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


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

Consumer Reports

older | 1 | .... | 43 | 44 | (Page 45) | 46 | 47 | .... | 106 | newer

    0 0
  • 08/30/14--02:59: Selling It
  • Selling It

    In this month's installment of Selling It:

    Seeing double | A flavor of mystery | Pets not included | A nothing giveaway | Prices that are for the birds | See more Selling It items

    Location, Location

    A reader from Geneva, N.Y., sent in this real estate ad. Of the two, he’d pick the Webster house.
    Back to top

    Labelese

    “What the heck is that supposed to mean?” asks our San Diego reader.
    Back to top

    No Fido?

    OK, we’re willing to accept that the car is not included, but the dog isn’t coming home with us either?
    Back to top

    Nothing in life is free

    At least they’re honest about it.
    Back to top

    For the birds

    “What a bargain!” was the theme of the letters mailed to us by about a dozen readers from all over the country. The Walmart sales circular advertises a 17-pound bag of birdseed for the price of 20. “I think I’ll take the 20-pound bag,” says a Texas reader.
    Back to top

    Send us your submissions

    If you spot something that makes you chuckle, causes your jaw to drop, or leaves you confounded, send it our way:

    E-mail: sellingit@cro.consumer.org

    Fax: 914-378-2911 (attention: Selling It)

    Mail: Consumer Reports, Attn: Selling It, 101 Truman Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10703

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

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    The pros to know when remodeling your kitchen

    In the never-ending battle to keep remodeling costs under control, it’s tempting to skip enlisting outside help. If you know what you want and are working within the room’s existing dimensions, you may be able to do the design work yourself, and then hire tradespeople. But if you want a totally new kitchen—not just a swap-out of appliances and cabinets—hiring a trained pro can save you a bundle while helping you sidestep some common and costly goofs.

    Designers don’t work for free, of course, but they’re likely to have creative ideas and cost-cutting solutions that you may not have thought of. Even more compelling, a designer’s expertise and experience with materials and construction can help you get the most for your money by narrowing down choices to the ones that fit your lifestyle and budget. Get their advice, then check Consumer Reports’ appliance and material Ratings to find the products that scored best in our tests. Here’s a list of pros to consider hiring for your project:

    Architect. This is the expert to call when you’re planning a major remodel or addition, changes that affect mechanical systems, or structural modifications such as moving load-bearing walls. In fact, your municipality may require an architect or engineer to sign off on the plans. Architects are trained to see the big picture, so they can help you think through a project. But until the job is sent to several contractors, most architects can’t provide a full estimate. To find an architect, visit the website of the American Institute of Architects.

    Kitchen designer. Here’s whom to call if you’re planning to reconfigure an existing space by adding or removing non load-bearing walls, or changing the cabinet layout. Certified kitchen designers (CKDs) have passed an exam, administered by the National Kitchen & Bath Association, which tests their expertise in both structure and aesthetics. Their coursework and job experience also prepare them for such details as whether the countertop is at the right height for all it users. For inspiration, visit nkba.org.

    Certified remodeling contractor. Certified kitchen remodeling contractors (CKBRs) need five years of experience and at least four completed jobs each year to be certified by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). They must also pass an exam that addresses plumbing, electrical, ventilation, materials, installation, and demolition. These specialists communicate with both subcontractors and designers. For a checklist, visit nari.org and click on Homeowners.

    Interior designer. Want help with decorative style, color, or a specific finish or furnishing? Consider hiring an interior designer in conjunction with a CKD. He or she can help integrate the kitchen into other rooms of your home or source unusual materials. Need to save? Here’s one place to cut costs. For tips on working with a designer, check the website of the American Society of Interior Designers.

    What will it cost?
    Professionals charge for their services in different ways. Design/build firms often figure a flat design fee or percentage into the total job cost. Typically, a CKBR’s fee is an estimate based on time, labor, and materials that includes his or her profit—from 10 percent to 20 percent. Interior designers and architects may charge an hourly fee, a percentage of the total project cost, or a flat fee.

    —Adapted from Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

    Kitchen Planning Guide

    For more information on planning a kitchen check our Kitchen Planning Guide where you'll find the results of our tests of appliances, countertops, flooring and related products.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Health gadgets that really work

    The modern health-monitoring device craze started with pedometers that simply tracked the number of steps you took in a day. Now there are hundreds of gadgets that you can slap on your wrist or tuck into your pocket. They sync to your smart phone and track everything from blood pressure and calories burned to how stressed you are or how well you slept last night.

    But how effective are those gadgets when it comes to keeping you healthy? “That’s the big question,” Steven Steinhubl, M.D., a cardiologist and director of the digital medicine program at Scripps Health in La Jolla, Calif., said. He says published research shows that some devices on the market still have kinks to iron out. For example, one lets you take a photo of a skin lesion with your smart phone and tells you whether it’s cancerous. But it got the diagnosis wrong a third of the time.

    The devices that experts say are most useful right now are those that help monitor common, chronic conditions. For example, a study at the University of Florida found that home blood pressure monitors and blood glucose meters gave doctors valuable information to help them treat people with hyper­tension and diabetes. The devices also helped patients get more involved in their own care.

    And in a study published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, older patients recovering from heart surgery wore activity trackers—devices that count steps taken and calories burned. The patients who took the most steps early on had shorter hospital stays. The researchers concluded that trackers might motivate patients to move more after surgery, which can speed recovery.

    Trying to add more steps to your day? Check ou the top treadmills for every budget, our elliptical buying guide, and information on exercise bikes and spin bikes.

    What follows are four health-monitoring devices that we’ve found to be accurate in our tests. All cost $100 or less and can be synced to your computer, smart phone, or both, though sometimes that requires buying other software. They’re available at online retailers such as Amazon.com and Target, and elsewhere.

    iHealth Dock BP3, $100

    What it does: Allows you to track and store your blood pressure and heart-rate results on your iPhone or iPad and to share the information with your doctor. It also offers an irregular-heartbeat detector and a blood pressure risk indicator.

    Best for: Older adults, whose blood pressure can vary; people whose blood pressure tends to spike when tested in a doctor’s office (white-coat hypertension), people with diabetes, for whom blood pressure monitoring is important.

    Accu-Chek Aviva, $20

    What it does: Stores up to 500 readings of your blood glucose levels and calculates averages over time. Users can flag their results as pre- or post-meal for reference.

    Best for: People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who take insulin.

    Fitbit One, $100

    What it does: Counts steps, logs calories, monitors sleep, and tells you how close you are to meeting daily health goals. It also has a clock and an alarm.

    Best for: People who want a motivational tool to help them become more active.

    —Sue Byrne

    Low-tech tracker

    This no-frills pedometer, the Sportline 345 Step, Distance & Calorie, doesn’t sync to other devices. But it’s easy to use, its tested accuracy was excellent, and it costs just $13.  

    This article also appeared in the September 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Battle over BuckyBalls finally reaches a conclusion

    Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has long warned about the dangers of tiny, powerful magnets used in desk toys such as BuckyBalls, pointing to many cases of children who swallowed these small magnetic balls and had to have surgery to remove them. If ingested, the high-powered magnetic balls and cubes can attract each other inside the body and pierce holes in the internal organs.

    In 2012 the Consumer Product Safety Commission filed a complaint against the makers of BuckyBalls, seeking to get the products off the shelves, saying they “contain a defect in the design, packaging, warnings, and instructions, which pose a substantial risk of injury to the public.”

    We praised the CPSC’s strong action, as did the American Academy of Pediatrics, which said products such as BuckyBalls should be removed from the market because the magnets “caused unnecessary surgeries, debilitating injuries, irreversible gastrointestinal damage and other lifelong health impacts in infants, children and adolescents.”

    In May, the CPSC officially announced the recall of all BuckyBalls and BuckyCubes high-powered magnets. It is now illegal under federal law for any person to sell, offer for sale, manufacture, distribute, or import into the U.S. any BuckyBalls or Buckycubes magnetic set.

