Picking Appliances is as Difficult as Manufacturers Choose to Make It

While the house plans are in for approval, I’ve been checking out appliances — both online and in-person — looking for the right dishwasher, fridge, washer, dryer, and oven/range.

The quality gap between appliance websites is simply astounding to me. It’s 2009… you’d think everyone would know how to do a “help me select my appliance” feature by now. The worst I found was ironically the company whose brand I had already decided on: Bosch. Bosch makes TWENTY models of dishwashers and the process of distinguishing between all of them is maddening. None of the features are explained in a convenient manner, none of the sub-brands are clearly differentiated, and worst of all their “product comparison tool” only lets you select three models at a time. To compare each model against every other would require 1140 different combination trials. Go ahead, try it… it’s embarrassingly bad.

On the other side of the spectrum is Samsung. Ironic as well, since their cell phone interfaces are so second rate. Where Bosch fails in leading me towards a happy, confident purchase, Samsung excels. Samsung’s washer selector lets me pick features one by one and removes models that don’t fit the criteria on the fly. It also has some nice Flash demos demonstrating some of the features that might need explaining. By the time I was done checking off features, I was down to one model. That is how it’s done, BOSCH!

I haven’t made any final decisions yet, but here’s what I’m leaning towards (if you have experience with any of these brands or others, please let me know in the comments):

Dishwasher: Bosch

Despite the awful website, Bosch seems to have a great reputation with regard to dishwashers. Multiple people, including Build, have recommended them personally to me so I am loath to go against that sort of word-of-mouth claqueury. It’s the one appliance that a lot of people seem to agree on: Bosch makes the best dishwashers. That said, thanks to their website, I have no idea which model to choose. My only requirements are integrated cabinet face and the adjustable upper rack option. Depending on the model, it should cost anywhere from $800 to $1600.

Refrigerator: GE Profile

There are tons of good refrigerators out there, but so far I’ve only found one that has the top two features I’m looking for: French doors with the freezer on the bottom and an external water/ice dispenser. French doors seem to be in these days, but external water/ice dispensers are harder and harder to find. Many models just do the water-only dispenser on the inside now apparently. Boooooooooo. External seems a lot more convenient.

The GE PFSS6PKXSS seems to fit the bill perfectly and has dope LED lights on the inside as well, which is just awesome. It’s $2699 retail, but since I work at msnbc.com, my GE employee discount should knock a good portion off of that. Not bad considering some of the other fridges I looked at were twice that amount.

Washer/Dryer: Samsung

I didn’t even know Samsung made washers or dryers. They do and they are awesome, according to Consumer Reports and other sources. Among the more novel features is something called “SilverCare” which embeds microscopic silver particles in your clothing to keep the stank away. Watch this video for the entertaining details of how Consumer Reports performed the test.

The kicker, however, is something called VRT. It’s a technology that Samsung pioneered which dramatically reduces the vibration of and noise of the washer and dryer during spin cycles. According to everyone who has tried it, it’s a no-brainer if your washer/dryer is not on a concrete floor. Since we’re putting ours upstairs right next to the master bedroom, this seems like a slam dunk.

The other set that looked awesome is the Electrolux. Honestly, they look even better than the Samsungs but I couldn’t find a single review online and Consumer Reports hasn’t tested them yet. They are priced similarly as the Samsung set (about $1500 per piece), so at that price, I feel much better buying something that’s been thoroughly tested and reviewed.

Oven/Range: Probably GE Monogram or Wolf

This is the appliance I’m least sure about right now. I do know I’ll be getting a dual-fuel 36-inch wide unit, but no one model has stood out yet. The Wolfs are nice, but $8500 for a range seems ridiculous, considering how often I failover to the microwave. Currently, I’m leaning towards the 36 inch GE Monogram Dual Fuel Oven/Range with 4 burners and a griddle. It’s more like $5500 and hopefully the discount will knock a substantial amount off of that as well.

So that’s where I’m at on appliances so far. If anyone has any advice or positive/negative reviews for certain brands or models, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

UPDATE (8/8/2010): I just published this new post describing the final appliance package.

25 Responses to “Picking Appliances is as Difficult as Manufacturers Choose to Make It”

  1. Daryn Says:

    I really like our Miele dishwasher. It’s similarly priced to the Bosch, with a comparable feature set, and equally quiet. The thing that does it for me, though, is the separate silverware shelf. It’s a really nice touch. Also, all the controls are on the top edge, so it is completely integrated, unlike some models which have the controls visible on the front above the cabinet panel.

    Our dishwasher:

  2. Jernej Says:

    A few more ideas, perhaps something from Gorenje, Miele, Liebherr & Zanussi. Although I’m not sure about availability in the US.

  3. Chris Says:

    Regarding fridges, I would personally recommend against going with a GE product.

