- Look for an energy-rating label with the most stars and the least kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. Check for space-maximizing features such as split shelves, adjustable shelf height and pull-out shelves.
- Door compartments can be large enough for gallon jugs of milk. A built-in ice maker or water filter is great for families, but listen to it--you want the refrigerator to be as quiet as possible.
- A freezer-on-top model is the most common, and the most affordable. A side-by-side model works well in smaller kitchens with little room for door clearance, but there is less room for wider items like frozen pizza boxes. A freezer-on-the-bottom model is convenient because the fresh food compartment is at eye level.
- A built-in model can be customized, but is expensive. A cabinet-depth model is an affordable alternative to built-in.
Cooktop and wall oven or range
- If your cooktop and oven are separate pieces, you can install them anywhere in the kitchen.
- Many cooks like to pair the responsiveness of a gas cooktop with the temperature control of an electric oven.
- An electric cooktop with a smooth surface and touchpad is easiest to clean.
- Other cooktop options are magnetic-induction, radiant and halogen systems that heat a glass ceramic surface. Although the flat plane makes for easy cleanup, you might not know if the surface is still hot after you turn off the power. Also, only stainless steel and cast iron cookware will work on magnetic-induction cooktops.
- Electric wall ovens usually have larger capacity than gas ovens.
- Convection ovens are pricier, but are perfect for when you have many dishes cooking in the oven at the same time.
- If your range is the showpiece of your kitchen, you may want to consider installing a free-standing model.
- Check out the number of spray levels and directions; the greater the number, the cleaner your dishes will get.
- Look for a light cycle for china or crystal, a heavy cycle for pots and pans, and a rinse and hold cycle if the dishes will be in the washer for a while.
- Also handy are adjustable racks, removable tines for large pots and removable racks so you can load dishes outside of the dishwasher.
- Touchpad controls are the easiest to clean.
- Some models offer a sound-reduction package. This is especially important if your kitchen is part of your family room.
- Countertop models are the cheapest, but you need to have 1 to 2 feet of counter space.
- An over-the-range model saves on counter space, but may not provide a powerful enough fan.
- Avoid models with pre-programmed settings for foods you don't eat.
- Make sure you can fit a large platter inside.
- Some microwaves include a safety sensor that automatically shuts off the oven when food gets hot.
- A mid-sized 7-cup model is great for most people's needs, but if you entertain, consider a larger capacity 14-cup model.
- A mini-processor for small chopping jobs is handy, and easier to clean than a full-sized processor.
- A hand-mixer works well for batters, whipping cream and egg whites.
- A stand mixer is a real labor-saver if you bake breads, cookies and pizza dough.
Additional considerations include finishes, warranty, delivery fees, and of course, price. But if you choose your appliances well, your work in the kitchen can be easier and more enjoyable.