The 8 Best Compact Appliances of 2021

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Whether you’re living in a RV, tiny house, micro apartment, or just want to reclaim space in your home, compact appliances can help. By making the switch to compact washers, dryers, and water heaters, along with kitchen gadgets like microwaves, ovens, or refrigerators; consumers can take a big step in reducing energy consumption. While some appliances are geared toward off-grid dwellers, many can be used in modern homes with ease.

After speaking with the experts on some commonly used options, we present the best compact appliances.

The Rundown
This drop-in burner by Meile is compact, measuring 24.6 x 21.4 x 4.1 inches, and easy to clean thanks to its smooth surface.
The stainless-steel makes it easy to clean, and gives it a sleek look, plus the cast iron cooking grates are built to last.
Don't let the vintage look fool you—the microwave's "zero on" function cuts off power when not in use to save energy.
The washer has a clothing capacity of nearly 11 pounds, making it an ideal choice for two people living in a smaller space.
If you don’t have a yard to line-dry clothing, this Compact Laundry Dryer is a solid alternative.
The Frigidair Freestanding Mini Fridge and Freezer is an excellent option for one or two people living in a tiny house.
Many tiny house owners opt for a top-of-the-line countertop option instead of a conventional oven.
This durable heater has up to twice the lifespan as a classic tank and is able to heat up to four appliances.

Best Electric Cooktop: Miele KM6320 Induction Cooktop

Miele Induction Cooktop

For eco-friendly cooking, an induction cooktop is an efficient option that doesn't require fossil fuels. This drop-in burner by Meile is compact, measuring 24.6 x 21.4 x 4.1 inches, and easy to clean thanks to its smooth surface. It has three cooking zones to accommodate different sizes of pots and pans, and you can even combine two of the zones into one to create a larger cooking area. It has digital controls, and recognizes the size of pans. Safety features include an indicator light to alert you when the cooktop is hot, overheat protection, and a safety shut-off.

Best Gas Stovetop: Cosmo COS-640STX-E 24" Gas Cooktop with 4 Burners

Cosmo COS-640STX-E 24" Gas Cooktop with 4 Burners

If you like to cook with gas but still want to save space, the Cosmo Gas Cooktop is the perfect solution. Measuring just 23 x 20 inches, the Cosmo is a drop-in style, gas stovetop with four different sealed burners (a 16,000 BTU burner, two 6,800 burners, and a 5,000 BTU burner). This allows you to simmer, boil, or sauté at the same time (in different sized pans). The stainless-steel surface makes it easy to clean, and gives it a sleek look, plus the cast iron cooking grates are built to last. Installation is required for drop-in burners, and you must have a gas line and an electric power source (to ignite the burners). However, it can be converted to propane with an additional kit.

Just keep in mind that gas burners use fossil fuels, so they generally contribute more to climate change than electric options, especially electric cooktops powered by renewables.

“Consider what you, personally, will use the most. I own the Koblenz 4-burner propane stovetop, and because I don’t have an oven or microwave, I use it a lot. For someone who doesn’t cook that much, a two-burner stove will suffice and save on space.” ~ Amber Nolan, sailboat dweller and writer for Treehugger

Best Microwave: WINIA WOR07R3ZEM Retro Microwave

WINIA WOR07R3ZEM Retro Microwave

The WINIA WOR07R3ZEM is a compact microwave with a classic, retro look to add a little style to the kitchen. The 700-watt unit has one of the lowest power outputs (for microwaves), and its “Zero On” function kicks in automatically after 10 minutes without any usage to cut off the power, helping to save standby electricity.  At just 0.7 cubic feet, it can still handle most meals (the interior cavity is about 11.5 x 11.5 inches) without taking up too much counter space. The classic microwave is available in four colors: red, mint, cream, or light blue, and contains an LED display and digital clock.

Best Clothes Washer: Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 1.6 cu. ft. Compact White Top Load Washing Machine

The Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 1.6 cu. ft. Compact White Top Load Washing Machine has a stainless steel tub.

Many tiny home dwellers opt for a portable washer (and dryer), which are both compact and affordable. The Magic Chef Compact Top Load Washing Machine is a solid choice in a portable unit, measuring 31 x 21 x 20 inches and weighing 71 pounds. The wash settings are similar to a standard unit: there’s a soak, wash, rinse, and spin option plus six different cycles for various types of clothing (heavy duty, delicates, etc.). Options like cycle pause, timers, and temperature settings can be adjusted on the LED display panel. The washer has a clothing capacity of nearly 11 pounds—making it an ideal choice for two people living in a smaller space.

Best Clothes Dryer: hOmelabs Compact Laundry Dryer

hOmelabs Compact Laundry Dryer

If you don’t have a yard to line-dry clothing but don’t want to make frequent, inconvenient trips to the local laundromat, the Homelabs Compact Laundry Dryer is a solid alternative. At 3.2 cubic feet, it’s about half the size of a traditional dryer, and can handle up to 13.2 pounds of clothing. The versatile unit can be used freestanding, rack-mounted, wall-mounted, or stacked. This front-loading dryer has five drying programs: extra, smart, mix, airing, and a timed option. It has a stainless-steel drum and three-layer filter. It weighs 60 pounds and runs on a 110/120 volt power outlet.

