Buying new appliances is one of the most fun things you can do outside of getting new kitchen cabinets when remodeling your kitchen. Even so, there are a lot of things you should consider before you head out to splurge and shop, particularly if your home has elderly, wheelchair-bound or otherwise disabled individuals. Here are a few handy tips for buying the right appliances for a safe and accessible kitchen.
Ranges and Cooktops
In terms of safety, induction cooktops and ranges rank higher than any other models. These models have no open flame or hot burner coils, thus eliminating the chances of someone accidentally burning themselves on the stovetop. Models with front-facing controls (some have controls at the side) offer optimal access. Smooth-touch controls also prevent clothing from getting caught in them.
Gas cooktops, on the other hand, offer more flexibility and control in terms of cooking. High-end commercial models feature settings for everything from cooking light sauces to melting chocolate, making them a perfect appliance for the gourmet cook. Residential units are fast catching up to commercial ones in terms of features, so make sure you know which features you’ll get a lot more use out of before deciding on one or the other.
Range Hoods and Exhaust Systems
They’re often overlooked, but range hoods and other exhaust systems are as integral as cooktops and ranges. The range hood you choose should depend on your stove size. You would need a minimum 800-CFM (cubic feet per minute) range hood, while a 48-inch stove would need an even larger unit that can handle at least 1000 to 1200 CFM.
Aside from making sure that your range hood can provide sufficient ventilation for your stove, you should check your kitchen designs to ensure that you have easy access to the hood’s controls. You can mount a control switch at a user-friendly height either on the backsplash or at the front of a cabinet. Note that some stoves come with built-in downdraft ventilation systems that eliminate the need for overhead hoods. These stoves are perfect for kitchens where overhead ventilation is not a viable option.
Ovens come in two types. Conventional models cook food by surrounding it with hot air. The more expensive convection models are able to circulate that hot air for faster, even cooking.
For optimal safety and accessibility, an oven with a side-swing door is the most recommended model. A minimum of 15 inches of available counter space on the latch side of the oven will also help ensure safety and efficiency. Oven models with automatic locks that cause the door to stay put when opened will also prevent users from accidentally burning their arms.
If your budget allows for it, the best option is to get two ovens, although not necessarily one of each type. This setup allows for greater cooking capacity and flexibility.
You can basically get two appliances in one if you spring for a convection microwave that also works as a fast-speed oven. This can help cut down costs since you won’t have to purchase a double oven anymore.
Microwaves can use up a considerable amount of space whether you put them on the counter, built in to cabinetry or above a cooktop. If you have kids, a shorter individual, or someone in wheelchair in your household, a microwave drawer installed among the base cabinets is one solution.
You also need to consider users’ heights and abilities if placing the microwave above the countertop. The general recommendation is to place the microwave about 3 inches below the user’s shoulder. You can also make sure that the microwave controls are no more than 48 inches above the floor.
When choosing a refrigerator, it’s important to know what kind of food you’ll most often store in it. The traditional top-mounted freezer and fridge combo is most suitable if you often buy and cook frozen foods. A refrigerator with a bottom-mounted freezer or a freezer drawer may be better for those who prefer fresh food. It also lets kids and shorter individuals easily access the freezer compartment to get frozen snacks.
Similar to ovens, it’s becoming more commonplace for kitchens to be equipped with two dishwashers. One can clean dishes while you load up the other. This is most recommended for homes where parties and guests are commonplace.
Dishwashers come in single or double-drawer models. If your kitchen is a bit low on space or if you plan on using the dishwasher only occasionally, a single-drawer model is more recommended. Drawer dishwashers that handle smaller loads may also be a better option.
Consider raising the dishwasher off the floor at least 12 inches so users don’t have to bend so much to use it. This height will also let those in wheelchairs use the appliance more comfortably.