Category Archives: Home Improvement

The Look of Stainless Steel Has Lost the Look of Love

It has been a 25-year run for the look of stainless steel, but has it’s time come?

In our constantly changing world, the newest look always seems to be the most sought after product that we can purchase. Currently, it is a pivotal moment in kitchen design, causing major manufacturers to speculate as to the new look that will succeed stainless steel in the world of kitchen design. The trend seems to point to the major decline of the ever popular stainless steel, even though there does not seem to be any clear successor lining up to de-throne the reigning finish king.

The appliance industry has tried to introduce and promote new finish looks before, which led to no success. “Oiled-bronze,” “antique copper,” and a gray hue called “meteorite” are a few that almost made a run for champ of the kitchen finishes. Whirlpool Corporation, the world’s now largest appliance manufacturer, recently introduced its “Ice Collection” of appliances, including glossy white. “White is the new stainless steel,” quotes a Whirlpool representative.

Wishful thinking? One might think so since competitor General Electric, just last week, introduced refrigerators, ovens, microwaves and dishwashers in a muted gray called “slate,” and this will soon be coupled with new high-gloss finishes that they plan to unleash to the U.S. sometime soon.

Bottom line, introducing a new finish is a risk, and one that can cost enough to make the colors matter. Development takes approximately a year or so, which is a lengthy amount of time, especially in the appliance industry. Typically, stores will grant extra space to new ideas, but usually manufacturers’ have to work within a given number of slots, which means that if the product is unsuccessful than the manufacturer has just lost significant numbers on overall sales.

Why does this matter? Why are manufacturers’ even bothering with “color-scheming?” Essentially, the appliance market is in need of a significant boost due to the slump in the housing market, which has resulted in an even more significant slump in appliance sales. This means that manufacturers’ are trying to dazzle the buyer with new looks at every turn.

Fear not, for stainless steel is not being completely pushed out. However, there is a changing role that kitchens are playing in the American household, and this role reflects the changing times, of which appliance manufacturers are well aware. Therefore, manufacturers will continue to keep stainless steel finish in their collections, but consumers should be on the look-out for new and innovative looks for very common appliances. Within the past decade, kitchens have been central to the home in the sense that children and parents alike spent a significant portion of their time bonding in that central location. However, with every room having a television and technology added to it, the family now splits at dinner time and this makes for the kitchen to be a much less essential place of meeting. But this breakdown of the American home is one that appliance manufacturers are looking to change and they hope to once again make the kitchen a place of gathering and quality time.

It is certainly whimsical to think that common appliances and their related finishes can have such profound effect on our everyday lives. However, this is precisely the thinking that manufacturers task their marketing team with in order to rejuvenate the family spirit in the modern American home. You may feel a tug of nostalgia in the coming years, but the question will be if this is targeted marketing, or just are you really longing for that special “look of steel?”

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The Unsung Heroes

Appliances matter and their value is on the rise

I’ve never come across a clothes washer that wears a mask and fights crime, and I’ve never used a dishwasher that had superhuman strength or used an air conditioner that could transform into a masked crime-fighting superhero. Basically, I’ve never met any major home appliance that really impressed me. However, the fact remains that I have used all of these and many more on a daily basis, and they have become as ingrained into my way of life as brushing my teeth or taking a shower, which I happily report is a daily routine.

The truth? We need our appliances, as badly as the Gotham needs Batman, and as frequently as the Hulk has a temper tantrum. From the very minute we wake, we use an array of appliances to aid us in our daily battles. In the course of one single day, we use everything from the refrigerator to the dishwasher, with stops at the washer and dryer, shower, sink and microwave oven, just to name a few. If one of these has even a minor malfunction that disrupts our daily routine, our days are forever altered and we just can’t seem to be as effective at work or as happy at home. Essentially, our appliances are the unsung heroes in our lives and silently get us through each and every day, and we give them less attention than we do our cell phones.

This is why appliances matter, and why we all should pay a little more attention to the purchases we make and the care we give to these “aids” of humanity. I urge you to imagine a time where you could not throw your clothes in the washer or dryer, or could not take a hot shower, or even worse, couldn’t heat up a frozen dinner in the microwave. This is a time that we have only read about in history books, but with one malfunction we find ourselves back in an age that we cannot comprehend and could never understand.

