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What the future may hold for kitchen design and appliances

What comes to mind when you think about the kitchen of the future? Robotic servers? Automated cleanup?

Sci-fi imagery aside, the kitchen is likely to keep its status as the household gathering space and hub for entertaining. But certain elements will trend toward personalization, and we’re likely to see both expanded and more specialized roles for appliances.

We recently spoke with two kitchen designers, Loretta Willis, Principal of Loretta’s Interior Design in Alpharetta, Ga. and Andrea Edwards, owner of CRP Design in Oklahoma City, to peer into the future and speculate on what the future might bring for kitchen design and appliances. Here are some of the trends they expect to see, both in the near and more distant future:

Personalization: Certain elements of the kitchen will be customized for very specific uses, depending on daily habits. That might mean a pull-out refrigerator drawer for certain easy-to-prepare breakfast or lunch foods, for example. It could become common to see more than one of certain appliances in kitchens, all part of a trend toward kitchen personalization. “Under-counter refrigerator drawers are a big trend,” Willis says. “It’s convenient and you don’t need to have everything in one place. Let’s say there’s a zone for food prep and cooking. You might have an under-counter drawer for things you tend to prepare daily. You might have a refrigerator drawer that just has water, soda or juice. The kids can go there—it’s so convenient. You still need your large refrigerator, but it doesn’t have to be the all-in-all.”

Specialized cooking: Some consumers are looking for ovens that do more than just bake. They’re also looking for the speed and look of commercial appliances. “I think people want the appearance of a professional kitchen,” Willis says. Right now, that look is primarily seen in high-end kitchens, but Willis sees the potential for mid-priced appliances to offer a professional kitchen look, even if they don’t offer all of the same features as their high-end counterparts. Edwards is seeing interest in steam ovens and a decline in built-in fryers, which were popular several years ago. Pizza ovens are also drawing interest. “I‘ve had a lot of specification requests for pizza ovens,” Edwards says. “I could see more of that, a combination oven with a pizza oven integrated.”

Extra, smarter dishwashers: People who like to entertain or who tend to use a lot of dishes might consider installing more than one dishwasher. “I’ve had some clients that had two dishwashers,” Edwards says. “I’ve done some recently where we have one in the kitchen and one in the butler’s pantry. I think we’ll see more of that.” Willis sees potential in dishwashers that automatically adjust to the appropriate cycle, depending on how dirty the dishes are. “I don’t think we’ve imagined, yet, all that can be done. I think we’re definitely going in the direction where one day you might just turn it on and it will choose the cycle.”

Refrigerators doing more: Do you like to listen to music while you cook? Edwards anticipates growth in the popularity of refrigerators with built-in speakers. Screens in refrigerators could also catch on. She also sees the trend toward more refrigerator doors and compartments continuing. “Having more compartments is a big deal,” Edwards says. “The pull-out doors on the bottom are big, and I think that will continue.”

Space built-in for portables: Portable appliances that get heavy use are being built into kitchen designs. “Open shelving is a real trend right now as far as storage of portables,” Willis says. “It’s creating a more open look.” But storage and display of portables will remain dependent on the client’s needs and choice, she says. If you’re going for an open storage plan, Edwards recommends choosing appliances whose colors coordinate with your kitchen.

Coffee stations: Coffee makers are beloved appliances in millions of kitchens. Now, some coffee lovers are expanding their devotion to the caffeinated beverage beyond a coffee maker into an all-encompassing coffee station. “We’re at a point where we’re seeing more coffee stations built in,” Willis says.

What would you most like to see in your kitchen of the future? Share your future kitchen visions in the comments!

Kitchen redesigns: Appliances, Cabinets and Space

During a redesign, your appliances, cabinetry and counter space work together to create a balance between function and style. Choices like the size of your range and other appliances can directly affect cabinet space, and choosing more storage or counter space could mean you’ll have to make concessions elsewhere.

Kitchen design is a personal process, and while there are plenty of trends to go around, each design and redesign is unique and shaped by homeowners’ preferences, personality and desires. We spoke with two designers who have a combined 50 years of kitchen design experience between them. Both agreed that kitchens are built around the appliances, where any design project should start.

