consumer spending might be lower than many manufacturers would like
right now, consumers are spending more time at home. This so-called "cocooning" or "nesting" trend
has helped the home appliance market remain stable in these shaky economic
housing market and turning to the home (cocooning) has kept the refrigerator
market strong, especially the market for better refrigerators," says
Tony Evans, vice president of Communications for the Electrolux Group
in Augusta, GA, U.S. "Consumers are more sophisticated, and know
the difference between basic products and those that will better serve
vice president of Refrigeration Products for Maytag Appliances (Newton,
IA, U.S.), agrees that the current economic situation has actually
enhanced the desire for a better breed of refrigerator. "In part,
it has been the catalyst for an increased focus on affordable luxury.
Across the appliance spectrum, we are seeing manufacturers create high-performance,
highly designed refrigerators at lower price points. At the same time,
we are also seeing an increased investment in technology and performance
at the ultra high-end," he says.
Industries (Richmond, IN, U.S.) introduces the Modéle
wine cellar in brilliant rouge. The company says the outstanding
feature of the refrigerator is its signature
red gloss interior. Its wine racks are brass-plated and meticulously
coated to avoid corrosion. A UV-resistant glass door reportedly
prevents UV rays from damaging fine wines. Its microprocessor-controlled
thermostat and quiet, ultra-efficient 461 BTU compressor are
said to ensure perfect wine temperature, while its vibration-free
operation maintains the integrity of the wines stored inside.
The racks are specially canted to keep corks moist, and its slide-out
racks hold standard American and European wine bottles.
consumers are looking for refrigerators that not only chill, but thrill.
As a result, appliance producers have endeavored to design refrigerators
that go way beyond the basic box in terms of materials, style, and
"There is fierce
competition in the development of materials/finishes and above all
in aesthetic design," says Alfonso Patruno, communications manager
for Italian appliance producer Merloni Elettrodomestici (Fabriano,
Italy). "Consumers are increasingly demanding sophisticated designs
with premium materials on the inside and out and properties such as
ergonomics and ease of use."
To that end, Merloni's
Ariston Opera 70 refrigerator is "a combination of elegance and top-quality
materials and finishes, with flush handles for clean lines and ease
of use," according to Mr. Patruno. The large-capacity double-door refrigerator
features a full metal door on the outside and door shelves in extra
thick, clear plastic. A choice of exterior color options includes stainless
steel, marble, silver, and pearl white.
Amana Easy Reach Plus is the company's largest bottom-mount
freezer, with more than 25-cu-ft of storage space, enabling
the user to store more fresh food at eye-level, where it is
best seen and accessed.
exterior finishes have been an option in appliance designs for some
time, but their appeal has been growing rapidly in recent years. Electrolux
Home Products reports that nearly 15 percent of all side-by-side refrigerators
sold in 2002 were in the stainless steel finish - double the pace of
2001. "It is a certifiable trend that people are choosing stainless
steel for their kitchen upgrades. The look is distinctive, and it gives
a high-end, decorator look to the most used room in the house," says
Rick Weiss, head of Appliance Design for the company. The stainless
steel finish, he says, once reserved for commercial products or the
ultra-high-end segment, was popularized when Frigidaire introduced
its Gallery Professional Series® in 1992. The Series made stainless
steel finishes available on standard size products at affordable prices.
"We now look at stainless steel as another color option, like white,
or black," says Mr. Weiss.
With the introduction
of the industry's first 28-in wide stainless-steel top-mount refrigerator,
Electrolux has opened up the category even further to serve apartment,
condo, and home owners with smaller-sized kitchens. These compact appliances
have rounded doors and a fingerprint-resistant stainless-steel finish.
Company (Madison, WI, U.S.) recently expanded the selection of finishes
available on all its refrigerator products by adding Carbon Stainless
Steel and Platinum Stainless Steel options. "The modern kitchen is
a showcase of the homeowner's particular tastes and design style," says
Jim Bakke, president and CEO for Sub-Zero and Wolf Appliance Company,
LLC. "Our goal is to offer the homeowner as many options as possible
to complement any taste."
One offering from
Sub-Zero is its glass-door option, which, according to Mr. Bakke, is
an advance in both design and technology. "The glass door has been
popular in the commercial realm, so it made sense to apply it to some
of our most popular models in the residential line," he tells APPLIANCE.
