home equity

How to design an efficient kitchen

New products

Many of today's homeowners want environmentally responsible kitchens as well as efficient kitchens. "Electric bills and water bills can be cut by the type of products you install in your home," says Sean Ruck, spokesman for the National Kitchen & Bath Association in Hackettstown, N.J.

"Dishwasher drawers are now available, and they are half the size of regular dishwashers. Horizontally built, they take less water, but also hold fewer dishes," Ruck says. These high-end dishwashers are more expensive than a normal-size dishwasher. According to Ruck, some homeowners are purchasing two of them because they take up the same space as a regular dishwasher. For large parties, they just run them both.

The microwave no longer sits on the countertop. Efficient kitchens have them either attached under a cabinet or in place of an upper oven. The newest idea, however, is the microwave drawer, which is mounted under a counter. These microwaves are relatively small. Another item that has been introduced if kitchen space is very small is a double-drawer, under-the-counter refrigerator.

Electric cook-tops are available that allow the cook to set a timer for each cooking surface separately. Usually, this product is made as a four-burner cook-top. Certain manufacturers have also touch-screen TVs in the refrigerator door. Other refrigerators have an express-chill drawer so if the homeowner brings home a bottle of wine, it chills quickly. "Some refrigerators even have quick freeze options so the meat will freeze quicker and lock in more of the flavor," Ruck says.

The work triangle

The kitchen work triangle is primarily a work center: cooking surface, cleanup and prep area and refrigeration-storage. To be efficient, Ruck points out, all three together should be no more than 26 feet apart. "Even though some kitchens are huge," he says, "homeowners can still stay within that range," Ruck says. "However, some larger kitchens are creating two work triangles."

Cabinet efficiency

Cabinet and countertop placement needs to take into consideration the height of who will be cooking in the kitchen. If the cabinets are too high, safety becomes an issue. Consider pullout shelves or shelves on rollers and Lazy Susans in corner cabinets so everything doesn't have to be pulled out to get something in the back. "Make sure the new kitchen has enough drawers because many people, when remodeling, never put in enough drawer space," Ruck says.

If you are remodeling your kitchen but can't afford to install new cabinets, glaze or antique them. If you're handy and creative, you can do it yourself or ask the designer for advice on how to get the best results.

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