    The CPSC recently announced a website where you can request a refund in exchange for the product. To get a refund, your claim has to be filed no later than Jan. 17, 2015. You don’t have to have a receipt, but if you kept it, the CPSC encourages you to include it. Separately, the company Star Networks is recalling the similar magnet products Magnicube Spheres and Magnicube Cubes. You can find more information about the recall of those products at www.magnicube.com.

    If you have one of these products, we strongly urge you to stop using it and return it for a refund. If you don’t want to return it, the product should be safely disposed of to prevent any risk of injury, as the CPSC advises.

    More information is available from the nonprofit organization Kids In Danger (PDF). The effort to remove BuckyBalls from the marketplace was a drawn-out battle, but we’re pleased that they are no longer for sale, and customers can get their money back.

    This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

    Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    What to get at Sears and what to forget

    Even if it’s not the retail juggernaut you remember as a kid, Sears is still a great place to find a range of products at all price levels. A lot of the hard goods sold at its 1,320 locations pass through Consumer Reports’ test labs, including appliances, power equipment, and batteries from Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard—three brands owned by Sears Holding. Judging from our latest Ratings, there are plenty of reasons to keep Sears on your list of go-to retailers. But we also turned up some duds, so there will also be times when you’ll want to visit another big-box store. With that, here's our list of winners and losers from Sears.

    Sears winners

    Car batteries. DieHard batteries, sold at Sears, Kmart, and a handful of other retailers, are some of the best from our latest car battery tests—depending on the type of car you drive. If you own a large car, truck, or SUV from Ford, the DieHard Gold 50865, $145, and the DieHard Advanced Gold 50765, $175, make our picks list in the Group 65 category, combining long life with superior resistance to frigid temps; both also feature a convenient handle. Chrysler drivers should consider the DieHard Advanced Gold 50778, $165, our top model in the Group 78 category, and the highest overall scorer of all tested car batteries. Other DieHards make our winners’ lists for these categories, though the brand also has some dogs, so check the model names carefully. And if you drive a Honda, Nissan, or Toyota, you’ll do better with a battery from EverStart or Interstate.     

    Laundry appliances. Sears has several models on our recommend list of laundry appliances, especially if you spring for the Kenmore Elite line. Among front-load washers, the Kenmore Elite 41073, $1,200, combines superb washing performance and efficiency, plus its jumbo drum can handle 24 pounds of laundry. If, like so many consumers, you’re looking for a matching washer/dryer set, pair it with the equally capacious Kenmore Elite 81073 dryer, $1,200. Prefer top-loaders? Consider the Kenmore Elite 31412 washer, $950, which earns mostly solid marks.

    Refrigerators. Several refrigerator picks in the popular French-door configuration are from Kenmore. Consider the Kenmore Elite 72193, $4,150 which combines solid temperature control, storage capacity, and efficiency; act fast, however, since the model is being phased out. The Kenmore 7160[3] performed similarly for less than half the price, though it lacks a through-the-door ice and water dispenser. Sears also carries many recommended top-freezers, including the well-priced Kenmore 78892 for $600.  Among side-by-sides, we like the Bosch Linea 800 B22CS80SN[S], $2,700, which is also available at other retailers.

    Snow blowers. Craftsman scores big in our snow blower tests. Among two-stage gas models, the Craftsman 88396, $1,200, nearly beat out the top-rated Cub Cadet, and it costs hundreds less. If you have a long driveway that sees heavy snowfall, this is a superb choice. If snow removal demands are less, consider the smaller Craftsman 88173, $680, which is tied for the top spot among compact two-stage gas snow blowers.          

    Vacuums. Whether you’re looking for an upright vacuum or a canister, bagged or bagless, Kenmore is a brand to consider. The Kenmore Elite 31150, $350, is our number one bagged upright vac, while the Kenmore Elite 21814, $500, is tops among bagged canister vacs. Both models are suited to carpets and bare floors, plus they were tough on stubborn pet hair in our tests. Many other Kenmore vacuums make our recommended list, so you’ll have plenty of choices at Sears.

    Sears Losers

    Cordless drills. Craftsman is Sears’ big power tool brand. Of the nine Craftsman cordless drills we tested, only one makes our picks list. Those in the light-use category, meant for basic household tasks like hanging shelves, had a particularly rough go of it. Case in point: the $60 Craftsman 11834 had subpar power and dismal run time.

    Cooking appliances. As impressive as Kenmore is with dishwashers, dryers, and other large appliances, the brand’s cooking appliances aren’t consistent winners in our tests. Apart from a 30-inch electric coil model, no Kenmore ranges make our recommended list. There are no wall oven winners or over-the-range microwaves. Kenmore does have a few models on our picks list for cooktops, including the top-rated induction model, the Kenmore 43820, $1,700, but that alone doesn’t make the brand a standout in the cooking appliance category.   

    Paints and stains. Sears’ paints and stains tend to not stand out either. For example, the Sears Easy Living Ultra Flat interior paint missed our picks list by a good margin, in part because it’s not the smoothest finish. Sears WeatherBeater Ultra Satin exterior paint is also middle-of-the-pack. Among stains, Sears Weatherbeater Deck, Fence & Siding Solid didn’t hold us as well over time as other products. When it comes to paints and stains, Home Depot’s Behr or Lowes’ Valspar brands offer better quality.

    Self-propelled lawn mowers. Only one model from Craftsman makes our recommended list for this competitive lawn mower category. Others get middling marks, including some fairly expensive models, like the $500 Craftsman 37095, with its so-so mulching and side discharging. This is another case where you’d be better off choosing brands from Home Depot (Honda or Toro) or Lowe's (Troy-Bilt).       

    Leaf blowers. Craftsman also couldn’t compete with brands like Echo, Toro, and Husqvarna in our leaf blower tests. The Craftsman Pro 79400, $200, gasoline backpack blower wasn’t as fast at sweeping leaves while the Craftsman 79401, $280, wasn’t as easy to handle.

    —Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter)  

    More what to get and what to forget

    In case you missed the earlier stories in this series:

    What to get at Walmart and what to forget

    What to get at Costco and what to forget

    What to get at Home Depot and what to forget

    What to get at Lowe's and what to forget

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Why you're waking up in the middle of the night

    Q: I fall asleep easily but wake up two to three times during the night and feel exhausted in the morning. What should I do?

    A. The solution depends on why you're waking up. One common culprit is sleep apnea, a disorder marked by snoring or gasping during sleep, waking up in a sweat, or waking up with a headache. If you think you might have it, your doctor can order a sleep study and, if the diagnosis is confirmed, prescribe treatments.

    Other possible causes of nighttime awakenings include drinking alcohol or caffeine within a few hours of bedtime, excessive liquid intake in the evening, and watching TV or using the computer close to bedtime. Correcting those factors may be enough to help you sleep through the night.  

    Learn more about how to treat insomnia, which sleeping pills work best, and how to find the right mattress for you.  

    This article also appeared in the September 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Telltale signs that you're overwatering your lawn

    If you’re watering your lawn every day, you’re doing it wrong. Healthy lawns don’t need that much water and in fact can be damaged by overwatering. By watering less you’ll have healthier plants, save money on water bills, and conserve water by giving your lawn just what it needs, not more. Here’s some mid-summer advice from the experts at Consumer Reports and the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Overwatering damages the plant’s roots. An established lawn needs about 1-inch of water per week in the growing season. A light daily watering will encourage root systems that are too shallow. Instead, water thoroughly once a week, using a 1-inch deep empty tuna can as a makeshift measuring device. Early morning before 8 a.m. is best when evaporation rates are low and more water is absorbed into the soil.

    Frequently watered lawns have more weeds. Most plants do best if the soil is allowed to partially dry out between waterings. Soaking your lawn deprives the roots of the oxygen they need to survive leaving the grass susceptible to disease and insect damage. In addition, weeds thrive and may become difficult to control if the overwatering continues.

    Overwatering wastes water and hurts the environment. Watering your lawn so much that it creates runoff not only wastes water but the excess water can carry harmful fertilizers into storm drains and then into rivers and lakes.