    My wife and I had purchased a mid-tier model and in May of this last year I was greeted with smoke alarms going off in my house at 4:45am. It turns out that the compressor overheated somehow and nicely burned the label attached to it. There was enough smoke to be able to see it in the kitchen and it also left smoke marks up the wall.

    I spent a lot of time on the phone with GE’s customer service department, and after a while, they sent someone out to look at it. They basically told me that the burn on the compressor probablt happened at the factory and that they couldn’t find anything wrong. In a nutshell, they told me “tough luck, buddy”. They finally offered to give me ~$100 off of a brand new fridge.

    My wife and I did a lot of research, and finally chose a Samsung fridge. We like the French doors, the integrated ice/water dispenser, the bottom freezer. It’s amazing. When the winds of Ike rolled through Ohio late last year, we were able to take a ton of my parents freezer items and my brother’s as well. The amount of stuff that will fit in there is amazing.

    I hope this helps. I have no doubt that I might have the same problem with Samsung’s customer service department (never tried, but they were rated good), but with the really bad experience that I had with GE, I don’t think I’ll be buying items from them anytime soon.

  4. Craig Says:

    You’ll be happy with the Samsung washer and dryer. After our old GE dryer went to the great appliance shop in the sky, we decided to go with Samsung on the recommendations of a couple different people.

    Two cool things we noticed right away with the Samsungs:

    1) When a wash cycle is done your clothes are pretty much almost dry. This is probably due to the VRT as I believe the wash drum spins at a pretty high rate during rinse. Compare this with our old washer where you had a big ‘ol clump of semi-wet clothes to transfer to the dryer when a load was done.

    2) The dryer dries your clothes without blasting them with hellish heat. It’s pretty cool (pun!) that when a load is done your clothes are just dry, not scorching hot.

    One thing to look for – when you go buy them mind which ways the doors swing and make sure the space you’ve alloted in your house will accommodate this. Our laundry room is a little tight so we bought the stacking kit and the washer door swings from right to left which is a bit inconvenient due to the layout of our room. Not a show stopper, but if the door swung left to right it’d make the washer to dryer transition a little smoother.

    Hope everything goes well for the rest of the build!

  5. Jim Ray Says:

    Mike, you gotta tell me more about that GE discount…

    You might also consider an induction range. I’m fascinated by induction cooking and when it comes time for me to build a kitchen, I’m almost certain it’s the way I’ll go. The idea is that instead of heating an electric coil or using a gas flame which then heats your pots and pan, induction uses high powered magnets to heat the pan itself directly, at an atomic level. Much more efficient, much more refined control. The only drawback is that you have to be using ferrous cookware, meaning cast iron or stainless steel. To my mind, that’s just a good excuse to invest in a nice set of All Clad, though.

  6. Disclaimer: I am a GE appliance guy.

    With that said, the only thing I am usually even tempted not to buy GE is dishwashers and it is because I have heard the same about Bosch. Their quality is amazing and their design I think is usually pretty cool (although others have now “copied” the look ad offer similar designs).

    P.S. Jealous about your GE discount since I am planning right now a complete remodel of my kitchen full of GE appliances.

  7. Tim Says:

    LG offers a nice fridge similar to the GE one (http://us.lge.com/products/model/detail/home%20appliances_refrigerators_french%20door_LFX25971ST.jhtml). My parents got the older version about 4 years ago and it’s held up well since then.

  8. J9 Says:

    Hey Mike – we have the Samsung silvercare washer and really like it. It’s really nice to be able to wash all your clothes in COLD water and still have them clean. We also have ours in our Master Closet – so we generally have a load of wash going while we’re watching tv at the end of the day. It’s not too bad, but is really does spin like mad, so expect to hear an airplane taking off toward the end of the cycle. :o)
    good luck in your quest and with your home!

  9. Cara Says:

    I’ve recently been looking at purchasing a new washer/dryer set myself and, of course, everyone seems to be getting front load washers now a days so I looked for those. However, I started reading reviews on the internet and just about every brand (even Bosch) has reviewers complaining about mold(?)

    Apparently you have to do all sorts of things with the front loaders like leave the door open at the end of every day (child-hazard, hello?) and/or buy special detergents that are more expensive and/or clean out some kind of gasket after every wash. All kinds of things… and people still say their clothes end up moldy or smelling like sewage after a while.

    I eventually decided to stick with my 20 year old top loader Maytag ’cause they just don’t make ’em like they used to :) I’d just recommend you look into that issue before purchasing because I haven’t found any that people don’t seem to say have the mold problem. And by all means, if you find one, let us know what it is!

  10. Chris Says:

    Doesn’t matter which cooker you buy as food manufacturers will want you to cook Pizza and one temperature and oven chips at another. Do you have 2 ovens?

