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If you want to buy a smart appliance, it’s going to be easier soon.

When  we first got smart phones, we were thinking about staying in touch with customers, family and friends. But now we’re ready to talk to our oven, refrigerator and maybe the washer and dryer.

Dial up a Wolf oven and preheat it for the chicken you’re bringing home from the store. A Whirlpool app on your phone could start your washer when you’re at the office. If the load is already dry, turn on a short tumble cycle remotely to keep wrinkles from happening.

Do you need to buy milk? Use a Samsung app to look inside the company’s Family Hub refrigerator see what’s there. Did you remember to take the roast out of the freezer? Un-oh, maybe you’d better stop for a carry-out on the way home.

Some refrigerators – like LG and Samsung models – have tablet-like devices to take you on the Internet. A door panel on the Samsung can also be a TV screen. But this new stuff is not cheap. That Samsung cost $6,000.

Now it may all change in the next few months, according to Jason Mathew Sr., director of global connectivity for Whirlpool Corp.

“We started about three years ago with a very limited small scale experiment and produced some connected laundry appliances,” he says. “The result of that experiment has given us enough confidence to be a lot bolder. So next year we’ll have a larger array of products that will move from infancy to more of a mass market approach. The early products were at the high end of the price point. Next year, they’ll be more available for everyone.”

There will be a larger group of kitchen appliances, including cooking “products,” a refrigerator and dishwasher and laundry appliances. Mathew didn’t specify prices but says these units will sell for less than the $3,000 it often took to buy previous smart appliances.

Other manufacturers will also add new smart models at a lower price point, he predicts.

If you’re interested in buying one, we have a few suggestions:

  1. Find out how long the manufacturer you’re considering has been offering smart appliances. You don’t want to be one of the first to buy the model with smart technology.
  2. Ask an appliance repair company how well these smart features operate in appliances and how often they break down. Not many repair people have worked on them yet, though, because these devices only make up about one percent of the appliance market, according to Mathew of Whirlpool. Daniel Beyer of Beyer Appliance Repair in Tempe said most smart appliances now in use will still have a manufacturer’s warranty for a while. If you buy one, be sure to register for basic warranty coverage included in the sales price.
  3. Mathew says smart appliances will be easier to repair because they can diagnose their own technical problems and can let you know what’s wrong. On an everyday basis, smart refrigerators, he says, can notify you when a refrigerator door is open or when a malfunction melts the ice cubes. But it can’t fix those problems; you’ll have to call home to arrange that.
  4. Millennials are the logical target for smart appliances. But they can’t always afford them, say industry magazines like Kitchen & Bath Design News. So manufacturers are hoping that baby boomers will warm up to the smart concept, just as they did with smart phones. Lower prices could increase everyone’s interest.
  5. You don’t have to have a whole house smart system to use an appliance. All you need is Wi-Fi in your home.
  6. You don’t need a complete houseful of smart appliances; start with one. Or buy something small to see how you like it and how often you use it – like an automated coffeemaker or a smart slow cooker that lets you operate them from far away via your phone.

Meanwhile, some manufacturers are sidestepping smart communication. Deborah Ehrman, media representative for Thermador, says that company is focusing on high-tech improvements in cooking, like a new Freedom Induction Cooktop that looks like a countertop but cooks via induction. Why is this better than a conventional induction cooktop? Because the “counter” doesn’t have a grid like most ranges that requires setting pots in particular spots. Instead, place them anywhere on the cooktop and the unit heats up in that spot. Remove the pot and the “counter” cools off immediately. This could cost a few thousand dollars for a 36-inch cooktop.

Now I’m hoping someone will invent a curling iron for my wife, Jennifer, that will automatically turn off when she sets it down. That way I wouldn’t have to turn the car around all the time so she can go back in the house to make sure no fire has broken out.


Photo Credits:

  • Header image: Samsung
  • Kitchen: Thermador
  • Washer images: Whirlpool


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