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Beat the dry winter air with a humidifier

If you need another reason to dislike winter, dry winter air is a good one. It can dry out your nasal passages, which can make it tougher to bounce back from a stuffy nose. The dry air can aggravate asthma symptoms and cause dry skin. Over time, it can also damage your wooden floors and furniture and hurt the health of your houseplants.

Clearly, if you can offset the dry air, you should. And a humidifier is your go-to appliance for balancing out the air in your home as you count the days until spring. If you are shopping for a humidifier, there are a few things to consider while you’re making your choice. We spoke with Lynne Hammell, marketing director at AHAM member Kaz, which manufacturers Vicks and Honeywell brand humidifiers, for guidance.

Size of the room

If you have an idea of where you’re going to primarily use your humidifier, it’s important to know the size of your room. If you buy a humidifier that’s too large for the space, you’ll not only make the room uncomfortably humid, but also create an environment favorable to mold and mildew. Too small, and your humidifier won’t be able to adequately humidify the space. Humidifiers designed for larger spaces will have larger water tanks.

Check the labeling of the humidifier, which should have information about how big a space the model is made for. Know the square footage of your room and choose the model that’s appropriate for the space.

Warm vs. cool

Appliance manufacturers produce humidifiers that can put out either warm or cool humidity. Your choice is largely a matter of personal preference, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a cool-mist humidifier for children who are suffering from colds and the flu. However, both warm and cool-mist humidifiers will increase the humidity in your home.

Filter or no filter?

Filtered and filter-free humidifiers will both humidify the air. A filtered model will remove minerals from water before the water is put into the air. However, the filter will need to be changed regularly, possibly every 1-2 months.

Filter-free models, obviously, don’t require changing filters. But, you may notice an accumulation of minerals, possibly as a fine white dust, on the outside of a filter-free humidifier. However, some models come with demineralization cartridges, which need to be replaced periodically.

You’ll probably also notice a difference in the way filtered and filter-free humidifiers put moisture into the air. Filtered models are evaporative and use a fan to put humidified air into the room. Filter-free models put a visible mist directly into the air.

Maintenance and care

All humidifiers, whether warm or cool, filtered or filter-free, require regular cleaning and maintenance. Before you buy, take a look at the models you’re considering and think about how easy they might be to clean. Do they have detachable parts that can be placed in a dishwasher? Are there narrow openings that might be difficult to clean? You’ll need to wipe down the inside of the tank regularly, so make sure the humidifier you choose has an opening large enough to reach inside. Keep

The cleaning process will vary depending on the model, but in general, it’s a two-step process that involves descaling and disinfecting. Descaling breaks down any minerals that may have accumulated on the humidifier. Disinfecting will kill any germs that have built up. You’ll need bleach for disinfecting, vinegar for descaling, plus a cloth or brush. Follow the cleaning instructions in your humidifier’s use and care manual.

Keeping the humidifier clean is even more important if you’re using it to ease a cold, allergies or asthma, as a dirty dehumidifier can put contaminants back into the air.

It’s a humidifier, not a diffuser

People sometimes confuse humidifiers with essential oil diffusers. Never put anything but water into a humidifier. Oils or other substances can damage the humidifier’s tank and mechanical parts. Diffusers, which tend to be much smaller than humidifiers, and are designed to accommodate oils.

Color accents, more ovens and sleek finishes: Designers talk 2018 appliance trends

If you’re redesigning your kitchen, take time to think through what you’re looking for and the styles and finishes that appeal most to you. Your decisions will impact your living space for years to come.

Though trends come and go, it’s likely they’ll have an influence on your choices in appliance style and finish. And since you’re going to live with your kitchen and its appliances for several years, it helps to look down the line to think about not just what’s hot now, but what elements of your kitchen design and appliances have worked well for you, and what you’ll be happy with in the long term.