Paula Kennedy, Timeless Kitchen Design, Seattle

For designer Paula Kennedy, the kitchen redesign process starts with a discussion on appliances. Many of her clients are one step ahead and have already begun researching their options, but she encourages them to take their time. “I tell them to go to an appliance dealer I trust and respect, and I make sure they don’t just walk in on a Sunday when everyone else is in there,” Kennedy says. “Take some time off from work and do it right.” She’ll sometimes join her clients on a visit to the retailer or give the dealer a heads up that they’ll be coming in. “I’ll specify some things to help them avoid mistakes,” she says. If they want a built-in refrigerator, for example, she’ll make sure they’re looking at the right models. “Saying ‘built-in’ to one manufacturer is different than to another,” she says. “There’s built-in, there’s flush-door, there’s framed-door, there’s fully integrated. They don’t all use the same language.”

Your choice of appliance, particularly the size, directly impacts the cabinet design. “It’s one of the most critical points,” Kennedy says. Cabinets take time to build, and they need to be ordered early in the process. A late change can affect how the cabinets and appliances fit. Be comfortable with your decisions, because even a quarter-inch difference in the size of an appliance can have major implications on the cabinetry. Does your dream kitchen design include appliances enclosed in custom cabinets? You’ll need to decide in advance, as panels must be an exact fit.

“We often start with the cooking range,” Kennedy says. “Do you want a range vs. a cooktop? How many ovens do you want? More cooking means less storage, and everyone is just screaming for more storage. It’s a tradeoff. Clients come to me with a list of appliances. We have to prioritize their needs. You aim for function plus storage.”

For portable kitchen appliances, it’s a matter of balancing countertop space for their use and kitchen storage. “People love their small kitchen appliances, but storage for those is a nightmare. When I walk into a house and see them all on the countertop, I have the challenge to properly design space for those countertop appliances so it’s not an eyesore, it’s not cluttered, it’s functional and not taking up counter space.” Talk to your designer about storage options that make it easy to access the appliances you use regularly and store those you use less often in a way that makes sense.

Your choice of appliance finishes should fit within your overall color scheme. Stainless steel is popular, but it may not be a good match for you. “Finish is a huge factor,” Kennedy says. “It drives what color we’re choosing for the cabinets. It has to be a color you love.”

Toni Sabatino, Toni Sabatino Style, New York

Toni Sabatino of Toni Sabatino Style calls her approach to kitchen design “appliance-driven.”

“The style of the appliance, along with the architecture of the home and ventilation are really important.” Your lifestyle should determine what you need, Sabatino says. Some factors to consider are cooking habits, diet and family size.

“A family that goes to Costco and Price Club and buys 130 boxes of pasta will need more pantry space than somebody who buys fresh food,” Sabatino said. “Somebody who keeps a kosher kitchen may have two sets of dishes.” Do you do enough entertaining to warrant including a second dishwasher? Put your priorities in order and allow them to guide your decisions.

When choosing cabinetry, Sabatino encourages clients to take style cues from their home’s architecture. “If you want an old house, classic look, inset white shaker cabinets are popular,” she says. “That will pair with just about any interior because it’s simple and has a built-in furniture look. It will pair with just about any appliance style—stainless or wooden ventilation covers. That’s a timeless look.”

Even though they aren’t built-in, you’ll have to think about your portable appliances during your design as well, both those you use frequently and those you don’t. If you use many small appliances on a regular basis, think about whether an appliance pantry might make it easier to store and get to what you need. Sabatino asks clients about their portable appliances during the planning process. “Do they have a yogurt maker that’s in the basement because they don’t have space for it?”

Also think about what you’re giving up when planning how to incorporate portable appliances. If you drink a lot of coffee, you might want to reserve some space on the countertop for your coffee maker. But that also means you’ll have less counter space. Designing cabinet space especially for portables means you’re limiting what can be put in that space, Sabatino says.

Do your homework, understand your options and apply them to your lifestyle. Plan carefully and know what you want before you begin, Sabatino says. “Changing your mind can throw off everything.”

Buying a portable electric heater? Here’s how to make the best choice

black electric heater on laminate floor in the room

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.)

Is your water filter counterfeit?

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?

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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.

The problem

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.

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This video from Filter It Out shows how easily contaminants can make their way through counterfeit filters.

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.

Get more from Filter It Out on how to avoid counterfeit buying water filters.

Designing your laundry room? Here’s how to choose your appliances

simple laundry room with tile floor and appliances.
Laundry rooms are often multipurpose rooms that are used for storage and pet care in addition to washing and drying. But they’re typically designed around appliances, and appliances are what you should consider first during a laundry room design or remodel.

“Appliances are always the starting point, whether you’re designing the laundry room, a kitchen or outdoor cooking area,” says Charleston, S.C.-based designer Margaret Donaldson of Margaret Donaldson Interiors. “I always ask clients to determine which appliances they want first, because the cabinetry has to be built around that.”