    Don’t be afraid to let your lawn turn brown. The color change is merely an indication that the plant is entering a natural state of dormancy designed to conserve nutrients. Most species of grass can easily go a month without water. It’s time to water again when the grass goes from tan-brown to straw-colored.

    How to use even less water
    Cut your lawn size. Switching from an all-lawn yard to one that’s 40 percent lawn and 60 percent trees, shrubs, ground cover, and hardscape will cut your water needs by 20 to 50 percent, according to the EPA. In a typical yard, that leaves 2,500 square feet of lawn, which is plenty of space for kids to play.

    Try low-maintenance grass. Slow-growth, drought-resistant grass species save water, fertilizer, and time. Check with your local cooperative extension office or nursery to find species that fit your climate.

    Bulk up your soil. Build your soil with compost and mulch, which hold water and reduce evaporation.

    Collect water in a rain barrel. The typical single-family suburban household uses at least 30 percent of its water outdoors. Rooftop collection systems are available, but simply diverting your downspout into a covered barrel with a spigot is an easy, low-cost approach. Cover or seal barrel tops to prevent animals and children from entering and mosquitoes from breeding. Use the rainwater to wash your car or water your plants.

    Best mowers from our tests
    Of course, the best way to have a good-looking lawn is to mow it with a well-maintained mower with sharp blades. That will cut the grass instead of tearing it. Turf specialists say it’s okay to let your lawn grow 5-inches tall and then cut the blades in half. Here are the push and self-propelled mowers that did best in Consumer Reports’ tests.

    —Mary H.J. Farrell (@mhjfarrell on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Does a $7,600 bed guarantee a good night's sleep?

    Take one look at Consumer Reports' mattress Ratings, and you’ll see a few innerspring, foam, and adjustable-air mattresses that make our list of top picks yet cost $700 or less. But for the slice of our readership that covets a luxury mattress, we’ve just gotten in the Duxiana Dux 515 for testing. The $64,000 question: Are you guaranteed the ultimate in back and side support when you pay almost $7,600 for a mattress?

    Because we buy what we test, we spent that amount so we could tell you how the Duxiana Dux 515 compares to mattresses that cost thousands less. Among those models is, in fact, another Duxiana, the Duxiana Dux 101. At $4,800, the Duxiana Dux 101 is the company’s low-end offering; the pricier Duxiana Dux 515 is mid-range in the product line. But although the Dux 101 offered impressive side support, we feel a mattress costing nearly $5,000 should be at least as good for back support, which we found only mediocre. Lots of bounciness could also allow a restless sleeper on one side to wake a sound sleeper on the other.

    The Duxiana Dux 515 comes with the same 2½-inch latex-foam top layer that all Dux beds have. And the same innerspring portion found on the Duxiana Dux 101 forms the bottom layer of the Duxiana Dux 515. As the video below explains, in between the two is something you don't get from paying merely $4,800: three pairs of interchangeable modules of springs, called “individualized personal comfort zones” that range from soft to firm. They lie beneath each sleep partner’s shoulders, mid-frame, and legs—sorry, no benefit from sleeping in the middle.

    The Duxiana Dux 515 is just one of the new batch of mattresses whose test results we expect to publish next spring when our tough testing is complete. But what if you need a mattress now? Check out our Ratings of 25 mattresses, including two top picks: the Serta Perfect Day iSeries Applause innerspring, $1,075, and the Novaform Memory Foam Collection Serafina 14”, $650, sold at Costco. Read our mattress buying guide to familiarize yourself with the selection process before you shop. And once at the store, be sure to try out any mattress you’re considering by lying on it for at least 10 minutes on each side, your back, and your stomach if that’s how you sleep.

    —Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    4 ways to fake the look of custom cabinets

    If you’re buying budget-friendly stock or semi-custom cabinets, you don’t have to settle for the ordinary. Decorative elements can give even basic stock cabinets a more personalized look in an array of styles, including modern, country, and traditional. Here are four things you can do to give everyday cabinets an upscale look.

    Accent doors. Available in a variety of styles—textured or colored, frosted glass, and stainless steel—accent doors can enhance visual interest or create an industrial look, suggests Janet Vanderlugt, kitchens manager for Ikea.

    Moldings.
    Ranging in style from simple and classic to elegant and ornate, moldings can be added to the tops, bottoms, or edges of cabinets as a finishing touch, or along the bottoms of wall cabinets to conceal under cabinet lighting. Just be sure the style you choose suits the look of your cabinets

    Legs. Feet, added to the bases of built-in cabinets, create the “unfitted” effect of freestanding furniture.

    Decorative trim. Pieces, such as corbels, corner details, turnings, and onlays, can be found for a great price in local lumber stores and home centers.

    How to choose kitchen cabinets
    Style might be what grabs your eye at the store, but it’s the inner details that help well-made cabinets look good and last year after year. Most manufacturers offer a similar range of door styles, whether they’re selling ready-made, semi-custom, or made-to-order custom cabinets. Here are the features to look for:

    • Full-extension drawer guides.
    • Plywood shelves that are ¾-inch thick.
    • A cabinet box made of furniture-grade plywood.
    • Drawers with solid wood sides, dovetail joinery, and a plywood bottom.
    • Doors with a solid-wood frame surrounding a solid-wood or plywood panel.

    For more information, read our full cabinet buying guide as well as our Kitchen planning guide.

    —Adapted from Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Best detergents for smelly sports and camp gear

    All across America, kids are coming home from summer camp with duffel bags full of seriously soiled clothing, some of which haven't have seen the inside of a washing machine in weeks. At the same time, pre-season sport camps are ramping up just as temperatures are peaking. The result is a fearsome mix of smell and stains, including grass, mud, blood, sweat, syrup, and more. If you're the unlucky parent in charge of these rank, festering laundry piles, you don't want to leave the job to just any detergent. Here are the few winners from our latest laundy detergent Ratings that can stand up to the end-of-summer challenge.

    High-efficiency champ
    If you have a front-loader or high-efficiency top-loader, consider Tide Ultra Stain Release. At 25 cents per load, this liquid detergent costs more than most, but it was tops in our tests at overall cleaning power, vanquishing grass, blood, and dust sebum (which simulates ring-around-the-collar and other body stains). It's also superb at cool water cleaning, which should lead to big energy savings over time. Prefer powder? The Tide HE Plus Bleach Alternative, 23 cents per load, kept pace with its liquid brand mate in our tests.

    Bargain buys
    Paying top dollar for Tide can get expensive in a hurry if your washer is running nonstop to keep up with multiple campers. Sam's Club members should consider Member's Mark Ultimate Clean, which can be used in high-efficiency or conventional washers. It costs just 12 cents a load, and it was tough on grass and dust sebum. It had a tougher time with blood, so if you have a house full of athletes, be sure to pre-treat heavily stained clothing before adding it to the laundry. Costco shoppers should consider the Kirkland Signature Free & Clear liquid detergent. While it didn’t make the current recommend list, it is still a very good choice at 11 cents per load. Like the Member’s Mark, it can be used in all washing machines.  

    Most convenient
    Single-dose laundry detergents are helpful during busy laundry times, since they eliminate the need for measuring. While none make our current recommended list, All Mighty Pacs Oxi, 17 cents per load, were tough on the types of stains kids are likely to bring home from camp, especially grass and sweat. Just make sure to keep these pacs (or those from any brand) out of reach of small children, who might mistake them for candy.

    Whichever laundry detergent you choose, it's important to follow best practices, especially when you're dealing with large, smelly loads. Sort by colors as well as fabric types—jeans and heavier items in one load, and t-shirts and lighter fabrics in another. Don't overload the machine, or you’ll probably have to wash the items a second time. And follow the manufacturer's measuring directions for large or very dirty loads. You might be tempted to add even more detergent, but this can leave residue in your machine and on your clothing.

    —Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter) 

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    The best clothes dryers for $800 or less

    Some people think $1,600 is way too much to pay for a dryer and for that amount you should be able to get a washer and dryer. Count me in as one of those people. The top-rated electric dryers in Consumer Reports tests cost $1,500 to $1,600. Here’s a look at impressive dryers for half that. But first, how did dryers become so expensive?

