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A small appliance, small domestic appliance, or small electrics are portable or semi-portable machines, generally used on table-tops, counter-tops, or other platforms, to accomplish a household task. Examples include microwave ovens, toasters, humidifiers, and coffeemakers. They contrast with major appliances (British "white goods"), such as the refrigerator and washing machine, which cannot be easily moved and are generally placed on the floor. Small appliances also contrast with consumer electronics (British "brown goods") which are for leisure and entertainment rather than purely practical tasks.
Some small appliances perform the same or similar function as their larger counterparts. For example, a toaster oven is a small appliance that performs a similar function as an oven. Small appliances often have a home version and a commercial version, for example waffle irons, food processors, and blenders. The commercial, or industrial, version is designed to be used nearly continuously in a restaurant or other similar setting. Commercial appliances are typically connected to a more powerful electrical outlet, are larger and stronger, have more user-serviceable parts, and cost significantly more.
Types and examples
- Cooking, such as on a hot plate or with a microwave oven
- Heating, such as an electric heater
- Cooling, such as air conditioning or a fan
- Lighting, using light fixtures
- Beverage-making, such as electric kettles, coffeemakers or iced tea-makers
Small appliances can be very inexpensive, such as an electric can opener, hot pot, toaster, or coffee maker which may cost only a few U.S. dollars, or very expensive, such as an elaborate espresso maker, which may cost several thousand U.S. dollars. Most homes in developed economies contain several cheaper home appliances, with perhaps a few more expensive appliances, such as a high-end microwave oven or mixer.
Many small appliances are powered by electricity. The appliance may use a permanently attached cord which is plugged into a wall outlet or a detachable cord. The appliance may have a cord storage feature. A few hand-held appliances use batteries, which may be disposable or rechargeable. Some appliances consist of an electrical motor upon which is mounted various attachments so as to constitute several individual appliances, such as a blender, a food processor, or a juicer. Many stand mixers, while functioning primarily as a mixer, have attachments which can perform additional functions.
A few gasoline and gas-powered appliances exist for use in situations where electricity is not expected to be available, but these are typically larger and not as portable as most small appliances. Items that perform the same function as small appliances but are hand powered are generally referred to as tools or gadgets, for example a hand cranked egg beater, a grater, a mandoline, or a hand-powered meat grinder.
Small appliances which are defective or improperly used or maintained may cause house fires and other property damage, or may harbor bacteria if not properly cleaned. It is important that users read the instructions carefully and that appliances that use a grounded cord be attached to a grounded outlet. Because of the risk of fire, some appliances have a short detachable cord that is connected to the appliance magnetically. If the appliance is moved further than the cord length from the wall, the cord will detach from the appliance.
Definitions and regulations
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Designations and regulations of "small appliances" vary by country and are not simply determined by physical sizes. For instance, United States Environmental Protection Agency regulations mandate that small appliances must meet two standards:
- Completely manufactured, charged, and sealed in a factory
- Contains five pounds or less of refrigerant
- Small Electrics | Big Lots
- Baumann, Ted (1995). An industrial strategy for the household electrical durables industry. UCT Press. p. vi. ISBN 9780799215786.
- Paluca, Kleia. "Understanding Small Appliance Standards and Regulations". Appliance Authority. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
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