Obviously, the most important appliances in a laundry area are the washer and dryer, but some thought should also be given to other laundry-care appliances, like garment steamers and iron. The design might include a fold-down ironing board or cabinet for a steamer. Here’s what else you should think about during the design phase:

  • Top-load or front-load? Both front- and top-load washers have their merits, though Donaldson says many of her clients are choosing top-load appliances. That fits with AHAM’s factory shipment data, which shows that top-load washers made up 76% of units shipped in 2015 and have been growing as a percentage of shipments since 2009. “The reason the front-loader came out was you could have a continuous counter going across,” Donaldson said. Sometimes, the choice comes down to the ease of loading and unloading. “Some people say they don’t want to bend down. The age of the person matters. Where are you in your lives? Designing for ease of access is a consideration for many who choose to pursue a universal design concept during a remodel. If extra counter space is important and you don’t mind bending over to load and unload your laundry, consider front-load models.
  • Agitator or not? You’ll also need to think about whether you want an agitator with your new washer. More of Donaldson’s clients are choosing to go without. Washers without agitators are also growing as a percentage of units shipped. Fifty-two percent of units shipped between January and July of 2016 had no agitator, up from 47 percent last year.
  • Colors: “What’s really hot right now is a platinum color,” Donaldson says. “I’m seeing it as a go-to color, either platinum or white.” Looking for something a little flashier? Some are going for red, though choosing a more exotic color could limit your options, Donaldson says. “Only certain brands offer fun colors like that.”
  • After washing and drying: Think about where you’ll store your other laundry-care appliances. Will you need to work in a cabinet for your steamer? Should you build the ironing board into the design? “A lot of people steam their clothing instead of ironing,” Donaldson says. “If they’re steaming, the steamers are usually on wheels. It doesn’t usually go into a cabinet, because you’re lifting up and down. You need to have a space in your laundry room that it rolls into, or a closet you can roll it in and out of. Typically, it’s a tall cabinet in the laundry room, not a closet. A closet is more expensive.” Other cleaning supplies, like vacuums, are often stored in a laundry room cabinet, Donaldson says.
  • Soaked: If your design didn’t include a laundry sink, you may want to consider a model with a sink already built in.

Designers: What trends are you seeing in laundry room spaces?  How has this space changed over the past 10 years? Tell us about your laundry redesign experiences!

5 things to consider when buying a vacuum

If you’re serious about keeping your carpets clean and your floors shining, just any vacuum won’t do. The type, features and design of the vacuum are important, but the type of floors and the level of cleaning they’ll require should be your focus when making a decision. Do you have hardwood floors? Standard or ultra-soft carpet? Area rugs? Pets? People with specific allergies in the house? Do you vacuum every day or once a week? Make the wrong decision and you could end up with more of a mess and a vacuum that just takes up space.

Walk into an appliance retail store and you’re likely to come face to face with a plethora of vacuum models. They can be broken down into seven categories:

Lower half of a man wearing shorts vacuuming a tan rug with an upright vacuum as part of his housecleaning chores..
Upright: An upright is likely what comes to mind when you think of a vacuum. It’s a traditional, full-size, pushable format with or without a mechanical brush roll. It will work well and provide deep cleaning capability on many types of carpets, but it often is not the best choice for a house with only hardwood or other bare floors. Most will include attachments like a dusting brush, crevice tool and upholstery cleaner. Some may also include detachable handheld or smaller vacuum units. The key to cleaning carpeted floors is to have suction, air flow and good filtration. It is important to agitate the carpet with a mechanical brush roller at the same time the suction and air flow pick up the dirt and move it into the receptacle or bag.

Woman cleaning with vacuum cleaner, baby sitting on floor and biscuits all around
Canister: Unlike the upright, you won’t push the whole vacuum when using a canister, though they do need to be pulled. Unlike the upright, the canister can be maneuvered for stairs and difficult to reach places. The body is separate from the wand and floor tool, connected by a hose. They’re designed for the ability to be lighter weight when doing above floor cleaning (dusting, crevice cleaning, upholstery cleaning, etc.), but can also provide deep cleaning for carpet.

Man vacuuming and woman on sofa
Stick: Think of these as the everyday cleanup tool for mealtimes, pet hair and spills on hard surfaces and area rugs, but not as much for heavy carpet cleaning. They’re available in both corded and cordless, though there’s a trend toward cordless models.

