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Consumer Reports highlights best kitchen and bath products

Posted Saturday, July 4, 2009

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New Ratings Find Top Kitchen and Bath Products at Affordable Prices

Yonkers, NY — The August issue of Consumer Reports’ features the top kitchen and bath products ranging from refrigerators, cooking appliances, dishwashers, to flooring, countertops, toilets and showerheads. Consumers can find top-performing products that fit within their budget without sacrificing style.

“In our latest testing we found that products are living up to today’s standards of style, performance, and price,” says Bob Markovich, senior home editor at Consumer Reports. “If consumers are going to spend, we recommend it be on products you will interact with everyday, starting with appliances.”

Top Kitchen Appliances

Ranges, Cooktops, and Wall Ovens: Homeowners looking to spruce up their kitchens should rest assured that no matter the size of company they may have, there are a variety of affordable and stylish ranges, cooktops, and wall ovens for about half the price of pro-style models. Manufacturers are also serving up convection and other high-end features for less. The Kenmore Elite 9991 for $2,700 has an induction cooktop which heats pots much faster than conventional ranges and GE’s Café CS980SN[SS], $2,800 smoothtop model, combines the speed of an electric range with “pro” styling.

Refrigerators: Consumer Reports exclusive testing of refrigerators found that top freezer models, known as the ugly ducklings in the industry, are making a comeback and seeing a pickup in sales. This is great news for shoppers on a budget, top-freezer models can cost up to $1,200 less and are easier on the electric bill. Consumer Reports found two Best Buy top-freezer models – the Frigidaire FRT18S6A[W] and the Kenmore 7419[2], both for $650, offer fine temperature performance and low cost.

Dishwashers: Good values abound and energy use drops with the latest dishwasher ratings. Several models from $400 to $720 perform as well as models costing twice as much and a greener option can be a more affordable choice. Energy Star guidelines are changing in August, Consumer Reports Best Buy energy-saving dishwashers are the Kenmore 1374[2] at $720, the Whirlpool Gold GU2300XTV[Q] for $550, and the Bosch SHE33MO[2]UC for $600. The Whirlpool uses about six gallons of water per load and costs $72 a year to operate and the Bosch uses five gallons and costs about $63 a year. Additionally, dishwashers with a half-load option save energy and water when running a half-load.

Waste Disposers: To get rid of kitchen waste quickly, Consumer Reports tested 15 waste disposers from the biggest brands, feeding them 250 pounds of beef ribs, potatoes, celery, and other table scraps, to find two moderately priced Best Buys ― The Waste King Gourmet SS3300 for $165 and the GE Disposall GFC530F for $130. Whichever model is purchased, be sure to check whether they are allowed in the community.

The Best Surfaces for the Home

Countertops: Many homeowners look to purchase countertops to last for years and Consumer Reports latest tests found attractive choices for every budget. To help with the decision process, Consumer Reports stained, scratched, scorched and pounded materials ranging from stone to classic laminate to reveal their strength and weaknesses, as well as putting the eco-friendly claims to the test. The good news is that tests showed few differences among brands, making the new ratings based on materials including cheaper options like tile and laminate to more expensive options like limestone, concrete and stainless steel.

Flooring: When it comes to flooring in the home, solid oak continues to be America’s favorite for style, while vinyl wins for consumers on a budget, but lower prices and improved performance for bamboo make it a top pick when it comes to toughness. Shoppers can pay less for the best plastic-laminate flooring and get the look of wood or stone without the need of nails or glue, but be mindful, Consumer Reports tests showed big names, don’t always deliver durability for this material. Vinyl, another inexpensive option, is a waterproof alternative, tile is also a waterproof material but performance varied even from lines within the same brand.

Top Picks for the Bathroom

Showerheads: Showerhead reviews are mainly up for individual evaluation, but the top water-saving and rain-shower models tested by Consumer Reports provide a strong flow and steady temperatures, and some are even equipped with adjustable settings, including massage. Results also showed that consumers do not have to pay top dollar to get a great performer. Consumer Reports recommends the American Standard FloWise Dual Function Water Saving 1660.717 at $50 as a good water-saving, multi-setting model. For a fine, single-setting showerhead at a lower price, Consumer Reports suggests the American Standard Easy Clean 8888.075 at $20 for its hot-water consistency.

Toilets: The latest test of 25 toilets found the best performers still use the standard 1.6 gallons of water per flush, but some greener models deliver comparable flushing and save hundreds of gallons per year for the same price or less. The Gerber Ultra Flush 1.1 EF-21-318 at $400 is within the EPA’s WaterSense program limit of 1.28 gallons per flush, only flushing 1.1 gallons for the same price as many 1.6-gallon models.

The full reports on all product reviews including refrigerators, ranges, cooktops, wall ovens, microwaves, dishwashers, garbage dispensers, countertops, flooring, showerheads, and toilets are available in the August 2009 issue of Consumer Reports, which is available wherever magazines are sold. The full reports are also available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this newspaper's web site.

 
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Consumer Reports highlights best kitchen and bath products
All product reviews including refrigerators, ranges, cooktops, wall ovens, microwaves, dishwashers, garbage dispensers, countertops, flooring, showerheads, and toilets are available in the August 2009 issue of Consumer Reports
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