    “It varies by brand, but bigger capacities is part of it,” says Emilio Gonzalez, an engineer who runs our tests of dryers and washing machines. “More sophisticated electronic controls, steam options, blocked-duct indicators, and added insulation for quieting the dryer boost the price. And forget about plain metal doors. Some dryers have tinted glass and styling that matches the washers.” The most expensive dryers are often Wi-Fi enabled and offer remote control, such as the $1,500 LG Smart ThinQ DLEX6001V.

    For $800 you won’t be able to turn off your dryer from Starbucks. Capacity does matter and keeps increasing, allowing you to do more laundry at once. A dryer that holds about 25 or more pounds of laundry earns an excellent capacity score in our tests. Most families can get by with a machine that’s rated very good or even good in capacity. Very good means the washer fit about 20 to 24 pounds of our laundry. A good score means the washer held about 15 to 19 pounds.

    Electric dryer picks
    These dryers were superb at drying and scored very good in capacity. Nearly all were relatively quiet and one was quieter than the others.

    Gas dryer picks
    We test only electric dryers, which account for about 80 percent of models sold, and years of testing found that gas and electric dryers perform comparably. Here are the gas versions of the electric dryers above. Gas dryers cost about $50 to $150 more than the electric, but the likely savings in fuel costs should more than make up the difference in the long run.

    More great picks
    See our dryer Ratings for the full details on test results and features, and use the Compare Models tool to do just that. To find an affordable washing machine check out "The best washing machines for $800 or less" and to find a matching laundry pair see "The best matching washers and dryers from our tests."

    —Kimberly Janeway (@CRJaneway on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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 matching washers and dryers

    Matching washer and dryer pairs are a popular choice but some don't make a great couple. Their coordinating style and color make a statement, but you'll question how a terrific washer and a noisy dryer that's tough on clothes ended up together. Enter the matchmaker. Consumer Reports tests found a number of matching pairs that are worth a look.

    Now about the prices. The top-rated washers and dryers are expensive. Blame the rising cost of manufacturing and transportation, as well as much larger capacities, stainless-steel drums, added cycles and features, and improved styling. Specialty cycles take out the guesswork, but up the price. Our tests have found that basic cycles can handle most of your laundry needs. So ask yourself if you want to pay extra for a bedding cycle or one for your jeans.  

    CR Tip: Take a look at the washers and dryers that scored very good or better in our tests for noise if you're placing the washer and dryer near bedrooms. You'll know they're working but they shouldn't disturb you. You'll hear the machines that scored good or lower. They make sustained sounds that can be annoying.

    Full washing machine Ratings and recommendations
    .
    Full clothes dryer Ratings and recommendations.

    Our tests found a number of matching washer and dryer pairs that are quiet enough for prime placement near a family room or bedrooms. All offer large or even jumbo capacities and the dryers have moisture sensors that help save energy by turning off the machine when the laundry is dry. Many of the washers and dryers have a steam option. Our dryer tests have found that steam didn't remove wrinkles but did remove more odors than conventional dryers, and steam washer settings slightly improved stain cleaning. We frequently show appliances in white but many pairs are also available in other colors. Here's a glimpse.

    For more details on their performance and features, see our Ratings of washing machines and clothes dryers.

    Kenmore set
    Kenmore Elite 41073 front-loader and Kenmore Elite 81073 electric dryer
    Price: $1,200 each
    Here's the deal: The washer has 14 cycles, offers excellent washing, was gentle on fabrics, and has a jumbo capacity—it can hold about 26 pounds of laundry. It made the recommended list. The dryer was excellent at its job and also has a jumbo capacity. Both machines let you transmit data by smartphone to technicians who will try to solve the problem without a housecall.
    Consider this: Normal wash time using the heavy soil setting is 95 minutes. Try the Accela-Wash option. It offers comparable wash performance in less time.
    Need to know: Each machine is 29 inches wide—2 more than usual—but can be stacked to save room. Gas dryer is Kenmore Elite 91073, $1,300. 

    LG duos
    LG WM8500HVA front-loader and LG DLEX8500V electric dryer 
    Price: $1,600 each
    Here's the deal: The washer is top rated and both machines made the recommended list and have jumbo capacities, each holding about 26 pounds of laundry. The washer was superb at cleaning and gentle on fabrics and has 14 cycles; the dryer excelled at drying. Each has SmartDiagnosis. It enables you to use your smartphone to transmit data to technicians who will try to solve the problem without a housecall.
    Consider this: It took 90 minutes to do a normal wash on the heavy soil setting, but the TurboWash option offers comparable wash performance in less time.
    Need to know: Each machine is 29 inches wide, two more than usual, but can be stacked. Available in a graphite-steel finish. Gas dryer is DLGX8501V, $1,700. 

    LG WT5680HVA high-efficiency top-loader and LG DLEX5680V electric dryer
    Price: $1,200 each
    Here's the deal: This top-rated washer is recommended and among the few top-loaders to deliver superb cleaning. It has 14 cycles and a jumbo capacity that can hold about 26 pounds of laundry. Normal wash time on the heavy soil setting was 75 minutes. The TurboWash option offers comparable cleaning in less time. The dryer was superb at drying and also has a jumbo capacity. 
    Consider this: As with most top-loaders this LG wasn't so gentle on fabrics. And if you're short, reach into the washer tub when shopping and try to touch the bottom. If you'll need tongs to retrieve clean socks find another washer. 
    Need to know: Each machine has SmartDiagnosis. Gas dryer is LG DLGX5681V, $1,300. 

    LG WT5070C[W] high-efficiency top-loader and LG DLEX5170[W] electric dryer
    Price: $1,000 washer, $900 dryer 
    Here's the deal: The washer was impressive at cleaning and gentle on fabrics. It has 12 cycles and normal wash time on heavy soil setting is 65 minutes. The dryer excelled at drying and of the dozens tested, it's one of the few to score excellent in our noise tests. Both machines have large capacities.
    Need to know: Each machine has SmartDiagnosis. Gas dryer is LG DLGX5171[W], $1,050.

    Maytag mates
    Maytag Maxima XL MHW7000AW front-loader and Maytag Maxima XL MED7000AW electric dryer.
    Price: $1,150 each
    Here's the deal: The washer aced our cleaning tests, was gentle on fabrics, and was one of the few front-loaders to ace our vibration tests. The dryer offers excellent drying. Both machines have large capacities.  
    Consider this: Normal wash time was 90 minutes on heavy soil setting.
    Need to know: Washer and dryer can be stacked to save room. Gas dryer is Maytag Maxima MGD7000AG, $1,300. These machines are made in the U.S. 

    Samsung sets
    Samsung WF457ARGS[GR] front-loader and Samsung DV457EVGS[GR] electric dryer
    Price: $1,550 each
    Here's the deal: The washer was superb at cleaning and one of the few front-loaders that did superbly in our vibration tests. It has 14 cycles and made the recommended list. The dryer aced its job. Each machine has a large capacity and held about 21 pounds of our laundry.
    Consider this: Normal wash time on heavy soil setting took 100 minutes and this washer wasn't so gentle on fabrics.
    Need to know: Machines can be stacked. Both are Wi-Fi enabled, offering you remote control using your smartphone. Gas dryer is Samsung DV457GVGS[GR], $1,700.

    Samsung WF56H9100AG front-loader and Samsung DV56H9100EG electric dryer
    Price: $1,520 each
    Here's the deal: The washer has the largest capacity of the tested front-loaders and fit about 28 pounds of our laundry. It offers impressive cleaning.The top-rated dryer was superb at drying and also has a jumbo capacity. Both are recommended. 
    Consider this: The washer wasn't so gentle on fabrics. Normal wash time on heavy soil setting was 85 minutes, but the SuperSpeed option cut wash time of full loads by about 15 to 20 minutes without sacrificing performance.
    Need to know: Each machine is 30 inches wide, three more than usual, and can be stacked. Gas dryer is Samsung DV56H9100GP, $1,620.

