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issue: December 2007 APPLIANCE Magazine

Consumer Research
What Consumer Research Says about Appliance Noise

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by Paul Zimmerman and Joan Detloff, 3M Acoustic Solutions, St. Paul, MN, U.S.

A recent study found that most consumers are willing to pay a premium for quiet appliances.

Figure 1. Consumers were asked: “Thinking of your ongoing or upcoming dishwasher purchase decision, how important are each of the following to you?”

The vast majority of consumers want quiet appliances and are more than willing to pay a premium to get them.

That’s one of the many findings from a recent study on consumer appliance preferences conducted to track and understand the relationship between appliance noise and purchasing decisions. Research firm Ipsos conducted online interviews for 3M Acoustic Solutions, collecting 857 interviews from dishwasher and washing machine owners who either made their purchase in the last year or consumers who intend to purchase in the next two years. Respondents were 25–60 years old, were homeowners, and were the household decision maker regarding home appliances. The method used quantified feature preferences using a simulation similar to what consumers encounter when making a purchasing decision in real life. The research provided the ability to understand the importance of individual features on the overall purchase decision.

Consumer Shopping Behavior

The research found that price is a very important consideration (87%) for consumers in the market for a dishwasher, followed by energy efficiency (85%), and then sound reduction, with 84% of respondents saying that noise reduction was “extremely/very influential” to their upcoming purchase decision.

Consumers want quiet appliances in the house to enhance quality of life issues. This is especially true of dishwasher owners, 45% of whom report running their machines at least daily, if not a few times a day. Typical comments include: “Our present dishwasher is too noisy to have normal conversations when running,” and “It is important to not hear appliances going while you are doing important things with your family.”

Figure 2. Consumers were asked: “How important would it be to you that sound reduction is available in the following appliances?”

Consumers Desire Sound Reduction in Appliances

The research found that both dishwasher and washing machine owners/intenders want quiet appliances. In fact, 94% of dishwasher owners/intenders believe sound reduction is extremely/very/somewhat important versus 76% of washing machine owners/intenders.

Dishwasher owners/intenders explain that the main reason for this is their sensitivity to noise, given the location of the dishwasher in the house. Even among consumers who have never heard of sound reduction technology, 80% say it’s extremely/very/somewhat important to include it in appliances. Only 6% of those purchasing dishwashers said noise was not important at all/not very important.

Consumers want quieter washing machines as the appliances move closer to living areas. Washing machines were once relegated to the basement or a first-floor laundry room, but today it’s not unusual to see them in second-floor laundry rooms adjacent to bedrooms. And why not? Considering that it takes hours to collect clothes, sort them, wash and dry them, and put them away, it makes sense to have a washer/dryer close to bedroom closets and dressers where clothes are stored—as long as the appliances are not too noisy.

Willingness to Pay Extra

All this quiet comes at a price. When respondents  were asked if they would be willing to pay for sound reduction, 87% of them not only expressed a willingness to pay, but would pay extra for a dishwasher or washing machine that includes this feature. Consumers seem to be willing to pay extra because a signifi­cant number of them are unhappy with the noise levels of appliances they presently have. According to the data, 29% of dishwasher owners say current noise levels do not meet or exceed their expectations, and 18% of washing machine owners repeat that complaint. This presents a tremendous opportunity for appliance manufacturers to easily and inexpensively solve a problem reported by 23%—nearly one in four—of all responders. According to the study, noise is the one element with which consumers are least satisfied.

Other information gathered on consumer preferences includes channels that buyers use to gather information and purchase appliances; dishwasher and washing machine brand ownership; amount spent on these machines; price point increases that appliance manufacturers can charge for brand name sound blankets (such as Thinsulate Acoustic Insulation), and more. The research also gathered the consumer ranking of the importance of sound reduction in other appliances such as vacuum cleaners, air-conditioning units, dryers, refrigerators, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, power tools, and others. All have potential to be quieter. 

For more information about the study, contact Paul Zimmerman, pkzimmerman@mmm.com, or Jim McKevitt, J-McKevitt@mmm.com.


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