Zihua I.D. and Maura Taylor provide rental property management, construction project management, interior design and consulting services to the Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo and La Costa Grande of Guerrero, Mexico.

Interiors, Choosing Your Home Appliances

May 2011

Choosing the right appliances for your home is a matter of form and function. Whether you are looking for a utilitarian, modern, rustic or contemporary kitchen you can be sure to find a suite of appliances that will meet your style and cooking needs.

Home appliances are no longer bulky hunks of metal and plastic; these days it’s quite easy to find stylish models for both budget and chic-minded consumers alike. Most well-recognized brands in the United States are also available here in Mexico, though their product offerings are slightly more limited. Eco-minded consumers will also note an improvement in the energy efficiency ratings of most household appliances, optimizing utility costs over time. Here we outline some things to consider when shopping for home appliances.
Traditional free-standing or built-in/under appliances

Appliances are not the ugly giants of the past. Their designs have been updated and streamlined to fit the needs and individual styles of their consumers. Traditional free standing appliances now come in various colors and finishes and are less bulky and more space efficient than their predecessors. Free standing or stand alone units are independent of any kitchen component and can be placed anywhere practical. When considering the kitchen floor plan and design, it’s important to factor in your free standing appliances to ensure optimal placement and functionality.

Custom or built-in/under appliances are an interesting option for those who are looking for a clean, uniform appearance. Built-in units tend to be slimmer and shorter and are concealed either under or behind a matching kitchen door, cabinet or counter top. The advantage of using built-in appliances is the ability to create a seamless kitchen design. The main drawback to built-ins is their cost; they tend to be significantly more expensive as fewer are produced. If you are considering built-ins, it’s important that your architect/designer and builder are all well versed in proper installation of these units as they require precise specifications for proper air flow and ventilation. If not, there may be damage to both the appliance and the kitchen component in which it’s housed.

Gas burning or electrical appliances

Electricity is a limited and expensive resource in Mexico. Rates are regulated by the government through CFE (the national utility company) and fluctuate considerably depending on the time of year and overall energy demand. Energy costs increase during the summer and at the year’s end. During summer months, energy costs are driven up by the higher demand for A/C and at year-end to cover CFE’s equipment and maintenance fees, along with a nationally mandated yearly bonus which is given to all CFE employees. CFE’s aging infrastructure is in need of a serious overhaul; frequent power outages, surges and brownouts are a common occurrence here in Zihuatanejo. Therefore, it’s important to buy energy efficient and consider gas-burning appliances whenever possible.

An alternative to electrical is LPG gas, a more economic choice. Most homes and condo complexes have a 300 liter or larger stationary gas tank, which is filled as necessary. LPG gas in Zihuatanejo is rated at $5.53 pesos per liter, and depending on usage, a 300 liter tank may last up to several months. Although electrical appliances may use energy more efficiently, they may over time cost more in Mexico than in the United States. Those appliances with electronic or computer automated features are more susceptible to corrosion, short- circuits and deprogramming due to the high humidity and salt content of our local environs. Although the normal cycle in Mexico is 60Hz/ second, unreliable service by CFE may cause undue wear and tear on electrical appliances.

Opt for appliances from reputable manufacturers; GE, Whirlpool, Maytag and LG are all well recognized brands with reliable local service technicians. Most all of these brands can be sourced at home stores such as Sears and Liverpool. Higher end models such as GE Monogram series are normally special order items. The retail price of these products is generally twice that of their U.S. equivalent and lead times for special orders can be lengthy. Higher end models are also more difficult to service locally and find replacement parts for when and if the occasion arises.

Imported or nationally manufactured appliances

Considering the variety of built-in and stand alone appliances available in Mexico, it makes sense to buy these products here. Aside from supporting the national economy, there is a major advantage to buying in Mexico when it comes to warranty and servicing. All brand names mentioned in this article have a local office and provide general service, maintenance and part replacement. They also honor product warranties. Imported appliances, especially high end American or European products will be harder if not impossible to service here in Zihuatanejo; eventually leaving you with a very nice looking but ultimately useless piece of equipment.

Bottom line is when shopping for your home appliances; consider these factors as part of your overall decision making process. The best home appliances are well-designed, reliable and will require only minimal ongoing maintenance. They are the workhorses of your household and choosing them with the appropriate due diligence is time and money well spent.

· · · This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Another Day in Paradise for which Maura Taylor is a regular contributor. CLICK HERE to read full digital issues of this vibrant local magazine on all things Zihua.