Fridge/Freezer Combo: Frigidaire FFPS4533UM 4.5-cu ft Freestanding Mini Fridge Freezer Compartment

Frigidaire FFPS4533UM 4.5-cu ft Freestanding Mini Fridge Freezer Compartment

The Frigidair Freestanding Mini Fridge and Freezer is an excellent option for one or two people living in a tiny house (but for larger families, you’ll likely want something larger). This refrigerator and freezer combo is just 19 inches wide, but has a 4.5 cubic foot capacity, making it larger than your average dorm-room mini fridge. The freezer is traditional top style (not a little ice box found on many mini fridges) with a capacity 1.2 cubic feet (the fridge portion is 3.3). It’s Energy Star rated for efficiency, and costs around $39 annually to run. The refrigerator has a vegetable crisper, in-door storage and two adjustable glass shelves.

Best Oven: Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL

breville-smart-oven

If your tiny home is powered by the sun, conventional ovens can gobble up a lot of that energy. That's why so many people choose a top-of-the-line countertop option, like this convection toaster oven. Breville's Smart Oven can toast, broil, bake, and roast, so you make cookies, pizza, casseroles, and roasted veggies. It doesn't have any knobs or buttons to collect crumbs or grease, so it's exceptionally easy to clean. It measures 18.5 x 15.7 x 11 inches and weights 22.5 pounds.

Best Water Heater: Rinnai RL75eP Hot Water Heater

Rinnai RL75eP Hot Water Heater

Tankless hot water heaters warm the water when moving through the pipes, so there’s no risk of “using all the water up” that’s in the tank. They’re also energy-efficient by only heating the water when needed, and the Rinnai RL75eP is Energy Star qualified. The durable heater has up to twice the lifespan as a classic tank and is able to heat up to four appliances (such as a dishwasher, shower, etc.). Added features include smart WiFi technology that allows it to respond to voice commands, as well as safety settings that will turn the unit off if it detects leaks or unauthorized water temperature changes. The heater can be installed on any exterior wall, saving space inside the home.

What Experts Say

"Rinnai makes great on-demand hot water heaters. You don't want a tank version because of the space they take up and the weight that tanks are from the water they hold.” ~ Ryan Mitchell, owner of The Tiny Life.

What to Look for in Compact Appliances

Size for Heating and Cooling

Every house is different, so a heating or cooling appliance that works well on one home may not be powerful enough—or too powerful—for another. Before considering the best heaters or cooling units, calculate how many BTUs (British Thermal Unit) your home requires. You can use a handy online calculator to do so, but you’ll need to know the square footage and ceiling height. Other elements like insulation and sun exposure also factor into this equation. 

Dual-Purpose Appliances

Obviously, space is a primary concern, and two-and-one devices can help save some room, but keep in mind that not all dual-purpose appliances are as functional as you’d hope. For example, Ryan Mitchell, tiny home dweller and owner of the tiny home advice website, The Tiny Life, machines that claim to both wash and dry clothes in a single barrel. “The combo washer dryers don't work very well and usually take hours to do a single load, most often I found I had to hang them even after they were 'dried' by the drying function.”  

Meanwhile, other devices, like countertop ovens, can toast, bake, and roast—preventing you from needing a toaster and a stove (and possibly a microwave too) and are very effective. 

Another dual-use option is to prioritize portable appliances like hotplates, mini refrigerators, solar-powered coolers, and even small washers (particularly the off-grid options) that can also be used on camping trips, vacations, or just to easily relocate them to other parts of the house. 

What Will You Actually Use?

Living in a tiny home or apartment is all about doing away with what you don’t need in life, and that carries over to appliances. It’s not just about buying smaller versions of things, but about only having the ones that make sense for you. It’s not a one-size fits all lifestyle. Don’t cook that much? Maybe a microwave is all you need, and you can wash dishes by hand instead of installing a dishwasher. 

“I decided to not have a microwave or a freezer," says Mitchell. "Those two things facilitate me eating more processed convenience foods, so by not having them it just makes it easier to default to healthier foods.” 

FAQs

Are there compact appliances that can be used off-grid? 

With enough solar panels, propane tanks, batteries, and possibly some wind generators (and the right power inverters) you could run most compact appliances off-grid, but be sure to check the voltage. “Some appliances use 220 volt, you need a special plug wired in for those, sometimes they're hard wired in. Not all inverters and generators can do 220 volt so make sure yours can even if you don't think you need it,” says Mitchell.

Not to mention, just because you can run a device off grid, doesn’t mean you should. Some compact devices draw a lot of power—something that’s not unlimited. When living off grid, it’s all a numbers game. You’ll want to consider how much the device draws and see if there are similar options that use less power. 

“You always need to consider the wattage if you're off grid, anything with a heating element is going to be hard to use while on solar,” says Mitchell.

Are compact appliances energy efficient? 

Some compact appliances are energy efficient, but smaller doesn’t always mean less energy. Check to see if it has energy-saving, eco-modes and/or an Energy Star label, and look at the product specifications. General speaking, anything that heats up will be an energy guzzler: toasters, slow cookers, and hot plates, but also some surprising items like mixers and blenders (depending on the size). 

"I personally live on a boat and own a Unique brand compact refrigerator (view at Home Depot). My refrigerator draws 56 watts—about the same as a laptop computer. That’s an incredibly low wattage for a refrigerator so I run it off my solar and 12-volt batteries. On the other hand, although compact, those single-coffee makers often use between 600 to 1200 watts—that’s a lot of energy just for coffee! Instead, you might want to consider using a French press (and propane cooker) to get your morning joe." ~ Amber Nolan

Why Trust Treehugger?

The author, Amber Nolan, has been living in tight quarters on a sailboat for seven years. In researching this article, she also consulted people living in full-time in RVs and tiny homes to get their input on what compact appliances they recommend, and what they can live without.