While it’s undeniable that the size of the average American house has swollen by about 50 percent in the last 40 years, it’s simultaneously accurate to note that more and more Americans find it advantageous to inhabit ever smaller dwellings for numerous reasons.
Urban areas are vastly different from rural and suburban living. The average suburban or rural single-family house is now in the 2,300 – 2,500 square foot range while those living in New York City, Los Angeles and other metropolises frequently count themselves fortunate to occupy a 600 – 800 square foot apartment for a couple of reasons. First, there simply isn’t room for a big house in the city and secondly, big houses would simply be too expensive for most people to afford.
Also of note is the reality that more people live alone than was previously common and the popularity of tiny houses can’t be ignored. Their overall cost is considerably less than larger homes and they’re more energy efficient which is appealing to a broadening group of homeowners.
Clearly, the typical large sized kitchen and laundry appliances are impractical for micro-apartments and tiny houses. Here are some significant trends for compact appliances that can help solve living space limitations.
Compact refrigerators come in sizes from less than one cubic foot to around six cubic feet or even a bit more. We find it rather difficult to consider fridges of less than 1.5 cubic feet to be much more than a beverage cooler. A point to remember regarding very small refrigerators is that they don’t necessarily come with a freezer. Both configurations are available.
Our colleagues at TopTenReviews rated the Haier HC33SW20RB compact refrigerator/freezer as the best overall mini fridge. Its dimensions are 33.44 inches in height, 18.7 inches wide and 17.5 inches deep. Its total capacity is 3.3 cubic feet which includes a 0.2 cubic foot freezer. The unit has two removable, full width glass shelves and a compartment in the door that can accommodate a 2-liter soda bottle.
Notably larger but still compact is the LG LRONC0705V refrigerator/freezer. It’s just less than two inches wider than the Haier but about 17.2 inches taller. That makes the interior 6.9 cubic feet which is divided between a 6.0 cubic foot refrigerator section and a 0.9 cubic foot freezer. It features three glass shelves and a crisper bin.
Compact refrigerators are notably smaller than standard sized models with even that largest of them being a foot or more narrower than their more conventional counterparts. The difference is more modest when it comes to compact ranges which are generally 20 to 24 inches wide. Similarly sized cooktops are also available and present a reasonable option for those who don’t need an oven.
Both gas and electric compact ranges are available though if you require the smallest 20-inch size you’ll have to stick with electric. Ovens are necessarily small, generally being less than 2.5 cubic feet in volume.
Washers and Dryers
The space challenge of doing laundry is that there are typically two bulky appliances involved. Tiny homes are unlikely to have a dedicated laundry room. Indeed, a spot in a bathroom closet is common. Stackable washers and dryers cut the appliance footprint in half or more because the dryer is mounted on top of the washing machine. The capacity for the washing and drying units are small compared to standard machines but not by as much as you might presume. As an example, the GE Unitized Spacemaker, as shown in the accompanying image, features a 2.3 cubic foot washer and a 4.4 cubic foot dryer. There are, however, additional models with washers as large as 3.8 cubic feet and dryers up to 5.9 cubic feet.
The other major player in compact laundry machines is the washer/dryer combo, also known as an all-in-one. Machines in this category are literally both washer and dryer in a single unit. While the wash feature works about as you’d expect from conventional washers, the capacity is even smaller that stackables. The dryer function works differently than standard dryers. In one sense, that’s good news if you don’t have access to exterior ventilation. Drying is accomplished by a condenser system which removes moisture from the humid air in the drum then drains it through the same plumbing as wash water. Unfortunately, this process takes much longer than other dryers and since you can’t start another load of wash until drying is complete, wash day can be a lengthy undertaking.