GE, Whirlpool and the like all are in the market of dealing out the essentials in our lives, except that we just are not quite aware of it yet. We hear of these companies, but do we actually pay attention to what it is that they are giving us? These unsung heroes stay with us for most of our lives, and yet we continue to disregard talks of outsourcing and the effects that it truly has on our national security. In the wake of the newest tropical storm, and in any time of crisis, it is essential that our own country be able to provide its own with supplies and tools needed to survive such tragic natural disasters. Truth? We still have to wait for most of our supplies to be shipped in to us, and that means putting our very livelihood in the hands of potential enemies. I am not one for debating politics, but I am one for the essence of survival. Why leave anything to another nation to take care of?

Bottom line, appliances are our best friends, for I don’t know any dog that can help me eat. However, it is almost comical to think of them as cherished necessities, yet that is quite essentially what they are.

No, they do not wear cool costumes or fight crime when we sleep, but our major home appliances keep us sane and give us the convenience and luxury that we take for granted every day.

Preparing Your Air Conditioner for Storage

With the weather cooling and Labor Day almost upon us, it’s finally that time to transition our homes from summer to fall.  While it’s sad to say goodbye to warm weather and backyard barbeques, wipe away your tears and roll up your sleeves, it’s time to get a little dirty.

It’s time to put the air conditioner in storage.

This hefty machine has been good to us during those scorching summer days and kept us cool throughout what would have been some miserable nights.

So now that your air conditioner has taken care of you, it’s your turn to show it a little love.

Here are the easy steps on how to safely and effectively prepare your air conditioner for storage:

  1. Unplug the air conditioner and remove any insulation or objects that may have been used to secure it.
  2. Recruit a friend and remove it from the window.
  3. Place the unit on a towel that you could stand losing. (The air conditioner may still be full of water.)
  4. Now clean the filter.
    1. First, vacuum it to remove any grit and grime.
    2. Next, place the filter under running water and use soap to gently wash away dirt.
    3. To give your filter to the full spa treatment, use equal parts vinegar and water. (That will help remove bacteria and allergens.)
  5. As the filter dries, use a cloth to wipe down the air conditioner’s exterior surfaces with either the same water/vinegar solution or a cleaning product.
  6. Remove the front grill and give it a good scrub.
  7. To store your air conditioner, put it in a bin, its original box or, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, in an air conditioner cover. (Otherwise you’ll have to clean it all over again or little critters might decide your unit is an excellent place to settle down and start a family.)

By properly cleaning your air conditioner, you’ll save yourself money in replacement filters and increase the lifespan and efficiency of your unit. Like every appliance in your home, your air conditioner needs a little TLC too.

“GYRO” Screwdriver Employs New Technology in a New World

Tech-Savvy screwdriver brings about new wave of home care

The company of Black and Decker brings innovation and new possibilities to the category of screwdrivers, making a dull category sparkle. The new GYRO Rechargeable Screwdriver is the world’s first motion-activated screwdriver that controls variable speed and direction. The variable speed feature and direction change can happen with a simple flick of the wrist, which allows for improved control while screw-driving that surpasses all other rechargeable screwdrivers on the market.

Similarly, this new screwdriver employs gyroscopic technology never-before seen by the industry, allowing for the user to turn left and right with only a quarter-turn of the wrist, essentially becoming a motion-activated screwdriver. This is is a fascinating creation, albeit a possibly unnecessary one, and it is coupled with a recent article published concerning robotic technology taking over human manufacturing jobs.

Coincidence? The conspiracy theorist would say no, but it matters not. Truth is that our beloved technology has finally breached the “manliest” of markets in home care, and this innovation seems to stamp the message that technology will continue to pervade our lives in every way that it possibly can. Should we now look to producers like Elecrolux and Whirlpool to aid us in folding our own laundry with some gyroscopic “laundry folding” technology?

Either way, this new screwdriver is impressive and glamorous, which is still quite surreal given that a screwdriver has never been required to be glamorous or impressive. But hey, for all you screwdriver enthusiasts, eat your heart out and enjoy!

American Manufacturing Key to Security

How critical is American manufacturing to American security?

You can consider this the “Part II” to the post from last week discussing a report, filed by two former professionals of the Department of Homeland Security, where they made the strong assertion that America grows weaker with every product that is produced, developed or shipped to the United States with which American consumers are dependent upon. The main point of that report was to warn of a growing vulnerability that is the result of increased reliance on foreign shipping and the prediction that America’s strength is tremendously undermined should a crisis hit or should we be engaged in hostile activity with foreign supplier.

