In preparation for our remodel, I had to upgrade and move my gas meter. This is the story of how and why we did it.
We’re building our dream kitchen but that doesn’t mean we wanted to pay nightmare prices for our new appliances. I had spent months doing the research on which appliances I wanted, why wouldn’t I do a little work to get the best price?
There are many appliance stores in the Seattle area and I quickly narrowed down to three that would work for me, but let’s go through all of the options (that I know of):
Sears: Believe me, I’m as shocked as you are that they’re still in business. At one point Sears was the largest appliance retailer in the US, they’re also have their own in house brand Kenmore. Kenmore is the most popular appliance brand in the US. It’s also not a real brand, Kenmore appliances are rebranded appliances from other companies, often at a lower price. The trick to Kenmore is finding out who makes the actual appliance. In my case, I wasn’t interested in the Kenmore brand. For other appliances, think of Sears as your baseline. Sears is the most you’ll ever pay for an appliance. The local stores understand that Sears is the most popular seller and they’re not stupid, they’ll stay competitive. Of the national stores, I definitely think Sears has the most knowledgeable sales people but it’s been hit or miss for me.
Best Buy: I didn’t even look at Best Buy, they’re prices are normal, there selection is slim compared to the other stores and I’ve never had a good customer service experience at Best Buy.
Home Depot/Lowes: These guys sell a lot of appliances and are usually running some sort of special like free shipping or some other discount. I didn’t spend too much time here because the selection is slim and they don’t carry any of the appliances I want.
The local sellers run a wider range of brand than the big box stores, don’t be intimidated by the show rooms, while they tend to focus on the higher end brands, they can all order the lower priced brands as well. Usually at a better price than the big box stores.
Albert Lee: Albert Lee is the largest of the local sellers with five stores. You’ll get your best price with them during the November warehouse sale, usually the first weekend in November. Albert Lee carries BlueStar, not Capital.
Almvigs: Located above the Whole Foods at 65th and Roosevelt, the store is small but packed full of good brands. The staff knows what they’re doing and the owner is usually there too. Almvigs has lots on display and they’re willing to order from companies they don’t normally do business with. Almvigs carries Capital.
Basco: Basco isn’t really local, they’re a Portland based seller with a Seattle warehouse. Their Portland sales floor is gorgeous. They can sell to Seattle but they don’t do delivery.
Metropolitan Appliances: Metropolitan Appliances is in SODO, they used to be called “Direct Buying Services”, they changed their name to disassociate with the “Direct Buy” scam. Metropolitan has a lot of good stuff on display, and they’re able to get a lot more. MA carries Capital.
Seattle Home Appliances: I didn’t spend much time in here, they don’t carry as many of the high end brands and didn’t carry Blue Star or Capital and when I asked, they were pretty indifferent about it. They described Blue Star as ok, and didn’t understand why people like Capital. They seemed pretty defensive aobut the gap.
I looked at a few online websites, but decided I didn’t want to go there. The pricing is better, but if something goes wrong, you’re pretty much on your own.
How I bought my appliances
How much did I save?
I think I did pretty well, the chart below compares what I paid to the list price as well as what I could have paid if I had bought online. The online prices are the lowest price for each item on Google Shopping from a 5 star seller. The chart below is the percentage difference of what I paid from list, online, and online after I factor tax into the local sale. When the percentage is negative, I paid less, when it’s positive, I paid more. In the end, I saved nearly 14% off of list price overall and paid 5% less than online. Of course, the third column assumes you don’t pay the “use tax” after buying online. If you’re not worried about the use tax, then I would have saved 4% buying online. Items are listed in terms of most expensive to least expensive, and while I realize anyone could reverse engineer my actual prices off of this chart, I’d rather not publish that. The 4.18% difference is well less than $1,000, I think that’s a worthwhile fee to pay for shopping locally and having a local company responsible for everything going right.
My new range is a 36″ beast with four high power burners and an indoor grill. To get the most out of this range without setting off the smoke alarms required careful planning around how I’m going to vent. Making this harder is that I’m putting the range on an island. This means I lose the advantage of having a back wall to keep the smoke from drifting too far.
