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Must Have Home Appliances

Electric appliances – which our great-grandparents used to call “labor-saving devices” – have been with us so long that we take them for granted. But which ones are really useful? Which ones do you really want and need?

The major appliances

You’re almost sure to have these at your house – refrigerator, range, dishwasher, washer and dryer. But when the time comes to replace them, be aware that not all are equally efficient. Luckily here in Canada we have EnerGuide, a government-run system that rates energy consumption and efficiency. Look for the EnerGuide label that tells how much energy a model consumes, and rates it in comparison to similar ones. Consider not only the purchase price, but the likely cost of operating it over the years.

EnerGuide Label

1. Average annual energy consumption of the appliance in kilowatt hours (kWh)
2. Energy efficiency of the appliance relative to similar models
3. Annual energy consumption range for models of this type and size
4. Type and size of the model

5. Model number

Source: Natural Resources Canada

In the kitchen

Serious cooks say that less can be more. In other words, use a tool that can do more than a single job, like a utility knife — or a toaster oven. Besides toasting bread, a toaster oven can bake a pizza or casserole. Models that include a broiler can cook burgers or bacon. Those with a convection feature circulate the hot air and can evenly bake breads and pastries. Some models even have a rotisserie. A single appliance that combines some or all of these functions can save space. And a toaster oven can save energy, compared to a conventional oven, since you’re heating a smaller volume. When buying one, calculate the trade-offs between features and price — and size, because the more loaded a model is, the larger it is apt to be.

Another jack-of-all-trades is the food processor. These are not just glorified blenders. Sure, they can puree soup or whip up a smoothie. But they also slice, grate, make nut butters, chop everything from garlic cloves to ice cubes, even knead dough. Size is an important consideration in these as well. With work bowls that can hold from 7 to more than 20 cups, different models range widely in size, weight and price. (“Mini” food processors, holding a few cups, are less versatile than full-sized ones.) Tip: Find a place right on your counter for your food processor to stay. You’ll end up using it much more than if you have to lug it from a cupboard every time.
Breville all in one Food processor
Source: Blender Expert

Around the house

Nothing removes dirt, dust or dog hair like a vacuum cleaner. But no other appliance comes in so many variations. Upright models are best for carpets, while canisters do better on bare floors, drapes and upholstery. Both types can be powerful, but also heavy, and noisy. Some have filters that trap fine particles and leave your indoor atmosphere cleaner. Then there are hand-held vacuums and robots that are perfect for quick, small jobs, and lightweight stick vacuums that do wonders on bare floors.

Vacuum cleaner styles
Source: Canadian Tire Vacuum Buyer Guide

How to choose?

Check out this buying guide from Consumer Reports and then evaluate your needs. Perhaps this is a case when you do need two appliances with similar functions, one full-size and one lightweight.

No matter what electric devices you decide are must-haves, none of them will be of use during a power outage. Extended outages may be rare, but they are stressful — and even dangerous — to get through. So consider buying the one appliance you will hope never to switch on, a home generator. To consider the options and decide what type is best for you, check out the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s backup power fact sheet.

Electric generator
Source: Power Generators

By Jonathan Lerner

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