Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Showcase


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

Consumer Reports

older | 1 | .... | 20 | 21 | (Page 22) | 23 | 24 | .... | 106 | newer

    0 0

    Top-rated gifts for your favorite cook

    For some, pushing a microwave button counts as cooking and then there are those who enjoy spending a Saturday afternoon leafing through cookbooks and trying new recipes or rolling out dough for an after dinner sweet. Here’s some cooking gear that impressed the testers at Consumer Reports and that your favorite cook will appreciate.
     
    The sharpest knives in the drawer. Zwilling J.A. Henckels is a premium name in kitchen knives and its $315 Twin Professional “S” 7-piece set was the best we tested. The forged knives are sturdy and sharp and the handles are very well balanced, which should keep your hands from getting tired. Always wash your knives by hand and keep them sharp with regular honing.     

    Cookware that sizzles. The 10-piece nonstick Swiss Diamond Reinforced cookware set is made of aluminum and comes with a lifetime warranty. It was the best set we tested and at $575, the most expensive. The Swiss Diamond pots and pans were very good at evenly heating food and superb at releasing food when new, and the sturdy handles stay cool to the touch. Our nonstick durability tests are tough—steel wool is rubbed over a pan for up to 2,000 strokes—and the Swiss Diamond nonstick surface held up very well. The $200 Calphalon Simply Nonstick 10-piece set was nearly as good overall but its handles aren’t as sturdy or comfortable.

    A steamy toaster oven tell-all.  Cooking with steam promises speed and healthy food prep. The Cuisinart CSO-300 Steam & Convection Oven, $300, looks and works like a regular toaster oven except that it has a removable reservoir that you fill with tap water for steam cooking. Our toaster testers were impressed by the steam-cook results. A steam-baked loaf of bread was slightly crispier than that baked in a conventional oven and the rice and broccoli were tender, although they didn’t cook any faster than they did on a cooktop or in the microwave. We did save time cooking a 4-pound chicken using the steam-bake mode set to 450°F. The chicken was fairly evenly browned and done in about 40 minutes—half the time of an electric wall oven set to 350°F (the recommended temperature on the chicken package), and our tasty yams took two-thirds the time.

    A stand mixer for the baker. In our stand mixer tests, the Breville BEM800XL, $300, was excellent at whipping cream, mixing large batches of cookie dough, and kneading bread dough. It beat out such favorites as the KitchenAid Classic and the KitchenAid Artisan, which we also recommend, as well as other brands thanks to a bevy of convenience features, including a leaf beater with a flexible edge that scrapes the bowl as it turns and a timer that lets you set your desired mixing time.

    A blender that makes and heats soup. From one of the biggest names in premium blenders, the $450 Vitamix 5200 has long been our top-scoring blender. In addition to acing our frozen drinks, purée, and ice crush tests, it's one of the few models that makes hot soup and that can blitz whole fruits and vegetables into smooth, creamy juice. While you’re paying a premium, there are even more expensive blenders on the market, from Vitamix and such other manufacturers as Hamilton Beach, Blendtec, and Omega.

    New and classic cookbooks
    Giving a cookbook together with cooking gear may get you invited back for dinner. Two favorites mentioned in this year’s New York Times’ gift guide include “Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean recipes to feed the people you love” and “The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook.” Some of our favorites include “Gourmet Today,” “Around My French Table,” and Cook’s Illustrated's “The New Best Recipe,” which all feature recipes that are easy to follow with impressive results. Or you can check out cooking classes offered by top restaurants and bakeries in food-crazy ZIP codes or by culinary schools such as the boot camps and artisan bread baking classes at the Culinary Institute of America.

    —Kimberly Janeway

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    7 cordless drills for the do-it-yourselfer

    Cordless drills make great gifts for the handy man or woman on your shopping list. But before going to the store, find out the recipient's skill level. Our Ratings of more than 80 cordless drills range from beefy drill/drivers for pros to light-duty models weighing about 2.5 pounds—just the ticket for anyone who wants to hang a picture or a set of shelves. Here are some recommended models from our experts.

    General-use drill/drivers
    Some models in this category could be used to repair a deck, but they’re light enough for less- ambitious tasks. The “drill/driver” moniker refers to how the drill doubles as a cordless screwdriver.
    • Best of these was the $180 Hitachi DS18DSAL, an 18-volt model we found to be nearly as fast and powerful as heavy-duty models, though it weighs just 3.4 pounds. Pluses include a ½-inch chuck, two speed ranges, two lithium-ion batteries, a smart charger, and an LED work light. We also found its handle especially comfortable.
    • Another possibility for $80 less is the Craftsman 17310, a 19.2-volt drill with plenty of speed and power. At just 3.8 pounds, it's also light, well balanced, and easy to hold. Features include two speed ranges, the usual ½-inch chuck, a smart charger with 30-minute recharge time, and a built-in LED light. Pressing a button shows the charge status. And the battery is lithium-ion—though this drill comes with just one.
    • And if the recipient also needs an impact driver, for driving long fasteners or loosening stuck ones, consider the Ridgid R9600, which includes the Ridgid R86034K impact driver for the $180 price. The drill has the usual ½-inch chuck, two lithium-ion batteries, a smart charger, and an LED work light with a separate switch. We also liked the speed control and, for easier handling, the rubber grip.

    Light-duty drill/drivers
    Meant for smaller jobs, such as putting up shelves, these models weigh less on average than the general-use batch. They also tend to have smaller batteries so run down more quickly.
    • Another Hitachi, the $140 Hitachi DS14DSFL, leads our list. This 14.4-volt model combines the smaller, 3/8-inch chuck you'll find on other lighter-duty drills with enough drilling speed and power for some larger jobs. Good balance and easy handling are pluses. Features include two lithium-ion batteries, two speed ranges, a smart charger with 40-minute recharge times, and a flashlight. One minus: There's no battery-charge indicator.
    • For $50 less, the 20-volt Black & Decker LDX220SBFC comes with one lithium-ion battery, not the usual two, but you get two speed ranges, a smart charger with 35-minute recharge, and an LED worklight. Alas, there's no battery-charge indicator, and run time is limited.