Those planning a redesign or remodel of a kitchen or those likely to purchase new appliances this year will want to read this. We spoke with three designers to get their predictions on the kitchen appliance trends that will dominate in 2018. Here’s what they had to say.

Alana Busse, Alana Busse Design, Simi Valley, California

Variety in finishes: Want to add some color to your kitchen? While stainless steel appliances remain popular, the days of having white, black or stainless as your only choices are in the past. “Now’s really an exciting time, because you’re seeing all these colors, Busse says. “Now, we’re seeing some new stuff. We’re seeing black stainless, and orange and red colors in ranges. Gold and blue are really big this year. Everyone wants their cabinets plain, and the appliances are kind of the bling, the showpiece. Nobody walks in and says ‘nice cabinets.’ They say ‘That range is amazing.’”

Wine chillers: People who are remodeling tend to enjoy their wine, but some more than others. Busse estimates about 70 percent of her clients who are remodeling their kitchens install some sort of wine refrigerator, often an under-cabinet model. “It’s normally about 24 inches wide, 24 inches deep,” Busse says. “It has the dual zones.” The client’s love of wine plays into the size of their wine chiller. Those that have the space and know their wine might install a full-sized wine chiller that’s about the same size as a regular refrigerator, Busse says.

Under-counter ice: Just like their wine, remodelers are also looking to keep their other drinks cold by having ice ready to go. They’re looking for under-cabinet ice makers and showing a preference for bar ice, Busse says. “Or, they’ll want pellet ice,” she says. “Some really like that if they’re going to do frozen drinks.”

Flat fridges: Homeowners are showing a preference for integrated refrigerators, Busse says. “When they’re closed, they’re really flat and in line with the cabinetry,” she says. “We see people buying stainless or paneling the refrigerator.” If a client goes for a black stainless refrigerator, they tend to get all their appliances in black stainless.

Steam ovens: Multiple ovens are generally part of a remodel plan, and steam ovens are popular requestes. “Everyone wants a steam oven,” Busse says. “Every client swears their food tastes better than ever before, from making meat and vegetables to reheating pizza.” Two ovens plus a microwave/convection oven are a regular part of remodeling plans. “If we can fit it, sometimes even a warming drawer.”

Loretta Willis, Loretta’s Interior Design, Atlanta

A personal touch: Willis encourages clients to add a design element that personalizes their kitchen, and that could be an appliance. “Featuring an appliance is a good way to personalize the kitchen,” she says. “That’s your color, you’re proud of it. If it’s offered in an appliance, go for it. A good designer can work that into the space.”

More burners, more ovens: Consumers want to be ready for any kind of cooking or entertaining situation, and they’re designing their kitchens with that in mind, Willis says. “Buy the largest cooktop your space can accommodate,” Willis says. “Five to six burners is ideal.” Second ovens are also popular, regardless of whether the homeowner is a serious cook. “Even if it’s not an everyday need for the homeowner, it’s a great resale feature,” Willis says. Induction is also gaining popularity as consumers look to shorten the time they spend cooking.

Commercial goes residential: Recent trends have residential kitchens incorporating elements that used to be the domain of commercial kitchens, Willis says. “Basically, you need two ovens. If you entertain, you want a warming drawer and at least two ovens. Maybe one can be a combination microwave/convection steam unit. Your stove top might not just be a cooktop, it could also be a grill. Many homeowners are also incorporating coffee stations.

Cool cooling: Homeowners are looking for additional cooling appliances beyond the traditional refrigerator and freezer. Kitchens, Willis says, are being designed in “zones.” “If you have kids, they might have their own zone—a pull-out refrigerator for water, soft drinks, or yogurt. I think you’ll need an entertainment zone, where you’ll have space for the wine chiller and beverages. It could be a second area for the overflow that maybe your refrigerator can’t accommodate.

