The 10 Most “Hyped” Kitchen Products – From Consumer Reports

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Many home buyers are on the lookout for the newest, hipest, coolest appliance, gadget or material for their homes. Recently, Consumer Reports surveyed buyers to find out what most consumers were asking for when buying new or upgrading their kitchens. The editor’s then give their advice for the usefulness (or in most cases not!) for each of the products.  With the ability to customize your home through the Monte Hewett Design Studio selection process, knowing ahead what the possible pitfalls might be for one of these “hyped” products could save you a LOT of money (and headache!) Here’s what they found:

Consumer Reports’ latest tests reveal that many of the most loudly hawked products (and often most expensive) delivered less than they promised and several were beaten by the old standards that cost far less.

The 2007 August issue is CR’s largest kitchen package to-date with over 30 pages of advice and comprehensive Ratings that will help consumers decide which appliances, countertops, sinks, faucets and flooring offer the best combination of style, performance, and value based on our independent lab tests.

Consumer Reports cooked up 850 pounds of ground beef in tests of appliances and used over 40 stain-producing materials including red wine and ink to test the stain-resistance of flooring, countertops, and other materials.

10 Most-Hyped Products and What to Buy Instead     
1.    Pro-style ranges.  Spending more on pro-style appliances doesn’t guarantee better quality.  Consumer Reports’ tests continue to find that $4,000-plus professional-style ranges perform no better than less-expensive, conventional models.  Some pro-style ranges still  lack common features and have high repair rates. CR Advice:  Consider faux pro-style ranges from mainstream manufacturers that combine stainless-steel style, performance, and reliability for thousands less.     
2.    Speed cooking.  Faster doesn’t mean better.  Found in some  microwaves, ranges, and ovens, speed cooking combines microwaving with convection or baking and broiling to cut cooking time.  CR found the performance of speed cookers to be spotty in tests; some foods came out great, while others were undercooked. CR Advice:  Look for ovens and ranges with convection, which uses a  fan to circulate hot air so food can bake and roast at lower temperatures for shorter times.     
3.    Steam ovens & ranges.  Steam didn’t melt the fat away.  According to CR tests, food cooked in some of these types of ovens, which all  cost more than $1000, had just as much fat after steaming as before.  CR Advice:  Skip them.     
4.    Multimedia Refrigerators.  Side-by-sides with TVs and calendars promise to help consumers organize their lives and  their leftovers, but none of  the  models CR tested out-cooled the best conventional fridges. CR Advice:  Save $2,000 or more by buying a top-rated refrigerator and a capable flat-panel TV.     
5.   Turbocharged Dishwashers. Despite claims of maximizing “washing pressure to ensure superior cleaning for the toughest jobs,” CR tests revealed that most regular dishwashers including ones without          a turbo cycle do very good job of cleaning dishes, even with baked-on food. CR Advice:  Choose a lower-priced dishwasher that blends top  cleaning with quietness and shorter cycle times.     
6.    Appliance Drawers.  Although touted as flexible, space-saving, and stylish, CR tests of drawer versions of refrigerators, dishwashers, and microwaves show that their lower capacity, efficiency, and          overall performance, plus their higher prices, negate those perks. CR Advice:  For style and accessible storage, choose a good French-door fridge.  Run the rinse-only cycle on a regular dishwasher for small loads.  Consumers who can live without a range hood’s better venting can free up counter space with an over-the-range microwave. Each costs a fraction of what a drawer costs.     
7.    Pricey Faucets and Sinks.  CR found few performance differences between the least and most expensive versions of faucets and sinks from major brands. CR Advice:  Faucets in chrome or with physical vapor deposition (PVD) finishes performed best regardless of price.  All of the stainless steel sinks CR tested resisted dents, stains, scratches, and heat similarly, whether they were thick or thin.     
8.    Trendy Counters.  CR tests found concrete to be fragile and  susceptible to scratches, chips, and hairline cracks.  Limestone may   start out smooth, but it scratched, stained, and chipped in CR tests.
CR Advice:  For a stone look, go for granite or quartz.     
9.    “Green” Flooring.  Bamboo, cork, and linoleum are all considered renewable alternatives to standard hardwood and vinyl flooring.  However, some did not hold up to the usual spills, scratches,  dropped plates, and sunlight in CR tests.  CR Advice:  For high traffic areas, consider plastic laminate and vinyl; both proved toughest overall in CR tests, generally for less money.  Also, solid wood floors can be sanded and refinished several  times.     
10.   One-Stop Shops.  Shop around.  Consumer Reports latest surveys  reveal that no one retailer was impressive for design help, installation services, product quality, selection, and price.  CR Advice:  Check out CR’s Ratings for the stores with the attributes that matter most.  Check retailers’ return policies          before buying.  Consider local independent stores and personal references as highly as preconceived notions about price, quality, and convenience. 

The best advice is to talk to our Design Studio Manager as you are making your “wish list” for you dream kitchen. She can help you steer clear of products that are more “hype” than help.

Check out the full report and Ratings in the August 2007 issue of Consumer Reports,  at http://www.ConsumerReports.org.

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