    Tougher-job drill/drivers
    The best overall of these pro-class models was the 18-volt Makita BHP454, $280, which had lots of speed, power, and run time. At 5 pounds, the Makita also weighs less than most in this category. Perks include 30-minute recharge, a hammer-drill mode for masonry, two lithium-ion batteries, a smart charger, and an LED work light. Cons: It wasn’t especially easy to handle, and there’s no battery-charge indicator.

    Cordless screwdrivers
    Most cordless screwdrivers have so little speed and power that we generally recommend paying about the same money for a light-duty drill/driver. But we do recommend the $100 Milwaukee 2401-22, which we consider the best of a motley group—fast where many are agonizingly slow. At 2.1 pounds, it's still reasonably light for this class, and power and run time, while scant, are good for a screwdriver. There's even a battery-charge indicator, along with two lithium-ion cells and quick, 30-minute recharge times.

    Before you shop for someone who already owns power tools, check what brands they own. Some tools, within a brand and voltage class, can typically share batteries and chargers. So any battery and charger that already comes with what you’re buying makes for even greater readiness when there’s a bigger job to do.

    Another tip: Mind the charger. The better chargers can recharge the battery in 15 to 60 minutes, compared with three to five hours or more for conventional chargers, and can extend battery life by adjusting the charge as needed. Look also for a meter that indicates the remaining charge. This feature is especially helpful with lithium-ion batteries, which can be damaged if you let them run down fully before recharging.

    Before checking our cordless drill Ratings, check out our buying guide, which gives still more guidance. See also our Ratings for cordless combo kits.

    —Ed Perratore

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Paper towels aren't the best for every mess

    Paper towels lead a brief and unglamorous life, absorbing spills, wiping away messes, and substituting for napkins and even tissues. Sponges are the most frequently used item for kitchen cleanup, but unless they’re kept scrupulously clean, they can become germy and smelly. Ditto dish towels. A fresh paper towel is a better choice. But you can’t use them for everything. Here are five “aha!” uses for those handy helpers and four things you shouldn’t use them for, even in a pinch.

    Great for grills and fighting germs

    • Wash and dry fruit and vegetables with paper towels before peeling to help keep dirt and bacteria from transferring from the knife to the produce.
    • Wrap food in wet paper towels to steam-cook in your microwave, creating healthy meals and snacks.
    • Cover bathroom door handles with a paper towel before turning them to reduce exposure to germs during cold and flu season.
    • Make a tight pad from two folded paper towels, add some vegetable oil, and use tongs to drag it across your grill’s grates just before cooking to prevent food from sticking.
    • Clean the rubber edge of your car’s wiper blades with a paper towel dampened with glass cleaner or water and a little dish detergent to extend the life of the wipers.

    But don't scratch your glasses or TV screen

    • Avoid scratching your furniture by dusting with a microfiber cloth or other soft cloth rather than a paper towel’s rough surface.
    • That roughness also makes paper towels a no-no when cleaning TV screens and camera lenses. Use a dampened microfiber cloth instead.
    • Clean eyeglass lenses with warm water and a drop of dish detergent, then dry with  a soft hankie or microfiber cloth, not a paper towel.
    • Use a squeegee to wash windows; paper towels can leave lint behind.

    The best from out tests
    If you rely on paper towels for cleaning up tough spills, wiping up mud tracked in by the dog, or handling greasy messes in a garage or workshop, the Bounty DuraTowel is for you. It will be available in a select-a-size version in February, according to the manufacturer. But if you use paper towels for lesser messes, such as spilled juice or for routine wiping of counters, the lower-priced Bounty Extra Soft is a better value.

    Though these economical choices didn’t score as high as our top picks, Walmart's Great Value Strong & Absorbent and Bounty Giant are strong, absorbent, and strong when wet. Costco's Kirkland Signature was excellent at absorbing spills and is the least expensive paper we tested, but it wasn’t as strong.

    —Kimberly Janeway

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Cut your heating costs without sacrificing comfort

    More than half of your utility bill is devoted to heating and cooling your home. And with temperatures dropping, homeowners are cranking up their heating systems. Whether you heat with natural gas (the most common method), electricity, or oil you can save money by keeping your equipment maintained and upgraded.  But the Department of Energy says that it takes more than an energy-efficient furnace alone to realize savings. Adding proper insulation, sealing leaks, and adjusting your thermostat can cut your energy use in half. Here’s advice from the agency on how to save energy this winter.

    • Set your programmable thermostat as low as is comfortable and lower the setpoint when you're sleeping or away from home.
    • Clean or replace the filters on your furnace once a month or as recommended.
    • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators; make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or curtains.
    • Eliminate trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if you don’t know how to do it, contact a professional.
    • Put heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
    • Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you finish cooking or bathing. If replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
    • Keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight to enter your home and closed at night.

    One of the easiest ways to save is to set your thermostat to  68°F when you're awake and set it lower while you're away from home or sleeping. By turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save 5 to 15 percent a year on your heating bill, according to the DOE.

    The best thermostats
    In Consumer Reports tests of 30 thermostats, we found 10 to recommend. Three top-scoring models were excellent overall, simple to adjust, and had displays that were easy to read. They include the Venstar ColorTouch Series T5800, $170, the Honeywell Prestige HD YTHX9321R, $250, and the ecobee EB-STAT-02, $300. For much less, you can buy the Lux TX9600TS, $70, a CR Best Buy, which was very good overall. For more models, see our full thermostat Ratings and recommendations.

    —Mary H.J. Farrell

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    How to remove white haze from your good dishes

    Soon it’ll be time to get out the good dishes and glassware for holiday entertaining. If you have hard water in your home, chances are your dishware is hazy or covered with a whitish film. If so, don’t despair, there are some dishwasher detergent additives on the market that can make your glasses and dishes sparkle again. And switching to a top-performing dishwasher detergent will keep them that way.

    Consumers started seeing residue on their dishes and inside the dishwasher after polluting phosphates were banned from dishwasher detergents a few years ago. Manufacturers responded by reformulating their dishwasher detergents to prevent such hard-water buildup and also developed additives to get rid of it. Consumer Reports tested three additives and, after some trial and error, all removed the haze from dishes and glassware and cleaned the dishwasher too.

