Hot & cold water dispensers
Half-gallon-capacity instant hot water dispensers have been around for some time now. The heater fits underneath the sink; connected to the cold water supply, it delivers 190°F to 200°F water. Most units plug into a 120-volt grounded outlet installed inside the sink cabinet. Mount the dispenser either on a sink knockout or nearby on the countertop.
Cold water spouts operate in a similar manner, but a below-counter chiller is substituted for the heater. Some units combine both hot and cold water levers in one unit.
New compact water purifiers look just like hot water or soap dispensers on the sink; the main unit fits compactly below the sink like other water appliances. Filtration systems vary widely. Reverse-osmosis filters are considered most effective, but their output is limited. If you have questions about your water's composition, first have it tested, then choose the right system for the job.
Today's garbage disposals handle almost all types of food waste. They come in two types: batch-feed and continuous. Batch-feed disposals kick into gear when you engage the lid; continuous-feed models are activated by an adjacent wall switch or sink-mounted air switch. Batch-feed types are considered safer, but come with fewer options.
Look for sturdy motors (1/2 horsepower or more), noise insulation, and efficient antijam features. Generally, the fatter the disposal, the more the insulation -- and the quieter it's likely to run.
The disposal links with the sink drain below the countertop. It may require its own 120-volt electrical circuit; the connection may be either plug-in or hard-wired.
Some building codes prohibit the use of disposals, while others require them. Be sure to check!
Whether portable or built-in, most dishwashers are a standard size: roughly 24 inches wide, 24 inches deep, and 34 inches high. A few compact units and European imports come as narrow as 18 inches. Standard finishes include enameled steel (usually white, black, or almond), stainless steel, and black glass. You can also choose replaceable panels to match base cabinet runs.
Quiet is a blessing in a dishwasher -- especially when the kitchen is open to adjacent spaces. Improved insulation has led to operating levels as low as 50 decibels. First, examine the racks. They should be adjustable and able to accommodate your cooking equipment and dishes. Then consider such energy-saving devices as a booster heater that raises the water temperature for the dishwasher only, separate cycles for lightly or heavily soiled dishes, and air-drying choices. Other features include a delay start that allows you to wash dishes at a preset time (during the night instead of at peak-energy hours), prerinse and pot-scrubbing cycles, and a strainer filtering system (actually like a small disposal).
Like a garbage disposal, the dishwasher connects to the sink drain (in fact, it frequently empties directly through the disposal). You'll also need to tap into the hot water supply pipe and provide a separate 120-volt circuit for power. Many local codes require you to install an air gap along with the dishwasher; this device, which mounts atop the sink or countertop, keeps waste water from backing up if there's a drop in water-supply pressure.
Ideas for Great Kitchens