July 22, 2014

Broken Appliance? Do You Repair it or Not?

Having a broken appliance is annoying, not knowing whether or not to fix it is frustrating. We’ve found some questions to ask yourself before you decide what to do, along with appliance lifespan estimates and some simple maintenance advice. Read on.

10 questions to ask:

- Is it really broken? The trouble may be a short in the plug, a tripped circuit breaker or a bad surge-protector outlet. Check the troubleshooting section of the unit’s instruction manual for the most common problems and solutions.

- How old is the appliance?

- Have you had trouble with the unit before? If it’s performed well, it might be worth fixing instead of replacing with something unproven.

- How much will it cost to repair the unit?

- What would a similar appliance cost?

- Are there any hidden costs to purchase (removal, installation, disposal, tax, etc.)?

- How difficult is it to replace the appliance (is it a built-in)?

- What additional features will I get with the new appliance?

- What energy savings will I get with the new appliance? Will they offset the cost of a new appliance versus repair?

- What tax credits are available for purchasing an energy-efficient unit? Will they offset the cost of a new appliance versus repair?

Average life of appliances:

Industry experts say washing machines tend to break down the most because they take the most beatings and contain many moving parts.

- 10-15 years for refrigerators and freezers.

- 10-20 years for ovens and ranges.

- 10-15 years for dishwashers.

- 10-15 years for clothes washers/dryers.

- 10-20 years for water heaters.

- 15-20 years for central air-conditioning unit.

Preventive maintenance:

- Clean the condenser coils on your refrigerator annually and check door seals to ensure they are airtight.

- Check air filters monthly and replace as needed.

- Replace washer fill hoses every five years.

- Avoid overloading the washing machine.

- Have the exhaust duct on the clothes dryer inspected and cleaned once a year. Clean the lint filter before each use.

Appliance Maintenance Tips- or Avoiding an Appliance Disaster

It can happen to anyone, anytime. The washer overflows, the dryer doesn’t dry or -gasp- the fridge stops cooling. Many common household appliance problems can be avoided by following some basic maintenance routines. Regular maintenance will prevent prevent breakdowns, saving you money on costly repairs, or even higher insurance costs if you have water damage.

Here are some common household appliance maintenance tips and the cost comparisons for maintenance, use and damage :

1. Clothes dryer
Even if you clean your clothes dryer’s lint trap with each load, a surprising amount of lint makes it past the trap. Clogged air vents and ductwork not only lead to dryer inefficiency, and an estimated $300 additional to operate yearly, but could also spark a fire. Each year dryers cause some 12,700 residential fires, 15 deaths and 300 injuries, according to a 2007 report by the U.S. Fire Administration. In 70 percent of the cases, “failure to clean” was the leading cause. Second-floor laundry facilities pose another risk: The USFA calls these locations “hazardous” because they often require longer ductwork, with bends that could trap lint, rather than immediate outside venting. Improper ducting made of light foil or plastic can also ignite more readily and should be replaced by semi-rigid or rigid aluminum, or galvanized steel ducting.

Top tips:

* Once a month use your vacuum cleaner’s fine nozzle to suction the lint slot.
* Once a year unplug the dryer, disconnect the vent tube and vacuum it out.
* If your dryer doesn’t vent directly outside, consider hiring a professional duct cleaner.

Maintenance cost:

* Dryer vent cleaning kits: $20
* Professional duct cleaner: $75 to $200
* New ducting: $15

Average cost of home dryer fires:

* $9,176

2. Washing machine
Today’s high-efficiency front-loading washing machines are gentler on clothes, but complex mechanical and electrical components make them tougher on your wallet when something goes wrong. With estimates from $450 to $600 to repair a broken drum, it may be more cost-effective to buy a new washer.