    Samsung WA56H9000AP high-efficiency top-loader and Samsung DV56H9000EP electric dryer
    Price: $1,500 each
    Here's the deal: This washer has a jumbo capacity and can hold about 28 pounds of laundry, the most of all tested top-loaders and more than most front-loaders. Washing was impressive. Normal wash time on heavy soil setting was 75 minutes. The dryer was excellent at its job and has a jumbo capacity.
    Consider this: As with most top-loaders this washer wasn't so gentle on fabrics.
    Need to know: Each machine is 30 inches wide, three more than usual. The washer's Waterproof cycle prevented the washer from becoming unbalanced when we washed several waterproof jackets. Gas dryer is Samsung DV56H9000GP, $1,600. 

    Whirlpool pairs
    Whirlpool Duet WFL98HEBU front-loader and Whirlpool Duet WEL98HEBU electric dryer
    Price: $1,500 each
    Here's the deal: Both have a large capacity. The washer offers excellent wash performance. Normal wash time, on heavy soil setting, is 75 minutes. That's faster than most.The dryer was superb at drying and among the quietest tested.
    Consider this: These machines are expensive, in part because they are Wi-Fi enabled, providing remote control via your smart device that lets you monitor your laundry's progress, start/stop the machine, and more.
    Need to know: Machines are only available in silver and can be stacked. Dryer is not available as a gas model.

    CR Tip: Some HE top-loaders come with a warning not to wash waterproof items, or the manufacturer may suggest using the low-spin or no-spin mode to prevent the load from becoming unbalanced, which can cause the machine to shake too much, even damaging the machine and laundry area. Check the manual before you buy.  

    The best washers and top dryers in Consumer Reports' tests are typically among the most expensive, so if you want a matching dryer for your new washer you might have to spend lots of money to do loads of laundry. You'll pay about $3,000 for a top-rated front-loader and its matching electric dryer. But if your budget is around $1,600 or less, take a look at the pairs that did well in our tests and that won't break the bank. A word of caution. Some are relatively noisy, something to think about if you want to install them near bedrooms or a family room.

    CR Tip: Before you give up on your dryer consider that most of the improvements in performance and efficiency are found on washers. If you're set on a matching duo, in general it's smart to select your washer first and then the dryer. Here's a look at several matching pairs, most of the models did not make our Recommended list, but all of these washers and dryers were still impressive at cleaning or drying. For more details on their performance and features, see our Ratings of washing machines and clothes dryers.

    LG duos
    LG WT1001CW high-efficiency top-loader and LG DLE1001W electric dryer
    Price: $600 each
    Here’s the deal: The washer was one of the few top-loaders to excel at washing and made our recommended list. Normal wash time on heavy soil setting was 70 minutes. The dryer aced its job. Both machines are relatively quiet.
    Consider this: Like most top-loaders this LG wasn’t so gentle on fabrics. Washer capacity isn’t as large as the top models, but should suffice for most families.
    Need to know: Control panels are on front. Gas dryer is LG DLG1002W, $750. The washer and dryer have the SmartDiagnosis feature. If a machine is on the blink you can transmit data by smartphone to technicians who try to solve the problem without a housecall.

    LG WT4870CW high-efficiency top-loader and LG DLE4870W electric dryer
    Price: $800 each
    Here’s the deal: They didn’t make our recommended list but the washer was impressive at cleaning and gentle on fabrics. Normal wash time on heavy soil setting is 75 minutes. The dryer was superb at its job. Both have large capacities and can hold about 22 pounds each, and are relatively quiet.
    Need to know: Both machines have the SmartDiagnosis feature. Gas dryer is LG DLG4871W, $900.

    Maytag pair
    Maytag Bravos XL MVWB725BW high-efficiency top-loader and Maytag Bravos XL MEDB725BW electric dryer
    Price: $800 each
    Here’s the deal: Neither made our recommended list but offer impressive washing and drying and have large capacities. The dryer is relatively quiet.
    Consider this: Like most top-loaders the Maytag wasn’t so gentle on fabric, and this washer is relatively noisy. Normal wash time on heavy soil setting was 90 minutes—longer than most.
    Need to know: Gas dryer is Maytag Bravos XL MGDB725BW, $900.

    Whirlpool set
    Whirlpool Cabrio WTW5800BW high-efficiency top-loader and Whirlpool Cabrio WED5800BW electric dryer
    Price: $700 each
    Here’s the deal: Neither made the recommended list but the washer was impressive at cleaning and did a normal wash on heavy soil setting in a brisk 40 minutes. The dryer was excellent at its job.
    Consider this: Like most top-loaders this washer wasn’t so gentle on fabrics, and it’s relatively noisy.
    Need to know: The washer’s capacity isn’t as big as the top models, but should suffice for most families. The capacity earned a good score, and can hold about 17 pounds of laundry. Gas dryer is Whirlpool Cabrio WGD5800BW, $800. 

    CR Tip: Increasing capacities meant it was time to update the capacity scores in our Ratings of washers and dryers. A machine now needs to hold about 25 or more pounds of laundry to earn an excellent capacity score. Most families can get by with a machine that’s rated very good or even good in capacity. Very good indicates that the washer fit about 20 to 24 pounds of our laundry. A good score means the washer held about 15 to 19 pounds.

     

    In addition to washing performance Consumer Reports washing machine tests look at how gentle a washing machine is on fabric as well as its energy and water efficiency. We also look at such factors as noise and vibration that might annoy you if your laundry room is adjacent to a living area. And we compare cycle times. Front-loaders usually take anywhere from 65 to 105 minutes to wash an 8-pound load. Top-loaders are a little quicker, most ranging from 45 to 90 minutes. As for capacity, models rated excellent in capacity fit 25 or more pounds of laundry. Models scoring very good in capacity fit 20 to 24 pounds of our laundry. 

    In our clothes dryer tests we run the machines with different sized loads and a variety of fabrics. We also measure noise, capacity and convenience. Models that earned excellent or very good capacity scores in our dryer tests can hold large loads as well.

    You can find more details on the model page for each washer and dryer, and compare up to five washers or dryers using the comparison feature in our Ratings. Before you buy look online for sales as well as manufacturer rebates and utilitiy rebates for Energy Star washers; the first Energy Star dryers arrived in stores the summer of 2014.

    A word about washer types
    Front-loaders use less water than top-loaders but typically have longer wash cycles—some take 100 minutes or more. That's not the end of the world, but it may be the beginning of laundry pile-up. Since front-loaders use less water, the detergent is more concentrated and the machine's tumbling action can also help boost cleaning. Manufacturers recommend using HE detergent—that's high efficiency—for front-loaders and HE top-loaders. Regular detergents are too sudsy for these machines.

    The best front-loaders clean better and use even less water than the best HE top-loaders. Front-loaders spin faster than HE top-loaders so more water is typically extracted, reducing drying time but front-loaders generally have longer wash cycles. HE top-loaders don't have a center agitator and use a variety of methods to lift and tumble laundry. They're high-efficiency because they use less water and spin faster than conventional top-loaders, also cutting dryer time.

    —Kimberly Janeway

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Kenmore dishwashers get unfavorable user reviews

    A handful of major dishwasher brands have occupied the top spot in Consumer Reports’ dishwasher Ratings in recent years and each time one model leapfrogs over another it’s news—as we recently reported when KitchenAid edged out Kenmore. But today it’s our readers’ turn as we take note of a number of complaints about two Kenmore dishwashers that were both former champions.

    When we tested the Kenmore Elite 12793, $1,350, it had mostly top-notch performance along with an industry first: a motorized spray arm that was able to reverse direction if it hit an obstacle such as a utensil that had slipped through the racks. Using an action camcorder mounted inside the tub, we verified the claim by observing a cycle. Among other attractions, we liked the adjustable upper rack that can be moved using only one hand. But we also noted the Kenmore’s lackluster performance when it came to drying plastic items.

