Saturday, January 6, 2007

7 Steps to Effective Appliance Decision-Making

I feel as if I have been on the Iraq study group for the last week. I can't help but feel my new appliance choices are the most important, if not the most expensive decisions, that I have made thus far in the project. Of course, I am being a little dramatic. That's only because I am in spreadsheet hell. I've tried to capture the details by making copious notes. And like the Iraq study group, my decisions/recommendations are merely based on an unscientific combination of information, insight, personal biases, and gut. Oy vey. But I've got the facts to back up my decisions when I question them next year........

My objective was to make informed choices that address price, performance, greenness and aesthetics for the following appliances:

Cook top, double ovens, 2 dishwashers, refrigerator, washer/dryer, wine chiller, microwave. While I can't save you the informational hunt, I can give you a road map that should shorten the journey a bit. My 7 steps to effective appliance decision-making:

1. Start with a short list based on general reading, manufacturer's web sites, and what you've liked in the past. By starting here, you can begin to rule out based on the greenness and performance filters. You will be surprised by how poorly some of your favorites are rated.

2. Then go to your trusty Consumer Reports online It's worth paying for the subscription and they have a fairly good "green" ratings area.

3. Then, and only then, go to the Energy Star site I suggest this because it is organized alphabetically by every possible brand, model that you can imagine has ever been made. To go there without a short list is not a good idea. Compare the short list ratings and that should give you "finalists."

4. As you go the the next step, realize that you should be ready to stay committed to your favorite or let it go for the next one on the list if you read some disheartening reviews. You must be aware of which you are doing, rather like watching the Westminster dog show. If you have a favorite and you will not be deterred with any bad reviews, then stay vigilant. If you are really equally divided between two products, then let the reviews guide you to one over the other.

5. Now for the subjective phase. The reviews. Remember that they are opinions. Some informed, most are not. But they are worth gathering with the caveats mentioned in step 4. Various sites that help you gather what's been written:

6. By now you've noticed the business model for "hosting" reviews. By that I mean, most of these sites pay the cost of maintaining the web site by advertising and "deal flow." That means, that the site you are on will encourage you to buy through one of their sponsors and entice you to do so by providing price and model comparisons as well as reviews. I appreciate that information and it's very handy for the next step that you will need to take.

7. Finding the best price. If you are reticent to place the order through one of the many vendors that were offered up in your review search, then consider the pricing from Sears, Home Depot and Best Buy. By knowing the price differences by MODEL, you will be in a good position to negotiate. I am armed with pages of costs from these vendors and will go into each and see what they are willing to do for my sizable order. Like buying a car, negotiations are part of the game. You can get concessions on delivery, installation (if you need it), upgrades to models, add-ons, extended warranties etc.

I bet you are wondering what I chose? Remember that I spent days making these brand choices on a whole host of personal needs......... at least that's what my spreadsheet work will attest to.

Washer/Dryer: stackable Kenmore HE2
Double ovens: Jenn-Air 30" dual convection/thermal
Cook top: 36" Viking design series
Dishwasher: Bosch
Dishwasher 2: Kenmore 18"
Refrigerator: LG side by side
Microwave: Whirlpool
Wine Chiller: Vinotemp VT 58

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