  11. Mike Says:

    I have an LG (which I can’t find on the site), french doors, water and ice in the door, freezer on bottom, and we love it, with a couple caveats. The water dispenser opening isn’t quite big enough for our glasses, so we have to angle them in. It’s slightly annoying, nothing serious.

    The bigger issue, and I suspect this may be an issue with more than just our fridge, the ice reservoir isn’t very big, and it takes longer to make ice than your normal ice maker. I presume this is something to do with the fact it can’t keep that compartment as cold as it could if it were in a dedicated freezer. This manifests itself when you have a few people over (less than you might imagine). You run out of ice very quickly, and even the Ice Plus mode can’t make up for it.

    The other thing that was important to us when looking at this style of fridge was that the ice maker in the door costs us as little fridge room as possible. The LG keeps the whole apparatus contained in the door. So I lose the door, but keep all the main fridge space. Some of the other styles move the ice maker to the fridge and you lose shelf space.

    Finally, our favorite thing about the fridge is probably the finish. We have the Titanium finish. It’s this flat gray somewhat textured surface, but doesn’t show fingerprints, etc. The difficulty is getting the rest of the kitchen in that finish, because it will look odd against stainless appliances.

  12. Dave Says:

    The last time I bought a dishwasher, I had initially decided on a Bosch. Last minute, I switched to a Jenn Air because of one tidbit: The Bosch dishwashers that I was comparing did not include a built in garbage disposer — which all of the American models include. In lieu of pulverizing any food bits and sending them down the drain, you’ll find a basket to manually remove these scraps. YMMV, but FYI.

  13. Mike D. Says:

    Daryn: Yeah, I like the Mieles too. The GF hates the sliverware rack thing though, unfortunately.

    Chris: Wow, that is a serious GE horror story. Good to know about the Samsung, and good to know there are other french-door-bottom-freezer models with exterior water and ice dispensers. I will check it out.

    Craig and J9 (Hi J-Nine!): Good to know you like the Samsung laundry stuff. That sounds like kind of a slam dunk at this point.

    JimRay: Induction. Interesting. I do like flames though… I’ll investigate.

    Tim and Mike: Thanks for the tip about the LG fridge. Will check that out and compare it to the Samsungs.

    Chris: We’re probably just going with one oven for now. I don’t cook *that* much.

    Dave: Yeah, I noticed that about not just the Bosch but really all foreign dishwashers. Apparently you are supposed to clean them “every few weeks”, which sounds onerous. I do a pretty good job of pre-rinsing though.

  14. Sounds like you already got some good advice here. One thing I would suggest you consider is the notion of the french door fridge. While they are in, I have found that these models often lack the proper horizontal space in the fridge side to store large party platters.. a must for hosting social gatherings at your house. For this reason we decided to go against the french door model. I’d only recommend a french door model for a place where you’d host parties if you have enough space to put in an extra wide fridge. They do make a french door model that is basically the width of almost two fridges side by side.

  15. Mike D. Says:

    Nick: I’m definitely not getting a full-height side-by-side (I agree, I hate those). The French Door fridges that I’m looking at have the freezer on the bottom and the fridge compartment is full width. Currently leaning towards this Samsung.

  16. Alysse Says:

    Random thoughts from a residential designer: In general most lines have three levels of quality. High end models like Wolf, Viking etc are now in steep competition with Samsung. Samsung over the last couple of years has increased their efforts to design highly efficient, cost practical, aesthetically designed products. In reality, I recommend my clients choose appliance based on their personal needs. My husband found we can break an expensive dryer as fast as we could break a cheap one. We are an outdoorsy crowd, mud sand and lots of washes are a part of our life. So the last time we bought a less expensive model, but made for industrial type use. And like magic, the darn thing just keeps on working beautifully. Me, I need a great dishwasher and a great refrigerator and microwave. range and oven just to boil water cooking basics. My husband he is an outdoor BBQ guy. So we traded off and he actually purchased the bells and whistles on the outdoor grill (which is great as it keeps messy foods outside) and I a nice basic model inside. Refrigerators are important because it is a health issues. Foods need to be kept at proper temperatures and I prefer flexibility in shelving. I HATE in the fridge water dispensers, get a separate unit that chills water by the sink, much more hygienic. Fridge models gather mold and are hard to clean. Also prefer a separate Ice maker, but not as much as issue as the water. Another option is drawer freezers and fridges if it is in the budget.

    I go with dual food disposals in a dual sink. If you have guest or kids, they never get it in the right sink and is a minimal upgrade.

    Getting back to brands, key is service and congenial customer service. You will be surprised at high end models that don’t offer good service, I’ve had clients replace
    items because of service issues. They were just tired of dealing with it.
    Practicality is the best option. Good online source is AJ Madison and they have good pricing as well as customer service that helps you walk through the models and which suits your situation. They offer most major lines, including many high end models. For those who don’t want to buy on credit, they offer a separate website for layaways.

