Archive for the ‘Appliance Design’ Category

Sharp microwave drawers

January 12, 2011

When appliances claim to “revolutionize” kitchen design, skepticism is only fair — except in the case of Sharp’s microwave drawer.

Microwave placement poses a problem (it’s an ongoing series for a favorite blogger of mine, Sarah Lloyd of Kitchen Clarity) for many concerned with the aesthetics and functionality of their kitchen.

Standard microwaves easily clutter an otherwise beautiful design, especially within kitchen islands and open-plan kitchens, when placed near eye-level.

And — I’m sorry — but who in her right mind would put a standard microwave under the counter? Retrieving hot and possibly heavy items while bent down begs for trouble.

So when Sharp introduced the first microwave drawer, it truly did offer a solution to what many consider a problem.

The newest 24″ microwave drawer and 30″ microwave drawer models expand capacity (now 1.2 cu. ft and tall enough for 20 oz. coffee cup) within their existing footprints and include new, feedback-driven functions:

  • Short cut options such as “Warm” to heat maple syrup and dessert sauces
  • Keep Warm function maintains the serving temperature for up to 30 minutes
  • Soften and Melt functions keep me from having to press my face up to the microwave glass to make sure I don’t make a buttery mess all over my microwave
  • Sensor Cook settings expanded to include popular items such as brown rice and sweet potatoes
  • Defrost options available for both boneless and bone-in poultry
  • Opens quietly and smoothly (minimizes messes!) automatically at the touch of a button

I’d personally love to have one of these. I use my microwave mostly for defrosting meats, steaming veggies and softening ingredients while cooking, so I like the idea of keeping it tucked away yet accessible.

What do you use your microwave for?

Does the idea of a microwave drawer seem like a novelty or practicality to you?

DIY Network to feature our kitchen showroom on remodel show

December 30, 2010

Appliance specialist Joe Warner suggested this LG gas range for Carrie and Robert, who enjoy cooking and baking.

The DIY Network filmed again yesterday at our Warners’ Stellian Edina showroom, this time for “I Hate My Kitchen.”

Each episode, homeowners receive smart design help to maximize their budget to make their dream kitchens a reality.

>>See photos of the filming

It was fun to watch the crews document the shopping experience of our customers, homeowners Carrie and Robert.

Carrie and Robert are doing a “gut job” of the kitchen in their South Minneapolis home. (Carrie joked that she didn’t let Robert buy a snow blower last winter because she was so set on saving for their kitchen remodel!)

First, we learn about Carrie and Robert:

  • They enjoy cooking (lots of soups!) and baking, and are ready to move from electric to gas cooking.
  • While still a good size for a South Minneapolis kitchen (the home was built in the 1920s), they still want to maximize their space.
  • The current dishwasher is too noisy and doesn’t really offer them much versatility.
  • Carrie and Robert plan on spending a good deal of time in this current house.
  • The appliances will need to complement custom cabinetry, new floors and counter tops.

Based on what he found out from Carrie and Robert, our appliance specialist (and my brother!) Joe Warner suggested the following:

LG 5-burner gas range in stainless steel (LRG3093ST)

Carrie and Robert currently has an LG ceramic top electric range. They like the brand, but want the power and responsiveness of gas cooking. The four main burners offer a range of temperatures, for a low simmer at 5,000 BTUs to a power boil at 17,000 BTUs — and the burners can all be rearranged. So, Carrie can simmer two soups on the back burners while using higher heat on the front-most burners. Also, the fifth burner offers a place to heat oblong pans or place a skillet for breakfast items. The heavy-duty grates offer a continuous surface to easily move pots and pans around.

The oven, with a gorgeous blue finish, is a big, 5.4 cu. ft. capacity, which can accommodate pretty much anything Carrie and Robert will throw at it.

Basically, I’m super jealous.

LG fully integrated steam dishwasher (LDF7932ST)

At 50 decibels, it doesn’t get much quieter than this LG dishwasher. It’s so quiet, in fact, that LED lights tell you when it’s operating and when it’s not. Adjustable racks will accommodate nearly any size pot or pan Carrie and Robert throw at it, and there are even wineglass holders (which Carrie noted will get plenty of use).

