Intelligent appliances and how to buy the best for your home

Kya deLongchamps applies a cool clean eye to the latest and best in washers, fridge freezers and dishwashers and sifts best value from the varied offerings.

You have that limousine of a cooker parked in position, so what about the other three vehicles to civilised living, the fridge-freezer, dishwasher and washing machine?

Budget or luxury with energy efficiency is now pretty much standard, so choice is down to quality and detailing. Consider your available space to place the machine; essential features you cannot do without and simple ergonomic improvements that could make all the difference when buying an appliance.

Dishing the Dirt

Budget:

A full 60cm dishwasher will wrestle 10-15 place settings, but capacity is only as good as the internal tailoring. The new trend for a flat cutlery shelf at the top of the machine is contentious as this impinges on the room for taller glasses below it. An adjustable top rack is now standard, so try out the clips or variable tracks on the showroom model (31.5cm is considered a big plate). Look for an extra spray head for the lower section- a nice option for baked on oily challenges. Water consumption of 8-10litres is not unusual even in economy machines with an A++ rating. Semi-integrated machines will have the panel on show but the door otherwise obscured to match your cabinetry. Choose a model with in-door controls on the top internal edge and ‘bump to open’ control for complete handle-free chic.

Recommended:

Siemens SN25M880GB. A noise rating of just 46dB, from €599 in handsome stainless steel, free-standing. Harvey Norman. Luxuries:

A sensor wash based on ‘fuzzy logic’ uses the first rinse cycle to pick up on the filth levels of the load, adjusting the time and water levels to suit. In theory this will save you money, but most people can work out the cycle that suits their standard needs day to day. Eco-cycles take hours but save up to 30% on energy per wash. Most of us prop our machine doors open at the cycle end to avoid condensation pooling in divots in dishes and mug ends. Auto-open pops the door open a crack allowing the steam to disperse naturally for bone dry dishes. Whirlpool offers an alternative new PowerDry system to draw off steam and shorten a still energy efficient load to one hour. Samsung’s Zone Boost and Bosch’s Intensive Zone, put more jet effort into various areas of the machine — clever. Steam technology is a pricy but versatile new cleaning tool melting all waste from delicates and heavy soil in one load. Recommended:

LG TrueSteam D1454TF- handles the finest china and cruddy pans at a whisper-quiet 38dB. €1,049. Littlewoods. Whirlpool 6th Sense PowerDry ADP9001X, €799, Euronics.ie

The Big Chill

Budget:

Size isn’t everything, so go for quality if you can manage with a 60cm upright fridge-freezer. For under €1,000 in 90cm-plus you can expect A+ rating with rolling hinges that allow you to pull the fridge shelves forward rather than plunging around with an arm. Take note of lighting quality (not obvious when the machine is unplugged in the store). LED tower lights are a nice touch. If you love retro styling but can’t stretch to Smeg try the Bush BFFF60G in lime green from Argos at €489.99 on sale, and Hotpoint (ECOFM171C range- €499 for a 60cm standard fridge freezer stack). Recommended:

A black glossy number at 91cm, the Samsung has spill free shelving, French doors, plus Samsungs Multi-flow cooling system which blow a consistent level of cold air through every corner of the fridge (cutting back on smells). €949, Littlewoods Luxuries:

A+ rating plus the latest door-in-door styling provides four doors where there were formerly two stacked or set as two simple side-by-side French doors. Door design has altered on the inside too, putting deep real shelves on the door rather than balconies, and reducing the digging room within. Brilliant. Built in water dispensers, ice makers, precise digital controls and temperature and humidity zoning for areas of the fridge will bring you up to €2,000 or more for a 500l plus fridge-freezer.

Recommended:

The four door Samsung RF24FSEDBSR/EU has twin fridge doors and two freezer drawers one set right at waist level, plus an ice and water dispenser mounted on the door. €2,299, Harvey Norman.

All Washed Up.