Easy access to portables: Do you have a portable appliance that you can’t live without? Homeowners are building in coffee stations and keeping other portable appliances in mind during the design process, Willis says. “I love the look of a kitchen zone that’s just for a breakfast bar with built-in coffee appliances,” she says. “Then, I’m seeing the appliances you don’t use as often—the heavy mixers, the food processors—can actually be stored in the lower cabinet with a lift, a spring-loaded action on the shelving to bring it to counter height. “

Technology: Expect charging stations to become a regular feature of new kitchens. And while consumers are interested in smart technology, it will also require them to incorporate new habits to take advantage of the new features.

Toni Sabatino, Toni Sabatino Style, New York

Jewel tones, black stainless, and matte black: “The design industry will follow the fashion industry and we’ll see more jewel tones,” Sabatino says. “Ranges, in particular, you’ll see some statement colors emerging. Over the past year, we’ve seen things like turquoise. Color in a range is definitely going to happen.” Expect to see more black and black stainless in other appliances. “Stainless has been the go-to for sort of an authentic restaurant vibe,” Sabatino says. “Black stainless seems to offer practicality from a fingerprint standpoint, while playing off the black matte trend.” Color will also show up in other appliances. “I see more copper and brass warm tones for statement range hoods,” Sabatino says. “I find that either the cooking appliances make an impactful statement or not. They’re either understated or standouts.”

Garden City, NY: January 23, 2018— A kitchen redesign by Toni Sabatino Style. © Audrey C. Tiernan

Kitchens gaining steam: Multiple ovens will become standard in kitchens, and steam ovens are here to stay. Steam ovens tend to be popular with health-conscious consumers, Sabatino says. “A steam oven has that sous vide quality. When you reheat something, it doesn’t feel like a leftover. It gives a renewed freshness.”

Modularity throughout the kitchen: We’ll see more modularity in refrigeration and perhaps in cooking, Sabatino says. That means column refrigeration, undercounter refrigeration, and refrigerators with convertible sections that can switch between freezers, fresh food storage and wine. “We’re allowing options because more people are opting for fresh food as opposed to canned, frozen or boxed.”

Connectivity: Sabatino sees usefulness in connected appliances that can send signals and update appliances. Adoption may increase as new generations seek to remodel their homes. “I think that as the consumers who have grown up with connectivity become a larger part of the homebuying market, that segment is bound to increase.”

Portable storage: People want easy access to their portable appliances, but don’t necessarily want them in full view all the time, Sabatino says. “One of my favorite solutions is the pocket-door tall cabinet, where you have power and the doors aren’t impeding use. You see more sliding or slotting doors in the urban environments.”

Connected appliances make their mark at CES 2018

It wasn’t so long ago connected and smart appliance features might have been considered novelties. Based on the appliances on display at CES 2018, connected and smart features have now evolved from concepts with potential to real solutions that, someday, consumers may not be able to imagine living without.

And despite the impressive evolution, there’s still the sense that manufacturers are just getting started.

Appliances shown at CES 2018 included products already on the market and those in development or near release. The innovations weren’t limited to major appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers and ranges. They’re also making an impact in portable appliances. Newer ideas, like robotic air cleaners that can sense the air quality in different rooms and go where they’re most needed, were also drawing attention. These air cleaners, exhibited as prototypes, can also follow preprogrammed patterns or be controlled manually.

Manufacturers touted the potential for connected appliances to improve household health and safety. This air purifier works with a smoke detector to turn on automatically when smoke is detected. It was shown as part of one of a number of complete smart home concepts, which exhibited both individual appliance features and ways in which the appliances can work together to provide additional benefits.

This electric toothbrush works with mobile devices to track brushing and uses sensors to monitor the user’s pressure and motion, signaling the user if they need to correct their technique or spend more time on a certain part of their mouth. It’s another example of connectivity’s potential to strengthen the contributions of appliances to a healthy lifestyle.

Connected features are also giving appliances a more personal touch. Manufacturers highlighted ranges and refrigerators working together to improve the cooking process through recipe generation and automated cooking functions. Some features also allowed personalization of dietary habits and goals. A connected refrigerator could take those dietary needs into account when it suggests a recipe.

