Counter appeal

Cabinets may comprise the bulk of a kitchen, but the role of a countertop can’t be overlooked. “The countertop is the center of the space where all the different elements come together,” says Renee Hytry, director of design for Formica Corp. “The countertop has the ability to pull in the color of the cabinets – to bring in an accent color.”

kitchen countertop

A countertop can add elegance, sophistication, personality and even a little whimsy to a space. Here’s the chance to specify that one-of-a-kind granite counter. Or, you might try a decorative solid-surfacing inlay that coordinates with something the new homeowner will be bringing into the space. There are several questions that should be answered before specifying a countertop: Where is the countertop? What size and shape will it be? How will the counter be used? What materials are suitable for such an application? What patterns or colors will look the best?

Study after study has shown the positive effect a remodeled kitchen has on a home’s resale value. It makes sense that new home-buyers would expect their new kitchen and baths to be first rate – and the countertop is a big part of that. (In addition to aesthetics, function must be considered. The countertop gets the biggest workout in a kitchen.) Here’s a look at some of the options.

Ceramic tile

Ceramic tile countertop

Ceramic tile is a dependable countertop material, especially because it won’t burn. There’s an array of possibilities. Colors and patterns can be mixed and matched to give a room some personality. Tiles can be painted. Some of the newer looks in ceramic have all aged quality that won’t diminish over time. Grout lines can be cleaned: Larger tiles limit grout lines on countertops while lending a less-interrupted look.

Laminate

Laminate countertop

Laminate may not conjure up images of glamour, but it’s the counter of choice for many builders, designers and homeowners. Laminate provides a dependable surface and a massive variety of colors and patterns to choose from. The offerings continue to become more interesting, thanks to improved printing techniques and manufacturing processes. New laminates are also more three dimensional: recently introduced sparkle finishes (all given a different name depending on the manufacturer) actually feature small clusters of hills and valleys that reflect light and give off a shimmering result.

Solid surfacing

solid surface countertop

Solid surfacing has found a strong niche in the building and remodeling market as a result of its practical and aesthetic qualities. Its seamless design is easy to clean and allows for integral sinks. Scratches aren’t always noticeable because of the material’s color-through composition. Scratches can be buffed out, and burns or breaks can be repaired. It can be sized and shaped to fit almost any configuration. The drawback? Aesthetically, solid surfacing might not take the place of real stone.

Granite

Granite countertop

Granite is a popular choice of those who want a natural material and have the budget for it. The price, though still high, has come down significantly in recent years as consumer demand and availability grows. Granite will last the life of a kitchen – if not longer. It’s virtually indestructible and won’t be scorched by hot pots. Marble, on the other hand, is quite suitable for bathrooms – acidic foods can stain a marble top. Porous limestone is also a better choice for bathrooms than kitchens.

Trends and New Looks

The great outdoors has had quite an impact on countertops. Consider the popularity of real stone, and the trend toward more natural colors and textures in other materials. “We’re seeing a lot of gold and yellow-greens. The commercial market is very concerned with the environment and using these colors, and it’s crossing over to the residential market,” says Hytry. “Yellows, reds and greens coordinate better [with today’s cabinets] than the grays and mauves of the ’80s.”

The movement away from oak cabinets towards maple, cherry and other exotic woods and materials has influenced colors and patterns. Homeowners want a warmer look for their countertops to complement sleeker cabinet styles. The color particles in some new multicolored patterns are large, which gives them the greater ability to harmonize with their surroundings. Granite has these characteristics naturally.

Overall, solid colors are taking a backseat to sandy patterns, which appear solid from a distance, but are actually tightly meshed specks of colors. In solids, though, colors are more in line with the environment – from ocean blues to sunset purples and harvest golds. Some laminate and solid surfacing have chameleon-like patterns that seem to change depending on the lighting, other materials in the room and location.

Metals are also becoming more prominent in residential use. The use of stainless steel in kitchens – for appliances, primarily – has been increasing over the past few years. New metal looks in laminates offer earthy colors and interesting visuals that are inspired by the growing interest in natural materials.

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This entry was posted in kitchen.

Diskette storage and filing

As the primary keeper of business data, paper is relatively easy to file and store. It’s flat, of generally uniform size, and quite durable. On the other hand, the magnetic data files of the computer age–diskettes, tape reels, disk packs and cartridges, audiocassettes and videotapes, microfiche–come in a bewildering array of sizes and shapes.

open reel

Some magnetic files, notably diskettes, are extremely sensitive to heat, cold, static, dust and other factors; and must be handled, filed and stored with great care.

In addition, such traditional filing considerations as cost, security, flexibility and ease of access apply to magnetic media just as surely as they do to paper.

All these factors can make filing and storage decisions quite complex for the manager who must choose and implement a workable system for the automated office.

Fortunately, a growing number of companies are leaping into the breach with products ranging from simple diskette storage trays to fire-resistant safes to versatile filing systems that will accommodate a complete library of varied magnetic media.

100 foot measuring tape

For complex filing needs, many vendors also offer consulting services to assist the manager in planning and implementing a cost-efficient, effective, flexible filing system.

Diskette storage and filing

For many departmental offices, magnetic media filing needs are often simply a question of where and how to store computer diskettes.

  • Diskette storage, however, is not a matter to be taken lightly warn manufacturers of such varied diskette filing accessories as trays, boxes, drawers, hanging files, insulated cabinets and safes.
  • Those who merely want an attractive, handy place to store computer files that are currently in use will probably opt for a desktop storage box or tray. Even these buyers, however, need to consider the diskette’s vulnerability to heat, cold, light, static and excessive handling.
  • Most manufacturers recommend diskette boxes or trays made of sturdy plastic to protect disks from dust, dirt and lint. Plastic with an antistatic component is suggested to prevent inadvertent damage to data by static electricity in the atmosphere.
  • Protection against damage by sunlight is assured when diskettes are stored in a tray with a tinted lid. Locking or separation devices that hold diskettes in an angled, but upright position help prevent warping while keeping them easily accessible.
  • “Stacking disks with the weight of one resting on the one below is never a good idea,’ advised Bob Teague, marketing director for ABA Systems/USA, Inc., Nashville, TN. “Since they’re nto completely flat, they can warp if stored horizontally, and data on a warped disk may not be readable.’ Additionally, a warped disk can damage heads on the computer’s disk drive.

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How to choose a paint sprayer

You are bound to save money with a paint sprayer no matter what you are painting, be it a bedroom, the house exteriors, a fence or just furniture.

Even and professional finishes are usually the guarantee of many of the available paint sprayers in the market. Certain questions are worth taking into account before buying. These may be;

  • The magnitude of the job.
  • The regularity with which you are likely to use it.
  • The surface to be painted.
  • The type of paint you are to paint, whether thick or light.

Before starting, tape and drop clothes may become handy in covering and marking as appoint of preparation which ensures safety. You will be good to go afterward by just pouring the paint into the container and starting up.

A paint sprayer user video may be the most ideal to watch for those with the urge of learning more on how to use a paint sprayer.

Why use a paint sprayer?

Paint sprayer has several benefits. When used, a paint sprayer gives a much better result which is not seen with the use of paint brushes and rollers.

Speed

black and decker paint sprayer

There is an ease and quick manner in which the paint sprayers cover large surfaces. The complete coverage of uneven and rough surfaces coupled with the coverage of the hard to reach places like corners can be noticed.

Ease of use

Compared to other devices of application, a paint sprayer offers an equally superior finish. Getting started by pouring the paint into the paint container and attach it to the sprayer.

Before getting started, you also need to check the paint sprayer manual; thinning may be needed on your paint.

Get it done professionally

Just like the work done by professionals, paint sprayers leave a finish from its mist which evenly covers any surface.

Sprayer varieties

There are several suitable paint sprayers which you can find, no matter the type of job. High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) and the airless models are some of the two commonly used paint sprayers.

High pressure which draws the paint up and forces it out the nozzle is what the electric motor achieves in the airless paint sprayers.

A very fine spray is what you get with the HVLP sprayers which atomize the paint sprayer under low pressure.

Money saving

For a new coat, regular dipping is what you need when using the rollers and the paint brushes which soak paint substantially. Less paint wastage with large space coverage is what you get when you use the paint sprayers in the right way.

Ease of cleaning

Paint stirrer and roller trays will not be among the things you need to clean because paint sprayers are easier to clean.

Making the right paint sprayer choice

Based on the job and your needs, the choice of the right paint sprayer among the many in the market is important.  To make the choice easier, remember to read paint sprayer reviews. Also, here is some simple guidelines;

Fine sprays

Also known as finishing tools, the fine sprays are known to use the technology based on the high volume, low pressure (HVLP), architraves, window frames, shutters, cabinetry, shelves, furniture, pipes, gutters and pipes around the house and garden are some of the small to medium high precision project that these are suited for.

Primers and paint based (acrylics), oil based paints as well as the wood preservatives and water based paints are some of the paint you can use with the sprayers.

  • Thinning may be needed.
  • Finish is usually of high quality.
  • For suitability and to fit in the project, the quick change of spray attachments is allowed on the click and paint.

Wagner Flexio

Wagner Flexio Paint Sprayer

To every surface, a professional finish is easily achievable with the Wagner flexio 590, which uses the new X-boost HVLP (high volume, low pressure) technology. Sheds, wooden fences, garden furniture, indoor furniture, window frames, doors, walls, and ceilings are some of the small and medium indoor and outdoor projects that they can do because of their efficiency and versatility.