On top of this, I really don’t like range hoods, I’m not sure anybody does. They’re very noisy, they tend not to work (how many times have you triggered your smoke alarm when cooking?), and they block the view and interrupt the openness of my new kitchen/dining area.
This leads to a collection of design goals that feel like they’re at odds with each other:
|The Abakka external blower|
|Ignore everything but the “LD Silencer”|
This one is easy, because I moved the blower to the outside of the house, I can install the most powerful one I can find. In this case, that’s a 1400 CFM (cubic feet per minute) blower. This blower has the power to clear all of the air from my house every 18.3 minutes. To put this in perspective, the standard microwave hood is closer to 200 CFM. The downside to a 1400 CFM motor is that building code requires me to add Make-Up Air (MUA) to my kitchen. MUA is a mechanism for replacing the air that is removed from the kitchen by the vent. I’ll write about this in detail once I’ve finalized on a solution.
All of that air sucking wouldn’t do me any good if it didn’t actually capture the effluent coming off of the stove. To make that easier, I’m over-sizing my capture area. Think of the capture area as the overhang of the hood. If smoke gets into the capture area, then the blower can suck it out of the house. My range is 36″ wide by 24″ deep. My range hood is 42″ wide by 30″ deep, an extra 3″ on each side. This, combined with the powerful blower should provide an effective air removal system.
To further enhance the effectiveness, I want a hood that uses baffles instead of a mesh filter. The filter is responsible for keeping the grease from clogging up the ventilation duct. The two types of common filters are baffles and a mesh. Mesh filters are usually made out of steel or aluminum and work by forcing the effluent to go through small holes in the mesh, the grease gets trapped in the metal. Baffles work by forcing the air to turn and bend around the metal, when the air bends it accelerates and the grease spins off. Both types of filters are cleaned in the dishwasher, but over time the mesh filters lose their effectiveness because they can’t be cleaned as thoroughly (certainly not as easily).
We ordered the new appliances for our kitchen last weekend. I’ll make a general post on how I bought the appliances, and I’ll also put up another post describing my other appliances but I thought the range deserved its own post.
|Image of a sealed burner.|
- Flame Pattern
As part of our remodel, we get to pick new appliances. We currently have an electric glass top and it’s awful. Slow response time and imprecise heat control. When looking at appliances for the new kitchen I knew I wanted anything other than an electric range. There are two heating technologies worth looking at when picking a new range: Gas and Induction.
|Gas Burner (Wikipedia)|
People have been cooking with gas since the 1820s, it’s about as simple as it gets: gas burns, burning gas makes heat, heat cooks food. Not a whole lot has changed in gas ranges since the 1820s, the mechanics are basically the same: gas flows through a valve into a burner which disperses the gas and burns it in a pattern. Since the 1820s the ranges have gotten more efficient and safer, we have electric igniters, safety valves and smarter burner designs. Gas is also the way most restaurants cook. My last house had a gas range and I really miss it.
|Induction in action (GE)|
Induction heats in a way that’s completely different from the traditional electric or gas range. Induction heats by inducing heat in the cooking vessel rather than transferring heat to the cooking vessel. In induction cooking, the pot itself generates the heat! Induction works by using a high power electromagnet in the hob (the equivalent of a burner on a gas range) induces heat in the pan.
|Inside of an induction hob (Wikipedia)|
Induction is very responsive, heats up quickly, cools down quickly and since it only generates heat in the pan is super efficient. The picture at the top of this section is of an induction hob that’s not melting ice while boiling water. Induction is very popular in Europe and Asia and is developing quite the following in the US. One of the odd limitations of induction is that it requires pans to have some iron content. This is because induction only works with pans that respond to magnets. In my case this isn’t a big deal, all of my pans are either All-Clad or some form of cast iron (I’ll have a future post on cookware).
In looking for a new range, I had a few requirements:
- Responsive – Quick to heat, quick to cool.
- High Heat – We do a lot of searing, so I need to be able to get a pan really hot.
- Reliable – Nobody likes calling a service company.
Induction is clearly more powerful, but I think it’s a moot victory. I’m looking at a high end gas range or a high end induction and I don’t think it matters at that level which is more powerful.