So what’s next? Manufacturers continue to add features aimed at giving consumers more of their own time back. If you hate folding laundry, you might be interested in this laundry-folding robot, which could be the first of its kind.

What appliance innovation would make your life easier? Tell us in the comments below.

Read more CES 2018 coverage from AHAM.

CES 2018: Connected and smart features evolve

Just a few years ago, the concept of a “smart” or “connected” appliance might have meant some aspect of the appliance incorporated connectivity, or that the appliance could be monitored or controlled through a mobile device. Based on the appliances on display at CES 2018, it’s clear that smart and connected appliances are evolving quickly, and the capabilities of appliances are growing. The new features are removing layers from household chores like laundry, dishes and cooking, and appliances are gaining more of an ability to adapt to users’ habits and fit more seamlessly into their day-to-day lives.

Voice control, one of the standout features at last year’s CES, was again a mainstay in major appliances at CES 2018. Many are compatible with off-the-shelf virtual digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Some are even incorporating AI to learn your habits so they’re ready with the features you need. Laundry appliances can learn how you tend to wash your clothes and choose the most appropriate cycle, based on what you tell them and what you’ve done in the past. Connected features also allow you to keep a closer eye on your appliances’ performance.

The new wave of appliances accepts voice commands, but the appliances also “talk” to each other. Several manufacturers were showing ranges that work with refrigerators, with refrigerators suggesting recipes based on what’s available, and sending the oven temperature and preheating instructions to the range.

Functions that were once manual are now becoming automatic. This range hood  turns on automatically when it senses steam. You may have noticed it looks more like a monitor than a range hood. It’s another example of the multi-function features that continue to emerge as smart and connected appliances evolve. Using the screen, consumers can access other appliance controls and make video calls.

Connected and smart features also have the potential to build a stronger bond between appliances and health. This refrigerator works with an app to collect information about what you’ve eaten, the calories consumed, and your exercise patterns. It uses both to make suggestions based on available foods. Once you’ve made your selection, cooking instructions are sent directly to the range.

Refrigerators are also gaining the ability to assist with the shopping process. This model works with Amazon dash, so you can quickly re-order items when supplies are running low.

Follow us on Twitter @AHAM_voice for more updates from CES 2018!

The Perfect Holiday Meal: Join AHAM’s Twitter Chat!

Lifelong memories are built around holiday meals, both in the kitchen and at the table. It’s the time of year when friends and family prepare their special recipes of the season, which you might have been anticipating since the last holiday.

AHAM is bringing together chefs, home cooks, nutrition professionals, manufacturers and anyone else who loves holiday cooking and eating for a Twitter chat on The Perfect Holiday Meal. Join us to share your best advice on the preparation, cooking and clean-up of your holiday meal. And, get those pictures ready to share your favorite holiday memory!

Join us at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 16. Follow AHAM on Twitter at @AHAM_voice and use the hashtag #AHAMHolidays to join in. See you there!

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

It’s time to get serious…about breakfast. Whether you enjoy a leisurely breakfast or take it on the run, the odds are pretty good that your appliances are involved. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a deep dive into the role your appliances play in the most important meal of the day.

Let’s start with toast, that reliable, comforting breakfast mainstay. You pop it into the toaster, choose your level of color (which says a lot about you as a person), add a pat of butter or other spread and enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with traditional, but if you’re looking for more adventurous ways to enjoy your toast, we’ve collected some recipes that will add some spice (in some cases, literally) to your morning slice.

Healthy peanut butter banana toast with chia seeds: Healthy Glow recommends using sprouted whole grain or gluten-free bread for this recipe, which also incorporates cinnamon. Like many specialty toast recipes, this could be a side or its own meal.

