Monday, March 4, 2013

5 Year Appliance Report

I've previously moved into homes with appliances that were decades old and still working.  I thought that when we built our house, I was spending for certain things that would last most of the rest of my life, so chose carefully for both performance and durability.

The Majors

When it was brand new... and CLEAN
48" Wolf Gas (LP) Rangetop:  I was disappointed in the difficulty to keep this clean and new-looking, but never disappointed in its firepower.  After a lifetime of cooking on nothing but electric, radiant heat, its 16000 BTU's per burner and quick response time seem like enough to me!  I was amazed that I could turn down the burner under a boiling pot, and have the boil immediately die down, instead of continue and go over the top, like happened on electric.  I can sear meat and stir fry veggies instead of steaming them, and I can also simmer without fear of burning.  Other than changing out the grates after the rubber feet on the originals burnt off in no time, for which Wolf was very prompt and apologetic and sent me grates with new and improved, metal feet, I haven't had any problems with this cooktop, and expect it will last a few decades.  Mine is the open-burner style they're no longer offering.

48" Electrolux ICON Hood:  I meant to get a hood that vented straight back.  At the last minute, I chose a different model, forgetting to check for that feature.  When it arrived and we unpacked it, I should've negotiated a return, but I didn't and we made do.  My whole cabinet above the hood vent is filled with vent pipe.  And because Hubby and our builder friend got a little creative and joined both vent pipes into one large, sheet metal box - so it could vent up, then back and out the wall - it's LOUD when running.  It seems to do the job, so that's what counts, I guess, but it's been a regret since we opened the box.  Also, one of the wonderful halogen lights went out, and won't come back on with a new bulb, so there must be a loose wire.  I haven't done anything about it, because even one light is so good, it adequately lights the stove surface.  Not that 2 wasn't better...

Bosch Dishwashers:  I love how the upper racks can adjust up or down to create more room in either the bottom or top racks, as needed.  The lower racks have parts and pieces that adjust and come out... when I don't want them to.  I should buy new racks, but at $140 a pop, I fight the ones I have.  The dishwashers clean fine, and run quietly, which is most important.  

I love the hidden controls and panel-ready fronts that are covered with a cabinet door and drawer front, often leaving people wondering why we don't have a dishwasher.  ;-)  

I use AutoWash the most, for best cleaning and energy/water savings.  I also use the Power Scrub Plus cycle for cooked on food, and it works well.  

Miele Dishwasher
Since we want to put a dishwasher into the upstairs space over the garage, we are considering moving one of our Bosches there, and trying a Miele in its place in the main kitchen. I still read such positives about Miele dishwashers with their special cutlery racks, their good performance and organization, and still kind of wish I'd spent a few hundred more to put in 2 of those instead.  So we'll try one and compare!

Ovens... Well, most of you are familiar with my sad and aggravating 7-oven history, so I won't repeat the old stories..  My salesman says #7, the Gaggenau, is my best bet at an appliance that will last 20+ years, so I'll just hold onto hope. 

Electrolux ICON Refrigeration:  I have 2 of the all-refrigerators, and 1 of the all-freezers.  They are classified as counter-depth, even though they're more like 27".  They are only 32" wide and 68" tall, so modestly sized, except when put side by side, when they at least look mammoth.  We chose not to spend an extra $600 for all the trim pieces to make them appear more built-in, and did our own built-in look instead.  This started with putting them up on toe-kicks, like the other cabinets.  Besides a better look, this improves access a tiny bit, and keeps the dust bunnies from collecting underneath.  

We are happy with the organization... nice drawers, shelves, and door shelves.  What I'm not happy with is the drawers that are attached to the shelves above. Getting them out to clean is awkward and a big hassle, since it means emptying and taking out both the shelf and drawer as one unit...with the drawer sometimes trying to slide out as you maneuver.  And you can't put them in the sink to rinse them out, because it's all too big.  Dumb idea, Electrolux.

