LED kitchen lighting

Planning a kitchen remodel? Make it high tech, and you’ll be able to turn on a faucet with a wave of your hand, boil water in 90 seconds and zap germs before you clean.

“Technology is cool in the kitchen,” said Sandra Brannock, owner and principal designer at Expert Kitchen Designs in Rappahannock County, VA. But, she said, don’t incorporate pricey new products just for the “wow factor.”

Instead, think about how you live, how you use your kitchen and what you want to get out of the changes you’re making to your space, she recommends. Then, look at products that will help you achieve your goals. “Carefully consider: Is it really going to enhance your life?” Brannock said.

There are plenty of high-tech products, appliances and gadgets to choose from, said Erin Gallagher, chief of insights at the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), which in 2013 surveyed more than 1,000 homeowners for “Consumer Kitchen Trends: Remodeling Rates to Technology Trends.” Consumers are especially interested in advances that can help them cook faster, can simplify cleanup and can make their kitchens safer, she said.

Here are the top five technologies that intrigue consumers, and why you might want to consider them for your next kitchen remodel:

1. LED Lighting.

LED lighting

“We’re doing a lot of LED lighting,” said John Petrie, president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association and a certified master kitchen and bath designer.

LED lighting is bright, extra energy efficient and doesn’t create a lot of heat in the kitchen, Petrie said. Baby Boomers are especially interested in LED lighting, and 47 percent of consumers surveyed by RICKI said they find LED lighting either extremely or very appealing.

Consumers are using LED lighting for all types of kitchen illumination, according to Brannock, including overhead, recessed and under-cabinet. And self-sticking LED strips offer new options in remodels. For example, they can light up the inside of a drawer or cabinet for better visibility, or they can be run along a toe kick to light up the floor at night, Brannock said. Thanks to recent advances in technology, LED lighting now is available in warmer, consumer-pleasing tones.

2. Anti-Bacterial Surfaces.

Silestone countertop

Gallagher said it’s a germophobe’s dream: Some countertops can kill microbes for you. For example, EOS Surfaces’ solid surface countertops with Cupron technology have copper ions infused into the countertop material to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria in two hours, according to the company. And Silestone countertops, engineered from 94 percent natural quartz, contain silver ions to prevent bacteria growth, according to the company.

Consumers with kids at home are most likely to be interested in antibacterial surfaces, and 39 percent of those surveyed find these products extremely or very appealing, Gallagher said.

3. Fancy Faucets.

touchless faucet

Of the consumers surveyed by RICKI, 37 percent were interested in faucets that turn on when tapped, and 35 percent were interested in touchless faucets. Those faucets, which can be turned on with the sweep of a hand, appeal to consumers who are worried about germs. “If you’re cooking raw chicken, you might not want to touch the faucet,” Gallagher said.

But not all consumers love touchless faucets, said Brannock, who planned a remodel for a client who had one in a previous kitchen and hated it. “It would turn on when she walked by,” Brannock said. “It was too temperamental.”

4. Induction Cooktops.

Thermador cooktop

“People just want things faster,” Gallagher said. That’s the big draw for induction cooktops, which use powerful electromagnets that interact with iron or steel pans to heat the cookware and cook food. Induction technology offers the speed of gas cooking without the extra heat and fumes, Brannock said.

Induction technology has existed for decades, but U.S. manufacturers now are starting to make more induction cooktops and ranges, so consumers have a wider selection, Gallagher said. Families with small kids show interest in induction because the cooktop surface doesn’t get hot enough to burn little fingers, said.

5. Plug-In Area for Devices.

iPad plug-in

About 43 percent of consumers store or charge devices in the kitchen, according to one RICKI study, so a plug-in area in the kitchen is a must for many, Gallagher said. Many consumers have traded in cookbooks for recipe apps, she said, so “a lot of people are using iPads and smartphones in the kitchen now.”

Bottom Line

Consumers gearing up for a remodel should research any technologies they’re considering, read consumer reviews and take plenty of time to plan the whole space, Brannock said. “Planning will pay off in so many ways,” she said.

Photos courtesy of Elemental LED, Home Depot, Premier Surfaces, Kohler, Thermador, RemoveandReplace.com

Allie Johnson