    We tested Finish Power Up Booster Agent, Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner & Hard Water Spot Remover, and Lemi Shine Original. When we used the same amount of each product—about 50 grams—all three worked splendidly. But when we followed Finish’s directions for machines with a prewash-detergent dispenser, the product didn’t work nearly as well. It did get the job done when we placed two tablespoons directly into the bottom of the dishwasher (following instructions for machines without a prewash dispenser). Glisten and Lemi Shine did their job as directed, though you may need a second wash cycle to completely eliminate buildup.

    The best dishwasher detergents
    Choosing the right dishwasher detergent can also help. In our dishwasher detergent tests, we found that Cascade Complete With Dawn ActionPacs was excellent at resisting mineral buildup while getting dishes and pots clean. And a rinse agent can help eliminate water spots, a less severe condition than white haze. We also recommend three detergents from Finish, including Finish Powerball Tabs, Finish Gelpacs, and Finish Quantum Powerball Capsules. Of the four, the Finish tabs and gelpacs cost less and are CR Best Buys.

    Keep in mind that not every glass or dish on your holiday table can be put in the dishwasher, including the following.

    • Gold-plated dishes or dishes or flatware with gold trim can become discolored or the trim may even wash away.
    • Fine crystal is sensitive to heat and may crack. The detergent may also etch the glasses, causing them to lose their brilliance.
    • Expensive china, especially pieces with a pattern, may become worn with repeated washings.
    • Keep anything made of pewter, brass or bronze out of the dishwasher as it will tarnish.

    For more information on how to treat your best dishes with a little TLC read, "Don't put Granny's glassware in the dishwasher."

    —Mary H.J. Farrell

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Michael Graves toaster is all style, some substance

    The Michael Graves Design KT-3390 two-slice toaster, sold exclusively at JCPenney, is one of the niftiest models we've seen in years, with its bread-shaped housing and shiny stainless-steel construction. But does it live up to the claim of being "ready to brown your bread to perfection every time." Not quite. But it's not a total triumph of form over function.

    We put the Michael Graves model through the same exacting tests required of all models in our toaster tests. It delivered very good color range, producing toast that was light and dark. It was also capable of producing evenly browned toast over successive batches. And we found the toaster very easy to use, thanks in part to its bagel, defrost, and reheat settings. In fact, the toaster probably would have made our recommended list, if not for its middling performance in our one-slice test, where the results were not quite as consistent.

    Given a toaster's high visibility out on the countertop, you might be willing to settle for less-than-pefect performance in exchange for the Michael Graves stylish design. Originally priced at $86, the toaster is on sale on JCPenney's website for $59.99. We also tested the matching coffeemaker, $115 (on sale for $79.99), but that too missed our recommended list due to so-so brewing performance. But it was intuitive and easy to use. Together, they make a comely couple.

    There are some other toasters from our tests that are not only eye-catching but make perfect toast too, including the Magimix Vision Toaster from Williams-Sonoma with its see-through walls. We also liked the sleek Cuisinart CPT-420, which trades the familiar push-lever for a push-button-operated motorized lift. Both made our list of top toasters.

    —Daniel DiClerico

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Plum Wild! Radiant Orchid is the Color of the Year.

    Looking for a hot new hue to liven up the living room or add a splash of color in the bedroom? Pantone, which creates palettes for the home, fashion, and graphic-arts industries, has just named Radiant Orchard its 2014 Color of the Year, calling it a "captivating purple that draws you in with its beguiling charm." Just be sure to pair it with one of Consumer Reports' top-rated interior paints, or the color could fade before it's time is up.   

    Pantone's anointing of the year's hottest hue is always delivered in a larger cultural context. “An invitation to innovation, Radiant Orchid encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, in the news release. That's in contrast to last year's winner, an emerald green, which "served as a symbol of growth, renewal and prosperity.”

    The new hue is being added to the Pantone Universe Paint Collection by Valspar, which is sold at Lowe's. In Consumer Reports' interior paint tests, Valspar has been a consistently good performer and is recommended in all three sheens: flat/matte, satin/eggshell and semi-gloss.

    But if you don't shop at Lowe's, the color-matching tools used by paint retailers have gotten incredibly accurate, so you should have no trouble getting Radiant Orchid, or any other color you fancy, in the paint brand of your choice. In our tests of dozens of interior paints, we recommend about 30 products in satin, flat, and semi-gloss finishes. Take a look at our paint buying guide to make sure you find the one that's right for you.

    —Daniel DiClerico          



    More from Consumer Reports:
    Consumer Reports' top scoring cars
    Best & worst new cars
    Guide to the best small SUVs

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    5 steps to putting away your mower

    It's a helpless feeling watching the springtime grass grow wild while you try in vain to start your lawn mower. A little spent time now, before you stow your mower and other outdoor gear for the winter, will avoid trouble down the line. Here are the key measures.

    Fuel matters most. Siphon off any remaining fuel in the tank and run the mower dry. From there, you can either put in fresh gas with added stabilizer, start up the engine, and run it a bit before storing the mower. (Some additives are especially designed to ward off the harmful effects of ethanol.) Or, for maximum protection, add a bit of ethanol-free fuel, start the mower up, and run it dry again. That way, no ethanol-laced fuel should be left in the lines. Be sure to empty the carburetor bowl.

    Check the spark plug. Technically, spark plugs need changing every 100 hours or so of operation. But if you don’t remember when you last changed yours, replacing them now is a good idea.

    Change the oil. Chances are you’ll need to flip a walk-behind mower to drain the oil; the best time is when you’ve run the engine dry, since fuel will otherwise spill. Look for the designated mark on the dipstick while refilling, as too much oil can be as bad for the engine as too little. You can take used oil to a local service station or recycling center for disposal.
     
    Clean the underside. Many new mowers have a washout port, which can prevent buildup of grass clippings. Whether or not you’ve been cleaning the deck, you’ll need to spray or scrape off any remaining clippings to prevent rusting. (An old bristled pot scrubber might do.) Spraying the cleaned, dried deck with silicone spray can help prevent future build-up. And while you’re at it, remove the blade and have it sharpened. Keeping a spare blade on hand helps.