But the biggest disaster with any washing machine is flooding from a burst water hose, which can release 650 gallons of water per hour. Burst hoses top PEMCO’s list of homeowner’s insurance claims, resulting in an average $4,000 to $6,000 in damages. “If the owner is home and they catch the leak within an hour, it’s usually on the low end,” says PEMCO spokesman Jon Osterberg. “The bad-case scenario is if they’re on vacation. In some of the higher end homes with second-floor laundry facilities, you can reach $100,000 in damages.”
Top tips:

* To keep the drum spinning smoothly for years to come, for starters, use only high-efficiency, or HE, detergent. “The suds that are created by nonhigh-efficiency detergents will get in and wreak havoc on the drum and drive system,” says Dave Chowanec, Sears product category engineer for laundry products.
* Once a month, run an empty hot water wash to break down any built up residue.
* Excessive vibration can also damage the drum. If you hear or see the machine shake, it’s unbalanced. Check for level, but more importantly, check the machine’s stability by rocking it from corner to corner. “All four legs should be firmly touching the ground and locked according to the use manual,” says Chowanec.
* Once a month, check your washing machine hoses for bulges or tears, especially at connection points where kinks can form and crack. Manufacturers suggest replacing hoses every three to five years, regardless of wear. It’s no more complicated than attaching a garden hose. Steel braided “no-burst” hoses can also fail, and because of the meshing, tiny tears may be more difficult to catch. When not in use, turn off the water valves leading to your machine. For ultimate peace of mind, install an automatic water valve shut off system activated when it senses an excessive surge in water pressure.

Maintenance cost:

* Carpenter’s level: $15
* New hoses: $10 to $20
* Automatic shut off system: $130 to $200

Cost of Energy Star-rated front-end loader:

* $620 to $1,850

3. Sump pumps
Sump pumps usually protect your basement from flooding, but they can fail unexpectedly. Homeowners insurance usually doesn’t cover damages from sump-pump overflow. Sump pumps often vibrate when they run, so the float mechanism can get stuck.

“This will either make it run all the time or it won’t run at all,” says Ray VinZant, the expert behind Roto-Rooter’s “Ask the Plumber.”

“The float has to be able to rise up when the water level rises. If it doesn’t, the pump won’t come on.”

Because sump pumps drain ground water and sediment, clogged intake screens and discharge pipes also contribute to their failure. While battery backups offer a measure of protection if your primary pump fails or if there’s a power outage, they aren’t foolproof. Most backups last five to seven years. An old battery might only run three hours in an outage, instead of the stated six.
Top tips:

* Once a year, pour a gallon of distilled white vinegar into the basin to break down calcium deposits on the expeller and pump.
* Unplug the pump and remove any material clogging the intake screen.
* Check the float switch operation: Pour enough water to turn the pump on and make sure it drains. “If you hear a grinding noise, the pump may be on its last legs,” says VinZant.

Maintenance cost:

* Gallon of vinegar: $2

Cost:

* For a six-hour battery backup: $100 to $150
* For a high-end 7.5 hour sump pump system that includes a low-battery alarm: $475

4. Water heater
An old or corroded water heater can cause substantial damage. “Don’t forget you have a water heater,” says Randy Schuyler, who operates WaterHeaterRescue.com.
anode-rods
“Some day you’ll hear the water running when you know nobody is using any and you’ll find a major flood in some part of your house that wasn’t meant to be a wading pool.”

Sold with six- or 12-year warranties, PEMCO Insurance suggests replacing your tank every 10 years. Roto-Rooter caps the useful life at 15 years. Look at the first four digits on the heater’s serial number to find the month and year of manufacture.

Several factors lead to tank corrosion. Water sediment at the bottom of the tank builds up if not drained properly. Tanks also have something called a sacrificial anode rod, or rods, made of aluminum or magnesium-coated steel, that water eats away first instead of your tank’s inner walls. When these rods wear out, water begins to corrode your tank from the inside out.
Top tips:

