According to census figures, more people are living in smaller urban spaces than ever before. Yet most of the appliances sold in North America are big, with the standard range and fridge being 30 inches wide and the dishwasher, 24 inches wide. In Europe, smaller appliances are common, but when I wanted to get an 18-inch dishwasher for the apartment upstairs after downsizing our house, I had almost no selection and had to pay fully twice as much for a dishwasher that was 6 inches smaller.
This may finally be changing. At CES, the Chinese appliance company Haier showed a line of European-sized appliances that had all the bells and whistles that people want in their new, high-tech appliances, including “smart” features like connectivity and app controls. In a news release for a Dwell launch, Haier noted:
“We are cognizant of the shift by Millennials to urban city centers, and we are uniquely positioned to provide true high performing appliance solutions with great value for that emerging consumer,” says Paul Riley, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Haier America. “From urban kitchen solutions to compact laundry and air quality solutions, Haier offers a broad range of products to fit specific small space needs without compromising style and design.”
It is not a compromise in function, either; the ranges still have four burners and can cook a turkey, the fridge still has 14.2 cubic feet, which is plenty if you live in a city (and remember, small fridges make good cities). And the dishwasher? My tenants in the apartment upstairs tell me that they like it better because they do not get days of dirty dishes stacking up in it before they run it. Or you could do what I once tried with a client: Put in two 18” dishwashers and just move the dishes from one to the other, eliminating the time and the space needed to ever put them in a cupboard; the dishwater IS the cupboard.
The Haier appliances are quite attractive, and certainly are not the bargains that one expects for smaller appliances. In fact they cost as much as full-sized ones; they have clearly gone for the high end of the market here. (The fridge is $1,899, which is insane.) However that is still cheaper than the current small appliances available from European manufacturers like AEG, Miele, Blomberg, Liebherr and Electrolux.
There are other advantages to smaller appliances: They use a lot less energy. According to the Georgia Straight, writing from a city with lots of people living in apartments:
Twenty-four-inch induction cooktops are fantastic for apartments because they’re clean and sleek but they also don’t need a lot of ventilation...New dryers also leave a smaller carbon footprint. Many are condenser dryers, and some have heat pumps, which don’t require a vent outside. Condenser dryers extract moisture before draining it away as water, so they don’t pump humid air back into the laundry area. Heat-pump dryers recycle heat in the process of extracting moisture, resulting in energy-efficiency ratings of up to six stars—the highest possible.
Really, full-size appliances don't make sense for everyone or everywhere. It's nice to see that we are finally getting this kind of variety in North America.