Steam bursts through hardened on messes for pots and pans, yet is gentle enough to use with those wineglasses.

Perhaps best of all, the fully integrated finish tucks away the control panel on top of the door and the stainless interior means Carrie and Robert can enjoy the looks for a long time.

How gorgeous is that? Robert and Carrie like this model because:

  • An automatic ice maker means Robert can retire that title from his own name :)
  • The freezer on the bottom configuration and wide, two-door refrigerator allows for plenty of eye-level fresh storage within easy reach
  • The shallow, counter top-depth maximizes the space in their 10′-12′ kitchen

I’m so excited for Carrie and Robert to get delivery on the appliances they picked out. I’ll post pictures afterward in a couple weeks, but unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until the episode airs in September for the big reveal of their custom kitchen remodel.

Don’t add soap to your washer because there’s enough in your clothes

December 27, 2010

When my new front-load washer arrives this week, my high-efficiency detergents won’t see any action for at least another week. Why?

I’m going to wash all my clothes using the soap they already contain.

That’s right. Clothes washed in top-load washers (like mine) generally contain enough soap residue in their fibers that will suds and finally rinse properly once washed in front-loader washers.

To wash, top-load washers completely fill their tub with water and push clothes around in the soapy water by the agitator (that tall thing with paddles in the middle). This would be like washing your hands by filling a sink with soapy water and swishing your hands around in it. Plus, older, top loading washers simply don’t rinse as well and your clothes end up accumulating a decent amount of soap residue.

Don’t believe me? Examine your dark clothes. Do they look gray or faded? That’s soap.

Disgusting, huh? Now imagine how irritating all that soap is to your skin, too.

(Front-loading washers use far less water, only enough to get the clothes wet, which means they use less soap as well. Make sure you don’t use too much soap or your washer could “oversuds,” producing too much soap bubbles, which might not completely rinse out of your clothes, as a front loader washer is, again, designed to use minimal water. Saying that, they’ll also rinse your clothes much better than a top load washing machine.)

So, I’m going to wash out all the soap left over in my clothes from my old washer using nothing but tumble action and water from a front loader washer.

 

 

Convection oven baking tips

December 20, 2010
.christmas snowflake food

It's cookie season. Do you need to brush up on your convection baking knowledge?

 

Are you taking full advantage of your convection oven (if you don’t know what that is, read What is convection?)?

You probably already know to decrease your oven temperature 25 degrees and decrease the bake time about 25 percent for convection oven vs. conventional oven.

But if you already know how to use convection cooking — and you probably do if you partake in holiday baking and cookie exchanges — I bet you’ll still learn something from Dacor’s convection oven baking tips (PDF).

Also, if if your convection oven cooking times seem to be longer now than when you first bought your convection oven, perhaps you need to clean your convection filter.

In a convection oven, the fan draws air through the filter. So especially if you do a lot of roasting,  grease particles will stick to the filter and could obstruct the airflow. Check your use and care manual for instructions on how to clean your filter. Some, like Dacor convection oven filter, are dishwasher safe.

Christmas-Holiday gift ideas

December 15, 2010

Because most people don’t shop till now anyway, I’m not even going to call this last-minute. But here’s a roundup of unique gift ideas for the people in your life worth gifting to!

For the wine lover, a 16-bottle countertop wine cooler:

For your wino friends (or wannabe winos), this compact wine cooler ($150) stores and displays 16 bottles behind a sleek, mirrored finish door. Adjust temperatures for various wines with the soft touch controls with digital display.

For the tailgater, a mini LP grill:

How awesome would this Weber Q gas grill ($150) be for all those early morning grill outs and picnics? It’s also a very discreet option for those whose apartments or condos don’t allow grills (speaking from experience). This mini grill crams 889 sq. inches of cooking space into a 27″x16″ footprint of only 60 pounds. And you can purchase the optional Weber Q Grill rolling cart for $45.