    Since we posted our results for the Kenmore Elite 12793, user reviews have rolled in (you can find them on the model page). They cite two issues about equally: breakage and sub-par drying. The breakage complaints involved either the control panel or the upper rack's adjustment arm—the same one that had impressed us in our tests. (We experienced neither failure.) However, we weren’t surprised to hear about the machine’s struggles with drying plastic.

    The now third-place Kenmore Elite 12783, $1,200, edged out the then-reigning champ, the Bosch Ascenta SHX3AR7[5]UC, with similar performance and features—yet slightly quieter operation and lower water use. But a number of recent user reviews cite reliability issues related to breakage. Of these, a few specifically mention leaking pumps. As with the Kenmore Elite 12793, we experienced no breakage during our testing.

    While Consumer Reports closely monitors the user reviews on our website, we do not base our Ratings and model recommendations on them. For that we rely on our own testing and expertise. We also count on the aid of our brand-repair histories to identify patterns in long-term use. Currently, Kenmore lies roughly midway between the most and least repair-prone brands of dishwashers.

    There’s one buying criteria that often trumps the rest for many shoppers: price. And at $730, the Bosch Ascenta SHX3AR7[5]UC remains the least expensive of our top diswasher picks. Whatever drives your selection, be sure to read our buying guide before comparing models in our dishwasher Ratings of almost 190 dishwashers.

    —Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Refrigerators that are packed with new features

    Now is a great time to be in the market for a new refrigerator. Stiff competition between major brands, including GE, Kenmore, LG, and Samsung, has sparked innovative designs and a slew of new convenience features. Our latest tests of four-door, French-door, and side-by-side refrigerators turned out a dozen top picks, including a new high for overall score. There were some lemons in the mix as well, however, so check the complete refrigerator Ratings carefully to find the fridge that's right for you. 

    The biggest and best gets bigger and better

    The Samsung Chef Collection RF34H9960S4, $5,400, rides superb temperature control, energy efficiency, and quietness to a tied-for-best overall score, and its 23.4 cubic feet of usable capacity is the most we've ever measured. It narrowly surpasses its brand mate, the Samsung T9000, $3,500. Both models are true four-door refrigerators, with an upper fresh-food section behind traditional French-doors and two side-by-side bottom freezer compartments, one of which can convert to an additional refrigerator chamber. 

    Paying more for the Chef Collection brings several upgrades, including stainless steel interior paneling, which Samsung says will help maintain consistent temperatures. There's also a through-the-door ice and water dispenser with built-in SodaStream sparkling water maker; pillar-style high-efficiency lighting; and an oven and dishwasher-safe metal pan that can be used to marinate meat and fish. 

    A surge in side-by-sides

    The side-by-side configuration has been losing market share to popular French-door models. But manufacturers aren't giving up on it, recognizing that the narrow door swing still offers the most streamlined fit for smaller kitchens. Plus a lot of consumers prefer the vertical freezer space of a side-by-side. Four newly tested models made our winner's podium, and they're loaded with features you probably haven't seen before. 

    The Samsung RH29H9000SR, $2,350, part of the manufacturer's "Food Showcase" series, features a unique full-length door-in-door compartment, allowing you to access drinks, condiments, and other often-used items without opening the main fresh-food compartment; stainless steel paneling is supposed to seal in the freshness. 

    Another novel design is the LG LSC22991ST, $2,700. At first glance, this side-by-side refrigerator resembles Samsung's four-door refrigerators, with its two-over-two door configuration. But the upper-right quadrant is actually a door-in-door compartment that opens with the press of a button; to open the entire fresh-food section, you pull on the horizontal handle. The LG is another cabinet-depth model, and it performed very well or better in all of our tests.

    GE returns to French-door form

    In 2012, GE announced that it would bring the manufacturing of its French-door refrigerators home, to a brand new factory in its Louisville headquarters. The move appears to be paying off, with the return of GE to our top picks list of French-door refrigerators. The GE Profile PWE23KMDES, $2,600, shares the highest oversell score in our Ratings, combining superb temperature control and efficiency. It's also the only recommended French-door model that is cabinet-depth, which confers the sleek look of a true built-in refrigerator for thousands less. And it's available in the new-ish slate finish, a matte, gray-toned metallic that resists smudges and fingerprints better than stainless steel. 

    Check out our complete refrigerator Ratings for details on the roughly 40 models that make our recommended list.

    —Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Free recipes spice up appliance websites

    If you’re hungry for new recipe ideas, the last place you might think to look for inspiration is an appliance maker’s website. But those sites are no longer boring, spec-heavy storefronts. Lots of appliance makers’ blogs, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels are loaded with helpful info. Want low-cal smoothie recipes to whip up in your Blendtec blender? Or maybe you’d like to talk with other KitchenAid stand mixer users about their favorite dough-making techniques? You can find all that and more on those sites. (Yes, you’ll also find plenty of ads and other brand propaganda.) Some of the best recipes are from brands that make Consumer Reports’ top-rated appliances. Here are the details.

    KitchenAid: The Kitchenthusiast
    Best for: Seasonal recipes and party food
    Sample recipe: Buttercream frosting four ways
    Our take on KitchenAid: KitchenAid is our top-rated hand mixer and holds three of five spots on our list of top stand mixers, the Professional, Classic, and Artisan. KitchenAid also makes our top-rated gas range and top-rated 30-inch and 36-inch pro-style ranges. And it cleans up with its top-rated dishwasher.

    Blendtec: The Blend
    Best for: Health-boosting recipes
    Sample recipe: Almond poppy seed bread
    Our take on Blendtec: The Blendtec Designer Series Wildside, $460, just missed our list of top blender picks despite its excellent scores for pureeing and crushing ice.

    Vitamix: Find Recipes
    Best for: Creative blender recipes.
    Sample recipe: Apricot-ancho barbecue glaze
    Our take on Vitamix: The Vitamix 5200, $450, has been tied at the top of our blender Ratings for quite some time. In addition to acing our frozen drink, puree, and ice crush tests, it's one of the few models that makes hot soup and blitzes whole fruits and vegetables into smooth, creamy juice.

    Cuisinart: Club Cuisinart
    Best for: Technique tips and videos
    Sample recipe: Grinding meat for steak burgers
    Our take on Cuisinart: Synonymous with food processors, Cuisinart holds four of the five spots on our list of top food processor picks but was edged out by a Breville. The models range in price from $160 to $300. Cuisinart held the top spot for 2-slice and 4-slice toasters but was recently overtaken by Calphalon. And make room on the counter for the top-rated Cuisinart drip coffeemaker.

    Breville: Food Thinkers
    Best for: Gourmet recipes with show-and-tell videos
    Sample recipe: Corn waffles and warm lobster salad
    Our take on Breville: This brand has several top picks in our small appliance tests including our top-rated food processor and top-rated stand mixer. The Breville Smart Oven is our top-rated toaster oven. A 4-slice toaster, blender, and our top-rated immersion blender round out our Breville picks.

    Viking: Cooking School
    Best for: A wide selection of recipes
    Sample recipe: Dirty shrimp
    Our take on Viking: Viking got our nod for both a 36-inch electric smoothtop cooktop and 36-inch gas cooktop. The brand’s beefy pro-style ranges failed to make the top picks list as did its built-in refrigerators.

    Thermador: Culinary Living
    Best for: Dishes fit for company.
    Sample recipe: Paella
    Our take on Thermador: Thermador makes our top-rated built-in refrigerator as well as two others on the list of top built-in refrigerators. A Thermador also holds the top spot in gas cooktops and we also recommend the top-rated 36-inch induction cooktop and a Thermador Topaz Series dishwasher.

    —Mary H.J. Farrell (@mhjfarrell on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Back-to-school shopping guide

    19 top free apps for college students
    College students will soon be heading back to school—with their mobile devices in hand. We've compiled a list of our favorite free back-to-school apps that can help you score an A in College 101.

    5 great, cheap headphones for back to school
    You may not be able to do anything about the high cost of tuition, but you don't have to spend a bundle to get a great set of headphones. But with so many models out there, which one should you choose?

