After a house and a car – if you’re lucky enough to own your own – big-ticket appliances are one of the most expensive purchases you’re ever going to make in life.
Not only that, household appliances account for about one third of the energy consumption in the average Australian home, so there’s a lot more at stake than just the look and feel of your kitchen – although we’d argue that’s important, too.
We spoke to a couple of experts in the industry to help us overcome the daunting task of finding the right fridge and/or washing machine.
1. Go for quality
Fancy fridges and whizz-bang washing machines might not seem like a wise idea, but neither is dipping too far towards the other end of the price scale.
“A well made, well engineered washing machine or fridge will last 15 years or more. Meanwhile, a cheap appliance may save you money initially, but you’ll end up needing to replace it every four years,” says David Woollcott, CEO of Winning Appliances.
2. Always check the energy rating
Today there’s no excuses for buying products that use excessive amounts of water or electricity. “Most households should consider products with a four-star product rating,” says David.
3. Work out the costs to run it
It’s important to do your due diligence in working out the running costs of your machines – and energy ratings will help you do this.
“The yellow and red stickers on the front of your appliances provide information on the energy efficiency of a product,” says Rob Sinclair, co-managing director of E&S Trading.
“The labels display two key figures: Energy consumption (kilowatts per year) and energy efficiency (in stars). The more stars, the more savings, and it differs across washing machines compared to fridges. But don’t hang too much on it, as the difference in running costs between one machine and the next based on a year’s use might boil down to the cost of a coffee.”
4. Weigh up the size
Whitegoods are not only a big investment – they’re just plain big.
Analysing the size you require really comes down to the requirements of the household, the space you have and in the case of fridges, it also should be based on your shopping habits, Rob says.
“If you’re a couple or a young family, you’d be safe to opt for a 400-500L fridge, whereas if you have a family of growing teenage boys you’d need to look in the 500-700L territory,” he says.
5. What are your specific needs?
Households operate differently in terms of how often the shopping and washing is done, and what kind of produce is bought. Take into consideration the below:
“Consider how often you shop; if you’re a once-a-week shopper or you buy fresh [produce] each day from the market. If you shop once a week, there are brands of fridges, including the Liebherr, that have a storage compartment called ‘BioFresh’ to control temperature and humidity and therefore prolong the life of fruit and veggies. Then there’s the Sub Zero fridge which controls humidity and removes ethylene gas (produced by some fruit and vegetables), to ensure your fruit and veggies last even longer,” Rob says.
“Similarly with washing machines/dryers you need to consider how many people are in your household and your family’s lifestyle. An active family who play sport will require a larger machine than say a couple,” says Rob. “If there’s a new baby in the home, you’ll all of sudden be doing a lot more washing. As a guide though, a couple and an average family typically use a 6-7kg washing machine, while a bigger family of five or more kids may need an 8kg machine.”
6. Try before you buy
You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive, so paying a visit to a retailer that can actively demonstrate new technologies and product features is absolutely necessary.
“You need to be able to experience the products live and talk through your requirements personally,” adds David.
Rob adds, “If there’s certain platters or dishes you want to store in your fridge, I encourage people to bring them in, so you can accurately choose the fridge with the best dimensions to suit.”
7. Choose a design that fits
Once you’ve ticked off all the practical considerations, it pays to pick a model that’s actually going to fit in with the style of your home.
After all, you’re going to have to look at it pretty much everyday.
Here are some different styles and designs to consider:
- Top mount – What you probably grew up with, where the freezer sits at the top and the fridge at the bottom.
- Bottom mount – Opposite to top mount, where the fridge part sits at the top. These can be better for the back, because you can place most-used refrigerated items at eye-level.
- French door – A spacious refrigerator section at the top with two doors that swing outwards and a freezer section at the base. “French door fridges are popular with large families and for good reason,” says Rob. “The extra wide width of the fridge makes it ideal for storing wide platters, pots and more. For households that love food, entertaining or shopping in bulk, French door models are simply the way to go.”
- Side-by-side – A vertical freezer and fridge running side by side to each other in the one unit.
- Integrated – When cabinetry panels on the front of the fridge match to integrate with the kitchen cabinetry.
- Freezer separate – For those who love to cook in bulk and freeze, a separate freezer could be a way to accommodate the extra containers of frozen food.
With all fridges, there are a range of colours and finishes to choose from – white is obviously the standard, but most models do come in stainless steel, platinum and matte black finishes.
- Top load – Offer slightly faster cycles and require less crouching to remove clothes.
- Front load – Usually more energy-efficient and can offer gentler and more thorough wash cycles. Can take up less room than a top-loader and allow for storage above, making them an ideal option for smaller spaces.
8. Avoid gimmicks
“Connected appliances and wifi capable fridges are in their infancy,” David says. “Even though they may seem appealing, you may want to hold off until the true benefits are clear.”