Two spray attachments come with a complete Flexio pack. For primers, acrylics, interiors walls, and ceiling paints are what the wall perfect i-spray attachment is meant for. Wood preservatives, stains, sealers, primers, architectural oil paint and water based paint are meant for the standard spray attachment.

  • Requires no dilution.
  • Greater control with air pressure adjustability.
  • Suitable spray attachments through the quick change on the click and paint.

Airless paint sprayers

For big projects, the airless sprayer are made in diverse forms ranging from the traditional small handheld and semi-professional units. Lattices, walls, garage doors, gazebos, water boards, pergolas, sheds, and fences are some of the small to large broad exterior surfaces they are suited for.

Satins, oils, polishes, wood preservatives, aluminum paints, topcoats (enamels), primers on the oil based paints and diverse water based paints can be the paint they are used on.

  • Thinning may be required.
  • Wide variety of surface application
  • For quick rolling ceilings and need for neat paint trays, larger airless sprayers have the roller arm option

 

Vacuums don’t get sucked in

Bagless design, HEPA filtration, and the colorful, high-tech look popularized by Dyson have helped vacuum sales hit 20 millions last year. But changes, our tests reveal, aren’t always improvements. Some models still leave too much behind, spit it back out, or are cumbersome to use and carry.

An example is the rejiggered Hoover WindTunnel Self Propelled Ultra. Its HEPA filter has been replaced by a flimsy filter and a HEPA bag, which is supposed to trap dirt. But dust leaked from around the cardboard seal of the bag on this model, and the non-HEPA filter proved too little, too late to trap what escaped from the bag. This vacuum’s emissions score dropped to fair from excellent.

Hoover WindTunnel Self Propelled Ultra

Improvements are also driving up the prices of some vacuums

Many of our top-scoring models cost $300 or more. You can spend less than that for fine performance, but you may need to settle for a noisier vacuum, one with fewer features, or one that’s less convenient to use. Here are some other findings:

Airider canister vacuum

Some ideas don’t take off. The Airider canister vacuum floats on a bed of air, so you don’t have to tug it along. Though it’s relatively quiet and excellent at cleaning bare floors, little clearance below the hovering canister led to snags on door saddles and when moving from bare floors to carpets. Its hovering also blew some dust into the air, and its lack of a powered head affected carpet cleaning.

The bagless Hoover Z 700 has a folding mechanism that, according to the company, gives it the “performance of an upright, the flexibility of a canister.” But we found it heavy and relatively hard to maneuver. And at $500, it was much more expensive than our CR Best Buys.

Vacuum makers shuffle lineups. Two of the four models we judged Not Recommended in our March report have been discontinued. Hoover redesigned two weak clips in its Duros canister model. So it’s back into our Ratings with a very good score. But Hoover’s Fusion upright remains Not Recommended because of high dust emissions. We also added the upright Eureka Optima to that list for releasing a plume of dust during our tool-airflow test.

You asked, we tested

Several dozen reader letters suggested that how heavy a vacuum is and how easy it is to carry should carry, well, more weight in our ease of use scores. Now it does, and we’ve rescored some of our models as a result.

You also asked us to test vacuums for their ability to pick up pet hair. See First Look, below, for our initial test results.Hint: Neither uprights nor canisters are inherently better, though some models do a better job than others.

How to choose

Select among models in the Ratings that offer the best mix of price, performance, and convenience. Here’s what else to consider:

Upright or canister?

Uprights have trouble reaching under furniture and into tight spots. Onboard tools make uprights heavy and bulky. Canisters do an excellent job on bare floors and tend to be better at cleaning upholstery and beneath furniture.While canisters can be carried with two hands, they are getting smaller? requiring users to bend more to lift them.

Bag or bagless?

The latter save you money on replacement supplies, but tend to fill up faster and spill more dust when you’re emptying them. If you have asthma or allergies, get a vacuum with low emissions, and have someone else empty the bin on bagless models.

Pay attention to airflow. Models that performed well in our airflow tests maintained more suction through the hose as they filled with dust, reducing the need to change bags and empty bins. Don’t assume, however, that the more noise, the better the pickup.

Research online. Visiting retailer or manufacturer Web sites can get many of your questions answered, help you narrow down your choices, and bring rebates and other special offers to your attention.

The best times of the year to tackle 5 home projects

With skilled craftsmen more in demand than ever, it’s easy to assume that the best time to work on large-scale home projects is simply whenever a good contractor is available. But the pros know that some jobs go more smoothly–and cost less–if you schedule them during a particular part of the year. For example, wood and paint are easier to work with when temperatures are moderate and humidity low. Concrete is best poured when it’s damp and temps are between 50[degrees] and 80[degrees]F. Though summer weather is suitable for many projects, lots of homeowners are eager to schedule work then, so labor can be tough to corral and more expensive. Here’s when to do what:

Winter

KITCHEN AND BATH REMODELING

Design and remodeling professionals often experience a lull after the mad rush to get kitchens and baths ready for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. Contact them in late December and early January and they’ll probably be eager to get the new year’s business rolling. They may extend a discount–typically 10 percent. Even if you’re not ready to start the project, making contact early will enable you to reserve in-demand dates. Since many appliances tend to go on sale late in the year, buying then can save you a few more dollars.

LANDSCAPING

Because the trees are bare and the fields are flower-free, most people don’t think about greenery during the dead of winter. That’s exactly why it’s the best time to call a landscape architect, designer, or contractor about planning plantings or a patio. The lack of foliage also makes it easier to prune fruit trees and eradicate dormant pest plants such as poison ivy. And in areas where the ground hasn’t frozen, it’s easier to lay out low-voltage lighting wiring, which often need be buried only 6 inches in the ground. Check local codes for depth requirements.

Spring

ROOFING

roofing

Summer has always been peak roofing season, which is why companies often charge a premium for their services. Some also fill out their crews with college students on summer break, which means the guys on your roof are more likely to be inexperienced. Plus, if your roof requires a new deck underneath, plywood can be in short supply during the June-through-November hurricane season, particularly along the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts. For a higher-quality, lower-cost roof, it’s best to schedule work for a dry week in the early spring.

POURING CONCRETE

Unlike most building materials, concrete actually likes water. Lots of it. The more H2O available to fuel the curing process, the stronger the finished product will be. Though it shouldn’t be raining, a damp, overcast spring day with temperatures in the 60s or 70s is perfect for pouring a front walk or drive. These conditions also give the slab the maximum amount of time to cure before having to face its first winter freeze and potentially damaging de-icing salts.

Fall

EXTERIOR PAINTING

EXTERIOR PAINTING

Paint applied in high temperatures or winds or in direct sunlight can dry before it has had a chance to properly bond to the surface, while paint applied when the mercury dips to freezing may never properly cure at all. And painting in the rain is never a good idea. So the relatively mild, dry fall is best in most areas. To save money, ask your contractor to treat your house as a “fill in” job and paint it piecemeal, typically one face at a time. He’ll work on it throughout the season as larger projects and weather conditions allow, and, in return for helping him keep his crew busy, he may offer a discount. Just be sure to set a firm finish date.

The Great Benefits Of Vacuum Sealer

When you buy a lot of fruit, meat, or vegetables for your family and, even after processing does not go away, they are exposed to air. Normally we will put all in the refrigeratior to preserve food for longer and they are only stored for a short time. Especially, some foods such as poultry, fish, beef… can go off very fast and the best way for all the housewives is to use a Vacuum Sealer in their kitchen. When using this machine, poultry is packed and vacuum sucked, its life will last longer.

What is the Vacuum Sealer and its functions?

Vacuum sealer or vacuum packaging machine is a specialized machine and is used in vacuum packing method. Vacuum sealers are a very useful tool in protecting fresh food.

The vacuum Sealer is a device to preserve the food for longer, fresher because it will remove oxygen from the product packaging and then repackaging, and of course the food can be stored from three to five times longer than the storage in the freezer.

With so many benefits to protect foods and human health, nowadays many restaurants as well as families use this Vacuum sealer to keep food and the leftovers. There are many necessary reasons to buy and use the Vacuum Sealer as: Economy, freshness, convenience and for cooking.

Economy

Heretofore, many people throw away a lot of leftovers or they keep some food in the refrigeration but it is not the best way to preserve the product for long time. Sometimes, food has the bad smells and mold and if you eat it, it is not good for your stomach. You really feel secure about your family health when using a vacuum sealer to preserve a lot of food and the leftovers. You can use the remaining part of this food at other times and make sure it is still fresh and has no smell.

Beside a vacuum sealer can preserve the leftovers, it can preserve many different kind of food such as: fish, meat, shrimp, seafood, fruits or vegetables. This is the reason why you can save a lot of money for your family and if you have no free time to go to the market everyday you can buy many things to cook for some days and use this vacuum sealer to keep it, which still assures the freshness and deliciousness.

Making the food become freshness

If you eat some things from your garden or just buy it from the market, it makes sure the food is fresher and more delicious than the products kept with vacuum sealer. We should know that some foods and some fruits cannot be sold at anytime and most of them are sold seasonally. You will enjoy the fresh products when you preserve them with vacuum sealer although they are out of season and not sold on the market again.

Bring the big convenience for preserving your food

Many people think that the fridge is a good method to preserve food and can keep food longer but if you do not know how to preserve the leftovers in the fridge, you unconsciously create the conditions for bacteria and toxic substances which will threaten the health of your loved ones in family. In this case, you should find out other ways of preservation and it is a good idea to choose a vacuum sealer.

