It’s easy to increase the functionality and appearance of your kitchen with quick and easy appliance upgrades.

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Q: We haven’t upgraded our kitchen in more than a decade. What cool new appliances are we missing out on, and how do we choose from all the options available nowadays?  

A: Making the right appliance selections in the kitchen will make or break your space. Modern kitchen appliances exist to make our lives easier, but how do you make the right choice?

Your kitchen layout may already work for you, but it’s easy to increase the functionality and appearance with quick and easy upgrades. Many modern appliances are designed to replace older appliances with little to no modification of cabinetry or countertops.

Some built-in appliances require extra measurements but a professional installer can make adjustments for you. Built-in appliances will give you a more tailored look and feel.

Exchanging all your tired kitchen appliances with a quality suite (slide-in convection range, dishwasher, microwave hood and refrigerator) from premium companies like Bosch can be had for under $5,000.

Many new homes and remodels feature luxury brands such as Thermador; these culinary enthusiast spaces can easily reach the $30,000 range for appliances alone. Builders are investing in products and brands that consumers know and trust, which leads to a shorter time on the market. Will your home compete with these new offerings if it is going on the market?

For any timeline or budget, here are key considerations for selecting appliances:

Surface cooking. Consider the new options on the market. Induction cooktops are the fastest-growing segment of today’s market for good reason: Induction provides more power, control and safety than gas, along with the best cleanability and features like adjustable shape burners and countdown timers.

Gas cooktops have come a long way in recent years, with higher outputs and ultra-low simmer technology like Thermador’s ExtraLow. Today’s electric cooktops are more powerful and durable, making them an excellent economical choice.

Refrigeration. Greater cubic footage does not always equate to better storage. In our home, we upgraded to an integrated refrigerator. The interior layout provides better management of items we regularly use with less space, and makes our average-size kitchen feel bigger with features like gallon-size door storage. Our new refrigerator has a separate refrigeration system for the freezer, which keeps dry air out of the fridge and increases the quality and time of fresh food storage.

Choosing an Energy Star model decreased our energy bill, too.

Oven cooking. Oven features have advanced significantly. Temperature probes control the time and temperature for you, and advanced cooking modes remove the learning curve with methods like sous-vide, yet be aware — there are still some models without a self-cleaning feature. Convection is still common, but be sure you’re getting true convection with an additional element around the circulation fan.

It’s not all about cooking features, either: Upgrades such as side-hinged doors are an example of great ergonomic advancement.

Is a non-conventional oven what you need?

Steam ovens aren’t just for fish or vegetables — many steam ovens also combine true convection heating and often become the oven of choice inside the home. Think about it: You can bake flaky biscuits and steam perfect salmon all in the same oven.

Speed ovens use convection and microwave technology together for faster, more thorough cooking results. Speed ovens can also add space by combining two separate products in one space.

Dishwasher. Everyone wants a quiet dishwasher, and decibel ratings are a good start. Keep in mind, however, that manufacturers don’t always test the same, so don’t let that number be the only factor.

Flexibility of the interior is key — many modern dishwashers feature a third rack that can greatly increase what you can wash. Options like fold-down sections and racks that adjust up and down can help you do more with less. And leak-protection systems on some models provide an added measure of protection for your home.

Ventilation. Possibly the most undervalued appliance in your kitchen is the hood. Most people I consult don’t use their hood because it’s noisy and non-effective. Cooking gives off heat, grease, steam and other contaminants that can settle anywhere you smell your food. While there are many different designs, a good capture area and the right-size blower will determine effectiveness.

Installation is also crucial — no hood will provide good results if you’re pushing the air out through wrong-size or too-complex venting. Keep your home healthy and clean; invest in a good hood.

Kevin Kok is builder sales manager at B/S/H Home Appliances Corporation, which is a member of the of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.