For the new homeowner or pet owner, a HEPA vacuum cleaner:

For friends and family who’ve recently gained a furry friend, the Dyson Animal DC25 ($550) is probably the ultimate gift. This root cyclone vacuum is designed for homes with pets and is certified asthma and allergy friendly with a washable lifetime HEPA filter.

Miele vacuums, rated to last 20 years, are a great gift for someone just starting out in her home. Plus, they come in cute colors, like this Miele Polaris vacuum in light blue ($399). I’ve blogged about them before, because I love how quiet they are, how well they clean, and how long they last.

Plus, all of our vacuums ship for free nationwide. If you hurry, you could still get it by Christmas!

For the grilling enthusiast, the ultimate smoker:

There aren’t many grills that produce the a fanatic with their own name, like the Big Green Egg does. “Eggheads” rave that this ceramic smoker is the ultimate for meats, fish, vegetables and any other creation grillers cook up.

The Large Big Green Egg (shown, $750) — which is the most popular size — can cook:

  • 20-pound turkey
  • 12 burgers
  • 6 chickens vertically
  • 8 steaks
  • 7 racks of ribs vertically

For the cigar aficionado, a sophisticated stainless steel humidor:



The Liebherr humidor XS-200 is definitely one of those big, spendy holiday gifts, at $2,599. But it’s completely distinctive, with European-style stainless steel and glass displaying cigars housed with premium preservation elements (humidity, temperature and hygienic conditions).

>>See Liebherr cigar humidor blows no smoke

Kitchen appliance colors 2010

November 5, 2010

You won’t see color appliances outside white and black in many kitchens, but gee, isn’t it fun to look at pictures to get kitchen color ideas?

I’d pledge my firstborn Le Creuset to someone who could actually produce a photo with this combination of kitchen appliance colors, but for some Friday fun, I assembled a roundup of fall-inspired colored appliances.

Viking Colored Microwave

This little (Viking Pumpkin Colored Microwave) guy’s so festive, I’d like to carve him up and put it on my doorstep.

No, you can’t panel a microwave — and yes, lots of people ask — but Viking Appliances does let you choose among a bunch of colors:

Viking appliance colors

Red Wine never looked so good. (Actually, red wine looks good to me on a regular basis, but it’s still a very attractive range.)

Viking iconic pro-style ranges aren’t the only choice for cooking in colors.

Bertazzoni, an Italian cooking appliance-maker, uses the same paint as car-maker Ferrari to paint its appliances.

(What is it with appliances mixing with automotive design?).

In fact, one of its ranges is even called Ferrari Red.

This Bertazzoni colored range in Wine just seems so cold-weather inspired.

>> See other Bertazzoni range colors

Perhaps Plum is more of a winter color…but I couldn’t resist including a big purple refrigerator.

Back to Viking: Doesn’t your dream kitchen include a built-in colored refrigerator…in plum?

Those not in the high-end appliance market shouldn’t feel left out.

There’s always seasonal dishwasher magnets.

Simmer down, now! Pay attention to burners’ BTU minimums, not just maximums

October 12, 2010

When Warners’ Stellian entered in the Builders Association of the Twin Cities Chili Cook-Off, I enthusiastically volunteered to make our entry.

We were encouraged to make more than 2 gallons, with the logic being more chili means more tasters means more votes for Warners’ Stellian. So, I made six batches. Observe:

 

Two-thirds of the chili produced, getting ready to "simmer"

 

When it came time for the massive amounts of chili to “simmer” for an hour, I lowered the controls on my (15-year-old) gas range to the flame’s lowest point before disappearing and tended to other responsibilities.

When I returned to dutifully “stir occasionally” 55 minutes later, all three pots of my chili were not simmering, but boiling. Of course chili isn’t as delicate as say, chocolate or Hollandaise sauce, but I don’t like the idea of keeping my chili at high heat for nearly an hour.

Apparently, flames on most ranges nowadays can only go so low.

Astronomically high BTU burners are trendy right now, but several brands also offer cooktops and ranges with extra-low settings for safer simmering.

 

Wolf gas cooktop

 

Wolf burners go down to 300 BTUs and absolutely will NOT scorch chocolate.