This is a very convenient way to store your meats and fruits and vegetables long-term. It is more convenient to be able to store something long-term and then eat it as you wish which it is fresh and delicious. Besides you won’t worry how to preserve the food without damaging it.

A significant convenience to have the fresh food is preserved from this season into other season by vacuum sealer. You can enjoy anytime when you wish.

For cooking

Many famous chefs in the world want to use the food preserved in vacuum bag because they think that ingredients are locked in all the flavors and keep the moist thing. Especially, French often puts food into vacuum bag and cooks it in the pouch. This is a popular way of cooking to make the meal with the great taste.

With a lot of benefits of vacuum sealer to help many people like to cook the delicious food for your family and have an exciting feeling when go to the kitchen. All of food kept in vacuum bag will retain the natural moisture, no evaporate water and keep food from drying during the storage.

In short, vacuum sealers have a large effect as to preserve food (the leftovers) longer, to ensure the health and save time … Since the great benefits that we encourage families and businesses should use more useful device. Today, many people don’t know its great function and how to its use, we can learn more information about it on internet and I sure you will feel satisfaction when buying and using in the first times.

The mutual benefits of preserving food by vacuum sealer:

  • Exclude oxidation damage food,
  • Inhibit the growth of bacteria in the absence of oxygen,
  • Protect the stability of the flavor of food, avoid mixed with other flavors of other foods,
  • Retain the natural moisture of the food,
  • Extend the storage time of about 1-3 weeks when put in the freezer compartment (For fresh food).

 

 

This entry was posted in kitchen.

Average Cost of Apartment Units Up 15%

The rising value of apartment properties, along with rents, may not have yet reached its high-water mark.

Through the end of September, 194 apartment complexes with 10 or more units have been sold in the Valley this year, according to a study by Bob Kammrath, publisher of Phoenix Commercial Real Estate Trends, which tracks commercial and residential real estate activity.

While the number of complexes sold is below the 250 sold through the first three quarters of 1994, the average price per unit is up by more than 15 percent, Kammrath said.

Value of Apartment

The average price per unit now stands at $33,482 compared with an average price of $28,923 per unit at the end of the third quarter in 1994.

“The percentage rise in values over the last three years has been more dramatic than many analysts assumed,” Kammrath said. “There is every indication that this trend will continue in the near term, albeit on a more moderate scale.”

The average price per square foot also is up at $40.27 for the first nine months of 1995 compared with $34.45 per square foot for the first nine months of 1994.

Rents have been on the rise, as the overall vacancy rate continues to decline and new owners attempt to justify the price paid for complexes. It is not unheard of for rents to increase 15 percent at the end of a lease term, Kammrath said.

New owners will continue to have demand for their apartment units as long as the Valley’s population growth remains strong, he said.

“Should a dip in the pattern of immigration occur, some recent buyers of multifamily rental properties may find themselves at a loss to justify their purchase price,” he said.

Here are two recent sales

  • Parkway Associates LLC, an investment group formed by Overland Park, Kan.-based Nolan Real Estate Service; purchased for $6.458 million the Parkway Apartments, a 228-unit complex at 615 S. Hardy Drive, Tempe. The sale price works out to a price of more than $28,324 per unit.
  • LBK LP, a Dallas-based partnership comprised of affiliates of Lehman Brothers and the Benefe/Krieg Co. of Dallas, purchased for $16.1 million the Sunset Ranch Apartments, a 352-unit complex at 45 20 E. Baseline Road, Phoenix. Picerne Development Corp. of Phoenix was the seller. The sale price works out to a price of more than $45,738 per unit.

“Tempe is a strong apartment market because there is such a lack of land for new building,” said Van Robinson of Scottsdale-based Mullin Partners Real Estate Corp., who represented Parkway Associates LLC in its purchase. “Buying and upgrading properties is a strong investment, since occupancy rates are so high.”

Increasing values and the continued high demand for apartments fuels the new development. Some new projects under way include:

  • Phoenix-based Butte Construction Co. recently purchased for $850,000 a 7.6-acre parcel at the intersection of Price Road and Chandler Boulevard in Chandler. The company plans to build a 142-unit apartment complex.
  • San Diego-based Fairfield Residential Inc. purchased a 27-acre parcel on Thompson Peak Parkway in McDowell Mountain Ranch in north Scottsdale and plans to begin construction promptly on a 368-unit apartment complex called Windgate at McDowell Mountain Ranch. The property will be Fairfield’s sixth in the Valley.
  • Picerne Development purchased for $1.24 million a 12-acre parcel at the intersection of 53rd Avenue and Thunderbird Road in Glendale and plans to begin construction on a 240-unit complex later this year.

Read other article here.

Fewer In June Slate Purchases

A Conference Board report indicated that the percentage of consumers planning to buy major appliances fell from 28.6% in May 1992 to 27.6% in Jun 1992. Almost every category showed declines between May and Jun 1992, although the percentage of people planning to purchase refrigerators and televisions remained steady in Jun at 4.5% and 6.5%, respectively. In addition, the percentage of consumers planning to buy a washing machine increased from 3.6% in May 1992 to 3.9% in Jun 1992. Additional statistics are presented.

Report

The percentage of consumers planning to buy a major appliance fell in June to its lowest level since January, though consumer confidence in the overall economy appears to be relatively steady, according to the latest monthly Conference Board report.

  • Only 27.6 percent of those surveyed said they intended to buy a specified major appliance or related product within the coming six months, down from 28.6 percent in the May survey. The percentage is the lowest since a reading of 27.4 percent in the business group’s January report.
  • The previous month’s report stated that May reached the lowest level in a year, However, in the normal process of revisions, May’s figure was upgraded from the original 27.3 percent.
  • The highest reading during the past year was in October, when 31.6 percent said they planned to buy a major appliance. In June of 1991, that reading stood at 24.7 percent.

Nearly every relevant category covered by the report showed declines in June. Consumers planning to buy a range fell to 2.9 percent from 3.0 percent in May, and those intending to purchase a clothes dryer fell to 3.2 percent from 3.3 percent a month earlier.

Declines were also registered in the survey by air conditioners, where the percentage planning to buy fell to 1.6 percent from 1.7 percent, and vacuum cleaners, where the percentage dropped to 5 percent from 6 percent a month earlier.

  • The air-conditioner percentage was its lowest level in more than a year, while the range percentage was the smallest since February and the dryer percentage was the lowest since January.
  • The percentage of people planning to buy refrigerators and television sets remained unchanged in June at 4.5 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively, while the percentage expecting to buy a washing machine increased to 3.9 percent from 3.6 percent a month earlier.

Consumers planning to buy a home in the coming months, a key trigger of appliance sales, increased to 3.5 percent in June from 3.2 percent in May. The latest reading matched the 3.5 percent found in the April survey and was the highest since a reading of 4.2 percent in February.

Overall consumer confidence stalled in June after three consecutive gains, dropping to 71.7, as compared to 71.9 in May. A score of 100 represents the average level of consumer confidence during 1985. The index has not exceeded 100 since July of 1990. The index stood at 78 in June 1991.

“The leveling off in consumer confidence in June, following the impressive gains of the preceding three months, reflects the modest pace of the recovery,” said Fabian Linden, executive director of the Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center. “The growth rate of the economy in this recovery is still quite feeble as compared to most other recession-recovery episodes.”

The index had increased 6.5 points in May from April, which in turn was 8.6 points above March’s reading.

March saw a gain of 9.2 points from February.

The results are based on a representative survey of 5,000 households conducted by an independent firm for the Conference Board, which is funded by companies, trade associations, labor organizations and universities.

Vacuum cleaners: when more isn’t better (part 2)

ONES WE RECOMMEND

Bag-equipped. Models with a bag tend to be 1ess messy to maintain than bagless models.

Brush on/off switch. Allows you to turn off the brush when cleaning bare floors or using tools, helping you avoid scattering dust and reducing the risk of damage or injury should someone or something come in contact with the brush.

Handle or foot on/off switch. These are easier to reach than those on the vacuum’s body.

Manual pile-height adjustment. Can improve cleaning by letting you adjust the powerhead height to the carpet pile more precisely than automatic systems.

ALSO HELPFUL

Full bag/bin alert

Indicates when the vacuum has a full bag or bin, which can reduce suction. Many models have it. Those without it include the Hoover (1, 21), Eureka (3), Oreck (8, 22), Kenmore (10), Kirby (12), Bissell (13, 27), Dirt Devil (18), Bosch (26), and Samsung (35).

Suction control

Lets you adjust airflow in the hose–handy for protecting drapes and other delicate fabrics. It’s on the Hoover (1), Kenmore (10, 11, 23), Kirby (12), Dyson (14), and Aerus (17) uprights, and on all the tested canisters except the Sanyo (46) and Hoover (47).

Cord retract

Allows you to rewind the cord with a tug or push of a button. It is on the Hoover (1) upright and the Bosch (26) upright (at right), and on all tested canister vats except the Rainbow (49).

Reliability and repairs. Some brands have been more repair-prone.

Choosing a brand with a good repair history can improve your odds of getting a reliable vacuum.

WHEN TO REPAIR YOUR OLD ONE

vacuum cleaner repairConsider repairing an upright vacuum up to seven years old and a canister up to eight years old, based on repair costs (about $30 to $80) and the extent to which a better model may make replacement worthwhile. Fix any vacuum under warranty. Don’t repair an old vacuum if the cost exceeds half the cost of a new one.

Our Advices

You can get a very good model for $150 to $300 or so; paying more doesn’t buy better performance. Some of the priciest models are middling performers and come with relatively few features. Still, many of the least-expensive models compromise performance and convenience.