    5 laptops for college students that won't break your budget
    College may be the best investment for the future, but it certainly doesn’t come cheap. To help stretch your budget, we combed our computer Ratings to find some of the best laptops in terms of price and performance in the $600 to $800 range.

    5 best laptops and tablets for back to school
    Students need a lot more than pencils and notebooks in today’s classrooms: The way they learn has changed radically since computers and the Internet arrived. As an educator and tech advocate, Vicki Davis, told us, “Tablets and laptops are the new paper, the new textbook, and the new podium from which teachers share with their classes.”

    Best electronics gear for college students
    For college students, one harsh reality of dorm or small-apartment living is that space can often be severely limited. Their budgets are also unlikely to be too grand, which means that no matter how much an undergrad wants high-end name-brand electronics, that gear might not be worth enduring an endless diet of cheap supermarket ramen noodles. Check our suggestions for the space-starved, budget-minded student who doesn't want to compromise on quality electronics equipment.

    Best small appliances for college students
    If you are among the parents packing college students off to school for the first time, you may be tempted to equip their dorm rooms with all the creature comforts of home, including small appliances to satisfy their needs. But before you do, check the university’s website for what to bring and what not to. Typically, small appliances with exposed coils, such as toasters, are prohibited. For example, the University of Indiana at Bloomington says not to bring toaster ovens but allows irons, while New York University permits the use of  blenders, hand vacuums, and humidifiers, but not hot plates. Of course, students living off-campus can bring whatever they need. Here are some affordable, top-rated small appliances from Consumer Reports tests.

    Laundry tips for college students help them take a load off
    With all the studying and, ahem, extracurriculars that are part of campus life, doing laundry is the last thing college students want to do. Still, unless you're going to pay to get it done or wait until an upcoming break to wash your clothes at home (who has that many pairs of underwear?), it's a necessity. But if you don't do it right, all kinds of problem can ensue.

    College dorm sheets that will last until graduation
    College students will be off to campus in the coming weeks and are shopping in earnest to furnish the rooms where they'll be spending the next nine months. Towels? Check. Pillows? Check. Sheets. Not so fast. Before investing in a good set of bed linens, check the size of the dorm bed. Most college dorms have beds that are five inches longer than the standard twin so regular twin sheets won't cover them. The extra-long twin sheets aren't sold everywhere so you may want to shop online in advance. Here's how to find sheets that'll last until graduation.

    How to handle a college student’s money needs
    Your child is heading to college this fall. After you’ve figured out the big spending issues—tuition, room, meal plan, and fees—you need to consider how your scholar will handle spending on everyday expenses, such as toiletries, supplies, laundry, travel, activities, and entertainment. Here are some smart ways to handle transferring funds and teach your child how to manage money.

    Ways to save with student discounts
    With the start of school just around the corner, you may be fretting about how much you'll have to spend on clothing, electronics, and other back-to-school must-haves. Luckily, if you or your child is a college student, many stores and services offer discounts that make purchases more affordable. Some even extend the invitation to high school or even kindergarten through 12th grade students.

    How to go to college free
    Starbucks made headlines recently with its plan to help finance four-year college degrees for employees. A deal between the coffee giant and Arizona State University covers the cost of tuition—full or partial, depending on credits completed—for employees enrolled in the school's online degree program.

    But you don't have to be a macchiato-making maven to get a free college education. Consumer Reports has identified many ways to go to college free, no matter your household income.

    How to minimize student debt
    With each passing year, college costs are increasing. By one estimate, they will continue to rise at a rate of 5 percent annually for at least the next 15 years. Debt may be unavoidable, but there are several steps you can take to minimize the amount of money you will owe when you graduate.
     
    As a rising junior at a state university, here’s what I’ve learned.

    Student loan rates set to rise
    Certain types of federal student loans will cost borrowers more beginning next month, as their interest rates adjust to reflect the higher borrowing costs of the federal government.

    How to insure your college student's stuff

    College students take a lot valuable stuff with them to school: computers, printers, TVs, bicycles, cell phones, digital music players, and more. So it's important to protect your kid's possessions against loss. Several insurance options exist, and the one you choose depends on where your son or daughter goes to school and the type of coverage you want.

    Best everyday products for college students
    When children are in elementary school, teachers typically send home a list of school supplies that parents should buy. When they go off to college, students need some of the same everyday items but this time you have to come up with the list. Keep in mind that students will be moving into unfurnished spaces and will want familiar things such as paper towels, tissues, batteries and laundry detergent within easy reach. The experts at Consumer Reports scoured our labs and found some extraordinary everyday products.

    5 best used cars for teen drivers
    School's out for summer, and teens have places to go. Whether heading to a friend’s house, commuting to work, or preparing for school in the fall, many young drivers need (or at least want) their own car. While there can be the temptation to buy whatever cheap model is being advertised in your neighborhood, or to provide a hand-me-down car, choosing the best used cars for teens warrants a bit more strategy.

    Tips for safe carpooling
    As summer winds down, kids will soon return to school, complete with hectic schedules and extra-curricular activities. For many families, dealing with the logistics of an active child means sharing transportation duties in a carpool. But not every parent adheres to safe practices when it comes to strapping young children into safety or booster seats and that can put your child in danger. Likewise, many are content to buckle a child in an adult three-point belt before they are large enough.

    Smart car-packing tips for heading back to school
    After endless trips to stores to stock up on back-to-school supplies and dorm essentials, you’re ready to send your child off to college. Of course, it never looks like a lot of stuff until you try to fit it in a car. College necessities don’t just include clothes and toiletries, but bigger items such as computers, electronics, furniture, and small appliances. The challenge is to pack your car safely in a way that doesn’t interfere with visibility and secures all items so they don’t become dangerous projectiles. Use our tips on how to pack up your car for a back-to-school road trip.

    Best new cars for teens
    If you are looking to buy a new car for your teen driver, there are some good options that are safe and reliable, and won’t break the bank. Plus if you buy one this summer, you can take advantage of model-year-end deals on 2012 vehicles before the 2013s arrive in showrooms.

    Our list also highlights models that perform well in our testing and government and insurance-industry safety tests, plus have average or better predicted reliability, based on our subscriber surveys. (Consumer Reports maintains reliability Ratings on our website going back 10 model years.) Making selection easier, all 2012 cars offer standard electronic stability control, a proven lifesaver that is especially beneficial to less-experienced drivers.

    How to choose the best GPS navigator for back to school
    As families prepare to send their students off to college, most have a mile-long shopping list filled with essentials for independent living. One great gift that may not be on the radar is a GPS navigator to help the student get around campus area and back home safely.

    Does your child use a booster seat when carpooling?
    Most parents routinely strap their young school-aged kids into boosters, even for a 1-mile trip to the supermarket. But when it comes to carpooling, parents are a lot less consistent in their use of booster seats, according to a study published online in January 2012 by the journal Pediatrics.

    School bus safety tips for motorists
    Riding the bus to school is a safer mode of transportation for children than driving or walking, but the real risk for injury is from motorists who don’t follow the proper laws and procedures when driving near a bus. Here are some rules to make sharing the road with buses safe for everyone.

    6 back-to-college health tips
    Staying healthy at college is no easy task between busy schedules, limited budgets, and lots of germs. Here are six ways to maintain your well-being when you head back to college.

    Healthy food choices for students on the go
    Raiding the refrigerator is a cinch when you want a late-night snack at home. But when you’re living in a dorm without a full kitchen, it can be slim pickings. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, healthy choices that take little or no preparation and can be easily stored in a dorm room or compact refrigerator. Here are some breakfast foods, snacks, and frozen entrees that received high marks from the food testers at Consumer Reports.

    How to get rid of lice
    For parents, back to school means packing lunches, getting kids out the door in the morning, and countless other tasks big and small. For students, the return to the classroom brings the joy of seeing friends as well as the burdens of homework, class projects, tests, and more.

