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10 Things Nobody Tells You About Replacing Your Kitchen Appliances

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10 Things Nobody Tells You About Replacing Your Kitchen Appliances

April 11, 2019

Embarking on a full kitchen remodel, or just want to swap out your fridge, dishwasher, or range for a newer (better-looking, more eco-friendly, quieter) version? Here are a few things to know about making the switch:

photograph from kitchen of the week: at home with the ultimate minimalists 12
Above: Photograph from Kitchen of the Week: At Home with the Ultimate Minimalists, the Creators of Cereal Magazine.

1. Know your appliances’ birthdays.

Appliances, now matter how high-tech, have finite lifespans: Fridges have a life expectancy of about 13 years, and gas ranges about 15 years, according to a study from the National Association of Home Builders via This Old House. Dishwashers? They only last about 9 years, but a dishwasher that’s leaking or not cleaning your dishes means it’s ready to be replaced. Keep track of how old your appliances are; when they get old, it’s time to shop for a new one.

2. Not sure whether to repair or replace? Remember the 50/50 rule.

Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow when something goes wrong with your appliance: If it’s more than halfway through its lifespan and will cost half as much to repair as to replace, just replace it. You may save headaches (and more repairs) in the long run, and upgrading your appliance to a newer model may be greener and save you some money, too. (Just remember to recycle the old model: see point no. 10).

photograph by haris kenjar from before & after: a modern mak 13
Above: Photograph by Haris Kenjar from Before & After: A Modern Makeover for a Circa-1850s Row House in Jersey City.

3. You should take a personality test.

Or rather, a kitchen personality test. Particularly if you’re doing a full kitchen remodel, you have the chance to consider how you really use your kitchen and choose appliances accordingly. Do you host every holiday for your large extended family and host dinner parties every weekend? You might want to consider getting two ovens. Do you cook in large batches every weekend and freeze family meals for the week ahead? You’ll want to be sure you get a fridge with a spacious freezer section. Mostly order takeout? Maybe you can get away with a dishwasher drawer instead of a full-sized dishwasher. Nowadays there are appliance options for every sort of cook; don’t just go with the status quo.

4. Make sure the new model will fit through the door.

The old carpentry adage “Measure twice, cut once” applies here. Measure the area where your new appliance will go not once, not twice, but three times before you commit. For fridges, you’ll need to leave an inch of space on every side to prevent overheating (read more in Remodeling 101: How to Choose Your Refrigerator). And don’t forget to account for the swing of your refrigerator’s door(s) and allow ample space for the oven door to open. (Whoever installed the oven in my tiny apartment kitchen in Manhattan clearly didn’t do this—the door only opens halfway.) And, make sure the new appliance will fit through the door.

photograph by heju (@hejustudio) from kitchen of the week: two young paris 14
Above: Photograph by Heju (@hejustudio) from Kitchen of the Week: Two Young Paris Architects Completely Redo Their Kitchen for Under $4,300.

5. Got a small kitchen? There are appliances for that.

It’s time rethink the 1950s bigger-is-better attitude towards kitchen appliances. If you have a small space (or don’t want to allot precious kitchen real estate to an SUV-sized fridge), there are plenty of good-looking, hard-working compact versions on the market. For just a few, see our posts on Skinny Refrigerators36-Inch Counter-Depth RefrigeratorsAppliances for Small Kitchens, Skinny Kitchen Ranges (Freestanding 24-Inches), and even tiny Under-Counter Refrigerator Drawers.

6. Your new appliance(s) could be a focal point.

Nowadays, kitchen appliances are not just workhorse necessities, but can be a design element all on their own. Whether you’re scrapping your kitchen and starting fresh or just swapping out the appliances, consider investing in a high-style range to be the center of your kitchen (like one of our favorite retro kitchen ranges), or make the refrigerator an opportunity for display (might we suggest glass door refrigerators?).

photograph by anna pirkola from kitchen of the week: a stylist&# 15
Above: Photograph by Anna Pirkola from Kitchen of the Week: A Stylist’s $3,400 Kitchen Makeover, DIY Scandi Edition.