The glass-door option is available in three models - the 601RG all-refrigerator
with 19.9 cu ft of storage and the large-capacity 650G and 611G refrigerator/freezer
combination units with a refrigerator unit above and a freezer drawer
unit below. The contemporary glass door design incorporates a subdued
interior light that can be set to glow softly with the door shut for
a warm, arty effect.
In contrast, a
retro-chic look is also becoming fashionable in kitchen design. "The
resurgence in retro, in anything 1950s or 1960s, keeps gaining momentum," explains
Brian Hendrick, vice-president of Sales and Marketing for Elmira Stove
Works (Elmira, ON, Canada). "Our customers want the retro look, but
they want modern convenience and efficiency."
On the exterior,
Elmira's Northstar refrigerators feature rounded corners, chrome "wings" and
trims, and 1950s colors like Candy Red, Buttercup Yellow, Robin's Egg
Blue, Flamingo Pink, Mint Green, and (Cadillac™) Black. Inside is 18
cu ft of storage space, "Visi" shelving for easy access, and Energy
Star® high-efficiency technology.
from Electrolux Classic Series also features a comfortable, retro appeal
which the company dubs "Retro Modern." Four models in the line include
two top-mount and two side-by-side units with a high-gloss, smooth
finish reminiscent of appliances from the 1940s and 1950s, before textured
surfaces became standard in North American appliances. A raised, historic
script Frigidaire nameplate is featured on the exterior, which is offered
in four colors - white, black, bisque, and the popular stainless steel.
Prominent in the
Classic line is an exclusive 7-day meat keeper, which provides a cold
setting of 33°F (0°C), allowing food to be stored up to 150-percent
longer than with the normal 39°F (3.9°C) setting. Another innovation
is the water/ice dispenser with the company's PureSource2™ filtration
system, electronic touch pad, and illuminated dispenser paddles. A
new "Showcase Illumination" package adds a third row of lights in the
middle of the refrigerator to make finding items in the back easier.
Most of the current
high-end refrigerator models and even many "standard" refrigerators feature
pull-out drawers and shelves for easy reach and cleaning, deep door shelves
for storing gallons of milk, in-door water and ice dispensers, and improved
ergonomics. In addition, manufacturers are continually looking for ways
to gain more interior volume as consumers, especially in North America,
desire larger and larger refrigerators.
being increasingly recognized for its convenience attributes is the bottom-mount
freezer configuration. "We've definitely seen an increased interest in
bottom-freezer refrigerators," says Mr. Kacere of Maytag. "And for good
reason. Our research indicates that people access the fresh food compartment
seven times as often as the freezer. The appeal of the bottom freezer
is that it puts the most used compartment at eye level, making it easy
to see what's in the refrigerator, thus minimizing waste." As a result,
Maytag has introduced bottom-mount freezer models for all three of its
"We've found that
consumers really like the bottom-freezer platform, but some wanted more
storage capacity," Mr. Kacere adds. "We responded by introducing the
Amana Easy Reach Plus model with 25-cu-ft of storage capacity."
KitchenAid (Benton Harbor, MI, U.S.) Pro Line™ series includes
a stainless steel built-in refrigerator that is backed by a comprehensive
customer care and warranty program - 5 years, which includes an
extended service program and priority access to a dedicated Pro
Line series customer call center.
The Amana Easy Reach
Plus is Amana's largest bottom-mount freezer, offering conveniences aimed
at providing extra storage space. A Chef's Pantry™ drawer holds large
party trays and deli platters and is more than 6-in deeper than on other
refrigerators in the series. The drawer also features a self-opening
lid that automatically pops up when the pantry is opened. Extra storage
space in the EasyFreezer™ pull-out drawer freezer section enables consumers
to store up to 120 lb of meat. A glide-out lower freezer basket with
a split organizer helps the user find food items faster. Two models are
offered, one with an internal filter water dispenser.
According to Simon
Kang, president, Home Appliance Division for LG Electronics U.S.A. Inc.
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ, U.S.), "Consumers are looking for more convenient
ways to cook, entertain, and live in their kitchens. The bottom-mount
freezer refrigerator provides consumers with the extra functions they
desire without compromising style and quality."
