of the top reasons appliances are returned.

Get the right fit: Appliances should blend in to your home. The appliance’s color, style and size should fit in with your current home layout and décor. Do you have plans to remodel soon? Decide whether the appliance you’re buying fits in with your plans.

Put some time back on her hands: Does your mother hate to vacuum? Go high-tech with a robotic vacuum. Let her get a few more minutes of sleep with a smart coffee maker. Take a look at manufacturers’ emerging lines of connected appliances to see what aspects of the household chores you can automate.

Ask for a demonstration:  Will your gift meet mom’s expectations? One way to find out is to ask for an in-store demonstration. This is common, and many dealers will have a model on-hand for the occasion.

Do your homework: Learn about the appliance before you buy it. Take the time to read through the manufacturer’s website and take a look at the instruction manuals of the models you’re considering to learn what features and functions they offer. Compare online reviews of the products.

Remember, it’s about creating memories, not chores. The right appliance can help your family build memories on Mother’s Day and for years to come.

An introduction to connected home appliances

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Do you have enough hours in the day? Most busy people probably wish they had a few more. Connected appliances, while they can’t make a day longer, CAN help you recapture more of your own time. One recent study estimated that connected appliances could save a typical household 100 hours a year.

The time savings from connected appliances could come from a number of places, including an easier process, automated tasks, and remote operation. Here’s a sampling of how connected appliances make your life easier, taken from AHAM’s new white paper, Home Appliance Connectivity: Limitless Potential:

Peace of mind: If you’ll be away from home for a while, connectivity can allow you to make sure your appliances stay in working order while you’re gone. Connected appliances can also help you keep tabs on older or ill family members or friends who are under your care.

Repairs made easy: Connectivity could revolutionize appliance repairs and make long waits for a repair technician a thing of the past. Manufacturers are already developing features that will allow repair technicians to remotely identify problems and, in some cases, repair them without even visiting your home.

Simplified process: A connected dishwasher could “learn” when you typically wash dishes, and be set up to begin the process automatically when appropriate. Clothes washers could give you advice on how to wash a certain type of garment, saving you the time of doing research. That’s one less thing you have to worry about.

Lower energy costs: Connected appliances have the potential to work with the Smart Grid to drive energy cost savings and improve the environment. They could automatically reduce energy use based on the user’s preference, or allow users to access renewable energy when it’s available.

Want to know more? Download Home Appliance Connectivity: Limitless Potential, for an introduction to the possibilities connected home appliances have to simplify your life, as well as what manufacturers are doing to keep connected appliances safe and secure.

Here’s what’s hot in the world of major appliances

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Source: Houzz

While connectivity seems poised to become a widespread feature in home appliances, consumers are still looking for convenience and style first when it comes to their kitchens. And top-load washers are making a major comeback. Here’s a look at the trends we’re seeing in major appliance shipments:

  • Induction cooking goes mainstream: Since 2010, the percentage of surface units shipped that include at least one induction unit has doubled. Five years ago, only 8% of electric surface cooking units shipped included at least one induction element. By last year, the number had grown to 16% of units shipped. This is one example of a commercial kitchen trend that has made its way into homes as well.
  • More doors, please: Consumers are looking for more refrigerator and freezer space. AHAM has seen a steady increase in bottom-mount refrigerators with four or more doors since 2011, the year we began tracking those shipments. Last year, 17% of refrigerators shipped in the third quarter had four or more doors, up from 11% four years earlier. Bottom-mount refrigerators with two doors made up just 13% of shipments in 2015, down from 35% in 2008.
  • Back on top: After several years of lower shipment numbers, top-load washers are seeing a resurgence in popularity. They accounted for 76% of units shipped last year, up from 62% in 2009, according to AHAM data. But it’s different this time around, as a lot of the growth is due to a growing preference for top-load washers without agitators. They made up about 48% of top-loading units shipped in 2015, compared to 27% in 2011. This is a prime example of innovation, as this product has grown more efficient, and offers the consumer multiple configurations and options.
  • It’s a “steel”: We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of dishwashers and side-by-side refrigerators with a stainless steel finish. Side-by-side refrigerators with a stainless steel finish made up 60% of units shipped at the end of the third quarter in 2015, up from 29% in 2006. More than half of dishwashers—56%—shipped last year had a stainless steel finish, a trend that has been on a steady upward climb since 2007.