When I went to Wolf product training, a tiny Hershey’s square sat in a saucepan atop a Wolf simmer burner all afternoon, perfectly happy and melted.

 

Dacor gas cooktop

 

Dacor has burners that can go as low as 650 BTUs, but also includes a simmer plate with some models.

A simmer plate is an accessory that protects your delicate foods from the direct heat of the burner, holding it at the safest low temperature possible.

 

Thermador gas range

 

Thermador ExtraLow Simmer burners can simmer as low as 100°F at 375 BTUs.

If you’re wondering, I didn’t place in the top three, though I did win the prize for Most Colorful Chili (you are what you eat, right?). Of course, I blame my lack of victory on my non-simmering range.

Refrigerators, freezers will use 25% less energy, DOE says

September 29, 2010

Energy Secretary Steven "I'm lookin' out for" Chu announced he will bite the straw of the one of the biggest power-suckers in the home in two years.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday a 20-25 percent increase in the minimum energy efficiency standards of new refrigerators and freezers by 2014.

The news release goes on to talk about billions of dollars saved for consumers over 30 years, which kind of makes my eyes glaze over. What the heck does that mean for me?

Look at it this way: today’s fridges already best their 1970s counterparts’ energy use by one-third, and back then annual operation cost  an average of $259 versus an average of $54 per year for today’s standard-efficiency unit. An Energy Star unit currently costs an average of $43 to operate annually.

Energy Star refrigerators already use 20 percent less energy than the federal standard, so basically, new fridges in 2014 will become at least as efficient as today’s Energy Star fridges, meaning annual operating costs will drop about $11. And if Energy Star standards increase alongside minimum standards in response (using a conservative 20 percent efficiency increase), average operating costs of an Energy Star refrigerator will look more like $34 per year. That’s of course assuming energy costs remain constant, but I just wanted to make savings concrete rather than throw this at you (from the release):

According to the Department’s analysis, the proposed standards could save nearly 4.5 quads (quadrillion BTUs) over 30 years, equivalent to three times the amount of energy used in refrigerators and freezers in American homes in one year.  The standard, as proposed, would also eliminate the need for up to 4.2 gigawatts of generating capacity by 2043, equivalent to 8-9 coal-fired power plants nationwide.   The savings would reduce cumulative carbon dioxide emissions by 305 million metric tons between 2014 and 2043.

(Come again?)

Also, standards didn’t necessarily account for how many consumers actually used their refrigerators. From a spokesman for an energy-efficiency advocacy group:

“Even though refrigerators have become much more energy efficient, they still account for about 10 percent of household electricity use,” observed Alliance to Save Energy Vice President for Programs Jeffrey Harris. “With the new standards, consumers will not only save energy, they’ll also have a better picture of total energy use, because the ratings will include automatic ice makers.”

Over the next year, the DOE also plans to evaluate standards for central air conditioners, room air conditioners, furnaces, clothes washers, clothes dryers and dishwashers.

My fridge is 15 years old, so I expect huge improvements when I replace it. How old is your refrigerator? Will new improved energy efficiency motivate you to replace your unit faster, because of faster payback? More importantly, did reading this article make you feel guilty about using your “but it still runs” fridge from the 70s to cool a couple of beers in your basement?

Related: Warners’ Stellian’s commitment to sustainability

Refrigerator temperature: What temperature should a refrigerator be set at?

August 6, 2010

Flickr photo credit: olibac

Your refrigerator likely comes set at the factory-recommended temperature, probably a “mid-setting,” but what is that?

If you set the temperature too low, your food will freeze. Set it too high, however, and your food will spoil quicker due to increased bacterial growth.

The recommended temperature for your refrigerator ranges from 35 degrees to 38 degrees.

I keep my refrigerator at 37 degrees and try to keep it stocked well with food, because — believe it or not — a fully stocked fridge holds its temperature better than one with a couple condiment bottles in the door.

But the best test for your refrigerator’s temperature is a beverage. If you don’t like the temperature of your beverage, adjust the fridge. If you think your refrigerator is too cold, increase the temperature by 1 degree and allow 24 hours for the compartment to adjust. Obviously, do the opposite if you think your refrigerator is too warm.