LGE's new bottom-mount
freezer refrigerators (models LRDC20731/22731) are available in two designs,
the conventional left or right reversible door and the more innovative
tilting freezer drawer for easy access. The 22.4-cu-ft tilting drawer
model also features the added convenience of an external water dispensing
system with a built-in water filter, a feature most often reserved for
refrigerators with side-by-side configurations.
offers a unique type of convenience that has actually brought refrigerators
out of the kitchen. Compact, undercounter ice makers, wine chillers,
refrigerated drawers, refrigerator/freezers, and beer dispensers have
found applications throughout the home and even in outdoor rooms.
According to U-Line
Corporation, a Milwaukee, WI, U.S.-based specialist in undercounter refrigeration
appliances, the quest for convenience has resulted in an increase in
appliance applications throughout the home, designed to make living easy
and enjoyable wherever occupants or guests choose to spend their time.
The possibilities, the company says, are endless - from an ice maker/refrigerator
in the bar area to a refrigerator/freezer providing cold beverages and
snacks in the master suite, great room, home gym, or patio.
"More than ever
before, homeowners are going to great lengths to create homes that both
accommodate their busy lifestyles and reflect their personals tastes," says
Phil Uihlein, president and CEO of U-Line Corporation. "U-Line's two
distinct product lines, the Échelon™ Series and the Origins Series, exceed
the design possibilities and functionality of the homeowner's every refrigeration
The Échelon Series
offers a broad product assortment, including two ice makers, one Frost-Free
Combo® ice maker/refrigerator, one Frost-Free refrigerator/freezer, and
two refrigerators, plus a variety of specialty appliances like wine chillers.
The series has a sophisticated look which, according to U-Line, allows
endless applications both inside and outside of the home. The appliances
are designed to accept a full overlay custom panel and feature spill-proof
glass shelves, crisper drawers, and adjustable in-door storage that can
accommodate 2-L bottles. The company says the units are engineered with
advanced technology to assure outstanding performance with quiet operation
capabilities and the greatest energy efficiency achieved in undercounter
ice making and refrigeration.
New to the Echelon
Series is the model CLRCO2075 Clear Combo® ice maker/refrigerator that
offers the luxury of clear ice and the convenience of refrigeration.
According to the company, it is the first of its kind on the market.
"Never before has
a manufacturer achieved clear ice and refrigeration in one unit because
of the engineering challenges that clear ice production presents. Now
that we have accomplished this feat, we can offer consumers two outstanding
products in one exclusive appliance," explains Mr. Uihlein. The desirable
clear ice capability and refrigeration combination is achieved by using
two independently controlled evaporators, one uniquely designed for clear
The Origins Series
from U-Line is a collection of standard models, including two ice makers,
a combo ice maker/refrigerator, and three refrigerators. The models are
available in a variety of finishes and will accept a 1/4-in custom door
(Richmond, IN, U.S.) also offers a complete lineup of undercounter refrigeration
products. "Undercounter refrigeration can be anywhere in the house. A
trend we're seeing is satellite kitchens. Often refrigeration units are
hidden behind cabinets and in armoires to serve the needs of the homeowner
throughout the home," says Julia M. Uribe of the company. The company's
overlay doors enable the consumer to match the refrigerator model to
its surrounding cabinetry so that it virtually disappears into its surroundings.
Overlay glass doors are also offered, which accept an overlay frame made
of wood to match the surrounding cabinetry, but show off the interior
of the refrigeration unit.
Marvel's new Modéle
Rouge undercounter wine cellar features a decorative etched glass door
and a unique red interior accented with brass racks and trim for an elegant
"We wanted to offer
discerning wine connoisseurs an exciting and unique choice for storing
and protecting their precious vintages," explains Gordon Stauffer, president
and CEO of Northland Corporation, the parent company of Marvel.
