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How To Pick Appliances

by - Monday, January 14, 2008

If you're anything like HandyMan and I, you probably know very little about choosing kitchen appliances. Apart from aesthetic appeal, we don't know much about what makes one brand better than another. Well, thanks to a trip to our local Home Depot tonight, we've got a little more knowledge about what brand of appliances is best to buy and what features you should look for in kitchen appliances.

It must have been a slow night because Chris, appliance guy at the Leaside branch, spent a good hour teaching us everything we wanted to know about stoves, dishwashers, microwaves and refrigerators. If you look for Chris, he's the guy wearing the "I'm In Training" button -- but don't believe it! He's full of good advice and I know our new kitchen will be better designed because of some of the great tips he passed on.

How to Choose Kitchen Appliances


I've been enamoured with the French Door, Bottom Mount styles but according to Chris, these are the "Cadillac of refrigerators" with a price tag to match. These types of models have only been offered over the last five years and have gone through a few iterations:

  • Generation 1 had no ice/water dispenser on the exterior. Rather, there would be an internal water dispenser in the fridge, sort of like those filtered water systems you may have at the office. A very impractical design.
  • Generation 2 had the ice/water dispenser on the exterior, but the large ice making mechanism was required to hang in the fridge. Keeping ice cold in a fridge was a problem so this design too was flawed.
  • Generation 3, the ice contraption moved to sit in a separate compartment on the inside of the fridge door. While this solved the problem of the ice melting, the large compartment ate up valuable fridge space
  • Generation 4 and finally the manufacturers may have got it right. These models offer only water dispensers on the exterior. The ice maker is where it should be - in the bottom mount freezer.

While I love the look of the French Door, Bottom Mounts, I am realizing they are impractical for our needs. You will get more capacity out of a side-by-side fridge and you will spend $300-$500 less. We already know we have to spend a little extra for a counter-depth fridge (so it can fit in our small 8x13 kitchen), so a few dollars saved by not going for the trendiest style is probably a wise choice.


With this appliance, there are two major trends appearing.

First is the hidden control panel. Instead of having the buttons on the front of the dishwasher, they are on the top of the door, not visable when the dishwasher is closed. Because there is no push button to open the dishwasher, these styles will require a handle on the door front so you can get the dishwasher open. The bad thing is, you will more than likely use that handle to hang a tea towel. So what, right? Well, after years of hanging a tea towel there, wiping your wet or greasy hands, getting water spots on the dishwasher... your nice shiny dishwasher will get pitted from water stains and start too look like you've had a leak running down the front of the machine. Bet you didn't know that!

Second trend in dishwashers is a stainless steel interior as opposed to a white plastic interior. Chris said both styles will perform the same though the white interior over time will tend to look more worn or unclean. Bacteria is not an issue - bacteria won't survive long on either surface due to the high heat of the cleaning water. The only consideration here is how the interior fits with your cabinetry and kitchen colours. Those with darker cabinets and fixtures may prefer a stainless interior as it is less 'jarring' than the white interiors.


HandyMan and I had a few "must have" features for this appliance: gas cooktop, convection oven, warming drawer. Easy right? Leave it to Chris to complicate matters and bring out other options we didn't even know existed.

Gas or electric was fine, but we also have the option of dual fuel cooking models with gas burners and electric convection ovens, or gas burners and gas convection ovens. If that wasn't mind-boggling enough, we could also choose between free-standing or slide-in ranges. We'd never considered a slide-in range but they were appealing -- they had the built-in look of a cooktop with the convenience of an oven.

One great tip: for gas ranges, make sure that the burner grates are matte and not polished. Polished grates will chip over time as the paint wears off.

Microwaves & Range Hoods:

In the past, we've used microwaves that either sat on the counter or above the range and now we were on the hunt for something different. I liked the look of under-the-counter microwaves and - being only 5'0" - thought they would be more easily accessible. If we did put it under the counter, that would mean we would have to get a range hood over the stove. Little did we know that most range hoods, especially the modern triangular styles with the chimney, were way way way too much power for our tiny kitchen. Not only that, but since the hood would be mounted on an interior wall, it would be extra noisy. (Another great tip: if you do get a range hood, do not get one with a rounded glass hood. Grease will just collect on the glass and drip down the sides of the hood)

Instead, putting the microwave over the range would bring some benefits I hadn't considered:

  • gain extra cabinet space over the microwave
  • less cost as you wouldn't have to buy the microwave and a range hood
  • over the range models are safer to have if there are kids around
  • keep extra cabinet space under the counter

When all was said and done, we'd learned a great deal on our trip to Home Depot. We've now got a shopping list started and will look for the following:

  1. side-by-side refrigerator in counter depth
  2. slide-in dual fuel range with convection oven and warming drawer. Burner grates will have a matte finish.
  3. dishwasher with front control panel and no handle
  4. over the range microwave

Let the shopping begin!

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