Budget:

Washing machines are highly efficient now by law, so there are A+ and even A++ bargain buys in mid-range brands from €300 with superb energy and water performance as standard. Get hands on to judge the ‘clunk-click’ quality of the controls and door before being swept up in a glittering array of cycles you may not really use. Quick cycles are not energy efficient but almost obligatory with whinging teens on a Friday night. Look for a water usage of 7.5l or less, 50dB in noise levels on wash, around 74dB on spin. Better machines will have spin speeds of 1,200rpm. With cool cycle detergents perfected, most machines can deliver a sparkling 15C wash in the same conditions as a 40C wash. Recommended:

The Beko WMB91242LC with a 14 minute 2Kg express wash boasts an A+++ rating, 9kg in 39 minutes and a rangy porthole, all for €413 on sale at Littlewoods. The Zanussi ZWF01483WH offers a whopping 10kg at €499. DID Electrical. (Look out for bargain ex-display models here and at other retailers) Luxuries:

Looks and stabilising direct drives on motors (reducing vibration) add a premium. We do love those massive new double walled crystalline dark blue and black portholes. No, or course we don’t need them, but the extra room to wrestle out the load at a slight upward angle — really attractive. 11kg is the new 8kg — a huge load in a few machines including the LG F1495KD6 (€1,199, A+++ with a breakneck 1,400rpm variable spin speed).

Naturally, we want to involve the blasted mobile in laundry day and the makers have obliged. The WW9000 washing machine by Samsung introduced last year was the first domestic Wi-Fi operated washing machine in Ireland, closely followed by LG and Haier. Just how useful is an app’ in monitoring and stop/starting your wash? That’s up to you. (Aside from alerting you to the need for repair — will the service agent leap to your aid like The Avengers when you text? Hmmm?)

Recommended:

Samsung ww9000. Wi-Fi operated, five inch colour screen, a superb array of wash features and other economies. High spin speeds will ease the job of your dryer, the ultimate kW monster. From €1,799, retailers nationwide.

WONDER FLOORS

Intelligent appliances and how to buy the best for your home

Walls and floors are being re-imagined as never before, and coming from the excess of interiors in Dubai is an outrageous epoxy product that’s getting attention in the US and European market.

These 3D floors are printed at such a high resolution and finished with a ballroom sparkle. that rivers appear to splinter into rapids, dolphins raise their heads to be fed, and a treasury of corals and fish seem to shimmer metres underfoot.

Formerly reserved for commercial murals and floors, this tough if expensive contender is suitable for anywhere in the house, but gaining popularity obviously for family bathrooms, playrooms and children’s rooms for the wealthy. Installation is key.

A self levelling screed is poured and allowed to dry and given a scratch coat, a quality 3D image is attached and then sealed under two applications of liquid polymer and the whole thing shone up with a protective lacquer. Expect to pay into four figures for even a small window into paradise. (3D Royal Floors, London).

For a less expensive entry point try vinyl cushioned flooring with a wide array of designs. Murafloor.com (UK) from €104 per metre.

COOK UNDER PRESSURE

Intelligent appliances and how to buy the best for your home

Pressure cookers were exciting, convenient additions to the 1970s avocado kitchen, rendering the toughest piece of meat down to succulent sweetness.

However, over time and cheaply engineered or mishandled, the appliances proved themselves dangerous missiles capable of driving a substantial hole in the kitchen ceiling. Maiming and untimely deaths made the newspapers, encouraging cooks to relegate their wonder pot to the back reaches of the press or even the garage.

It was hard to get past the idea of a polite bomb, screwed down for safety, and the culinary results were mixed at best, championed by great goulash and spoiled by the regular appearance of the oily, grey chicken. Well, the pressure is on again with new models and greater levels of safety.

According to some of my foodie friends, for tender meats from cheap cuts, soups, braising and more — pressure cooking takes a third of the time and is dead easy once you marry the pot to a highly precise timer.

A good possibility for the totally hopeless college bound off-spring, the Cook4You by Tefal serves as pressure-cooker, a steamer, a browner, a simmering pan, or a place to reheat meals. Interactive and ‘intelligent’ with 85 pre-programmed recipes, they are only faced with the horror of shopping and chopping, €399, Littlewoods.


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