Jenn-Air®, a brand
in the family of Maytag Appliances, recently introduced its first built-in
wine chiller, a clear-cube ice maker, and an undercounter refrigerator. "Jenn-Air
owners are people who really love to entertain," says Bill Deter, vice
president of Jenn-Air. "For these people, products like wine chillers,
undercounter refrigerators, and ice makers help make the entertaining
process easier and more enjoyable. By offering products like these, we
are making it easier for people to live the type of lifestyle they desire."
and premium features are all desirable, but keeping food fresh is a refrigerator's
main priority. "There's a strong challenge in terms of length of duration
of food," says Mr. Patruno of Merloni. To address that challenge, Merloni
recently fitted an Ever Fresh vacuum preservation system into its Ariston
Opera 70 Series no-frost combos. According to Mr. Patruno, the Ever Fresh
system can increase preservation time up to four times that of standard
LGE's new bottom-mount
refrigerators feature the company's multi-airflow system, a cooling system
in which all refrigerator shelves are outfitted with its own venting
ducts for optimal cavity cooling and food freshness. "Our research indicates
that consumers shopping for new refrigerators look for ones that cool
efficiently, maintain temperatures evenly, minimize spoilage, and are
whisper-quiet," says Mr. Kang of LGE. The company's new top-mount refrigerator
offering also features door-cooling technology. The Ice Beam™ system
keeps foods stored on the door as cool as in the rest of the refrigerator.
Internet Refrigerator from LG Electronics U.S.A. Inc. combines
all the best in refrigerator design and quality with built-in
Internet browsing, TV, and communications capabilities.
Perhaps the greatest
challenge to be met by appliance producers has been to reduce the energy
consumption of appliances. Consumers want to keep their food fresh, but
they don't want to pay enormous electric bills. At the same time, government
regulations have demanded an increase in energy efficiency, driving OEMs
to revamp appliances and prompting consumers to replace their old, outdated,
energy-guzzling refrigerators with models that use significantly less
"Consumers are aware
of operating costs and will pay attention to the Energy Star label," says
Mr. Evans of Electrolux.
According to a report
from the Canadian Appliance Manufacturers Association, Major Appliance
Industry Trends & Forecast 2003, "Energy Star models will experience
significant sales growth as consumers trade in older models for highly
efficient ones in an effort to minimize energy consumption while helping
Mr. Patruno of Merloni
believes there will continue to be a sharpening focus on consumption
and running costs, especially in Europe, where "as of January 2004, there
will be a law mandating the upgrading of energy classes. C-class and
below will disappear, leaving A+ and A++ as the absolutes. The market
is continually offering higher class energy consumption products at substantially
stable prices, obliging manufacturers to offer increasingly high-performance
products at increasingly lower costs," he explains.
To help improve
a refrigerator's insulation and energy performance, thicker walls are
often used, according to Steven Schilling, principal scientist for Bayer
Corporation (Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.). However, the thicker walls can also
increase the foam's k-factor and reduce the foam's density, while increasing
its demold swelling and perpendicular compressive strength.
conducted a systematic study of the effects of important variables on
the processing and physical properties of rigid polyurethane foam insulation
blown with three different third-generation blowing agents - HFC-245fa,
HFC-134a, and cyclopentane. They also included HCFC-141b, the blowing
agent that was phased out in the U.S. at the end of 2002 for use in foam
blowing. Bayer was interested in how foams would be affected by common
processing variables and parameters, given the vastly different physical
properties of these next-generation blowing agents.
"All of the factors
studied had a significant effect on at least some of the foam properties
we evaluated," says Mr. Schilling, "but the mold thickness stood out
as the most important factor for a number of different properties. We
believe this is because the mold thickness had such a large influence
on the foam density, which in turn affects other properties.
now meet more stringent government energy efficiency requirements in
the U.S. while also trying to minimize their overall costs," he continues. "We
suggest that they carefully consider the effect of wall thickness on
the properties of the rigid polyurethane foam insulation when designing
consumers are willing to trade their boxy, inefficient old refrigerators
more stylish and more environmentally friendly offerings. A select group
of consumers is also willing to go one step further by upgrading to a
breed of "way cool" refrigerators that take innovation to the extreme.
"For Maytag, the
stand-out product in terms of an innovative, category-changing introduction
is our first foray into the built-in market with the Jenn-Air Luxury
Series built-in refrigerator," says Mr. Kacere of Maytag. "This is the
first and only refrigerator that can be personalized on both the exterior
and the interior," he explains. "On the exterior, the refrigerator accepts
any array of custom panels. On the interior, it is the first and only
unit which enables owners to personalize their storage components to
meet their own individual needs."