    Air filter. To protect the engine, you’ll also need to replace the air filter, and the end of year is a good time. Not sure which one to get? Take your old one to your local dealer. That should give the technician enough information to supply a new one.  

    If you have an electric mower, or even just a battery-powered starter system in a gas mower, you’ll need to periodically charge the battery throughout the winter. Otherwise, its ability to fully recharge will diminish gradually before failing altogether—and sooner than you expected. The batteries for some electric mowers can and should be brought indoors over the winter; check the manual for temperature specifics.

    We’ll be heading south soon to test the next batch of walk-behind mowers, lawn tractors, and riders to add to our Ratings. The newest models start appearing in stores before the spring, so if you need a new model, be sure to read our buying guide as you wait out the last weeks of winter.

    —Ed Perratore



    More from Consumer Reports:
    Top rated appliances for your home
    Guide to the best small SUVs
    "As seen on TV" products that are worth it

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Three reasons to switch to LED lightbulbs

    Incandescent bulbs are cheap until you flip the switch. CFLs use about 75 percent less energy; LEDs use even slightly less energy and were the top performers in Consumer Reports’ tests. Here are three good reasons to switch to LEDs.

    You can save money. Edison’s invention is terrific except that 90 percent of the electricity used is given off as heat so it requires a lot of energy to create light. Replace a 60-watt incandescent with an LED that provides the same brightness and you’ll save about $125 over its life. The Samsung A19 60-Watt Warm White, $30, tops our Ratings of 60-watt replacements and is claimed to last 25,000 hours, that’s nearly 23 years when used 3 hours a day. 

    Incandescents are going away.
    They waste energy and the average U.S. household has more than 40 sockets so you can see how all this adds up, and that’s why as of January 1 60- and 40-watt bulbs can’t be made in the U.S. or imported, but remaining stock can be sold. Then it’s the end of the incandescent era as 100- and 75-watt bulbs were already phased out. For an LED that’s even brighter than the Samsung, take a look at the Philips A21 17W 75W Soft White. It replaces a 75-watt bulb, costs $31, and has a claimed life of 25,000 hours.

    Some CFLs are really good, but LEDs are the top rated. The CFLs we tested are a lot better than earlier versions and cost $1.25 and up. But CFLs, unlike LEDs, take at least 30 seconds to fully brighten, contain a small amount of mercury that’s released when a bulb breaks, and most can’t be dimmed. The highest rated LEDs scored an impressive 99 out of 100.

    The drawback is their price. You do save money over time, but you have to shell out a lot of money up front. Some utilities offer in-store rebate coupons that knock up to $10 off and you’ll find rebates at energystar.gov and dsireusa.org. We’re testing 60-watt LEDs that replace incandescents and cost $14 or less—a Cree has an unusually long warranty of 10 years—and will tell you what our preliminary tests show in about two weeks. Until then see our Ratings to find out how the best LEDs and CFLs compare.

    —Kimberly Janeway



    More from Consumer Reports:
    Top rated appliances for your home
    Guide to the best small SUVs
    "As seen on TV" products that are worth it

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Snow blowers that make easy work out of snow removal

    With a major snowstorm sweeping through much of the country, you might thinking about a new snow blower. Our current Ratings have a couple of dozen worthy models to consider. That includes the Cub Cadet 3X line, with its additional impeller to loosen tough snow and new Ariens two-stage models with a carlike differential that allows easy turning without levers. But for every model that passes muster in our tests, there are one or two that come up short. Here are details on winners to consider and losers to avoid.       

    All snow blowers have at least one auger for loosening and throwing snow, usually out a chute. Two-stage models add a fanlike impeller to the auger that throws snow out the chute with more force, for greater distance. The 30-inch Cub Cadet 31AH57S,$1,500, and 26-inch Cub Cadet 31AH55T, $1,100, had some extra oomph thanks to the additional impeller in front. They didn’t throw our test's wet sawdust farther than others, but a higher percentage of what they threw went the maximum distance. The 26-inch Cub Cadet 31AH55T, in fact, ranked up with the 30-inch models for removal speed. (The photo above shows how we test snow blowers when there's no snow.)

    The new stars in the Ariens lineup threw as far as other two-stage Ariens models we’ve tested. The auto-style differential on the 30-inch Ariens 921032, $1,300, and 28-inch Ariens AX254 921030, $1,000 at Home Depot, though, eliminates wheel-release triggers by letting the inside wheel spin more slowly during turns. This means a lot when you’re in a hurry to clear snow to get out of the driveway, as two-stage models typically weigh 180 to 300 pounds. These machines, as a result, turned more easily than any other large two-stage models we’ve seen.

    For snow up to about 9 inches high, you might prefer to buy a single-stage model. Besides costing much less, these fit more easily into a tight garage and can also, with their rubber-tipped augers, clear snow from a deck. But the same Ariens that serves up such beefy, sturdy two-stage models also makes two 21-inch single-stage models that couldn’t cut it in our tests. The Ariens Pro Path 938033, $600, and Ariens Pro Path 938034 (shown above), $450 at Home Depot, both stalled repeatedly during use. The $600 model has a slightly larger engine and, when run with lots of care, stalled less often. But the two models were among the weakest at removing what municipal plows leave behind and had little throwing distance.

    For about the same money, the 21-inch Toro Power Clear 621 38451, a CR Best Buy at $500, was impressive for quick clearing and chopping its way through plow piles. Still, not much more gets you a compact two-stage model such as the 24-inch Craftsman 88173, $680.

    Before turning to our Ratings for snow blowers, check our buying guide and watch our testing video, below.

    —Ed Perratore



    More from Consumer Reports:
    Top rated appliances for your home
    Guide to the best small SUVs
    "As seen on TV" products that are worth it

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Claim check: Rustoleum NeverWet

    The claim. “Imagine a surface being rained on but never wet, spilled on but never wet, submerged but never wet,” says an ad for Rustoleum NeverWet, which “causes liquids to form perfect spheres so they roll off surfaces like never before.” It’s designed to repel moisture on everything from cloth to concrete. You spray on a base coat, let it dry for a half-hour, then spray on a top coat and wait at least another half-hour before exposing the treated item to water.