Avocado pesto toast: Avocado toast is a popular item these days. This recipe, from Cookie + Kate, combines pumpkin seeds, avocado, garlic and lemon juice, with the suggested options of eggs and cherry tomatoes.

Fig, ricotta & truffle honey bruschetta: Even humble toast can be exotic. Use sourdough bread for this recipe from heneedsfood. You’ll also need ricotta, rosewater, fresh and dried figs, pistachios, almonds, truffle honey and micro watercress. You might have a smaller window to make this recipe—fresh figs are in season for a short time in early summer, then in late summer through fall.

Healthy cinnamon toast: The mention of cinnamon toast has our mouths watering. Genius Kitchen offers this recipe, which brings together banana, flax seeds, brown sugar and cinnamon to top wheat toast. You can put it all together in minutes. They recommend serving it with a glass of rice or soy milk and a fruit bowl.

Simple spinach toast with poached egg: If you like greens in the morning, this recipe by From the Grapevine  might be for you. Add spinach, butter, a poached egg, salt, pepper and butter to your choice of toast.

How you like your toast reveals key aspects of your personality. You can find out the secrets with The Toast Test: A One-question Personality Quiz. Take it now. Trust us, you’ll be finished before your toast. This study says the best toast is cooked for exactly 216 seconds, but we’re convinced it’s a matter of personal preference. The research could not possibly be as rigorous as the data we’re collecting through The Toast Test.

How do you like your toast? White or wheat? Butter or jam? Let’s get this discussion going!

Best of AHAM Allergy Advice

Whatever is causing your fall allergies, AHAM has some advice to ease your suffering. Appliances can help remove some of the allergens from your home and reduce your symptoms. We’ve gathered our top allergy prevention advice to help you through the seasonal allergy storm:

Looking for fall allergy relief? Your humidifier or dehumidifier could help!

Learn how these appliances can help you fight allergies.

Physicians share their allergy prevention advice

Two experts share their advice on allergy relief.

Room air cleaners: Your ally against allergens

Air cleaners can help to remove allergy-causing pollutants from your home.

Tips for Managing your Child’s Allergies

AHAM’s tips for helping your little ones breathe easier.

Worrying about Fall Allergies?

We spoke with the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology on the biggest fall allergy triggers and how your appliances can help you fight back.

 

Robotic Evolution: New features enhance autonomous floor care

Are you looking to outsource some of your floor care duties to a robot? You aren’t alone. These autonomous appliances are rolling into the floor care plan of more and more homes. Sales of robotic vacuums are expected to go from $1.49 billion in 2016 to more than $2.4 billion by the end of 2021.

If you are looking to turn a robotic vacuum loose in your home, you’ll have many choices, and manufacturers are constantly adding new features to their models. Some of the features aim to help the robot find its way around your home. Others improve interactivity, safety or your ability to control the robot. All of the features, however, work together toward the goal of more thorough cleaning.

Features will vary depending on the price and manufacturer. Here’s a sampling of some of the newer tools being incorporated into robotic vacuums:

Advanced navigation: Many of today’s models have the ability to map a home and remember how to get around objects and stay out of tough spots. You can also program the robots to vacuum specific areas of the home. If you happen to get in the way, some models can tell you are human and will ask you—politely, no doubt—to move out of the way so they can continue to work.

Mopping ability: Robots are evolving into floor care multitaskers. In addition to vacuuming, some models now have the ability to mop, both wet and dry.

Voice control: Robotic vacuums can now respond to voice commands, either directly or through an outside system like Amazon Alexa.

Remote operation: Start, stop or control your robotic vacuum with your mobile device.

Cameras: Cameras have been incorporated into some models to help the robot map the room and allow you to get a robot’s eye view of cleaning and keep an eye on your house while you’re away. Some allow you to take photos and/or videos.

Fall prevention: Even with all of the new features and technological advances, robotic vacuums still have not gained the ability to climb stairs. Many models, however, now utilize sensors to prevent themselves from taking a tumble down the stairs or off a higher level.