7. Time your shopping right to get a discount.

NerdWallet suggests buying a previous appliance model after the latest model is released (it’ll likely be discounted), or shopping around on a few major holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Or, buy gently used appliances: see Remodeling 101: 8 Sources for Used Appliances.

photograph by richard round turner from a star is born: a rehabbed london  16
Above: Photograph by Richard Round-Turner from A Star Is Born: A Rehabbed London Maisonette from a Newly Minted Designer, High/Low Secrets Included.

8. It might be a simple swap.

If you’re simply swapping out your fridge, range, or dishwasher for a new model in the same place, you might not need to re-wire or re-plumb. Read up on What to Know When Replacing Your Fridge and What to Know When Replacing Your Dishwasher and consult an electrician or plumber to be sure.

9. You could save money (and energy).

When shopping for new fridges and dishwashers, look for the Energy Star tag. “You’ll find the Energy Star rating—as well as the estimated energy use and cost per year—on the yellow tag displayed on the front of the machine,” says Boston-based architect Andrea Zaff. Newer models use less energy (and, therefore, save you money). Plus, newer dishwashers will run much more quietly than old models.

The EPA doesn’t yet provide an official Energy Star rating for ranges, but there are a few ways to tell whether it’ll cut back on energy; head to What to Know When Replacing Your Range for six things to look for.

Also, check with your local electricity or gas provider to see if upgrading your old appliances could get you a rebate.

 photograph courtesy of the modern house, from upstairs, downstairs:  17
Above: Photograph courtesy of The Modern House, from Upstairs, Downstairs: A London Home Designed for Two Households.

10. Don’t forget to make a plan for your old appliance.

If you’ve bought your new appliance from a retailer, they should be able to take your old model away. But be sure to ask whether they are “a certified recycler of old appliances and will provide green services,” advises contributor Barbara Peck in What to Know When Replacing Your Range. Alternatively, you could take care of the disposal yourself, recycling it, donating it, or selling it on Craigslist or elsewhere, if it’s still got life left in it.

Considering a new range? Check out Remodeling 101: Beyond Gas vs. Electric: A Quick Guide to Kitchen Stoves and Cooktops.

And, peruse the rest of our 10 Things Nobody Tells You series:

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Frequently asked questions

When is it time to replace kitchen appliances?

There are several signs that it may be time to replace your kitchen appliances. These include frequent breakdowns, inefficient performance, outdated technology, high energy consumption, and the appliances no longer meeting your needs or fitting your kitchen's aesthetics.

Should I replace all kitchen appliances at once?

It's not necessary to replace all kitchen appliances at once unless you prefer a cohesive look or if multiple appliances are nearing the end of their lifespan. You can prioritize replacements based on urgency, functionality, and budget.

How do I choose the right size appliances for my kitchen?

Measure the available space in your kitchen before purchasing new appliances. Consider the dimensions of the appliances you're considering and ensure they fit comfortably in the designated areas. Pay attention to clearances required for ventilation and proper functionality.

What factors should I consider when selecting new kitchen appliances?

Consider factors such as your budget, cooking habits, lifestyle needs, energy efficiency, aesthetic preferences, and the appliance's reliability, warranty, and available features. Research different brands, read reviews, and compare specifications to make an informed decision.

Are stainless steel appliances still popular?

Stainless steel appliances remain popular due to their sleek and modern appearance. They blend well with various kitchen styles and are known for their durability, resistance to fingerprints, and ease of cleaning.

Should I buy energy-efficient appliances?

Investing in energy-efficient appliances is beneficial both environmentally and financially. Energy-efficient models can significantly reduce your utility bills over time and contribute to a greener home.

Can I install new appliances myself, or should I hire a professional?

Installing appliances can vary in complexity depending on the appliance and your level of expertise. Simple tasks like replacing a refrigerator or dishwasher may be possible for DIY installation. However, more complex installations, such as gas ranges or built-in appliances, often require professional assistance to ensure proper connections and safety.

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