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:
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.
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).
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.
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. 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.
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 Refrigerators, 36-Inch Counter-Depth Refrigerators, Appliances for Small Kitchens, Skinny Kitchen Ranges (Freestanding 24-Inches), and even tiny Under-Counter Refrigerator Drawers.
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?).
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.
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.
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; Also, check with your local electricity or gas provider to see if upgrading your old appliances could get you a rebate.
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.