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What bells and whistles do you want on kitchen appliances?

Ice dispensing fridge freezers, eco washing dishwashers and fully programmable cookers… kitchen appliances come with lots of extra features, but which do you find essential and which can you live without?

Modern kitchen appliances are packed with features designed to make life easier, from holiday settings to egg trays. But what are the features people actually want and need?

We asked over 10,000 Which? members their views to sort the indispensable features from the gimmicks.

Practical features came out on top, with the most popular being a frost-free fridge freezer to save you from the chore of defrosting it. Other essential fridge freezer options included temperature and door open alarms, deep drawers and ice dispensers.

Fan-assisted cooking is a must for ovens, sensor drying for tumble dryers was rated quite highly, and a time-remaining display was deemed the most useful for washing machines.

Useful versus useless features

One theme that came out from our survey was that appliances come with lots of options and features that we use just because they’re there, even if we don’t actually find them that useful. And some settings are used just a few times and then left alone.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I generally wash most things on the same setting and hardly ever make use of the extra rinse cycle on my dishwasher. And does anyone ever use the sport setting on their washing machine? One member sums all of this up quite well:

‘I hate buying white goods with bells and whistles that cost me money but don’t make it work any better.’

We’ll ensure manufacturers listen

The least useful features included a pause wash on washing machines, holiday settings on fridge freezers, and being able to delay the start or end time on tumble dryers.

We’re sending our findings to manufacturers to ensure your voices are heard, and in the meantime we’ll be using the survey results to update our online reivews for all the kitchen appliances we covered, allowing you to filter by the features that were rated highly.

What kitchen appliance features do you find the most useful? Are you delighted by a delayed start, or is a memory function a must-have? Do you find endless options on control panels frustrating, or are they genuinely useful? Here’s your chance to rant and rave about your appliances’ features.

Comments
Member

In a word, “NONE”.

The member quote in the intro sums it up quite well for me, though I’d go a little further and say that I don’t want ANY of these features because I WON’T use them and the WILL make the appliance more expensive to buy and almost CERTAINLY make it less reliable and efficient.

For me a letter from the Energy Saving Trust when I was challenging how they could give their EST recommended award to a washing machine which used 4 times more electricity than a 23 year old model says it all:

“We know that ALL modern washing machines will use more electricity than older models due to the additional features in modern machines”. (I have the letter still if anyone wishes to check that I am quoting verbatim.)

So why bother asking us to save energy then?

“Back to basics” should be the motto of all appliance designers and manufacturers.

Member

Dave D,
I agree with a lot of what you say. The only gizmos I want are temperature control and a “go” switch.
I’m not sure about you figures on the 23 year old model using only a quarter of the electricity that a modern machine does though?
It could be that the older model had hot and cold supply fill, whereas modern machines tend only to be cold fill.
Reality is however that even back then they wern’t really hot fill.
In my house and I’m sure most houses turn on the hot tap and it takes a while to get hot water because the initial water is what is the cold water in the pipework between your tap and hot water cylinder or combi boiler.
Translate that to a washing machine “hot fill” and you’ve filled with cold water before any hot gets to the washing. So in most cases you still need the heating element in the washer to do the job. This being the case I don’t see how an old, most likely hot fill, washer really gets by with a quarter the electricity usage? Water heating is energy hungry, gizmos and contol circuitry use very little.

This, and of course cost of manufacture, is why modern machines are only cold fill. The hot fill more often than not actually “wasn’t”.

Member

@ Chris, Gloucester.
Well, I know that my old machine really does use a quarter the electricity of the EST recommended modern one because I measured the energy use of the LG and the old machine using the same plug in power monitor on a good many occasions when gathering evidence to make my complaint to EST, which as I am sure you have read already, the EST made no attempt to dispute.

As for the argument that not much hot water actually reached older machines, this is of course technically possible and in some installations with unusual and contorted pipe runs, especially those fed from older combi boilers that took a long time to start to deliver hot water, it is certainly a thought that cannot be dismissed out of hand, but in an average installation, especially one fed from a cylinder, plenty of hot reaches the machine. Mine is in a utility room and the hot water cylinder is directly above the washer and the boiler directly next to it. I also have solar hot water heating. In my case, which is possibly not the most common but it certainly isn’t UN common, hot water reaches the washer instantly and makes a huge difference to wash times and energy use compared to cold fill only.

The other board on this topic, to which Richard English has also referred several times, has discussed these postulations for several years and reached an almost unanimous conclusion amongst all participants that due to the almost infinite number of plumbing configurations, what is desperately needed is machines that accept hot and cold water and can also be user-configured for the specific plumbing configuration to which they are connected.

Member

Dave D,
I can accept what you say about “better plumbing” enabling one to actually make use of the hot fill facility on older machines, athough I would still argue that in most cases it would go the way I explained.
As for your 23 year old washer using only a quarter of the energy (but to be fair you said electricity) I still have my doubts.
Look at what the energy in a washer is used on. Very little on the flashing lights, the clock or the control circuitry, but I too still accept some of this is unnecessary. By far the lions share of power is used to heat the water and some to run the spin cycles.
Your energy monitor will be showing the wattage consumed at any given time, but the power consumed is really what level of wattage over the time of the whole washing cycle. In other words Kwh’s.
Now I cannot believe a newer washer is going to use so much more hot water or spin at such tremendous speeds that vastly more electricity is used. If you are managing to hot fill then great but the energy used to heat that water going into the machine has to be added to the total. so another batch of Kwh’s to include.
If that hot water comes from your solar array great for you it’s free, but that bonus is an external factor not everyone can call upon so nothing to do with the primary energy consumption comparison between the older and newer machines.

