Monday, June 13, 2016

Finding the Right Appliance

Forty years ago, when we first bought this house, I had to go appliance shopping. I knew which features I wanted, and just went to Sears and, for my stove, for instance, just said, I wanted an electric stove with two large burners. They only had one model like that, and so that's what I bought.

About 15 years ago, when my son first bought his house, I thought I'd pass him my old stove and get myself a new one, so he wouldn't have to buy all his appliances at once.  But when I looked at what was available, I discovered things were not made as well as they used to be, and there were too many confusing choices to be made.  I kept my old stove, and gave him some money instead.

Last week, the switch on my oven died. It had been replaced before, but when my hubby looked for parts this time, he was told there were none available as that model was out of date.  That wasn't totally unexpected since the stove had served me well for 40 years. It was time to go shopping.

Today's stoves will not last as long, but they do come with modern conveniences that I know nothing about.  I went to Facebook and asked the question,  "I've never had a self cleaning oven, but I'm getting older and hoping this will be the last stove purchase, so I'm wondering if I should look in that direction. Then I think of our electrical rates, and how much they not only have gone up in recent years, but how much more they tell us we can expect to pay in the future. I'm not sure having a self cleaning oven is worth all that. I wouldn't hesitate if I had not heard that you should never manually clean a self cleaning oven. Which would you choose today, and why?"

The responses showed me that people either loved self cleaning ovens, or hated them. While some claimed it was a convenience much like self defrosting refrigerators, others warned they start fires. I heard tales of how they scorched the wall behind, or melted the counter top on either side. The high heat used for cleaning also cooks the computerized electronic panel, I hear. I can just imagine that! But on the other hand, surely safety standards come into play, and perhaps people aren't reading their manuals thoroughly enough.

While nobody confirmed that you couldn't clean a self cleaning oven in the old fashioned way, I was informed they are easy to wipe out. They said I didn't need to worry about the electrical usage, since I'd likely only need to run the self cleaning function a couple of times a year. That's true, I guess as that's about how often I clean the oven anyway.  They said it was better than using chemicals. But I've read that the ovens are stinky when they are in cleaning mode, so I'm not so sure about that.  I was also told to just clean the oven during cold weather months, since it puts off a lot of heat and it would heat my house up not only while it was cleaning, but during the time it took to cool down. That, supposedly, would equalize any extra charges for electrical rates.  I was also warned a couple of times against getting a model that basically steam cleans the oven.  That system doesn't work well apparently.

So, I went looking, thinking I'd just skip the self cleaning feature, and look for a white stove with my two big electric elements in the right configuration. None of this is the standard today, of course. I also wanted a decent broiling element as I use that a lot.

We looked at Sears, where all my appliances have come from over the years, and found they had several models. The first thing I noticed was that some of the burners didn't have as many coils, and looked just plain cheap.  Those stoves also only had a couple of passes of the broiler element, which doesn't seem sufficient to me. Too bad because they were the only ones that had the burners in the right configuration for optimum safety in my kitchen. The one I liked best there turned out to be a self cleaning oven. I thought we'd shop around.

I had found one that looked like it was perfect for me while searching online. Home Depot had a GE model that fit the bill.  I went to look at it, and it was so flimsy, even the display model was in bad shape. Also the bottom drawer had no decent pull on it, so it was hard to open.  I was so disappointed.

Then we dropped in at Leon's. They only had one white stove with electrical elements, and it had a flimsy broiler.

Talking to salesmen in the various stores, I often heard them state that the convection ovens distributed the heat more evenly. I suppose these guys are all on commission and trying to up sell.  Now, I have never had a problem with uneven heating in the oven I've been using all these years, and basically said so.  But upon closer examination of the element placement in these new fangled stoves I found that the broiler was pretty well in the middle of the oven, and so was the bottom element.  My old stove has the broiler coming to within 5 inches of the oven wall, and the bottom element runs all around the outside edges on both sides and the front. That way the heat is not directly below what's cooking, but fills the oven evenly.  Why that design was ever changed is beyond me but it does explain why a new system had to be developed to ensure even heating.

I gave up and went back to Sears. I intended to pick their stove with the best broiler, though it was still a lot flimsier looking than the one I'm used to, and the elements, to me are backwards to how I'd like them. The small appliance plug is also on the less preferred side, but that also seems to be today's standard.  I discovered I could get an oven with a flat bottom. The bottom element is below the surface. Then the salesman pointed out a stove I'd missed entirely, because it was black (but comes in white).  It had the same features, but was also a convection oven. And this week it's on sale, and cheaper than the one I had been looking at.

I hear things cook faster in a convection oven, so I may have to learn to cook all over again, just like I had to learn how to do laundry all over again last year, when I got my first front loading washing machine. The new stove also has the self cleaning feature, though with the flat bottom, I may be more inclined to wipe it out myself more often. Where my stove sits, there is nothing on one side of it, so we have decided to pull it away from the wall on those occasions when the self cleaner is used.  We bought a maintenance plan so if the heat does damage the computer controls, we're covered. If you don't have a problem during the years the maintenance plan is in force, Sears now gives you a gift certificate worth the amount spent on that protection, so you never lose the money.

I will miss my old stove.  I just hope this new one lasts long enough so I never have to go stove shopping again.


  1. How 'bout some pictures of the old vs the new?

    1. I'm already planning on that. Good to know someone might be interested.

  2. Our electric oven is at least as old as yours. We know someday it will need to be replaced. I hope that day is later, rather than soon!