Are extra appliance features worth the extra money?

Which kitchen appliance features to get and which to skip

Published: October 14, 2014 04:00 PM
Kenmore 71603

Appliance manufacturers regularly update their top-of-the-line products with new technology and fresh design elements—and pass the expense of each ‘improvement’ along to the consumer, of course. Some of these upgrades do in fact deliver the added convenience they promise, but others might not be good enough to pay more for. Here’s a rundown of features to consider and those to skip:

Refrigerators

Consider digital temperature controls.  They display the actual interior temperature and the temperature you set, allowing you to correct discrepancies and prevent meltdowns—yours and the ice cream’s.
Refrigerator with this feature: Kenmore 7160[3], $1,700

Skip through-the-door ice and water dispenser. This often requested feature is a minor convenience with a major drawback. Our surveys show that, as a group, refrigerators with water and ice dispensers require considerably more repairs than those without. And dispensers boost energy use and cost while eating up food-storage space.

Jenn-Air JEC4430BS

Ranges and cooktops

Consider high-power elements. Available on gas and electric ranges and cooktops, these elements can quickly bring a pot of water to a boil or heat large quantities of food fast, and they’re terrific for high-heat cooking styles such as searing or stir-frying.
Range with this feature: LG LRE3083SW, $800

Consider hot-surface warning lights. This is an important safety feature on electric ranges and cooktops because the surface can remain hot long after an element has been turned off. Many smoothtops have at least one warning light, but ideally each element should have its own indicator.
Cooktop with this feature:  Jenn-Air JEC4430BS, $1,400

Skip buying by Btu. Short for British thermal unit, Btu is often touted by range or cooktop manufacturers. But that measure merely indicates the amount of gas used and heat generated, not performance. Indeed, a higher Btu doesn’t guarantee faster heating.

Dishwashers

Consider heavy-duty racks. Easy-to load models usually include adjustable racks, flatware holders with plenty of slots, and sometimes fold-down tines so that you can fit odd-sized dishes. Thicker coated wire holds up better over time.
Dishwasher with this feature: KitchenAid KDTM354DSS, $1,200

Skip dishwasher drawers. They’re high in price and usually low in performance. Instead, opt for a traditional model with a half-load option.

Skip specialized cycles. Normal, heavy-duty, and delicate cycles are all you really need.

Skip hidden controls. Yes, they help make the front of the dishwasher look sleek, but they might not allow you to see how much time is left in the cycle. Look for a model with a cycle-time display.

—Adapted from Consumer Reports’ Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

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