Fact is you need the same number of Kwh’s of energy to heat the same quantity of water to the same temperature today as you did 23 years ago. Yes you’ll use a bit more power on higher spin speeds and a tiny bit more on the clock, controls and lights but I still have a job believing you’ll use four times as much. If you are, what’s all that power being used to do?
Or is it just you’ve ommited water heating costs?

Member

Hi Chris (Gloucester).

Sorry – the energy used is indeed the whole number of kWh over the cycle. This is an argument that has been had many many times on the other board that Richard English and I referred to and many people attempting to defend cold fill only machines make the mistake of thinking that those of us who have measured consumption are only taking the momentary readings; we’re not.

I hate to point it out as if trying to score points but I am a qualified electrician and the EST did accept and agree with the kWh figures when they wrote to state that they know all new machines use more energy (electricity) to operate.

My old washer spins faster than the LG I had so it isn’t that that explains the difference, though the fact that the old washer spins for exactly 6 minutes and the LG used to spin for something indeterminate between 8 and 12 mins might account for a very tiny amount of the difference.

The major difference is that the LG heated all water from cold and, for whatever reason I know not, took a hell of a lot longer to heat the water than the old machine does. My unscientific guess is that this might be due, at least in part, to the modern machine constantly circulating the water through pipes and pumps (and the pumps will of course use a tiny bit of extra power) and spray jest in order to try to make an inadequate amount of water do for the wash, rather than having the water contained entirely within the tub but an adequate level to do the job. I guess that the water being constantly circulated probably makes it cool down rapidly and take longer to heat to start with.

Energy for heating the water before it reaches the washer: you are right that I have not allowed for this in so far as I have not attempted to calculate the amount of gas used to heat the fraction of the cylinder-full of water that is used in the washer. However, as I get all my hot water and indeed much surplus too heated by the sun for about 8 months of the year, and always have a vast cylinder full of water heated by gas for the dishwasher (also hot fill), the power shower and all other domestic hot water needs, I don’t actually use any fuel to heat water for the washer that I would not be using to heat water for other jobs. In other words, I never heat water purely for the washer.

Sorry if this sounds a bit defensive: it’s just that I am fed up (like Richard E) of having to repeat these same things over and over again to ‘non-belivers’.

The most frustrating thing is that there are so many washer manufacturers who openly tell all consumers in almost every country except the UK that hot and cold fill does use less energy (electricity) to run than cold fill only. It’s clear that these are the facts but the mystery is why the UK won’t accept it.

Member

Well dave, interesting debate.
But I think we’re sightly at cross purposes.
Your comments to date have suggested, to me at least, that newer cold fill only machines are less energy efficient that the older hot and cold fill.
Wheras in reality you are saying, I think, that if and because your plumbing is such that instant hot fill is possible less electricity will be used when washing with an old hot fill machine?
No electricity is used to heat water therefore less is used.
Well yes of course that is true, but total energy use to complete the wash cycle will be not much different because the water won’t heat itself, so there are no grounds to say older machines are more “energy efficient”.
In fact I’d suggest modern machines which often use less water and have fancy cycle programmes will overall be more energy efficient. That is of course energy effecient rather than purely electricity effecient.
When it comes to total energy cost an older hot fill machine could well be a little cheaper to run than a modern cold fill machine (if hot fill is instant) because heating water by gas, solid fuel or solar is usually cheaper than by using electricity. Although in the overall scale of thing we’re not talking about very much water (or water heating cost) for washing cloths.
However I would still maintain that for most people with normal plumbing hot fill offers very limited or no advantage because of the delay from turning on the hot to actually getting hot. I’ve just checked my own combi system and it takes 25 seconds so very limited hot fill advantage there, and I’d suggest a very common situation for most people.
If you are able to get instant hot water, good for you, get yourself a hot fill machine, and have slightly lower overall energy costs to run it. But to suggest (if you are) that modern machines are much worse or less energy efficient than older models just because of the way they operate is perhaps a little unjustified.

Member

Hi Chris,

I would be rather inclined to agree with you had I not had the experience of the LG EST recommended washer which was A++ rated and found a) that it used over 4 times as much electricity as my old hot and cold fill machine and b) got a letter from EST in which they write in black and white that they KNOW that ALL modern machines WILL use MORE electricity than older ones.

That’s why I got a 1983 reconditioned hot and cold fill washer and now enjoy very much lower energy bills.

I think it is also important to recognise the difference between energy EFFICIENT and ECONOMICAL energy use.

EST themselves point out in the context of white goods and also gas boilers that an appliance can guzzle many times the AMOUNT of energy that an old one did and this does not concern them as long as it uses that energy EFFICIENTLY. This is, for example, why British Gas can get away with saying that replacing your boiler will not see you use any LESS GAS, but you will (supposedly) get more heat out the gas that you do use.

I think this is an area that Trading Standards should take a keen interest in because the general public is easily tricked into thinking that energy EFFICIENT means using LESS energy, and this is far from always the case.