The female hand holds a portable vacuum cleaner
Handheld: Handheld vacuums are made for smaller clean-ups. They’re often light enough to be operated with one hand, but some larger models may include hoses or attachments to tackle bigger messes. Again, they are available in both corded and cordless, although the cordless ones are more prominent.

Home vacuum cleaning robot in action on genuine wooden floor. Selective focus on robot.
Robotic: They’ll do the cleaning for you. Robotic vacuums are growing in popularity. They can be set to clean for a certain time and some are capable of following certain patterns or mapping a house or room. They don’t have the capacity of the other types of vacuums. They can clean carpets or hard surfaces, but may not have the deep-cleaning power of an upright or canister vacuum.

Wet-Dry: These vacuums are often reserved for the garage or basement but can be used in many places to mop up water spills or to clean up after wet cleaning on concrete or other hard surfaces. The vacuum is specially constructed to be used around water so that the user will not receive an electric shock when used in accordance with the instructions.

Central: These vacuums are installed in one place in the home and a tube is embedded in the walls of a home for routing to the central unit in the garage or basement. Central vacuums use ports located at intervals in the home to access the vacuum. A hose and floor tool can be connected to the ports. The advantage is that all the vacuumed dirt and dust are directed out of the living space of the home.

Now that you know the types of vacuums available, here are five factors you should consider when shopping for a new vacuum:

Ease of pushing: Vacuuming is a physical activity, and you’ll need to think about how much weight you want to push around while cleaning. Some vacuums are light and easy to push. Some will have heavy suction for cleaning deep in the carpet, but may have adjustments to make them easier to operate. Others are heavier and may require more force. If it’s too hard to push, you won’t want to clean. You should also think about how you’ll feel carrying it up and down stairs. Some vacuums use a motorized brush roller that helps to move the vacuum on the floor. Many vacuums make turning around furniture easier through their design. Ask your retailer if you can try it out before you buy it.

Bag or no bag? Bagless and bagged vacuums require somewhat the same level of maintenance. Both must be emptied regularly. A bagless vacuum will free you from having to stock up on vacuum bags, but they still contain one or two filters that need to be cleaned. Bagged vacuums trap the dirt and debris inside a bag and can be carried out for disposal.

Your level of dirt: Do you have pets? You’ll likely need to clean up more hair than anything else. Pet owners often own two vacuums—one for routine cleaning and a separate model for frequent deeper cleaning of pet hair from the surfaces and the right attachments like a turbo brush and crevice tool.

Allergen removal: Both allergy sufferers and pet owners should consider buying a vacuum with a sealed air system that prevents dirt, dander and allergens from escaping the vacuum.

Reliability and durability: Some retailers will have carpet available in store for you to try out a vacuum. Others may allow you to take a model home and try it out. Ask for a demonstration. But in case a demo isn’t possible, study online consumer reviews in advance and look for descriptions of how the vacuum performed on the types of flooring that you have in your home.

Universal design: How to select appliances

Universal design started as a concept aimed primarily at creating accessible, barrier-free homes for people with disabilities. But it has evolved into the concept of creating a comfortable, accessible space for all members of the household, and there are number of reasons why a homeowner may decide to pursue it during a remodel or renovation.

“Aging in place is a huge thing,” said Chris Salas, owner of Cocina Interior Design in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and a Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer. “Multiple generations may be living in one home. You may have small children and older parents living under one roof and need flexibility in the spaces according to who’s using them. Resale is also a big factor. You aren’t ruling anybody out.”

Many appliances already incorporate universal design concepts and are easy for anyone to use, Salas said. But if you’re looking to build a kitchen that’s accessible to people of all sizes and physical abilities, there are certain features and elements you should consider when choosing your appliances. Salas, who has more than two decades of design experience, shared her insight on what homeowners who are pursuing a universal design concept should keep in mind.

Cooking

A traditional oven/range has limits to where and at what height it can be installed. Wall-mount ovens and microwaves can be mounted and placed at different heights according to the needs and abilities of the user, so they may be preferable. How the oven opens is also a factor. “Side-opening ovens are handy for everybody,” Salas said. Think about how all household members will reach the controls, not just those for cooking. For example, you may choose to put the fan control at counter level rather than at the rear of or above the range, or use a remote-operated fan. Many cooking appliances already have safety features in place that are appropriate for universal design concepts, Salas said. “A lot of cooktops and ranges have an indicator showing that the surface is still hot. Some even have a lock-out so you can’t turn on the cooktop without knowing how.”

