A modern kitchen

Virtually every year, stories about making household chores easier—and ways to get the most out of your home appliances—top the list. And 2017 was no exception.

Read on for the best vacuums for hardwood floors and pet hair, a look at portable air conditioners, CR’s take on the ever-popular Instant Pot, the most reliable washing machine brands, and more.

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Least and Most Reliable Washing Machine Brands

Someone folding laundry in a laundry room

We asked more than 67,000 of our subscribers about their experiences with washing machines that they bought new between 2009 and 2016 that are not covered by a service contract. We also asked readers about repair costs. Unlike our breakage data, our repair-cost data doesn’t factor in the age of the washer or the number of loads run per week. Here’s what we found.


Best Setting for Your Central Air Conditioning

Someone setting the thermostat as part of Consumer Reports' top Appliance stories of the year

More people fight over the thermostat than the remote, and those battles become more pitched during periods of extreme heat. The disputes aren’t just about comfort, they’re about money, too. That’s because every time you lower the thermostat in hot weather it raises your electric bill. So what’s the best setting for your central air conditioner? Well, that depends on whether you care more about keeping cool or keeping your utility bill in check. Fortunately, there’s a happy medium.


Best Vacuums for Hardwood Floors

A cat knocking over a plant on hardwood floors

Hardwood flooring is hot. In 2016, 35 percent of designers expected to install more of it, making it flooring’s highest growth category, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association. And the amount spent on wood flooring in the U.S. was up roughly 400 percent from 20 years ago, reports the National Wood Flooring Association.

So what’s the best way to care for all that hardwood? Vacuum manufacturers are answering the question with machines and features designed for wood floors. Here are several standouts from Consumer Reports’ tests.