Robotic vacuums have earned their place as a floor-care fixture, and the innovations will continue. What other appliance do you think could benefit from robotic features? (Are refrigerators next?)

Keep laundry detergent packets out of sight and out of reach

What’s your preferred laundry detergent? Are you one of the many who choose the convenience of laundry detergent packets over the more traditional powder or liquid? If so, it’s important to store them out of the reach of children.

The danger is that children may come across the brightly colored pods or packets and mistake them for a food or toy. Detergent inside the packets is highly concentrated, and serious injury or death can result if children swallow or come into contact with the detergent inside.

The best way to prevent incidents is to store packets out of sight and out of reach. But many who use packets don’t: According to the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), which is running the Packets Up! campaign to encourage proper storage of laundry detergent packets, 43% of families with children under four report that their children can see laundry packets when laundry isn’t being done. In addition, 19% of families with children under four reported that they store liquid laundry packets on an open shelf.

Preventing accidents is a simple as keeping the laundry detergent packets out of sight and high enough so they’re out of reach of young children, ACI says. Avoid storing packets on top of the washing machine or counter, and never let children play with packets.

ACI’s research also found that 15% of the families surveyed let their children take part in putting the liquid laundry packets into the washing machine. Children should never handle or hold laundry packets. But that doesn’t mean children can’t help out with laundry. Keep their involvement to more kid-friendly chores, like sorting colors or folding and pairing clothes.

Learn more about ACI’s Packets Up! campaign, including how you can get a laundry cling to remind you to safely store detergent.

Safety, security, warranty: Why it’s important to have your appliances repaired by authorized providers

Every day, you rely on your appliances to keep yourself and your family safe, clean, fed and comfortable. It’s a disruption when one of them suddenly stops working. When a refrigerator breaks down, it can mean spoiled or unsafe food. A heater or air conditioner that malfunctions means you can be left to suffer through extreme heat or cold. Laundry appliances breaking down mean the clothes start to pile up. The scenarios are at best inconvenient, and at worst put your health or safety at risk.
Regardless of what went wrong, you probably want to have your appliance repaired as quickly as possible. You may call around to a few repair shops to compare prices, availability and expertise. Most will have staff that can repair a refrigerator, clothes washer, range or other appliances. But you also need to make sure they’ve gone through the necessary training to get the job done.

Does it really matter who fixes my appliance?

It does. Authorized service providers have been trained by the appliance manufacturer to service your appliance. This means they have access to both the knowledge and the necessary parts, technical information and, in some cases, software that’s specific to your appliance. Your choice of service providers can have major implications for your appliance’s safety, security and warranty.

Safety: Authorized service providers are required to make repairs with parts and equipment that have been tested and meet specific safety and reliability requirements. Service providers that are not authorized may use substitutes that don’t meet the same rigorous requirements. That, combined with the fact that the service provider may not have proper training on installation, can create safety risks.

Security: Manufacturers, through the development of smart and connected appliances, are bringing consumers to new levels of comfort and convenience. However, as with any connected device, they’re also requiring consumers to pay careful attention to their electronic security. Servicing smart and connected appliances requires special training and access to information that manufacturers make available to authorized providers only. Anyone servicing a smart or connected appliance could potentially have a gateway to the appliance owner’s electronic network. It’s critical that this work be left to authorized providers, who will take the measures necessary to limit exposure.

Warranty: If you still aren’t convinced of the importance of using authorized repair providers, here’s another reason: If you allow an unauthorized repair provider to work on your appliance, or if you attempt to make the repair yourself, you could void your appliance’s warranty. That means that the cost of any future repairs that might have been covered under your warranty will now be your responsibility.

Your appliance’s use and care manual or manufacturer’s website will likely provide information on how you can locate an authorized service provider. In the long run, authorized repairs will likely save you time, increase your peace of mind, and help keep your appliances in top shape.