Dishwashers

You’ll need adequate space and access to load and unload dishes as well as put them away. Salas has designed kitchens with all dish storage on the same side of the dishwasher door so those who are unloading the dishes don’t have to go around the open door. Dishwashers with single or double pull-out doors rather than a standard design may make opening, closing, loading and unloading easier.

Refrigerators

Consider the width of the door swing and whether all parts of the refrigerator are reachable. “It might be hard to get out of the way of a 36-inch door,” Salas said. “The smaller doors come in handy. The French door is probably the best invention for universal design.” Keep the height in mind as well. “The door swings may not be as big as a one-door model, but you might not be able to reach half the fridge because it’s tall.” Salas recommends testing appliances before you buy them. “Some fridges have a really good feel but may be difficult to open,” she said. “The bells and whistles might look or sound cool, but once you’re living with it, it might not add value. Get out and try these things to make sure they work.”

Outside the kitchen: Laundry

The height of the appliance relative to the user’s needs is also a factor in choosing and installing clothes washers and dryers, Salas said. “Keep flexibility in mind,” she said. “The washer and dryer can be on a pedestal. You can build them up onto your custom platform. It’s all about the user’s height. The front load is optimum for anybody to use.”

The Facts on PACs and RACs: Should you choose a portable or room air conditioner?

Should you buy a portable air conditioner (PAC) or a room air conditioner (RAC)? Both will keep you cool, but it’s important to understand the differences so you can choose which will best help you keep your home comfortable.

Here are five points to consider when deciding whether to buy a PAC or RAC:

How much space do you have available? This goes for window and floor space. If you’re considering a RAC, measure your window to see if it’s large enough to accommodate the unit and can handle the unit’s weight. If you’re considering a portable air conditioner, check the unit’s dimensions to see if you have enough floor space available.

Does your neighborhood allow window units? Many neighborhoods and condominiums don’t allow residents to install window units because of aesthetic or security concerns. If you live in an area governed by homeowner or condominium association, check the rules in advance before you purchase a window unit.

Where are you trying to cool? While both RACs and PACs are often used to supplement a primary air conditioning system, RACs will likely remain installed in the same place for longer. Many who use portable units move them from room to room depending on their cooling needs.

How’s your view? While both portable and room air conditioners require windows for installation, RACs tend to block more of the view than PACs and can’t be moved as easily.

How much power do you need? Regardless of whether you choose a RAC or PAC, you’ll need a model that’s powerful enough to cool the room. Use this calculator to determine how many BTUs you’ll need based on the square footage of the area you’re trying to cool.

If you’ve decided on a room air conditioner, look for one with the AHAM Verifide® label to give you the peace of mind that it will meet its claimed cooling capacity. AHAM doesn’t conduct verification on portable air conditioners.

How to avoid returning home appliances

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Are you going to take advantage of Memorial Day or Father’s Day sales on appliances?  While everyone loves a great deal, it’s important to make sure you’re buying the right appliances for you, your home and your loved ones. Fortunately, a little bit of research can save you another trip to the store to return the product.

AHAM partnered with Bellomy Research to study the leading reasons portable appliances—including small kitchen, personal care, garment care, air treatment and floor care appliances—are returned. Here are a few of those, plus some advice that can save you the hassle of a return and help you choose the appliances that work best for you.

Is it the right 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. AHAM’s advice: Ask the retailer for an in-store product demonstration before you buy, including trying it out for yourself. Consider the set-up process. Many consumers who made returns say an easier set-up process would have made them less likely to return the product.

Is the appliance a good fit? Size matters, and many appliances are brought back because they’re too small. AHAM’s advice: Ask a sales representative if you may remove the appliance from the package before you buy it to make sure it’s the right size for you and your home.

Does it match? Choosing the right size, color and model is a big deal. Second thoughts about those, or later finding a preferred model, are both common reasons for returns. AHAM’s advice: Spend time researching what you want to buy, and get a sense of the different sizes, colors, styles and models available.

Research is key to finding the appliances you want and need the first time around. About 18 percent of customers who had made returns said more research on their part would have cut down on the chances of them making a return. Appliance manufacturers have a number of resources available, including their websites and online instruction manuals, to customers who want to learn more about their products.

Contact the appliance manufacturer even if you’ve already bought the appliance and are thinking about bringing it back. Only 40 percent of consumers surveyed said they had spoken with the product’s manufacturer before returning an item. The manufacturer may be able to help you address the issue, eliminating the need for a return.

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.