“The integration of touch screens in the kitchen is changing the environment, making it more connected to the outside world and making activities not only easier, but also more enjoyable,” says Wellnitz.
On Jenn-Air’s latest wall ovens, the screen provides access to a variety of food-specific convection modes that can help users decide how food is prepared by scanning on-screen pictures of various foods and pan and rack suggestions. Cooks can even specify the desired “doneness” of the food, taking meats from rare to well done and cookies from chewy to crispy.
Electronic control panels with smart technology such as the Discovery Controller on Dacor Wall Ovens help make the cooking experience more enjoyable and easier for those who may not have mastered all of their favorite recipes, according to Joseph. The internal software operates a pre-programmed guide with 100 cooking modes, so users only need to know what they are cooking; the controller tells them the precise time and temperature needed to cook their food.
With technology, Lainez believes that, over time, the market will have more appliances with internal computers that are accessible via the Internet. In fact, microprocessors are so powerful and reliable that manufacturers are continually finding new ways to use them.
For example, Sub-Zero’s wine unit can be connected to a home security system to detect problems when the homeowner is not around. “In our refrigerators and cooking equipment, we have microprocessors that can ‘talk’ to technicians via a PDA that enables the technician to make the correct service decisions,” reports Leuthe.
Sub-Zero has also embarked on a new line of refrigeration that “scrubs” the air through the action of a cartridge and the use of a light bulb and glass pieces coated with titanium dioxide. “This process has been used by food handlers to extend the life of produce after it has been harvested and during shipment,” explains Leuthe.
While consumers are still very interested in creating four-star meals at home, they are also focusing on creating four-star meals in Energy Star homes. Consumers are exhibiting growing concern about the environment, including energy and water conservation.
“While in part this has to do with rising energy prices, there has also been a general increase in the concept of sustainable living,” says Hale.
In a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Whirlpool Corp., 72 percent of respondents note that they actively look for the Energy Star label when making purchase decisions. The survey also found that, when asked what would be a part of their dream kitchen, eco-efficient appliances beat out other items as the top choice.
Energy Star is a big part of the technology equation, stresses Joseph. “We are toughening the standards on refrigeration to ensure that we meet the new lower standards; 15% DOE this year is 20% below [previous requirements], and adds a level of complexity to the product to try to retain the same features but reduce the usage.”
“Designers and clients alike have come to expect products that are as eco-efficient as they are innovative and reliable,” says Frye.
But its more than appliance design and the energy output of product, according to Joseph. “Consumers are also looking at how environmentally friendly corporations are – how they operate, and how they dispose of waste and energy that is consumed on a corporate level.”
“Today’s manufacturers realize that making their products and businesses more sustainable isn’t a sacrifice – it’s an opportunity to innovate, save resources and better meet client demand,” adds Frye.
“Consumers are increasingly demanding energy efficient home appliances that not only cut down on their energy costs, but also are not harmful to the environment,” says Davies, who notes that Fisher & Paykel’s commitment to environmental practices is not a new concept for the firm.
“This is extremely important, and a lot of companies are just beginning to decrease their carbon footprint, so essentially this is just the start,” notes Lainez. “We will most likely see more incentives from manufacturers to replace their old appliances for more energy efficient and Energy Star rated products.”