Phil Slater of Whirlpool UK looks at how sustainability drivers plus a trend for open plan living are being supported by innovation in modern appliances.
Homebuyers seek the latest kitchen appliances and technology. With more households opting for open-plan living, the days of a purely practical kitchen are becoming a thing of the past, as the boundaries between kitchens and living areas are increasingly blurred. The kitchen, more than ever, needs to be a fully adaptable environment that is suitable for family life, entertaining and relaxing. The kitchen must offer the homeowner a functional space that is as easy to use as it is beautiful. High-performance appliances are therefore integral, to make everyday living, cooking and cleaning as stress-free as possible.
The built-in appliance market has grown in popularity over the last few years due to the open-plan living trend. Open-plan living has meant that kitchen design and appliances must flow seamlessly into the living area, which is easily attained with built-in appliances. Built-in appliances ensure stylish design, superb functionality, and are available to kitchens of all shapes and sizes, with the possibility of horizontally or vertically stacked models. Black and stainless steel appliances currently dominate the colours that are featured in the kitchen.
However, freestanding appliances also continue to be popular for a number of reasons. A freestanding appliance allows the consumer to take it with them when they move home, it can be quickly and easily installed with minimal disruption, and can make a bold statement (such as a stunning fridge freezer) – which is currently a key trend in kitchen design.
Housebuilders should offer a variety of freestanding and built-in appliances to customers, as every customer has different needs and preferred styles.
Noise levels are important in any kitchen, especially where the kitchen is open to other spaces in the home, as consumers not only cook in kitchens but also socialise with family and friends. Appliances today are quieter than ever to suit open-plan living arrangements, and to make life more pleasant.
Homeowners today demand appliances that are efficient and reduce energy and water consumption. Energy efficiency is a key trend in new homes, with consumers understanding that the cost of running kitchen appliances can significantly affect the cost of running their household.
Amendments to Part G of the UK Building Regulations state that the maximum allowable consumption of water in new dwellings is 125 litres per person per day. This regulation is a challenge as, according to the Environment Agency, the water consumption of the average person in the UK is 150 litres per day. This is a driving force for the trend of sustainable kitchen appliances with low water consumption.
Many consumers are under the impression that dishwashers use a lot of water and energy. However, dishwashers are highly efficient appliances that save the consumer time and resources. Many modern dishwashers use as little as nine litres of water to clean a full load, much less than washing by hand, which typically uses between 40 and 60 litres.
Induction hobs are attracting a lot of attention and are a key trend in the kitchen appliance market, with their greater efficiency, speed, safety and flexibility. Induction hobs are faster and much more efficient than regular hobs because they directly heat the base of the pan. As a comparison, 84 per cent of the energy used when cooking with an induction hob is used to cook the food, whereas only 40 per cent of the energy in a common gas hob is used to cook, as a large quantity of the energy is lost around the edge of the pot/pan.
We are living in a fast-changing world, where people are increasingly dependent on technology to make tasks easier, safer and more convenient. Induction hobs are perfect to do just that, especially as they are almost twice as fast, and very efficient compared to ceramic or their gas equivalents.
For the future, it is expected that the strongest trends in appliance development on an eco-level will come from connected and smart grid-enabled products. Smart grid is essentially an intelligent energy distribution system that communicates with household appliances to ensure a more efficient and cost-effective distribution of electricity. So for instance, the innovation will allow appliances to tailor their operation, and move the washing of laundry to times of off-peak electricity demand without affecting performance. What’s more, smart connected technology will mean delegating the whole task to the appliance, with the appliance connecting directly to the smart grid for the ultimate in energy efficient operation.
Smart appliances make everyday living easier and more enjoyable for the user. Advances in technology provide greater convenience, further reduce energy consumption and help people live a more sustainable lifestyle. Connectivity will continue to develop rapidly in the next couple of years, and will begin to filter through to mid and entry-level segments in the market in the future.
Phil Slater is channel manager (Contracts) at Whirlpool UK Appliances Limited.