    The check. We used NeverWet on work gloves made of cloth and leather and on sneakers, boots, steel, wood, aluminum, glass, plastic, paper, paving stones, and cloth seat cushions. Our tester confesses that his “inner geek really wanted this product to work well.”

    Bottom line. Call it Soon­Wet. The coating worked—water ran right off—but not for long in the real world, where life is a contact sport. As the instructions note, there are limitations. Rubbing a treated surface with a finger was enough to stop the coating from shedding water. It has poor adhesion and some opacity on plastic and glass, as noted in the instructions, and dries to a frosted color. It also has difficulty covering rough surfaces, and it gives off vapors when applied.

    This article appeared in the January 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.



    More from Consumer Reports:
    Top rated appliances for your home
    Guide to the best small SUVs
    "As seen on TV" products that are worth it

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Common-sense tips for safer snow blowing

    Finger injuries, including amputations, accounted for about half of the more than 3,300 estimated emergency-room visits related to snow blowers reported for 2012. Back and shoulder strain were also common. Here’s how to protect against these and other injuries.

    • Before the snow gets too deep, remove doormats, sleds, boards, wires, newspapers, and anything else from the area you’ll clear to avoid clogs and damage to the machine.
    • Heavy exertion and cold temperatures can be a dangerous combination. Take frequent breaks to avoid overexertion. Seniors and people with hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes should consult a doctor before using a snow blower. If your driveway is especially long and two or more cars wide, consider having it plowed.
    • Don’t let children operate a snow blower. And keep people and pets far away from the vicinity of where you’re clearing.
    • Turn off the engine of a gas snow blower or unplug the cord of an electric model before clearing a clog at the auger or discharge chute. And use a clearing tool or a broom handle to clear the clog—never your hands or feet, even if you’re wearing gloves. Remember that a stationary auger and impeller are often under enough belt tension to harm hands and feet, even with the engine or electric motor off.
    • Protect yourself from carbon-monoxide poisoning by starting and running gas-powered snow blowers outside, never in a garage, shed, or other enclosed area—-even if the door is open.
    • Never wear loose pants, jackets, or scarves, which can get tangled in a snow blower’s moving parts and pull you in with them.
    • Wear earplugs or other hearing protection, especially with gas-powered models, which are typically above the 85 decibels at which hearing damage can occur.
    • Wait until a gas model’s engine is cool before refueling to avoid igniting the gasoline.
    • For electric models, use an outdoor extension cord rated for your model, connected to an outlet with ground-fault-circuit-interrupting (GFCI) protection. Then be sure to keep the cord safely away from the spinning auger while working.

    We’ve recently updated our snow blower Ratings with more than a dozen gas and electric models for a current total of almost 100, including the 30-inch Cub Cadet 31AH57S, $1,500; 26-inch Cub Cadet 31AH55T, $1,100; 30-inch Ariens 921032, $1,300, and 28-inch Ariens AX254 921030, $1,000—all two-stage models we’ve recently covered. See our buying guide for snow blowers and check out the video below.

    —Ed Perratore



    More from Consumer Reports:
    Top rated appliances for your home
    Guide to the best small SUVs
    "As seen on TV" products that are worth it

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0
  • 11/28/13--02:59: Best LED lightbulbs
  • Best LED lightbulbs

    The incandescent bulb’s days are numbered. It wastes a lot of energy to create light. The typical 60-watt bulb costs more than three times as much per year to run as a similar LED bulb. As of Jan. 1, most incandescents will have been phased out.

    If sticker shock has kept you from buying LEDs, your procrastination has paid off. Store shelves are filling with less expensive LEDs from such brands as Cree, EcoSmart, Great Value (Walmart), Philips, and Sylvania. Because the market is changing so rapidly, we decided to report on our preliminary results of some of the newest and least expensive LEDs.

    We’ve grouped them by the fixture you’d use them in to make shopping easier. All of the newer, cheaper bulbs were as bright as or brighter than claimed, and the light color matched what was claimed. We’ve also included fully tested LEDs that impressed us.

    But watch out, there are still expensive bulbs being offered, such as the two Switch LEDs we’re testing that cost $50 and $65. There are better, less expensive options.

    The full article is available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers. Sign in or subscribe to read this article.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Top-rated holiday gifts for your favorite foodie

    For the person who appreciates good food and drink, a box of drugstore chocolates or a bottle of 7-Eleven wine aren’t on the wish list. But here’s what is: scrumptious chocolates in beautiful boxes, spiral hams ready for the oven, craft beers, and fine wines. The taste testers at Consumer Reports have the enviable job of sampling all of these foods and beverages. Here are some of their recommendations.

    Ham for the holidays
    A spiral-cut ham arrives dressed for the occasion and in our ham taste tests, the HoneyBaked hams were best of all, according to our experts who tasted six brands, including Applewood Farms and Smithfield Brown Sugar Cured. The HoneyBaked hams were consistently moist and tender with balanced tastes of clove, fruit, and brown sugar that complemented the ham’s natural flavors. And it reheats well without drying out. We paid $74 plus shipping for a 9-pound ham. HoneyBaked is sold in more than 400 company stores and online.

    Amazing chocolates
    That’s how our expert tasters described some of the excellent chocolates in our boxed chocolate tests. The Woodhouse Chocolate 48-piece assortment (pictured) was the best of the 32 reviewed and at $90, the most expensive. These ultra-smooth milk, dark, and white chocolates were paired with flavors such as cinnamon toast, buttery pecan pie, and fresh mint. See the Woodhouse website for 12- and 24-piece assortments and holiday specials. The Christopher Elbow 21-piece collection, $40, scored nearly as high and is for the adventurous eater. These artistic chocolates offer bold, unusual flavor combos such as buttery caramels that taste of mango with chipotle chili or balsamic vinegar. Other recommended chocolates include the Candinas 36-piece box, $49, Jacques Torres Jacques’ Choice 50-piece box, $66, John & Kira’s Every Flavor Collection 56-piece—all are CR Best Buys—and the Theo Chocolate Confection Collection 12-piece box, $26.  Prices do not include shipping and many top chocolates must be ordered online or by phone since they're not widely available in stores. So check their websites and order soon.