Our tests also reveal that some otherwise-impressive machines don’t excel in airflow through the hose, which means they have limited suction or they’re more likely to lose suction as their bags or bins fill with dust. But you may not care if you use their auxiliary tools mostly for delicate cleaning.

The Ratings (right) rank upright and canister models by overall performance, within types. See First Things First, (page 38), to decide which type is best for the cleaning you do most. The Quick Picks (below) emphasize specific performance strengths as well as value, which we don’t score in the Ratings.

QUICK PICKS

Standout values; solid performers at superb prices:

3 Eureka $140 (upright), CR Best Buy

eureka upright vacuum cleaner

35 Samsung $200 (canister)

We lack sufficient data on the Samsung (35) to report on its reliability.

Fine, full-featured models at relatively low prices:

1 Hoover $300 (upright)

2 Kenmore $330 (upright)

34 Kenmore $380 (canister)

These have niceties that the value models lack. They have very good airflow for tools, and the Hoover (1) and Kenmore canister (34) have suction control for drapes and upholstery.

If weight is critical:

13 Bissell $200 (upright)

18 Dirt Devil $60 (upright)

Dirt Devil upright vacuum cleaner

19 Dirt Devil $80 (upright)

36 GE $150 (canister)

About half the weight of many vacs, these range from just 9 pounds for the Bissell (13) to 13 pounds for the Dirt Devils (18, 19). All are fine for carpets and bare floors. The Bissell and Dirt Devils, however, are noisy. We lack sufficient data on the GE (36) to report on its reliability.

MORE FIZZLE THAN FIZZ

An innovative design doesn’t make the vacuum glitch-free. Hoover’s $110 Fold Away U5162-900, for instance, has a handle designed to make storage easier; we found it hard to grip while vacuuming.

Among two very high-priced models, we found that innovation and special features do little to help performance.

Paying $1,300 for the retro-style Kirby Ultimate G7D upright (below) buys you a body made mostly of aluminum rather than plastic along with plastic attachments and a sprayer that can be used to dispense carpet shampoo. Kirby recently reconfigured the powerhead to improve carpet cleaning. But it scored the same as the last time we tested it: very good. While Kirby uprights have been tops in reliability, other brands also offer good reliability, and better performance for far less.

Sinking $1,800 into the e-Series E-2 canister vac from Rainbow buys you the ability to clean up wet spills as well as dry dirt. You also get gadgets: an inflator for toys and a dusting brush for plants and even your pet cat, Rainbow, too, ranks among the more reliable brands of vacuums. But unimpressive performance on carpets and floors-which counts most-explains this model’s low among canisters.

Vacuum cleaners: when more isn’t better

Folding handles and front-mounted hoses are among the features you’ll find as manufacturers compete in a tough market. Companies are also pushing low prices; nearly half of all vacs purchased last year cost less than $100, compared with 34 percent in 2000,

But as we found, some of those eye-catching innovations and low prices involve a trade-off in performance. Our tests of 49 vacuums also show that distinctions between uprights and canisters continue to blur. What’s more, several “improved” models of both types worked no better than their forebears.

Canisters get cheaper. Canister vacuums are still more expensive than uprights overall, though the price gap is narrowing. At $150, the high-scoring GE 105765 costs less than many of the uprights and all of the other canister vacs we tested. Like several other canister models, this machine, sold only at Wal-Mart, clean carpets better than half of the tested uprights. And unlike other low-priced canisters, it has an ample dust bag.

Pickup improves. The best uprights now provide at least as much airflow through their hoses as do canisters. A measure of available pickup, airflow pertains mostly to cleaning with crevice tools and other auxiliary attachments.

vacuum cleaner

Models that scored fair or poor for tools are likely to lose suction sooner as their bags or bins fill with dust. This could compromise vacuuming when using tools beneath furniture, though it shouldn’t be a problem on drapes and other delicate surfaces for which tools are also used.

Some designs don’t deliver. The new Hoover Fold Away U5162-900 upright has a handle that folds down for easy storage. While convenient, the handle was uncomfortable to hold when vacuuming. We also found the front-mounted hose on the Bosch Turbo Jet BUH11700UC upright awkward to remove.

Bagless canisters are another trend with some performance drawbacks. Like bagless upright vacuums, the Fantom, Hoover, and Kenmore canisters we tested released dust when we emptied their bins. And because the bins are small, you have to empty them more often than you must change most bags.

If you’re considering a canister, you’ll also want to make sure that its motorized powerhead and wiring are easy to disconnect for changing tools. Doing so usually requires just two or three steps. With the Fantom Falcon FC251, however, you must undo the wiring, the wand, and several straps.

canister vacuum

Some “improvements” aren’t. Some vacuum manufacturers revamp existing models without making them better. Sharp redesigned the Multi Floor EC-T5180A upright to reduce dust emissions, but it remained among the worst in our emissions tests. Rainbow changed the filter and motor on its e-Series E-2 canister since our last test. Result: more dust emissions, more noise, and less capable bare-floor cleaning than the old machine.

In contrast, a Dyson DC07 upright we purchased in August did not exhibit a problem we’d reported in February: a sensitive release button that could drop the heavy vacuum body on a user’s foot.

You’ll find upright and canister vacuums that clean capably and are easy to use. While the best of both perform similarly overall, each has strengths and weaknesses . Here’s what to consider as you shop:

What needs cleaning?

vacuum clean carpet

Most canisters remain more convenient for drapes and other tasks requiring tools, thanks to their longer, easier-to-use hoses. Nearly any vacuum will do a fine job on bare floors and carpet surface dirt. Several uprights were excellent at removing ground-in carpet dirt: look for a vacuum that scored excellent or very good in this regard. You won’t see a difference between these and models rated lower for carpet cleaning, but your carpet will be less likely to wear out prematurely.

What features do you favor?

You’ll find fewer of the Features that Count, (above right), on models priced at $100 or less. Those models are also noisier. While no vacuum is quiet, a machine that purrs rather than roars will cost at least $300.

Can you lug a heavier vacuum?

Weight can be important if your home has more than one level. Uprights generally range from 16 to 21 pounds; typical canisters weigh a bit more. The Rainbow e-Series E-2, which uses water to hold the dirt it catches, weighs 32 pounds, when filled with water. Quick Picks, on page 40, call out models as fight as 9 pounds.

Are you sensitive to dust?

Avoid bagless vacuums if you’re sensitive to dust. If you do buy one, wear a dust mask when emptying its bin.

First things first. Decide which type of vacuum fits your cleaning needs.

UPRIGHT VACUUMS

upright vacuum cleanerBest for cleaning carpets. They are easiest to carry and store, and generally cost less than canisters.

But uprights tend to be noisier than canisters. They’re less stable on stairs. And you must push and pull the entire machine for most floor and carpet cleaning.

Price range Typically $75 to $300, with the average about $165. Some lightweight models cost as little as 350: elite brands, as much as $1,300.

CANISTER VACUUMS

Best for drapes, upholstery, areas under furniture and elsewhere that require a hose and tools. You move only the powerhead and hose when cleaning.

But canisters are heavier and bulkier overall, making them harder to carry and store. They also tend to cost the most, despite falling prices for some models.

Price range Typically $100 to $400; the average is $285. Some minicanisters sell for about $70; upper-end models, $1,500.

Read part 2.

Your Ultimate Guide To Buy A Paint Sprayer

What you have to know to buy a paint sprayer? Here is your first and ultimate guide to buy a best paint sprayer for your next art work and project.

Which Types?

You have to consider which type of paint sprayer that you want to use according to what kind of project that you have in hand. The right paint sprayer, will give you a very professional result in a very short time. Choose your paint sprayer from the following guide:

Airless Paint Sprayer

Airless Paint Sprayer

This type of paint sprayer is a good choice for painting the exterior surfaces. You can use this paint sprayer perfectly on fences, furniture, walls, and even ceiling. An Airless sprayer is a good choice if you are using a thicker paint as well.

Compressed Air Sprayer

As its name, this one is using compressed air to paint any surfaces. It provides a smooth finish and ideal to use for painting cabinets, desk, and other furniture. The cost also very affordable compare to airless paint sprayer or HVLP.

High Volume Low Pressure Sprayer

HVLP paint sprayer

The droplet of paint from this sprayer emission is a slow method of painting, but the result is fantastically beautiful. It is also saving the paint and less waste will occur. You can paint the door, trim, any interior projects and artwork. You can’t use a thicker paint with this one.

Guide to Shop Your Paint Sprayers

Buy in Caution

You have to know your paint sprayer and handle it with care, especially the airless sprayer because it involves working with a very high pressure, so you need an extra control on your work. You also have to make sure that you read the instruction details, and wear personal protective equipment if it asks so because paint contains some chemicals and even toxin that harmful to your body.

The Right Time To Use A Paint Sprayer

When to Use It?

  • You have to cover the space that you don’t want to paint when you are starting your work. Just let the area open for painting and for the space that not intended to paint, you have to seal or cover it first.
  • Paint sprayer is a good painting method for the furniture because of their smooth finish, so use paint sprayer for your furniture project.
  • Paint sprayer also can be used perfectly for painting a new empty house and room. It will cover all the walls in the house, every ceiling and every trim.

When Not to Use It?

  • Paint sprayer is not that good to use for a small job. Use a paint brush instead.
  • If you have a very limited amount of paint, and worry if your job can be done, do not use paint sprayers, because the more paint will be acquired.
  • If you don’t have a lot of time to do the prep work before painting or the cleanup process, don’t  use the paint sprayer.