  17. erik spiekermann Says:

    Bosch: we’re (my new company, edenspiekermann.com) redesign their websites, including the ones for choosing appliances. Could be a lengthy process, as they only have one guy in-house looking after that project. For a company that employs 270,000 people!
    We have Bosch in our house in SF and are very happy with it. In Germany we have Gaggenau which is better still but incredibly expensive, as is Miele (i do barter deals – design work for appliances, kitchen furniture, bedroom closets etc)

  18. erik spiekermann Says:

    Do check out Gaggenau (gaggenau.com), built in the same factory as Bosch and Siemens, but higher standards for design and features. Expensive (up there with Miele), but worth it. Great range of fridges of the type you’re looking for. We didn’t have room for french doors, but got one that they call “column”, which come in 24 and 30″ widths, You place a freezer column next to a fridge column.
    They also have very cool induction tops plus grills.

  19. Chris Says:

    I would not buy a Bosch dishwasher. We just replaced our Bosch with a Fisher & Paykel and couldn’t be happier. The Bosch dishwasher did a terrible job of cleaning the dishes, food would get trapped in the filter causing it to smell and the interior layout didn’t accommodate large plates. We went with the F&P 2 drawer model because Albert Lee had a fantastic sale (50% off) for the Seattle home show. In talking with the sales rep he said for the money you couldn’t go wrong with the F&P – we couldn’t agree now that it is installed. Meile is also top of the line but expect to pay for it. If the F&P wasn’t such a good deal we would have bought a Meile. We love the 2 drawers as it allows you to run smaller loads vs. having to wait to fill a standard washer but is also highly efficient/green. It uses less than 5 gallons of water and works great with eco-friendly detergent (you only use a tablespoon). Between the 2 drawers you as much if not more capacity that with a standard washer.

  20. Chris Says:

    Additional info on Bosch dishwashers – we have several friends that have them and I have yet to meet a person that thinks they are worth the money. It is interesting that you’ve had so many recommendations for Bosch because my experience is the exact opposite. Your mileage may very but I would research them further before committing.

  21. Joan Says:

    I would seriously reconsider a GE . I’ve had several, the last being the Profile Artic. When the sides bowed and the shelves started falling, GE had replacements sent that were an inch wider! Ironic that bigger sizes were already made up! Strange thing is that the same thing happened with my GE side-by-side back in the late seventies. Unfortunately, a repairman didn’t confirm that it was a factory defect until I’d sold the house in 1985. By then I’d spent a small fortune on regular trips from repairmen. Had to replace the icemaker one month out of warranty! Swore I’d never have a GE again but……..broke down in 2006 and bought the 29 cu ft Profile Artic. Three years later and I’ve replaced it with the Samsung French Door!

  22. Mike D. Says:

    Alysse: Thanks for the tips!

    Chris: Interesting. We’ve switched our preference to a Miele at this point, so hopefully it will be a non-issue.

    Joan: Great to hear you’re happy with your Samsung. I think that’s the one to get.

  23. Cheryl Says:

    Regarding ranges, we had a dual fuel Thermador in our old house, only a 30″, but we LOVED it. Easy to cook with, nice styling, easy to clean, great burners including the low heat one that is so good for delicate sauces and melting chocolate. Unfortunately they stopped making that particular model, but I’m looking again at their other models.

    We also currently have an Aga–no, not the traditional British cooker, but the one also referred to as Rangemaster in England. It is a 36″ dual fuel with five big burners on top, and 3 ovens! Well, almost 3 ovens; one medium-sized oven (looks small but actually does fit a turkey inside), one tall and narrow oven with about 4 racks in it (for cooking several things at once), and one special broiler oven. I love having more than one oven available for parties and holidays without actually having to install wall ovens in addition to the range. The only downside to our Aga is that there is a constant “whirring” sound when the oven(s) is on–nothing you can’t talk over, but one is aware of it…slightly annoying.

    Good luck! And thanks for sharing your experiences–very useful and fun to read!

  24. 1BadBoy Says:

    Question for you about dryers. We’re looking for a new washer/dryer set ourselves. We have both gas and electric connections available. Is one better than another for drying clothes? Which is the least costly to operate? Does it matter too much? We were leaning toward gas, but I hear that it won’t matter much in terms of operating costs since we live in a low cost electricity location (Seattle). And the gas model costs somewhere in the $60 – $80 range higher than the comparable electric model.

  25. Mike D. Says:

    1BadBoy: That is a good question and one I couldn’t easily determine the answer for. It seems like gas is a *little* bit cheaper to operate, but not by much. As far as drying power goes, I think they are equal.