    Wine for gifts or parties
    Giving a bottle of really good wine that you selected is an invitation to try something new, something different. Our judges are two wine-industry experts who have collectively spent more than 60 years professionally tasting a wide range of wines. That said, when it comes to sparkling white wines, GH Mumm Cordon Rouge NV, $40, offers classic Champagne-style bubbly and was intense and complex with ripe apple and yeasty/toasty notes. In other words, it’s delicious. Other recommended sparkling whites include Gruet Blanc de Noirs NV, $16, and Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut NV, $21. Among reds the Patz & Hall 2010 pinot noir, $43, from California offers rich, ripe, red and black fruit. Not in the classic, leaner more structured Burgundy style, but very tasty nevertheless.

    Bold craft beers
    Put together a basket of craft beer with some great cheeses for your favorite hipster. Craft ales typically have more intense flavors and their pronounced bitterness and malt, fruity, and floral flavors go well with hearty ripened cheeses such as Stilton or aged Gouda. For lagers choose milder cheeses. Our blind taste tests of 23 craft ales and lagers found three ales that were excellent. The top-rated Stone IPA was very fragrant, with floral, fruity and juniper notes from the added hops. Next was Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA, a great mix of malt and hop notes and more intense than most. Third was Samuel Adams Hopology Collection Latitude 48 IPA, with fruity and malty notes. The best lagers were very tasty but not as complex or intense enough to be rated excellent by our tasters. Five are recommended, including the top-rated Brooklyn Lager and Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

    Restaurant gift certificates
    For the person who enjoys a good meal, how about a gift certificate from a favorite restaurant or a new place that gets good reviews on Chowhound or Zagat’s? And then there are the high-end chains. Capital Grille, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Morton’s, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar are the steakhouses that left respondents to our restaurant survey most satisfied. Bonefish Grill was tops of the seafood chains and for more unusual fare try Bahama Breeze and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro .
     
    —Kimberly Janeway

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    3 gifts for the house that add comfort and value

    What if you took all the money you plan to spend on individual gifts for your family and spent the whole chunk of change on something for the home that everyone can enjoy. After all, how many sweaters or portable devices do you need? Installing a stationary generator to get you through the next blackout or central air conditioning to survive another hot summer will improve not only your quality of life but the value of your home as well. So will a fresh paint job. Here are some suggestions from the experts at Consumer Reports.

    Stationary generator
    While portable generators cost a lot less, owners of stationary generators are more satisfied with their equipment. That’s because when the power goes out the standby generator switches on. There’s no fussing with gas cans or starting a balky machine that you have to haul out of the garage. After Hurricane Sandy, homeowners expressed interest in larger generators that can power more things so Consumer Reports tested some bigger units and two made our list of top generator picks.

    In our generator tests, the Kohler 14RESAL, $3,700, was top-notch at delivering ample, especially smooth power. Kohler claims it offers 12,000 watts using natural gas and another 2,000 if you use propane. It was among the quietest of the models we tested and includes a low-oil shutoff with a warning indicator. The Generac 6241, $3,500, was also a champ at providing ample, smooth power with consistent voltage. Generac claims the unit supplies 13,000 watts using natural gas and another 1,000 using propane. Of course, if you pipe gas to the generator, it can run indefinitely. Both generators come with a transfer switch, needed for safe operation. Keep in mind that the price of the generator does not include the cost of installation.

    Central air conditioning
    While Consumer Reports does not test whole-house central air conditioning systems, we do ask our readers to weigh in on the systems they’ve installed to let us know which are most reliable and which are most repair-prone. Based on our most recent survey of more than 40,000 readers, you may want to give Amana, Goodman, and York the cold shoulder. All three brands logged the most repairs in our latest reliability survey. American Standard, Rheem, and Trane were a better bet. The good news is that newer central air systems are much more energy efficient than systems of the past. That means you’ll also get the gift of lower utility bills. According to Homeadvisor.com, which polls its members on the cost of home improvements, homeowners reported spending $4,534 to $6,222 installing a central air conditioning system.

    A good paint job
    This one may not have your kids jumping for joy, but a new paint job is one of the easiest ways to boost curb appeal and resale value. But even if you plan to stay in your home, you’ll appreciate the new, clean look. According to Homeadvisor.com, its member homeowners reported spending $2,426 to $3,376 for an exterior paint job and $1,761 to $2,333 for an interior paint job. Of course, prices vary by region and whether or not you use a contractor. If you schedule your paint job for the off-season, you may get a better deal.

    Whatever you do, make sure to choose the right paint—one that does well in Consumer Reports' paint tests. Behr, which is sold at Home Depot, has been a good performer in our exterior paint tests and is recommended in all three finishes (flat, satin and semi-gloss). But paints from California Paints, Sherwin-Williams, Glidden and Valspar also made our list of top exterior paints. To earn that rating, the paints must do well in our accelerated weathering tests, which measure the finish at the equivalent of three, six and nine years.

    Clark + Kensington is our top interior paint in satin/eggshell and semi-gloss finishes and Valspar and Behr were the best choices for flat/matte. Our interior paint tests gauge not only how well the paints cover but how they stand up to scrubbing and resist mildew, among other things. Also on our list of top interior paint picks are paints from Benjamin Moore, Kilz, Olympic, and Ace.

    None of these gifts fit under the tree, of course, but you and your home and family will benefit from any one of them for years to come. Then next year you can buy another ugly sweater.

    —Mary H.J. Farrell

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0
  • 12/09/13--13:29: Top-rated healthy gifts
  • Top-rated healthy gifts

    Have your friends and family been eating more and exercising less because of the holidays? Help them reverse that trend with some healthy gifts. Here’s a roundup of top products, from our experts.

    For fitness buffs

    Activity trackers. Exercise fanatics on your list will appreciate this gift because trackers are smarter, more accurate, and do a whole lot more than measure how much one walks. The Fitbit One is a CR Best Buy. The Nike+ FuelBand is Recommended.