To ensure proper temperatures, air has to be able to flow between the refrigerator and freezer sections.

As shown in the super sweet illustration, cool air from the refrigerator enters through the bottom of the freezer section and moves upward. Most of the air then flows through the freezer section vents and recirculates under the freezer floor. The rest of the air enters the refrigerator section through the top vent and flows down the back of the refrigerator compartment.

Make sure the air vents aren’t blocked by some errant food thing. Otherwise, it might block the flow of air to the refrigerator, which in turn causes temperature and moisture problems and melty ice cream, etc.

Also (word to the wise), last time my refrigerator was too warm — and I had cranked it up to the coldest setting — I (my dad) finally popped off my kick-plate to find a veritable lint blanket.

Lesson: if your refrigerator can’t exhaust properly, it can’t cool properly. So, vacuum the condenser every three months!

HOW TO: change a refrigerator water filter

August 2, 2010

Think of the children, won't you? Replace your refrigerator's water filter.

If your refrigerator dispenses water, chances are it uses a filter.

Most manufacturers recommend replacing the filter every six months to nine months, but certainly your fridge won’t blow up if you don’t. You might just drink some stanky water or notice a “decreased flow.” Or your ice maker won’t function as well.

Or you could just replace your filter when your status indicator light (or “change filter” light, as many customers call it) tells you to. Usually, this light lives on the temperature control panel. If you don’t have a change filter light, replace the filter based on the time frame recommendations outlined in the Use & Care manual you tucked away for safekeeping because you’re a responsible appliance owner.

Mostly, just use good sense, as the life of the filter depends on your usage and the quality of the water. If you notice a change in your water, replace your filter more frequently.

Many of you don’t know this, but I used to be somewhat of a water filter whisperer back in my Warners’ Stellian receptionist heyday. Customers never remember what the heck brand their fridge is when they come in for a replacement filter — not that I judged them. Picking up a replacement water filter falls under the “lost bet to spouse” level of fun errands. (On a related note, we offer free shipping on accessories totaling more than $50.)

I could generally qualify someone based on sketchy info, but not all receptionists possess such amazing skills, so do your homework. And even if you know your brand of refrigerator, it’s important to look at the filter itself as some brands make several types. Here’s how you replace your refrigerator water filter:

For the filters like the one picture above left, rotate the cap counterclockwise until its vertical pull the cap and filter cartridge out through the base grille. Push the new filter cartridge into the base grille until it stops with the cap in the vertical position. Rotate the cartridge cap clockwise to a horizontal position.

For the filters like those on the above right, press the eject button and pull the cap straight out. Don’t twist the cap or it will detach from the filter, and you’ll have to put the cap back on and try again the way I told you to in the first place. Got it? OK. Push the new filter into the opening in the base grille. The button will pop out when the filter is in place, but give the cap a tug to make sure.

This kind of filter, found in the upper right corner inside the refrigerator, is pretty easy to replace. Just turn the filter counterclockwise until it come out, drain it into the sink and trash it. Next, remove the seal from the new filter, insert the filter into the filter head and turn it clockwise until it stops. Easy.

This filter to the right often sits in the back right of the fridge.

To remove, turn the water filter 90 degrees counterclockwise (aka your left) until the filter releases. Take all the packaging crap off the new one, push it up into the housing and turn 90 degrees to the right. (Here’s where the directions include “close the door,” but I figure you can make that decision on your own.)

Once you replace the filter, make sure you flush air from the water system, otherwise you’re going to have a drippy dispenser in your kitchen driving you absolutely nuts. Watch this fun video or follow these directions:

Hold a container to the water dispenser lever for 5 seconds, and then release it for 5 seconds. Repeat until water comes out. Continue holding and releasing the dispenser lever (5 seconds on, 5 seconds off) until a total of 4 gallons has been dispensed. You might get a little spurting as the air clears out, so beware.

Can’t get to the store for a new filter? You can still remove and use the water dispenser in bypass mode. You just won’t have filtered water.


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