    And for parents and kids alike, back to school can also include one major nuisance in a tiny, sesame-seed-size package: head lice, which are wingless insects usually transmitted by head-to-head contact. If you notice your child scratching his or her scalp a lot, especially behind the ears or at the back of the neck, check for head lice.

    There’s a chance that the itching could be caused by eczema, dandruff, or an allergy. But if it is a case of lice, it will not clear up on its own, so treat it right away.

    Make healthy school lunches your kids will love
    You won’t necessarily save money by packing lunch for your kids—school cafeteria fare is pretty cheap. And the lunchroom offers choices that can be just as nutritious as anything you pack. Ah, but will your child choose the salad bar and an apple? Or is he more likely to grab the chicken nuggets with a side of fries? Making lunches at home can help you keep control of your kids' school-day meals and also ensures that picky eaters will have something they like to eat.

    Sure, the do-it-yourself approach takes time. But we have good news: By following the guidelines below, you’ll not only shave precious minutes off of your lunch-making routine, you’ll also get new ideas for healthy, palate-pleasing meals—plus expert tips on food safety and cool gear to transport lunch to school in style.

    6 tips for keeping off the pounds during college
    According to a recent study in the journal Social Science Quarterly, most first-year college students don't gain the "freshman 15." But they do pack on some weight, typically about three pounds. Those numbers, like student-loan debt, grow over the four years of college: Men add on about 13 pounds; women, about 9 pounds. Here you'll find easy solutions to common dietary problems faced by college students.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Ask the CEO: W. Craig Jelinek

    Hey, Costco fans . . . and everyone else. This is your opportunity to get the megastore's CEO to answer your questions.

    Ask the CEO, a new feature in Consumer Reports magazine, gives you a direct line to the world’s top brass. Our next CEO is W. Craig Jelinek, who presides over what The Wall Street Journal has called the "cheapest, happiest company in the world." 

    What's really behind those miles of aisles? Now, member or not, you can find out. Send us your questions about products Costco carries—or doesn’t; your own in-store experiences; the company's plans to expand; and more. 

    We’ll send select questions to Jelinek and print answers as an exclusive Q&A in an upcoming issue of Consumer Reports magazine and on ConsumerReports.org.

    Send your questions by August 27 to AskTheCEO@cr.consumer.org or submit one via Facebook.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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

    Wireless 911 calls need an upgrade

    When it comes to cell phones and 911 calls, the news is a mixed bag.

    The good news: When you're outdoors and make a 911 call with your cell phone, the dispatcher should be able to tell precisely where you are, thanks to requirements by the Federal Communications Commission and advancements in location technology, such as GPS.

    The bad news, especially when you consider that 70 percent of 911 calls now come from cell phones and that most cell calls are made from indoors: When you’re calling from inside a tall building or from an indoor location in a big city, it can be much harder to pinpoint your location. You could be stuck inside an apartment, office, or hotel, incapacitated and unable to describe your locale, and your cell phone wouldn't provide critical details to the 911 dispatcher.

    The inability of 911 to locate cell phones indoors is a serious and, with more and more Americans opting for wireless-only phone service, growing issue. That’s why Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is pressing for new standards for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and other wireless carriers to improve indoor-location accuracy.

    Read our earlier report to make sure your home phone service can reach 911.

    This year, the Federal Communications Commission put a proposal on the table that would raise benchmarks for wireless companies to help first responders locate wireless 911 calls. In five years, the carriers would be required to transmit locations for 911 calls made from indoors, with technology to pinpoint a floor of a building. Companies would have to report on their performance and progress, which is important because it can improve accountability and speed up improvements.

    People in many situations would benefit from these proposed standards: a child calling 911 on a cell phone for an adult when neither can describe the place, disabled and injured people who have difficulty verbalizing where they are, or anyone indoors in an urban environment where more than simple GPS coordinates are needed to find them.

    We believe the FCC’s proposal would save lives. It should be a priority for wireless carriers and regulators to ensure that all Americans can get emergency help, whether they're calling from indoors or outdoors, on a cell phone or landline.

    This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

    Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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 common paint problems and how to solve them

    Painting is no picnic so when you make the effort you want to get the best results possible. At Consumer Reports we get lots of questions about how to properly paint a room. Here are some of the most common questions with answers from our experts.

    Q. How should I paint the ceiling?
    A . After removing dust and dirt, use a small sash brush with flagged or split ends to cut in a strip of 2 inches or so around the edges of the ceiling. When choosing a brush, note that synthetic bristles tend to hold latex-based paints better and apply it more evenly than natural bristles. Then switch to a roller with an extension pole. Start in a corner and work across the shorter dimension of the room. For even coverage, paint a “W” or “M” pattern about 3 feet wide with the roller, then fill in the gaps. (The process works for walls, too.)

    Q. How can I prevent roller marks?
    A.  Avoid cheap rollers with obvious seams. Synthetic, short-napped rollers work best on most walls, ceilings, and trim. Use longer-nap rollers for textured walls. Steel frames with lots of tines will be stiffer and sturdier, and sealed ends will keep the paint on the roller. Be sure to give a new roller a rubdown before use to remove any lint. The paint you use matters, too, so look for high smoothness scores in our Ratings.

    Q. What if I missed a spot?
    A. After the paint dries, usually in about 4 hours, touch it up. If you do it before the paint dries, you’ll mess up the paint surrounding the bare spot.

    Q. Can I fix paint runs?
    A. Once the paint is dry, use fine sandpaper to remove the run, then retouch with a little paint. Runs can be a sign that you’re loading too much paint on the roller or brush or not spreading it well.

    Q. Can I trash unused paint?
    A. You should always keep a little for touch-ups. Pour it into a small container and label it with paint color, number, and room it was used in. You can try contacting local charities, religious organizations, or high school or college drama departments to ask whether they can use extra paint, or see whether your community collects it for reuse. If you don’t find any takers, follow local waste requirements for proper disposal (such as taking the lid off latex paint and letting it dry before disposing of the can).

    Best interior paints from our tests

    Best flat or matte:

    Best eggshell/ satin:

    Best semigloss:

    —Adapted from Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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 easy ways to fix the floors you have now

    Minor damage may even enhance the rustic look of distressed or hand-scraped floors by blending in with other patina, but you’ll probably want to fix other flaws. Check the manufacturer’s manual for any special instructions, then try these simple remedies for unwanted imperfections:

    1. Mark it. A color-matched felt marker can hide small scratches in any floor. Some hardwood manufacturers even offer color-blended filler for chips and grooves, available at home centers and flooring stores.

    2. Sand it. Badly worn or damaged wood floors must be refinished. But you can do spot repairs of wear or damage with light buffing or sanding, followed by staining. Be especially careful with thin veneers on engineered-wood floors.

    3. Replace only what’s damaged. Heavy damage or a cracked stone tile usually requires chiseling out the damaged section and gluing in a new piece. But that’s still easier than removing an entire row of tiles or planks if you’ve floated the floor.

    Top floors from our tests
    The top performer in Consumer Reports tests of six types of flooring was the vinyl Tarkett NAFCO PermaStone Collection Natural Slate-Sand Stone NS-660, $4.70 a square foot, which got excellent marks on our tests for foot traffic and resisting dents, scratches, stains, and sunlight. Another vinyl, Congoleum DuraCeramic Sierra Slate SI-74 Golden Greige, $5.00, did almost as well with excellent marks in everything but resisting denting, which was still very good. Not far behind was the ceramic tile SnapStone Beige 11-001-02-01, $8.00, which like its name implies is a snap to install.

    Good wood. If you prefer the look of wood, our top prefinished wood is Teragren Portfolio Naturals Wheat TPF-SYN-WHT-126-DL, $7.50 a square foot, followed closely by EcoTimber Woven Honey WBH061, $6.00. Both were very good at withstanding foot traffic and excellent at resisting scratches and stains. Teragren was also tops in engineered wood with its Teragren Synergy Wide Plank Java, $7.00. For full Ratings and recommendations see our Flooring Buying Guide.

    —Adapted from Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 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 | .... | 43 | 44 | (Page 45) | 46 | 47 | .... | 106 | newer