    Heart-rate monitor. Vigorous exercisers will love this gift because it can help make sure they reach their target heart rate, but stay in their safety zone. The Polar H7 Heart Rate Sensor is Recommended. The Omron HR-100C is a CR Best Buy.

    For cooks

    Blenders. This make it a snap to whip up a healthy soup or smoothie. And since people often leave these appliance on the countertop where all can see, upscale looks—along with power and sturdy construction—are important factors to consider. The Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004 is a CR Best Buy. The Vitamix 5200 is Recommended.

    Juicers. This would be a thoughtful gift for someone on your shopping list who might like making their own juice from fresh fruits and vegetables. The Juiceman Pro JM503 is Recommended. The Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Pro 67650 is a CR Best Buy.

    Meat thermometers. They will help the foodie on your shopping list prepare safer meals by showing when meat has been cooked enough to kill disease-causing salmonella, E. coli, and other bugs. Plus, it can keep them from overcooking meats, too. The Polder THM-360 is Recommended.

    For the well groomed

    Electric shavers. They let people shave without the muss and fuss of lather and water, which is a real plus if you have someone on your list who travels frequently or likes an afternoon touch-up at the office. The Braun Series 7 Shaver System 760cc-4, Braun Series 7 790cc-4 Shaver System, and the Braun Series 7 Shaver 720s-4 are all Recommended with the same overall score. The Remington Pivot and Flex Foil F-5790 is a CR Best Buy.

    For women on your shopping list, check out our hair-removal buying guide.

    Electric toothbrushes. Yes, really. They come in all sizes and colors, some spin and others pulsate. Philips Flexcare R910 is a top model.

    For people monitoring their health

    Blood glucose meters. They are smaller, faster, and come with more features than ever before. That's good news for the 26 million Americans with diabetes. The Accu-Chek Aviva is Recommended. The Up & Up Blood Glucose meter is a CR Best Buy.

    Blood pressure monitors. They are essential for people with hypertension issues who might want to test themselves at home. Taking multiple readings at home can actually be more accurate than the results you get at a doctor's office. The CVS Premium BP3MV1-3WCVS Item#800230 is a CR Best Buy. The Omron 10 Series BP785 is Recommended.

    Scales. They'll help everyone keep their weight in check during and after the holidays. The Taylor 7506 is Recommended.


    —Doug Podolsky

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    LED lightbulb prices drop dramatically

    When LEDs started showing up on store shelves a few years ago the price was shocking—$50 for a lightbulb? LEDs came with the promise that you’d save energy and money over time, but that’s a hard sell in a tough economy. So to move LEDs from store shelves to sockets—what manufacturers call speeding up adoption—prices keep dropping. Consumer Reports put the newest and least expensive LEDs that we could buy through preliminary tests. Are they any good?
     
    So far, so good. In our preliminary lightbulb tests, the LEDs were as bright or brighter than claimed and the light color was as promised. If the box said the light color was warm, then it was warm. We’ll put these LEDs through our standard 3,000 hours of testing, but until then here’s a first look at some LEDs that replace 60-watt incandescents and the price we paid for each.

    EcoSmart 12-Watt (60W) A19 Bright White 183210, $20 at Home Depot, casts a white light similar to a halogen bulb. Walmart’s Great Value Soft White LED was $10 and the least expensive of those we tested. It gives off a warm yellow light similar to an incandescent. So does the $13 Cree 9.5-Watt (60W) Warm White and the $14 Philips 11W 60W Soft White 424382. All are dimmable.
     
    For light that’s even brighter and meant to replace 75- and 100-watt bulbs, see our First Look at these LEDs; they cost $30 to $40. And for LEDs and CFLs that have been fully tested see our Ratings of dozens of lightbulbs for lamps, ceiling fixtures, recessed and track lights, and outdoor fixtures.
     
    —Kimberly Janeway

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    5 gross things Consumer Reports buys for testing

    Dust, pet hair, soap scum and other dirt and debris that homeowners struggle to get rid of are coveted items in the labs at Consumer Reports. In fact, we pay for the yucky stuff. What better way to determine if the vacuums, air purifiers, washing machines and other products we test are up to the job? Here are five gross things we buy that no one else wants and how we use them in our tests.

    Household dust for air purifier tests

    Yes, you heard right. We buy dust by the bottle (shown) primarily for our air purifier tests, which use a particle counter to measure how well each model clears the test room in our labs. If an air purifier performs well at removing household dust, it will also be adept at removing airborne pollen. For another air purifier test, we fill the room with cigarette smoke to see how well the air purifier removes it at both high and low speeds. All of our recommended air purifiers were excellent at removing dust and smoke on the highest speed but some struggled on the lowest.

    Sebum for all-purpose cleaner tests

    We buy sebum, better known as skin oil, by the bottle to test a number of products, including all-purpose cleaners. For that project, we combine sebum with shaved bath soap, clarifying shampoo (no conditioner, moisturizer or other additives), and hard water. We spray the sudsy mixture onto tiles multiple times, rinsing off each application with hard water. Eventually, the tiles show buildup resembling the soap scum you may find in your own shower. Then, like you, we try to clean it off. None of the all-purpose cleaners in our tests aced this test but five did very well, including the top-rated Pine-Sol Original.

    Coon-cat hair for vacuum tests

    Pet owners want the best vacuums from our tests to clean up after their shedding cats and dogs. Looking for ways to improve our pet hair testing, in recent years we added tougher tests that assess how well upright, canister and small vacuums pick up pet hair without getting it tangled in the vacuum's brush rolls. To do that we buy the hair of Maine coon cats—courtesy of felines at a local cattery—because it's especially long. (This breed needs to be brushed regularly.) Before testing our vacuums, we strew the hair on a carpet and roll a 19-pound tool over it to push the hair into the fibers, recreating what happens in most homes with pets. We call out the results on our vacuum Ratings charts where you'll find many models that earned excellent scores on our pet hair test.

