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It’s the little things: Small appliances add big convenience to tiny houses


Across the country, many people are looking to simplify their lives and lower their housing costs by downsizing their living spaces. Their choice of accommodations ranges from permanent or semi-permanent “tiny houses” or “micro-apartments,” extra-small apartment units in densely populated areas.

But downsizing doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on the appliance conveniences they’ve grown accustomed to.

“A lot of people are concerned about how the house will function,” says Jeremy Weaver, a tiny house dweller and co-owner of the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Wind River Tiny Homes. “Appliances are an integral part of how people interact with their houses, arguably the most intense way. I tell them we can get the same functionality, though it will be a lot smaller.”

With Wind River’s models usually topping out around 350 square feet (though they have built larger homes in the 400-800 square foot range), space, as you might imagine, is precious. Appliances that won’t get a lot of use are usually left out. But tiny spaces have many of the same conveniences as their full-sized counterparts, just on a smaller scale. How much use an appliance will get is the major factor in whether it will be included.

“In a tiny house, if someone doesn’t use an oven, they probably won’t have an oven,” Weaver said. “If you want a full-sized fridge, it means you won’t have a pantry or you’ll have hardly any counter space. There really isn’t space for something you don’t use. People who don’t cook a lot typically don’t use ovens—they’ll use a cooktop or a microwave.” Many of the Wind River homes have been fitted with four-burner, 20-inch ranges, Weaver said. In his tiny house, which includes four burners and an oven, he’s able to fit four full-sized pots and pans on top and 2-3 cookie sheets in the oven.

Every inch matters in a tiny house, and some may opt for a two-burner portable induction cooktop that can hang on the wall when it isn’t being used, Weaver said. Appliances in tiny homes often are powered by propane. Mobile tiny homes can also be set up to plug in like RVs.

For laundry, combination washer-dryers are the way to go in a small space. They’re common in Europe and Asia, where small-space living is more widespread, Weaver said. “About 60 to 70 percent of the houses we’ve done have them.” More options from manufacturers have become available over the past few years, he said.

Small appliances were already being manufactured for boats and RVs. Wind River recently installed a dishwasher for the first time in a tiny home and used a model made for an RV, a drawer-style under-counter model.

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.

5 Reasons for Returning Appliances and How You Can Do Better Research Before You Buy

Consumer-Durables

With the holiday season upon us, shoppers are doing their research and looking to take advantage of deals on home appliances. Across the board, from floor care to personal care, retailers and manufacturers are planning to deliver you innovative and energy efficient products this holiday season.

And while the majority of consumers who buy appliances get what they’re looking for, some will return them, even if they’re working.  AHAM, along with Bellomy Research, recently conducted an extensive study on why consumers return small appliances that are in good working condition. Here are the top five reasons:

  • Appliance did not perform the way the customer expected
  • The appliance was smaller than the customer expected
  • Appliance was a gift the recipient did not like or want
  • Second thoughts about the color, style or model
  • The customer found another model they liked better

Overall, though, there was one underlying theme behind why consumers return products: they did not have a clear understanding of what they were purchasing before the purchase.

So what can shoppers to do avoid post-holiday returns? While AHAM’s research suggested improvements manufacturers and retailers could make to reduce return rates, it’s up to the customer to do their own homework—and they know it. Our study found that “some customers also feel they should have completed more research before purchasing, or wished for an easier set-up process.??

Then what can you, as the consumer, do? Here are AHAM’s tips:

  1. Go “hands on”: Product demonstrations are commonplace at many retailers now, allowing you to visualize and use the product before purchasing. This can eliminate confusion about issues such as size, performance, and quality.
  2. Read and watch online reviews: There are limitless resources online for consumers to learn about a product, and potential features that affect decision-making. Videos are both abundant and valuable because they allow you to see the actual product being used.
  3. Research the product through the manufacturer’s website and owner’s manual: Appliance makers strive to be clear about the features and benefits their products offer. Whether online or on paper, they provide extensive resources that allow the everyday consumer to understand what they are buying before a purchase decision is made.
  4. Contact the manufacturer directly: This is perhaps the most important tip, but many shoppers don’t realize it’s an option. Only 40 percent of people surveyed said they had spoken with the product’s manufacturer before returning an item. Most manufacturers have resources to answer your questions and resolve almost any issues before a return becomes necessary.

Do you have any tips you feel should be added to this list? Please share them with us in the comments.

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