The Luxury Series,
which is available in 42- and 48-in configurations, is equipped with
a precision temperature management system, the heart of which is an industry-exclusive
variable speed compressor, according to Mr. Kacere. "The system uses
a number of sensors that constantly monitor the refrigerator and freezer
compartments' internal temperature. Then, when the temperature fluctuates
even slightly, the compressor kicks in, ensuring that the temperature
stays within 1 degree of its target at all time - easily the tightest temperature
control on the market."
innovation gaining interest among elite, discriminating consumers are
refrigerators with Internet capabilities. Although these unique appliances
come with a hefty price tag, they are finding a niche in the "Me first," market,
says David Purcell, marketing manager for Home Appliances, Samsung Electronics
America, Inc. (Ridgefield Park, NJ, U.S.). "Another key market area is
for builders who are using the appliances in their showcase homes."
According to Mr.
Purcell, Samsung's HomePAD™ Internet side-by-side refrigerator is marketed
in more than 55 stores. It features a detachable LCD TV screen and Internet
browsing capability. "With a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 90
min as well as a power adapter, the detachable tablet can be removed
from the fridge and brought to the dining room table, countertop, or
wherever is convenient," he explains.
The appliance offers
an endless array of the latest communication, entertainment, and information
features, according to the company. Consumers can send and retrieve e-mail,
do online shopping and Internet surfing, send text or video messages
to family members, watch TV, display and share digital pictures, organize
the family's schedules, store important phone numbers, and organize and
control all refrigerator functions with ease.
LG Electronics shipped
almost 300 units of its Internet Refrigerator, said to the be first of
its kind, in the first month and a half of its release in October 2002.
the kitchen and home computer were kept in separate rooms in most households," says
Mr. Kang of the company. "While the Internet refrigerator is not meant
to take the place of the home computer, it does bring multimedia technology
and Internet connectivity into the kitchen."
With extreme options
like Internet refrigerators and custom refrigerators finding niche success,
and with undercounter refrigeration applications becoming increasingly
popular, demands in the refrigerator market are becoming increasingly
"The markets around
the world are highly differentiated," explains Hans-Kersten Hrubesch,
director, head of Product Marketing for Bosch in Germany. "Even in one
region, demand can be very heterogeneous. Appliances have to fulfill
very carefully the consumer needs in each region and even each country."
Among Bosch's new
products, its Table Top "easystore" concept is a good fit for Central
Europe and England, according to Mr. Hrubesch. "Our bottom freezers do
well in Europe and China, and our top freezer XD is suitable for Turkey
and Southern Europe."
Mr. Hrubesch says
that exterior and interior design are important considerations, but cannot
be seen as global. "Refrigerator designs must be reconsidered for each
region's consumer habits, functions, and tastes."
Refrigeration Systems Will Change the
Way Stores Look and Work - and Their Cost
new technologies and design concepts from many disciplines are converging
that promise to change future store designs substantially - and reduce
their costs significantly.
For insights into
new design trends, Fresh Ideas, a publication of Emerson
Climate Technologies, interviewed Allan and Clive Samuels, principals
of Clive Samuels & Associates Consulting Engineers. The following was
taken from that interview.
systems have followed a centralized design plan. Often, a single refrigeration
room, typically in the rear of the store, houses multiple compressor
systems. In this format, suction and liquid piping extends throughout
the store to feed cases and coolers. This centralized design approach
includes inherent costs that could be substantially reduced with a distributed
design concept, which involves the application of multiple smaller rooftop
refrigeration units, targeted directly at fixtures. For example, a distributed
system offers the following cost-saving opportunities:
- reduced structural
requirements due to lower weight rooftop equipment
reduced piping and refrigeration because compressors are targeted or
co-located adjacent to refrigeration fixtures
for enhanced equipment efficiencies and control efficiencies
offers lower construction costs as a result of the greatly reduced piping
and structural steel requirements. Distributed design also can mean lower
operating costs because of the targeted nature of the design, which reduces
piping and creates the opportunity for lower pressure loss, which has
a large impact on the system's energy efficiency.
that costs depend on many variables, Clive Samuels said, "We believe
a distributed design refrigeration system can offer a 10 percent reduction
in their overall construction, equipment, and installation costs, and
we estimate a potential for about 5-percent reduction in operating costs.
"A distributed system
provides the advantage of simplicity," Mr. Samuels pointed out. "That
means a reduced installation requirement resulting in shorter time to
market for new construction.
definition, a distributed system means that all your eggs are not in
So, a failure is limited rather than system wide, as it is with centralized