Assuming we take this report at face value, it seems warranted to be overly concerned about the implications of such proposed weaknesses that America seems to have and the truth of how strong these implications are. Simply put, we are at risk because we don’t supply our own citizens with supplies, causing us to rely upon our foreign suppliers to aid us through all times, including the times of great natural or man-made catastrophes. Essentially, this report is one that makes a simple yet well-founded claim that proves to be a laborious task to refute.

How can an argument be made that we are NOT vulnerable? It is a fact that we rely on foreign suppliers for nearly all of our basic products and while this may prove cost-effective it could certainly lead to our own demise. In a world where hostile intentions are never lacking and global strength is always a savory prospect, it seems careless to allow all of our supplies to come to us instead of being made by us.

Interestingly enough, this report is coupled with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s recent proposal to propose tariffs on leading producers like Samsung and Electrolux, in which there is a hope that the act of “dumping” will be reduced and that leading producers will think twice before supporting foreign suppliers that engage in “dumping.” On the other hand, a producer like Whirlpool seems to be on board with eventually having most of their products manufactured in America and hope to be much more American based by 2013, according to the DoC investigation report from July. This could mean a serious shift in production and sales in the market and if other other leading producers are not willing to jump on bandwagon, they quite possibly could be left in the proverbial dust.

Is this enough? Policing the foreign markets could prove to help American infrastructure while crippling production for leading producers. The question then becomes a matter of which is more important. Furthermore, is a reliance on foreign manufacturing simply the way that it has to be? Can there even be an alternative option for the United States?

The overwhelming concern of national security seems to pervade every market and industry throughout the global economy. We must decide if this is something we can change but, more importantly, if we can do we actually want to change. Do we want to change our way of life? Is it even possible?

We leave this, as always, to you, the consumer. It still remains that every leading producer still needs to sell their product which is where you fit in quite nicely. Your role is critical, essential, and ultimately the determinant of how vulnerable this country will be in the future years.

Latest Report: Appliances are Going Green!

According to the latest 2011 Appliance Industry Forecast report issued last week, future appliances will be smarter and greener. This report is structured to provide professionals working in or servicing the appliance industry insight with an understanding or the short-term and long-term impact of the economic recession, market challenges and opportunities, as well as valuable consumer buying trends.

Snapshots from the report:
• Samsung Electronics is betting on smart appliance technology in its bid to become the biggest global producer of refrigerators by next year.
• LG Electronics plans to leverage its extensive library of consumer electronics technology currently used in its cell phone and PC business to make its major appliances SmartGrid compatible.
• Haier Group plans to bring its Smart Life connected-appliance technology, already marketed in China, to the U.S. Smart Life-integrated refrigerators, air-conditioners, and wine cellars use the Internet, mobile communication, and fixed phone networks to let users control home appliances remotely.
• Whirlpool Corp. said it will remain focused on getting the highest return on every unit, introducing higher-margin appliances while achieving better efficiencies through the addition of green technologies, and to promote growth in emerging markets.
• Electrolux also is focusing much of its developmental efforts on the growing, high-margin built-in appliance segment, and in making its appliances more energy and water efficient.

Recycle Old Washing Machine Tips

There does come the time a washing machine reaches the point where repair is no longer the most logical step. The factors that constitute this are repair cost, appliance age, and time. Leading to most consumers placing their washing machine out to the curb for collection and removal. Often done by your hoarding neighbor rather then the city dump truck. However, modern times has given society alternatives in wake of environmental concerns of washing machines decaying in landfills.

Donation

Instead of placing the unit out to the curb. Give your washing machine away by donating to a shelter, family in need, or charity. The Freecycle Network is a great place to make connections in your neighborhood at http://www.freecycle.org

Conversion

The tub itself after removal from the unit has been converted into storage, flower pot, table, fire-pit, hamper, and ottoman by frugal consumers. To find out how to convert to an ottoman read this article courtesy of Ehow.com.

If you are using a front load washer remove the bubble on the front door to become a bowl. Your new bowl can be used for punch, salad, candy, or random household items.

Reconsideration

Remember repair cost being a factor previously mentioned in this article for a washing machine not being considered for repair. Hundreds of repair guides are available in print and electronic form that can help you resolve any appliance issues you me be having by yourself. AP Wagner Appliance Repair Library is an excellent resource used by consumers to do-it-yourself. Hence if your unit is in need of a replacement appliance part. APWagner.com has the most-complete inventory of appliance parts anywhere.