The units run quietly and keep things cold.  The freezer has an ice maker that has worked flawlessly.  One fridge seems to have a wire loose concerning the interior light.  It doesn't always come on, but if we kick (gently, more like tapping, but with a foot, since it's low) the area at the bottom of the fridge, it will come on.  Also, that fridge sometimes has the proper number for the coldness setting on the readout display, and sometimes flashes an E.  I think that means the motor for the evaporator fan is having issues, but it seems to come and go with no affect on the fridge performance.  So I don't know if it's a glitch in the readout, or the evaporator fan motor, and therefore, the contents of the fridge, are on borrowed time...

The Minors

Of course, I didn't expect small appliances to last a lifetime.  Actually, Hubby still uses the microwave we got as a wedding present in 1985 (Magnavox, if I remember correctly) in his office.  Still works as it always has, just a little behind the times in technology....Meaning it's underpowered and comparatively slow.  But it's worked for almost 28 years now, which is a lot more than I can say for a lot of the small appliances we've had in this kitchen.

And why is it that when one dies, others immediately follow?  Our Panasonic microwave, Krups toaster oven, Kitchen Aid hand mixer all died within a few weeks of each other.  We like Panasonic microwaves with the inverter technology so much that we got a new one, but decided on a 1.6 cubic foot model, instead of its 2.2 cubic foot predecessor.  So far, we don't miss the additional size.

I am not a particular fan of the fairly expensive Bamix stick blender (I think we needed the bigger, more powerful, and pricier model to meet our family's needs), but at least it's lasted longer than the short-lived Cuisinart.  (To be fair, the Cuisinart SmartStick Immersion Hand Blender is highly rated, but just didn't like that small bone it encountered in the split pea soup.) The best I ever had was a $40 Braun I received as a gift in 1988, and, of course, I can't find another like it now.

Speaking of Cuisinart, we have other items of that brand... Our food processor and mini food processor/chopper both run just fine and do a good job, but we've had to adapt to too-easily-broken parts on the plastic attachments.  The Cuisinart Round Classic Waffle Makers that used to belong to Hubby's parents work great.  Our new toaster oven is a Cuisinart, too.  It's not as hefty and solid feeling as the Krups was, but hopefully, it'll work better and last at least as long.  The reviews are very good.  Plus, its price tag was about 1/3 that of the Krups, so I will cut it a little slack.

Other small appliances still on the job:

  • KitchenAid mixer, another wedding gift in 1985, so still made by Hobart then, and with metal gears.  Priceless.  We use this for cookies, cakes, whip cream, etc.
  • Bosch Universal Plus bread mixer.  A fantastic help in mixing and kneading dough made with 12 cups of flour, yielding 5 loaves of bread.  This could make large batches of cookies and such, but we only seem to use it for bread, and the KA for all other baked goods.  We also use the mixer as the motor base for our flaker/roller, which turns oat groats into rolled oats/oatmeal.
  • Blendtec Total Blender.  Used daily to make smoothies with ice and/or frozen fruit.  It's a trooper and does a great job.  We did have to replace one pitcher, that had a bearing go out so the blade wouldn't move any more.
  • WhisperMill.  I'm not sure this grain mill has many years left in it.  Since it's "lifetime warranty" became void with the demise of the company, it seems I'd be out of luck to fix or replace it... But, not true.  Someone else bought up the production rights, put in a stronger motor, made improvements to the canister, and now sells the new version as the WonderMill Grain Mill.  When the need arises, they can update mine with the new and better parts (since the new company supports the old models), or I can start over with the new, improved model.
  • Breville Panini Grill.  I bought our original panini maker from an Ebay seller for $20.  The kids dropped it and the handle broke.  It still worked fine, otherwise, so I contacted Breville to order a new handle. They had discontinued that model, so had no handle to sell me.  Instead they sent me a whole new, vastly upgraded model for FREE!  It was totally our fault we broke it, and I bought it cheap on Ebay, but they still stood behind it and sent a $100 model to replace it.  That was 6 years ago it's still going strong.  What a good company with quality products and excellent customer service!!  Definitely impressive.

More of the 5-year report on my kitchen, coming soon!

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