Tip For Using

If you buy a paint sprayer and want to start the work, make sure you are doing it in a well-ventilated room or area and you have your protective gear on.

Considering the Features, Before Buying

What type of features that you need for your new paint sprayer? Here is the list of features:

Adjustable Models

If it has an adjustable mode, you can adjust the thickness of your paint and you can adjust the speed and the patterns of your spraying easily.

Quick Cleanup

This feature allows you to clean your paint sprayer easily after using. It can be attached to a hose so you can flush it and clean it quickly.

Portable

If you run a painting business and have to move here and there with your paint sprayer, the portable feature is what you need, and you can get it from backpack version or wheeled version.

Powered By

You can choose what type of power for your paint sprayers, such as electric, cordless or gas powered.

Accessories

Accessories are not limited to paint brush, here are the accessories that you can work with your paint sprayer:

Conditioners & Protectants

TO prevent sticking, you can use these accessories. It is also helping in preventing corrosion problem and freezing problem.

Extensions

You need extensions because it can allow you to reach a higher space like ceiling or paint the decks easily and avoid you from backache.

Filters

You need a filter because it is an essential accessory to create a smooth finish. It is also prevents the tip from clog problem.

Hoses

You can use a hose for a smaller space to paint, and then a longer hose for a large space of work. The length depends on what you are painting.

Protective Gear

Safety

To avoid a direct contact with the paint or inhaling the droplets, you definitely need this. You can add goggles, face mask/ respirator, and coverall when you are working.

Tips For Choosing and Buying

Before you are choose the one that you want to buy, remember these tips:

  1. The purpose of your painting
  2. The thickness of the paint that you are looking
  3. Where you are going to paint
  4. What type of pattern that you want to create

New help for the plucky do-it-yourselfer

As the costs for hiring carpenters, plumbers and electricians have rocketed, the do-it-your-self market has burgeoned. Tasks that might have been farmed out to specialists, such as furniture refinishing, floor tiling and wallpapering, are increasingly being tried by homeowners. The market is ripe for new products to help such industrious types.

Stripper

3M's Safest StripperM’s Safest Stripper has been introduced as part of a new line of wood-refinishing products.The items include stripping pads and a Heavy Duty Stripping Tool, Tack Cloth, Just Like Wood wood putty, self-adhesive sandpaper, Hand Erase Sander, wipe-on finish and even a Wood Refinisher’s Hand Cleaner. The Safest Stripper is a nontoxic non-flammable, virtually odorless paint-stripper. Its consistency is that of a semi-paste, and it contains no methylene chloride, a compound that has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. The product can be brushed on and left for hours without drying out. With these features, the company has had some difficulty in keeping up with demand. The Safest Stripper sells for $3.79 for a pint, $6.75 for a quart and $19.99 for a gallon.

Tape measure

Another aid for the do-it-yourselfer comes from the U.K. Fisco Mark-O-Magic is being distributed in the U.S. by Fisco Products of Pleasantville, N.Y. This is a 16-foot tape measure “that measures and marks in one easy action.” There is an interchangeable pencil lead or steel scriber to mark work material precisely at the tape’s exit point from the case, and a rear marker that is useful for transforming internal measurements. Fisco has a patent pending for this metal tape ruler. It sells for $14.99.

Grease gun

Trying to reach consumers who do their own maintenance on equipment, Viso of Bergenfield, N.J. has introduced an unusual tool box grease gun in a can. Lube Tube is a 4-ounce aerosol to be used for general purposes, for ball- and roller-bearings and a variety of related applications. The grease comes in a can that is best described as looking like a whipped cream dispenser. It has a tip at the end which will fit around grease fittings. The can is designed to generate up to 1,600 pounds per square inch. It sells for $3.25.

Hand Ease Sander

Another handy product is the Hand Ease Sander.

Hand Ease Sander

The company touts it as being “the ultimate in sanding comfort, convenience and performance.” This is a sandpaper roll with an easy-to-grip handle of black plastic that is shaped like an oval bar of soap. The roll of sandpaper is 2 1/2-by-55-inches and has a sticky back so it won’t slip around on the block when it’s being used.

From Convenience Products of St. Louis comes Touch ‘n’ Foam Instant Insulation. This is an all-purpose expanding foam. It can be used for sealing and filling holes and gaps around pipes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, etc. There always seem to be one or two problem areas in any home for a handy product like this.

Fireplace & Lighter

Diamond Barbecue Lighter

Just in time for the backyard barbecue do-it-yourselfers comes Diamond Fireplace & Barbecue Lighter from Diamond Brands of Minneapolis. This unusual product can be described as giant matches of compressed wood. It is struck like a match and used for starting logs or charcoal. With the compressed wood structure, no kindling or messy liquids are required. Each match offers a steady, hot flame for about 12 minutes. Fourteen lighters come in a rectangular box selling for about $2.19.

Grill

Also for backyard grilling, Griffo Grill, from Griffo-Grill of Quincy, Ill., is designed so food won’t fall through it. Made of stainless steel, one version is a rack of fine mesh, like a heavy screen, that can fit any grill. A heavier-gauge black steel rack is also available. This makes barbecuing small food items infinitely easier.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Magic American Corp. of Cleveland has introduced Magic Toilet Bowl Cleaner in an aerosol upside-down spray container. Most Americans have seen the angled-necked plastic bottles for applying cleaner under the rim of the toilet. This technique makes it unnecessary to put one’s hand in the bowl water. This new product is similar to the angled-neck dispensers, but it can also be used as a spray for the more conventional manner of applying the foam to the sides of the bowl. It is a 13-ounce disinfectant selling for $3.99. While it may be a tad expensive, Americans have demonstrated their fondness for the convenience of aerosols.

Other article to read.

Top Gear; CLEVER KITCHEN GADGETS MAKE KNOCKING UP HEALTHY MEALS EASY

Are you finding it hard to commit to healthy eating? Could it be that the equipment in your kitchen is letting you down? It’s time to make way for these 10 stylish must-have gadgets, which deserve a rightful place in every healthy kitchen.

* Fresh Herbs storage

Prepara Herb-Savor

Herbs are bursting with flavour and are a healthy seasoning alternative to salt. Rich in antioxidants and other health-promoting properties, herbs act to ward off a range of diseases. Fresh herbs can be stored in the fridge with their stems in a glass of water and a plastic bag over the top, or use a specially designed storage container.

STAR PICK Prepara Herb-Savor, $59.95. The life of your fresh herbs will be prolonged by up to three weeks with this clever container that has a water well to irrigate your herbs. Best of all, it fits neatly in your refrigerator door.

* Metric spoons and measuring cups

Decor Cook measuring cupDecor Cook measuring spoons

Rest easy knowing that the kilojoule count of your recipes is maintained when you measure out all ingredients with metric cups and spoons. Just be sure to get a set of Australian Standard measuring cups and spoons where one tablespoon is 20ml, and not 15ml as used in the US.

STAR PICK Decor Cook measuring cups, $4.94, and spoons (pictured), $2.94. The measures on these dishwasher-safe cups and spoons are super-easy to see without straining your eyes, with metric graduations to Australian Standards. They’re also all free from BPA, PVA, lead and phthalates.

* Herb Scissors

Herb Scissors

Ditch the salt and snip some herbs to add life to your meals. Owning a pair of herb scissors will have you wanting to sneak some healthpromoting herbs into every meal. One snip and you’ll be hooked.

STAR PICK Cuisena Herb Scissors, $9.95. The three-piece, stainless steel micro-serrated blades shred herbs faster and easier than a knife and chopping board.

* Non-Stick Skillet

Non-Stick Skillet

Non-stick surfaces equate to having to use less oil, which means kilojoule savings. Lean meats, vegetables, eggs and wholemeal pancakes can be cooked in a jiffy in a non-stick skillet without the need for oil, or only a little oil spray.

STAR PICK Circulon Infi nite French Skillet, 28cm, $209.95. This hard-anodised, non-stick skillet has been tested to outlast all other non-sticks. It can be used on any cooktop, is oven safe to 240C and dishwasher safe.

* Fat separators

Fat separator

Gravy and sauce fat separators allow you to enjoy your favourite home-made gravy and sauce without those undesirable heart-clogging fats. These clever jugs separate the fatty part of your gravy or sauce to deliver full flavour, minus the guilt.

STAR PICK Cuisipro Deluxe Fat Separator, $29.95. Lean gravy is simple with this one-litre capacity fat separator. It features a unique plug which blocks fat out of the spout until the fat and gravy have separated. It’s also dishwasher safe.

* Egg

Egg lovers can rejoice as the Heart Foundation says it’s fine to enjoy up to six eggs each week, as part of a healthy balanced diet that’s low in saturated fat. Poaching gets the thumbs up as a cooking method, so having a poacher on hand is a great way to add some protein-rich eggs to your diet to promote satiety and help keep hunger pangs at bay.

Poach pod

STAR PICK Fusion Brands Poach pod, $19.95 (for a pair). They’re up to the challenge being heat resistant to 350C. This silicone cooking tool cocoons your egg and fl oats on boiling water. Being non-stick, the perfectly formed domeshaped egg can simply be fl ipped out onto warm wholemeal toast when ready.

* Steamer

steamer

Steaming is a gold standard cooking method to retain nutrients in food. Many vitamins found in vegetables, like vitamin C and the B-group vitamins, are sensitive to heat and tend to leach out when submerged in water. Steaming uses minimal amounts of water and it’s a relatively quick method of cooking, exposing food to heat for just a short time.