What styles and features are you looking for in your next major appliances? Leave a comment below.

CES 2016: New heights in convenience

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For most of us, life isn’t going to get less busy anytime soon. But appliance manufacturers are stepping in to help by giving us appliances that are ready to take on a bigger share of the day’s tasks.

While connectivity and smart appliances are one of the main themes for appliance manufacturers at CES 2016, convenience remains the driving force behind the next generation of home appliances. We’ve already touched on robotic cleaning, remote operation and smart home features. Here are a few more of the innovations AHAM members are displaying at CES 2016:

Recipes at your fingertips: A new generation of refrigerators, stoves and other cooking appliances showcased at CES 2016 will tell you what’s for dinner. They’ll give you instant access to recipes, and even make meal recommendations based on the ingredients you have on hand.

They’ll do the thinking: A new generation of washers and dryers could largely eliminate the guesswork that sometimes goes with choosing a wash cycle. Just tell them what kind of clothes you’re washing, and they’ll automatically select the most appropriate cycle.

Faster action on repairs: Smart and connected appliances could cut down on the time it takes to make repairs. In the future, repair technicians—with the user’s permission—could keep tabs remotely on how appliances are functioning, and let the users know when something is wrong. Some of the problems could be corrected without a visit from a technician, but if not, connectivity could also streamline the scheduling process.

Smarter space: It’s not all about connectivity at CES. Along with the new electronic features, manufacturers are also touting increased capacity of washers and dryers, as well as refrigerators with strategically placed compartments and space-saving features like retractable shelves.

Follow AHAM on Twitter @AHAM_Voice for more on innovation, energy savings and the latest news from AHAM.

Appliance manufacturers pile on the innovations at CES 2016

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AHAM member companies are rolling out a new wave of connected appliances at CES 2016, and it’s clear that the new and cutting-edge appliance features could help consumers maximize convenience and take back more of their own time:

Here’s a brief look at the some of the innovative home appliances on display:

The end of fridge magnets? A new generation of connected refrigerators feature multi-function digital touch screens that could turn the refrigerator into the home’s top gathering spot, where family members come not just to eat and talk with family, but for entertainment and news about the day. A number of models on display allow you to display schedules, notes, and photos. And don’t forget about the food inside. Some feature cameras to let you see what the fridge is holding, without opening the door. Other features allow you to mark expiration dates, keep a shopping list, order groceries, and play video and music.

Welcome home: The buyers of new homes want the latest appliances to be a part of their homes from the day they move in. Mock-ups of smart homes and rooms being showcased at CES 2016 include connected refrigerators, induction stoves, washers, dryers and other appliances, with central controls. Some are even operated by voice command.

Chores, on your schedule: Have a last-minute schedule change and don’t want your clothes to sit around, getting wrinkled? A number of clothes dryers at CES 2016 can be operated remotely, so you can align your arrival home with the end of a cycle. Manufacturers are using connectivity to improve dryer safety as well. Some models will send alerts when it looks like your dryer vent is becoming clogged, which could reduce the risk of fire.

Tasks on autopilot: While robots have handled their share of the vacuuming for a number of years, a new generation are taking automated floor cleaning to the next level. New models include cameras to allow you to check up on their work, and others map the rooms in the house and accept precise direction on areas that need to be cleaned.

CES 2016 runs through Saturday. Follow us on Twitter @AHAM_Voice for more on the hottest home appliance innovations!