Fridge with TV among cool new appliances

Finger-touch locks, lift ovens also at builders' show

February 11, 2007|By Sharon Stangenes | Sharon Stangenes,Chicago Tribune

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Consider it the ultimate home center: a 37-acre bazaar where a record-breaking 1,900 exhibitors at the International Builders' Show displayed cutting-edge products for the home last week.

Among the innovative items were smart refrigerators. Manufacturers are integrating high-tech entertainment devices and hookups into their appliances, as is the case with the LG Electronics refrigerator with a 15-inch, high-definition LCD TV screen on the door. The refrigerator also has a 4-inch screen that displays a five-day weather forecast, a recipe bank and digital photos uploaded from a USB port. It will be available this spring for about $3,500.

Whirlpool also showed a concept refrigerator with a connection on the door that allows you to plug in a DVD/CD player, an electronic picture frame or a satellite radio. You could take the radio from the car to the kitchen, entertain the kids with a movie or have a digital photo of the grandchildren on the fridge. The company is working on interfaces for other gadgetry, including MP3 players. Whirlpool hopes to have the refrigerator in stores by the end of this year at a price to be determined.

There is a growing trend toward separating freezers and refrigerators. Bosch joined the bandwagon by introducing 11 different widths and styles.

Prices for the refrigerators will range from $4,000 to $6,000 when they become available in May.

Also on display were lift ovens. Catering to the baby boomer market, appliance makers are focusing more on ease of use. Take, for example, the Lift Oven by Gaggenau. With the push of a button, the glass-ceramic base drops down to counter height so cookie sheets and roasting pans can slide from the counter to be easily loaded and then raised back up to the oven.

Fumbling with house keys might soon be a thing of the past as both Schlage and Kwikset showed keyless entry locks that work with the touch of a finger. Kwikset's biometric fingerprint SmartScan deadbolt is activated by the swipe of a fingerprint across an indicator behind the lock. The battery-operated lock can be programmed for up to 50 fingerprints.

Sharon Stangenes writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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