STAR PICK Tefal VitaCuisine Compact food steamer, $139.95. This ultra-compact steaming gem has a 10-litre food capacity and a ‘Vitamin Plus’ booster button that allows you to cook your food even faster, which helps retain up to 50 per cent more vitamins than traditional cooking methods.

* Oil disperser

Oil disperser

Adding a little polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oil to your meals adds fl avour and good fats to your diet. Hand pouring oil from a bottle is tricky when you want just a little. An oil disperser is the perfect solution to adding a drizzle of oil to your grilled fi sh, lean meats, salads and vegetables.

STAR PICK Prepara Tabletop Mister, $34.95. The Oil Mister holds 100ml of oil and it has a clog-free filter that allows you to infuse your oil by filling the mister with herbs, spices and citrus peels. It produces flavour bliss without blowing your kilojoule count out of the water.

* Digital kitchen scales

Digital kitchen scale

Using digital kitchen scales to weigh your food portions provides a reality check on how much you’re eating. Knowing your usual portions allows you to reduce serving sizes and shave off surplus kilojoules. And making use of kitchen scales to accurately weigh out ingredients in healthy recipes is a sure way to keep on track with your dietary goals.

STAR PICK Salter Nutri-Weigh Slim Electronic Kitchen Scale, $169.95 (pictured). This digital scale not only weighs your food in 1g increments up to 5kg, it also calculates its nutritional value based on a database of over 900 foods. It provides information on the calories, protein, carbohydrate, fat, cholesterol, fibre and sodium in your food, and a memory function lets you tally nutritional values at the end of the day or week, or any time in between.

Multipoint Technologies Electronic Diet/Kitchen Scale, $72. This scale also has a 5kg weighing capacity in 1g increments. It displays nutritional values (both kilojoules and calories, protein, carbs, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium) for over 500 food items.

* Wok

wok

The method of stir-fry wok cooking, with ingredients briskly tossed just a few minutes over a high heat, helps retain nutrients in your food. This is especially true for stir-fried vegetables that still have plenty of crunch. Best of all, wok cooking only requires a dash of oil, or no oil in the case of non-stick surfaces, to help keep the kilojoule count low.

STAR PICK Tefal Jamie Oliver 32cm Hard Anodised Wok with Lid, $299.95. This little beauty combines a non-stick surface with super durable hard-anodised aluminium construction. A unique ThermoSpot heat indicator fades to let you know when the wok is preheated to the perfect cooking temperature.

Want to read another article? Here you go.

This entry was posted in kitchen.

Cooktops & wall ovens: flexible style

If you’re prepared for a top-to-bottom kitchen remodeling, you might be considering a cooktop and a wall oven. Separate appliances give you the flexibility of two cooking areas, with burners placed just about anywhere you want. You also gain the option of cooking with both gas and electricity.

Because about one-third of cooktops and wall ovens are sold as partk of a kitchen makeover, style sells. More and more of the appliances have sleek, flush surfaces that are easy to clean of stainless-steel skins that let you easily mix and match brands.

Smooth glass cooking surfaces have helped electric cooktops outsell gas models by about 5 to 4. Some gas models now compete with “gas on glass” designs, which put burners atop a ceramic surface for a sleek look.

electric cooktopMost electric smoothtops now have features such as expandable elements that accommodate pots of various sizes. Many include a “bridge” that spans two burners, useful for griddles and large pots. More and more gas cooktops have continuous grates that let you slide a pot from one burner to another.

Choosing separate appliances doesn’t have to take a substantial bite from your budget. Our tests show that a high level of performance doesn’t have to carry a high price. You can bring home a pair of fine performers for about $1,500.

HOW TO CHOOSE

Cooktop/wall oven or a range?

With a cooktop/wall oven combo, you can put the appliances pretty much anywhere in the kitchen and mount the oven at a convenient height. Choose a range if you want it to be the centerpiece, as a professional-style model would be.

Installing separate appliances is more work. Electric wall ovens and cooktops each need their own electrical circuit and are best installed by a professional.

Gas or electric?

If you have gas service, you might want to use both fuels. Electric wall ovens have a larger capacity than gas ones, and they’re easier to install. With cooktops, the quick response of a gas flame might better suit your style of cooking. Gas performs very well in our tests. We have found, however, that electric cooktops tend to boil water faster and simmer sauces better.

Consider cleanup and safety. To minimize the parts you need to clean around, check the Ratings for a smooth-surface cooktop and an oven with a covered bottom heating element and smooth touch-pad controls.

Cooktops stay hot for a while after you turn off the heat. Since smoothtops blend into the surrounding counter, children and unwary adults could get burned. For safety, smoothtops have lights to signal which element is still hot.

CR Quick Recommendations

To make choosing the best cooktop and wall oven easier, these Ratings include only tested models that offer the performance and value required to mare our Quick Picks list. To view our full Ratings of 43 models, go to the free site at www.CRXtra.org.

It’s hard to choose a bad electric cooktop or wall oven; we’ve found wider performance differences among gas cooktops. In our tests, most cooktops produce lots of heat for fast cooking and also do well at providing low heat for simmering.

Wall ovens generally perform very well overall, and most are large enough to handle a Thanksgiving dinner or lots of hot hors d’oeuvres.

The Ratings list fine performers from previous tests as well as outstanding newly tested models. All are Quick Picks. They scored at least very good overall in our tests. However, some are better suited to your specific needs than others. Check the categories below.

QUICK PICKS

COOKTOPS

  • Best for most cooking:

The electric Frigidaire (2) has a bridge element, useful when you’re using a griddle. The Kenmore (3), though excellent overall, is a fairly spartan electric cooktop. Among gas cooktops, the Maytaq (5) excelled at low-heat simmering. Those three models are CR Best Buys. Consider the Magic Chef (7) if you can trade style and features for a very low price; it has a porcelain-enamel-on-steel surface.

  • If fast cooking matters most:

Three Jenn-Air models (1, 4, 6) and the Kenmore (3) excelled at high-heat settings. The Jenn-Air (4) is a CR Best Buy. The gas models have continuous grates, for sliding pots from burner to burner.

WALL OVENS

  • Best for most cooking:

The GE (10) has generous capacity and broils very well. The Friqidaire (11), though small, has a convection feature and is excellent at baking.

  • If you want first-rate broiling:

The expensive Thermador (8) has lots of space and convection cooking.

  • If you want an easy-to-clean oven:

The Jenn-Air (9) has a covered bottom element, which makes for easy cleanup of drips and spills. It’s also excellent at self-cleaning.

SELECT Ratings cooktops & wall ovens

Quick Picks from our tests

** For full Ratings Go online to CRXtra.org.

** Availability Most models at stores through July 2005.

30-INCH ELECTRIC SMOOTHTOPS



              Brand & model                    Price  Overall Score

              Similar model, in small type,
              comparable to tested model
              except it is 36 inches wide,
              has an extra element or
              warming zone, and costs about
              $100 more.

      Key                                             0            100
      number                                          P  F  G  VG   E

      1       Jenn-Air JEC9530AD[B]            $700

CR    2       Frigidaire Gallery GLEC30S8C[S]  500
BEST          GLEC36S8C[]
BUY

CR    3       Kenmore (Sears) 4270[2] 4271[]   450
BEST
BUY

                                                    Tests

      Key                                      Heating,   Heating,
      number                                   high       low

      1       Jenn-Air JEC9530AD[B]               (a)       (a)

CR    2       Frigidaire Gallery GLEC30S8C[S]     (b)       (a)
BEST          GLEC36S8C[]
BUY

CR    3       Kenmore (Sears) 4270[2] 4271[]      (a)       (a)
BEST
BUY

                                                   Features

      Key                                      Elements,  Elements,
      number                                   high       medium

      1       Jenn-Air JEC9530AD[B]            1          1

CR    2       Frigidaire Gallery GLEC30S8C[S]  1          2
BEST          GLEC36S8C[]
BUY

      3       Kenmore (Sears) 4270[2] 4271[]   1          2

                                                   Features

      Key                                      Elements,  Bridge
      number                                   low        element

      1       Jenn-Air JEC9530AD[B]            2

CR    2       Frigidaire Gallery GLEC30S8C[S]  1          *
BEST          GLEC36S8C[]
BUY

CR    3       Kenmore (Sears) 4270[2] 4271[]   1
BEST
BUY

              36-INCH GAS COOKTOPS

              Brand & model               Price  Overall score

              Similar model, in small
              type, comparable to tested
              model except it is 30 inches
              wide, has only 4 burners,
              and costs about $120 less.

