If you’ve been appliance shopping lately, you know manufacturers are constantly working to develop the biggest or quietest or smallest or fastest model on the market. Many of these new features improve performance, convenience or safety while others are downright frivolous. Ask yourself: How often will you use that dishwasher’s “plate warmer” cycle, and do you really need a refrigerator that’s connected to the Internet?
Before you fork over tons of extra cash for fancy options, check out our list of five can’t-live-without appliance features.
In-door ice maker/water dispenser
No, making your own ice cubes isn’t difficult. But having them available at the push of a button is so very nice. Plus, this is one convenience that has a health benefit — making it easier for your family to drink more water. Be warned that in-door ice and water dispensers considerably increase the cost of this major kitchen appliance. You also need to be willing to perform periodic maintenance checks to avoid costly water damage; nationwide, refrigerators with water or ice units are the third most common culprit when it comes to appliance-related insurance claims.
Moisture sensors on clothes dryers
The folks who study such things report that dryers with moisture sensors are quicker to recognize when laundry is dry than machines that rely on thermostats. Because clothes aren’t subjected to unnecessary heat, moisture-sensor models are gentler on fabrics. The rest of us simply appreciate that they shut themselves off when laundry is dry (thus using less energy) and save us the effort of checking every few minutes to see if it’s finally time to fold.
Admittedly, not everyone needs one, but if you entertain much or have a larger family, a double oven can be a tremendous time saver. The efficiency of this feature is most apparent when it comes time to tackle diverse cooking tasks at the same time (for example, roasting a turkey while baking cookies). Keep in mind that if one oven is smaller — and it often is — it won’t cook at the same rate as the main oven. Most people use the larger oven for the majority of their cooking; the smaller unit is best for warming or baking foods. Double ovens generally just cost a bit more than singles. For instance, a 30-inch stainless steel single oven by Whirlpool costs $1,350 while a 30-inch stainless steel double-oven model from the same manufacturer costs $1,395.
The cycles on self-cleaning ovens range from two to five hours, during which time the oven temperature climbs to upward of 850 degrees. Yes, the process can be smelly (it’s worse if the oven is black with burned-on goodness, so don’t wait too long between cleanings), but it’s far simpler and safer than slathering your oven with chemicals that you have to scrub off by hand. Let’s face it: If it weren’t for the self-cleaning feature, most folks would never de-gunk their ovens.
Delayed start for dishwasher
Dinner is finished, and the dishwasher is loaded; but if you turn it on now you may run out of hot water before the kids finish their baths. No problem. Use the delayed start feature on your dishwasher and you can choose to start the cleaning process one, two or four hours later (delay periods offered vary by brand). This feature allows you to run the dishwasher at night when no one will be disturbed or to benefit from off-peak power savings. Sure, you could manually push the start button later, but who wants to worry about remembering details like that?