    Wet sawdust for snow blower tests

    We test snow blowers early in the season, so we can’t count on having actual snow. And because real snow sometimes starts melting during a day of testing, how a snow blower performs in the morning could differ from how well it works in the afternoon. So we use wet sawdust, which simulates the consistency of snow, feels like snow, and acts like snow when it meets a snow blower. And just to be sure, we run check tests against the real stuff when it’s available. But so far we've found that sawdust behaves the same as snow even when used as a "plow pile," the mound that municipal plows leave at the end of your driveway. The dense pile represents the toughest challenge a snow blower faces. In our snow blower tests, two-stage gas blowers were the best at the plow pile test and some single-stage machines were very good. The electric snow blowers, however, did not do as well.

    Blood for laundry tests

    Because it is so hard to remove, we use actual blood to test our laundry detergents and washing machines. For the laundry detergent tests, we buy pre-prepared swatches treated with beef blood. Our testers analyze the swatches before and after washing them using a colorimeter; the brighter the washed swatch is compared to its earlier reading, the better it scores in our tests. For our washing machine tests, we use even dirtier strips of cloth including industry-standard six-patch swatches soaked in cocoa, wine, sebum, oily charcoal dust, and blood, and again use a colorimeter before and after they go in the wash. The best washers in our tests get excellent marks on this test.

    —Ed Perratore

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Top-rated baby gifts for new parents

    As tiny as they are, babies need a lot of stuff. So helping new or soon-to-be parents furnish the nursery makes a welcome gift, especially around the holidays. The little rascals need many new things all at once and a sturdy crib or stroller can cost hundreds of dollars. Consumer Reports tests such baby essentials as cribs, strollers, car seats, and more. Here’s some advice from our experts on the best baby products for new parents.

    Cribs
    A newborn may seem too small for a full-size crib, but it’s the safest place for babies to sleep, according to our experts. They recommend purchasing a new crib rather than a bassinet or cradle that a baby will quickly outgrow. In our crib tests, the Europa baby Palisades Lifetime, $350, a CR Best Buy, earned excellent scores for safety, construction, and ease of assembly. It also converts to a toddler or daybed as a child grows.

    Strollers
    Many new parents start with a traditional stroller or a travel system, which adds a car seat and base. When the baby is ready, they may need a lightweight umbrella stroller for quick trips. Another option is a car seat carrier frame, which accepts a variety of infant car seat models, such as the Baby Trend Snap N Go, $60. For a basic traditional stroller, consider the top-rated Graco Vie4, $90. Our top-rated travel system, the Graco Stylus, $245, is very sturdy and has many convenience features.

    Car seats
    A dedicated infant car seat is the safest way to transport a new baby because it provides the best fit, according to our experts. Infant seats also offer the convenience of a carry-handle so the baby isn’t awakened when taken in and out of the car. The top-rated Chicco KeyFit, $170, (for babies weighing 22 pounds or less) and Chicco KeyFit 30, $180, (more than 22 pounds) are easy to use and fit into a range of vehicle types. Both offer very good crash protection.

    High chairs
    Midpriced high chairs generally offer the best combination of value and convenience features. The top-rated Peg Perego Prima Pappa Best, $250, has excellent performance overall for safety and ease of use and such helpful features as multiple seat heights and back adjustments, an adjustable tray, and wipe-clean fabric.

    Humidifiers
    Children under the age of 2 shouldn’t be given over-the-counter cough and cold remedies. So when they get a cold or the sniffles, the best way to offer relief is with a humidifier. The Crane Penguin EE-865, $45, a CR Best Buy, comes in a menagerie of other animal shapes, including pigs, dogs, and cows. Whimsical as it may be, it’s also our top-rated humidifier due to its excellent output, efficiency, and quietness. It’s also easy to operate and clean.

    What not to buy. Crib bumpers, pillows, and blankets pose a suffocation hazard to infants. The safest crib is an empty crib.  If you want to give the family something cute, buy the baby a cozy zippered sleep sack or footie pajamas.

    —Artemis DiBenedetto

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Slow cookers a charm for holiday potlucks

    With the cold weather, holiday crush, and a pile of party invitations, now’s a great time to get out your slow cooker. It’s the perfect appliance for making comfort food while you do other chores or for preparing a dish for a potluck supper. In Consumer Reports’ past tests of slow cookers, the models didn’t differ significantly in how well they cooked. Where one rose above the other was in its convenience features, such as a locking lid, electronic controls, and easy cleaning.

    About 85 percent of households already own a slow cooker. But if you’re thinking of replacing your own or buying one as a gift for someone in the 15 percent who doesn’t already have one, here are some features to consider.

    • Shape. Slow cookers are typically round or oval. An oval pot can more easily accommodate a whole chicken or other cuts of meat. But round is fine for soups and stews.
    • Glass lid. A transparent lid will help you resist the temptation to open the pot. Each time you do can add 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time.
    • Locking lid. For folks who routinely hit the potluck circuit, a locking lid with a tight gasket is key.
    • Stovetop safe. This metal insert allows you to brown meat or veggies on the stove before transferring it to the slow cooker.
    • Oven safe. Ceramic oven-safe inserts allow you to reheat your dish in the oven. You shouldn’t reheat leftovers in the slow cooker. Instead heat them to an internal temperature of 165° F in your oven or microwave.
    • Electronic controls. Unlike manual controls, electronic ones let you program a dish, usually in 30-minute intervals, and then automatically switch the cooker to the warm setting when cooking is done.

    Slow cooker recipes
    Recipes for slow cookers have gotten a lot more sophisticated than those in the past that called for canned soups and other packaged ingredients. Instead of chunks of beef and cream of mushroom soup you’ll find Slow-Cooked Ratatouille Over Goat Cheese Polenta on epicurious.com or Moroccan Brisket with Red Onions and Apricot Couscous on foodnetwork.com. If you're giving a slow cooker as a gift, throw in a cookbook, too. America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution is a good choice or just buy it for yourself.

    The slow cookers in our tests range in price from $40 to $250 and come from such brands as All-Clad, Hamilton Beach, West Bend, and Cuisinart. At retailers, you’ll find new entries from Ninja, Kalorik, and Breville in addition to the original Crock Pot.

    —Artemis DiBenedetto

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

older | 1 | .... | 20 | 21 | (Page 22) | 23 | 24 | .... | 106 | newer