      Key                                        0                  100
      number                                     P    F    G    VG   E

CR    4       Jenn-Air JGC8536AD[S]       $800
BEST
BUY

CR    5       Maytag MGC6536BD[W]         650
BEST          MGC6430BD[]
BUY

      6       Jenn-Air JGC9536AD[B]       800

      7       Magic Chef CGC2536AD[W]     330

                                       Tests                  Features

      Key                              Heating,   Heating,    Burners,
      number                           high       low         high

CR    4       Jenn-Air JGC8536AD[S]     (a)        (b)        2
BEST
BUY

CR    5       Maytag MGC6536BD[W]       (c)        (a)        1
BEST          MGC6430BD[]
BUY

      6       Jenn-Air JGC9536AD[B]     (a)        (c)        2

      7       Magic Chef CGC2536AD[W]   (c)        (b)        1

                                                              Style
                                       Features               options

      Key                              Burners,   Burners,    Stainless
      number                           medium     low         steel

CR    4       Jenn-Air JGC8536AD[S]    1          2           *
BEST
BUY

CR    5       Maytag MGC6536BD[W]      3          1
BEST          MGC6430BD[]
BUY

      6       Jenn-Air JGC9536AD[B]    1          2

      7       Magic Chef CGC2536AD[W]  4

                                                 Style options

      Key                                        Porccelain  Continuous
      number                           Glass     enamel      grates

CR    4       Jenn-Air JGC8536AD[S]                          *
BEST
BUY

CR    5       Maytag MGC6536BD[W]      *                     *
BEST          MGC6430BD[]
BUY

      6       Jenn-Air JGC9536AD[B]    *                     *

      7       Magic Chef CGC2536AD[W]            *

        30-INCH ELECTRIC WALL OVENS

        Brand & model                 Price   Overall Score

        Similar models, in small
        type, comparable to tested
        model.

Key                                           0                   100
number                                        P    F    G    VG    E

8       Thermador SC301T[W] SC301Z[]  $1,720

9       Jenn-Air JJW8530DD[W]         1,110

10      GE JTP20WF[WW]                850

11      Frigidaire Gallery            750
        GLEB30S8C[S] PLEB30S8C[]

                                                 Tests

Key
number                                Capacity   Bake        Broil

8       Thermador SC301T[W] SC301Z[]   (b)        (b)         (a)

9       Jenn-Air JJW8530DD[W]          (b)        (b)         (b)

10      GE JTP20WF[WW]                 (b)        (c)         (b)

11      Frigidaire Gallery             (d)        (a)         (c)
        GLEB30S8C[S] PLEB30S8C[]

                                             Features

Key                                   Covered    Convection
number                                element    Cooking

8       Thermador SC301T[W] SC301Z[]             *

9       Jenn-Air JJW8530DD[W]         *

10      GE JTP20WF[WW]

11      Frigidaire Gallery                       *
        GLEB30S8C[S] PLEB30S8C[]

(a) Excellent

(b) Very good

(c) Good

(d) Fair

(e) Poor

Guide to the Ratings

Overall store for cooktops covers high- and low-heating performance; for wall ovens, score includes capacity, cooking performance, self-cleaning. Heating, high, for cooktops, denotes how quickly the highest-powered element heated 6 1/3 quarts of water to a near-boil. Heating, low shows how well the least-powerful element melted and held chocolate without scorching and whether the most powerful, set to low, held tomato sauce below a boil. Bake, for wall ovens, shows evenness for cakes and cookies. Broil shows cooking evenness and searing for a tray of burgers. Price is the approximate retail. Under brand & model, brackets show a tested model’s color code. For cooktops: Number of elements or burners cover the following categories. High: more than 2,000 watts for electric, 11,000 Btu/hr. for gas. Medium: over 1,500 up to 2,000 watts for electric, over 6,500 up to 11,000 Btu/hr. for gas. Low: 1,500 watts or less for electric, 6,500 Btu/hr. or less for gas.

GE TRIVECTION: FAST BUT VERY EXPENSIVE

General Electric is promoting a new kind of fast cooking. Called Trivection, it’s found in some top-of-the-line GE Profile and Monogram ranges and wall ovens; some Kenmore ranges and ovens made by GE also have the feature. Trivection uses conventional thermal heating, convection (circulating hot air through the oven), and microwave energy. GE claims that Trivection can slash baking times dramatically.

GE Trivection

The GE Profile Trivection range we tested was fast, but not supersonic.

We compared the GE Profile’s Trivection cooking with its convection cooking, using various foods. Trivection halved the cooking times for roasts: 40 minutes vs. 90 for whole chickens, for example, including preheat time. It also significantly cut cooking times for a frozen lasagna and a scalloped-potato casserole. The biggest time saving carne with baked potatoes–two potatoes were done in 24 minutes, while regular baking took 90. But if you want crispy potato skins, use regular baking.

Though very good overall, its cooking performance in our tests doesn’t justify its stratospheric price of $3,000. The GE Profile Trivection JS998SH[SS] isn’t one of our Quick Picks. (It is included in the full Ratings of ranges, available free online at www.CRXtra.org.) We also tested a Kenmore Trivection wall oven; it is also too expensive to qualify as a Quick Pick.

As for oven capacity, the Trivection’s is below average. A 20-pound turkey will fit easily, but don’t count on having much room alongside or above it.

Previous attempts to sell fast-cooking ranges and ovens bode ill for the Trivection. The most recent casualty was the Maytag Accellis. Consumers decided they did not want to learn how to use it. The Trivection is easier to master.

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Cold storage: refrigerators keep getting quieter and less expensive to run

Refrigerators are at least 30 percent less power hungry today than they were before 1993, and they no longer rely on environmentally damaging chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants. Still, with further enhancements in the offing, it may pay to wait if you don’t need a new one immediately. Models made as of July 2001 will have to meet new efficiency standards that are up to 30 percent more stringent than today’s. And by 2003, new models must also be made with insulation that doesn’t contain hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which can harm the earth’s ozone layer, though less so than CFCs.

However, some brands, including Amana, Kenmore (sold by Sears), KitchenAid, and Maytag, have introduced models that come close to the 2001 efficiency goal. Savings can be substantial, considering that your refrigerator may account for up to one-fifth of your annual electricity bill.

How does it add up?

Based on average U.S. energy rates, our top-rated Maytag top-freezer, the cheapest to run of the models tested for this report, would cost $43 less a year to operate than the costliest models tested, the two General Electric side-by-sides. If these electricity rates remained steady, you’d save 602 over the typical 14-year life of the appliance. If rates rose, you’d pocket more. Over the long run, you’d come out ahead even if you went with the Maytag rather than the Hotpoint, the cheapest to buy of the tested top-freezer models. The Hotpoint sells for $280 less, but the Maytag could eventually cost you $420 less to operate.

We rated 21 top-freezer, bottom-freezer, and side-by-side models from the major brands, based largely on our energy-use measurements and the results of a battery of temperature tests in an environmental chamber. The models have a stated capacity of 20 to 23 cubic feet. That’s midsized to large for a top- or bottom-freezer unit, smallish for a side-by-side. For each model, we also assessed noise and convenience.

Overall, the temperature results were quite good. The problems we found wouldn’t cause food to spoil under normal conditions. But a freezer that gets too warm may decrease the storage life of frozen foods; one that gets too cold may use more energy than necessary. You may want to place an appliance thermometer in the center of each compartment to help you adjust the controls for optimal performance.

Most of these machines have plenty of features, including spillproof glass shelves and a temperature-controlled meatkeeper. Some also have expensive amenities, such as a through-the-door ice and water dispenser or filtration for that system.

spill proof glass shelf

Refrigerator types

In choosing a refrigerator, consider its configuration.

Top-freezer model

Top-freezer models. These account for about two-thirds of all sales and are generally cheaper to buy and operate than comparable side-by-side models. They also use their space more efficiently. Around three-quarters of a top-freezer refrigerator’s stated capacity is usable, compared with two-thirds for a side-by-side model.

Bottom-freezer modelBottom-freezer models. Their operating cost and space efficiency are on a par with the better top-freezer models, but they typically sell for more. The design is more sensible, since main-space items are at eye level; you need bend only to access the freezer. The problem is availability; the market for bottom-freezer models is small and, except for Amana, most brands offer just one model, or none at all.

side by side freezer modelSide-by-side models. Part of the main space and the freezer is conveniently at eye level. Also, the narrow doors may open fully in an area that’s too cramped for the larger door of one of the other types. Many side-by-sides have an ice and water dispenser, which isn’t usually the case with top- and bottom-freezer models. But any side-by-side’s compartments may be too narrow to store, say, a big turkey. We also found that many tested units had trouble maintaining uniformly cold temperatures.

Some large side-by-sides and bottom-freezer models are wide and shallow so they stand almost flush with cabinets. We will test some “built-in-look” side-by-sides, as well as true built-ins such as the Sub-Zero brand, later this year.

Sound off

In recent years, we’ve found that the latest refrigerators are invariably less obtrusive than than their predecessors. This time, the quietest models had a barely audible low-pitched whir. Even the worst machines were tolerable.

Some manufacturers offer a choice of sound-insulation packages. Maytag, for example, has the Quiet Pack, Quiet Plus, and EQ Plus, the last being the most expensive. To see how they differ, we compared the tested Maytag top-freezer and side-by-side models (both with EQ Plus) with two nonrated Maytags, the MTB2154A (a top-freezer model with Quiet Pack) and the MSD2354A (a side-by-side with Quiet Plus). The rated units sell for $125 to $250 more than their brandmates. Sound-meter readings and a panel of listeners concluded that the differences were noticeable but minor; the side-by-side with Quiet Plus was almost as silent as the high-end Maytag, while the top-freezer model with Quiet Pack was a touch noisier than the others.

Recommendations

Decide on a size and a style, then choose a refrigerator that’s energy efficient. Brand reliability is important, too, especially if you want an icemaker or ice and water dispenser, which can increase maintenance problems (see “Repair History” on page 49).

  • Among top-freezer models, the Maytag MTB2156B[W], $850, excelled in almost every category. The Amana TR21V2[W], $760, is a bit noisier but less expensive and as good a performer. All the bottom-freezer models performed very well.
  • Among side-by-side models, the Maytag MSD2356A[W], $1,350, performed very well, and it’s fairly large. The Kenmore 5728[2], $1,300, has the lowest operating cost of any side-by-side tested. (Its replacement, the 5924, $1,150, should perform similarly.) The Whirlpool Gold GD22DFXF[W], $1,500, is worth a look because of that brand’s repair record.

Ratings & Recommendations

Shopping strategy

After size and styling, key considerations are efficiency, features, and brand reliability.

Know the choices See “Refrigerator Types” in the main report for the pros and cons of top-freezer, bottom-freezer, and side-by-side models. “Features Rundown,” on page 48, lists the extras that set models apart.

Find a size that fits Measure the width and height of the area where the refrigerator will stand, and be sure there’s enough clearance to swing open the doors all the way. “Similar models” should have the same exterior dimensions as rated models.

Know the brands Refrigerators sold under different brands sometimes share traits because they have a common manufacturer. Among the models tested, Frigidaire makes the Frigidaire and Frigidaire Gallery lines; the latter is generally pricier. General Electric makes GE, GE Profile, and GE Profile Performance (the latter two being the company’s upscale lines), and Hotpoint (which usually has fewer features and costs less than GE models). Sears’ Kenmore refrigerators, the best-selling brand in the U.S., cover a broad range and are made, we’ve determined in our lab, by several manufacturers including General Electric and Whirlpool. Whirlpool also makes Whirlpool and Whirlpool Gold models, as well as KitchenAid (an upscale brand) and Roper (a basic budget line). Maytag, known for its relatively high-priced appliances, makes refrigerators that are fairly inexpensive given their numerous features.

Details on the models

Most models have: * Pullout, spillproof glass shelves in the main space. * Adjustable bins or shelves and shelf snuggers in main-space doors. * One or two crispers. * Temperature controls in the front of the main space (bottom-freezer models have main-space temperature controls in the back). * A temperature-controlled meatkeeper that worked very well (most meatkeepers without a control worked adequately). * An ice-maker that makes more than 212 lb. of ice per day (side-by-side units also have an ice and water dispenser). * A choice of white, almond, and sometimes black. * At least one freezer light. * A warranty of at least 1 yr. (5 yr. on refrigeration parts).

Dimensions are height, width, and depth; allow for clearance to fully open the door. Cubic feet (cu. ft.) is the manufacturer’s claimed capacity, followed by our measurement of usable space.

Top-freezer models

1.Maytag MTB2156B[W] $850

* 6614x33x2912 in. * Cu. ft.: 20.7 (14.8 usable)

Superb all around. Recommendation: Excellent.

2.Amana TR21V2[W] $760

* 67x33x3112 in. * Cu. ft.: 20.6 (15.2 usable)

Nearly as efficient as (1). Better than others at maintaining its temperatures during hot weather. Similar model: TX21V, $700, may be noisier. Recommendation: Very good and a good value.

3.Kenmore (Sears) 7820[2] $900

* 65 3/4×32 3/4×31 1/2 in. * Cu. ft.: 21.6 (15.4 usable)

Energy efficient and quiet. But: No meatkeeper control. Similar models: 6820, $850; 6920, $850 (both with optional ice-maker); 7920, $900. Recommendation: Very good.

4.Whirlpool Gold GT22DKXG[W] $870

* 65 3/4×32 3/4×31 in. * Cu. ft.: 21.6 (15.6 usable)

Has sliding half-shelf for flexible storage. But: No meatkeeper control; meatkeeper’s temperature performance is fair. Similar model: Whirlpool ET22RKXG, $750. Recommendation: Very good.

5.GE Profile TBX22PRY[WW] $1,100

* 67 1/2×31 1/4×31 3/4 in. * Cu. ft.: 21.5 (15.5 usable)

Has ice and water dispenser. Temperature controls are in the back of the main space. Availability: Discontinued. Similar model: TBX22PRB, $1,400. Recommendation: Very good; expensive.

6.KitchenAid Prestige KTRP22KG[WH] $800

* 65 3/4×32 3/4×30 1/2 in. * Cu. ft.: 21.6 (15.0 usable)

No meatkeeper control, pullout shelves, or freezer light. Recommendation: Very good.

7.Whirlpool ET21PKXG[W] $650

* 65 3/4×32 3/4×30 in. * Cu. ft.: 20.9 (15.6 usable)

No meatkeeper control, shelf snuggers, pullout shelves, or freezer light. Similar model: ET21GKXG, $610. Recommendation: Very good and a good value.

8.GE TBX22ZIB[WW] $750

* 67×31 1/4×31 1/2 in. * Cu. ft.: 21.6 (17.1 usable)

More usable space than others. Temperature controls are in the back of the main space. But: Main space got too warm when room was hot. No pullout shelves. Similar model: TBX22ZAB, $700 (optional ice-maker). Recommendation: Very good; relatively costly to run.

9.Frigidaire Gallery FRT20NGC[W] $750

* 65×32 1/4×31 in. * Cu. ft. 19.9 (14.3 usable)

2-yr. warranty. But: Makes less ice per day than others. No pullout shelves. Recommendation: Very good, but from one of the less reliable brands of top-freezer models.

10.Hotpoint CTX21DIB[WW] $570

* 67×31 1/4×30 1/2 in. * Cu. ft.: 20.6 (16.2 usable)

More usable space than most. Temperature controls are in the back of the main space. But: Main space got too warm when room was hot. No meatkeeper control, shelf snuggers, pullout shelves, adjustable door shelves, or freezer light. Similar models: CTX21DAB, $600 (optional icemaker), CTX21EAB, $550; CTX21BAB, $500. Recommendation: Very good, but spartan.

Side-by-side models

11.Maytag MSD2356A[W] $1,350

* 68 3/4×32 3/4×32 1/2 in. * Cu. ft.: 22.9 (15.3 usable)

The best combination of performance, quiet, and efficiency among side-by-sides. Has hand crank to adjust one shelf. Can lock filtered ice and water dispenser. Can make more than 6 lb. of ice per day, although ice-storage bin holds only about half that. Recommendation: Very good.

12.Kenmore (Sears) 5728[2] $1,300

* 66 1/4x33x32 in. * Cu. ft.: 21.7 (12.9 usable)

Cheapest side-by-side to run and only a bit louder than (11). Can lock ice and water dispenser. But: Freezer got too warm when room temperature dropped. Uses space less efficiently than others. No shelf snuggers. Availability: Discontinued. Similar model: 5924, $1,150, may be quieter. Recommendation: Very good.

13.Whirlpool Gold GD22DFXF[W] $1,500

* 66 1/4x33x31 3/4 in. * Cu. ft.: 21.7 (12.9 usable)

Can lock filtered ice and water dispenser. But: Freezer got too warm when room temperature dropped. Uses space less efficiently than others. Recommendation: Very good.

14.Amana SXD23V[W] $1,000

* 68 1/4x36x30 1/2 in. * Cu. ft.: 23.1 (15.0 usable)

Has beverage-chiller, filtered ice and water dispenser. Temperature controls are in the back of the main space. But: Warm spots in refrigerator door during normal operation. No meatkeeper control or main-space pullout shelves. Recommendation: Very good, but from one of the less reliable brands of side-by-side models.

15.Frigidaire FRS22ZRG[W] $970

* 67 1/2×35 1/4×31 1/4 in. * Cu. ft.: 22.3 (15.3 usable)

Has filtered ice and water dispenser. Mainspace temperature controls are in the back of the main space. But: Warm spots in main space during normal operation. No shelf snuggers or main-space pullout shelves. Similar model: FRS22ZGG, $1,150. Recommendation: Very good.

16.Kenmore (Sears) 5707[1] $1,150

* 66 1/4x33x29 3/4 in. * Cu. ft.: 19.8 (11.7 usable)

Can lock ice and water dispenser. But: Warm spots in freezer door during normal operation and inside freezer when room temperature dropped. No shelf snuggers or main-space pullout shelves. Less usable space than others. Availability: Discontinued. Similar model: 5904, $975, may be quieter. Recommendation: Good.

17.GE Profile TFX22PRB[WW] $1,250

* 67 1/2×33 1/2×30 1/2 in. * Cu. ft.: 21.6 (14.3 usable)

Temperature controls are in the back of the main space. But: Warm spots in freezer when room temperature dropped. Similar model: GE Profile Performance TFX22PPB, $1,340. Recommendation: Good, but GE has been one of the less reliable brands of side-by-side models.

18.GE TFX22ZRB[WW] $950

* 67 1/2×33 1/2×30 1/2 in. * Cu. ft.: 21.7 (14.8 usable)

Temperature controls are in the back of the main space. But: Refrigerator became too cold or warm when room temperature changed. No mainspace pullout shelves. Similar model: TFX22ZPB, $1,050. Recommendation: Good, but from one of the less reliable brands of side-by-side models.

Bottom-freezer models

19.Kenmore (Sears) 7727[2] $1,000

* 68×32 3/4×32 3/4 in. * Cu. ft.: 21.7 (15.3 usable)

More usable space than others of this type. Availability: Discontinued, but may still be available. Similar model: 7927, $925. Recommendation: Very good.

20.Amana BX21T[W] $850

* 68 1/4×32 3/4×31 3/4 in. * Cu. ft.: 20.5 (14.4 usable)

Door shelves and bins not adjustable. Recommendation: Very good and a good value.

21.Amana BB120T[W] $1,500

* 70x36x27 in. * Cu. ft.: 19.7 (13.5 usable)

Built-in look; wide and shallow so unit can stand almost flush with cabinets. Similar models: BB120TP, $1,650; BRF20T, $1,500. Recommendation: Very good, but expensive.

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