* Because natural gas, water and electrical components are involved, be sure to take necessary safety precautions in maintaining your hot water heater.
* To extend a tank’s longevity keep the floor around the heater clean. “Some newer models are especially prone to dust, and may just stop working if their filters get clogged,” says Schuyler.
* Once a year check your water pressure. “Anything over 80 psi can wreck water heaters, other appliances and piping,” he says.
* Test the temperature/pressure relief valve by pulling up on the handle. “Replace it if it does nothing, or runs, dribbles or drips when the handle closes,” says Schuyler. “Under rare conditions, water heaters blow up. When they do, they may take walls, the roof and their owners with them.”
* “If there’s clearance above your tank, every few years, check the tank’s anode rod.” Schuyler says the single most important factor in whether a water heater lives or dies is the condition of its sacrificial anode. “For more than 60 years, it has been used as a key part of the rust protection of a tank, although few people know it’s there,” he says. The rod is made of magnesium or aluminum and screws into the top of your tank. Look for a hexagonal head — often covered by a plastic cap. “Replace it when six inches of core wire shows,” says Schuyler. If you have a water softener, check the rod annually. “Softeners can eat anodes in as little as six months.”
* To effectively remove sediment, Schuyler suggests expelling it under pressure by using a ball valve drain assembly and curved dip tube.

Maintenance cost:

* New anode and sediment removal kit: $80

Cost of an Energy Star-rated water tank:

* $500 to $600, not including installation

5. Air conditioning
Often a major expense, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, systems require yearly professional inspections and adjustments to ensure proper operation. Just a 10 percent leak in refrigerant could result in a 20 percent decrease in efficiency. Homeowners may save up to 50 percent in energy costs with proper HVAC maintenance, according to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.

Top tips:

* Between spring and fall servicing, homeowners should replace their HVAC filters once a month. Change “three-month” filters just as frequently if your home is excessively dusty or you have shedding pets. Clean filters result in a 5 percent to 15 percent reduction in energy consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
* To ensure the outside condenser unit has necessary airflow, keep it clear of debris and cut back foliage by at least two feet. Because evaporator and condenser coil fins can easily bend, forcing your system to work harder, comb them back into shape using a special fin comb, available through parts wholesalers.

Maintenance cost:

* Filters: $10 to $20 per filter
* Fin comb: $12
* Routine HVAC servicing: as low as $25

Cost of a high-efficiency HVAC system:

* Prices vary greatly depending on size, location of the unit, added ductwork and air handler, but can range from a few thousand to well over $15,000.

6. Refrigerator
Several factors can lead to refrigerator poor performance: Excessive dust and dirt can clog the condenser coils forcing the coolant to work harder; an unleveled refrigerator can knock the doors out of alignment, causing cold air and energy to escape, and a dirty door gasket can break the tight seal necessary to maintain your refrigerator’s efficiency. In refrigerators with water dispensers, a clogged filter can stop the automatic icemaker from working and produce discolored water.

Top tips:

* Twice a year pull out your refrigerator, unplug it and vacuum the coils located either in the front or back, more often if you have shedding pets. If possible, allow a 2-inch space around the top and sides to let the coils breathe.
* Make sure to check for level after maintenance.
* Clean the door gaskets with soap and water and check the seal. “The gasket should last the life of the refrigerator, but if it becomes warped or damaged replace it,” says Neil Pellicci, Sears engineering manager for refrigeration products.
* Replace the water filter every six months, (more often if you have hard water) or when the indicator light comes on.

Maintenance cost:

* New door gasket: $45 to $55, not including installation
* Water filter: $17 to $45, depending on make and model

Cost of an Energy Star-rated refrigerator:

* $500 for basic top-freezer to $3,000 for high-end side-by-side, not including installation

Routine recap

To help you keep track of these maintenance items, cut and save this schedule:

Monthly:

* Vacuum clothes dryer lint slot.
* Check washing machine hoses for wear and tear.
* Run an empty hot water cycle in front-end loader.
* Replace HVAC filters.
* Clean the floor around your water heater.

Twice-yearly:

* Have HVAC system professionally serviced (in spring for air conditioner, fall for furnace).
* Replace refrigerator water filters.
* Clean refrigerator door gaskets.
* Vacuum refrigerator condenser coils (more frequently if you have shedding pets).

Yearly:

* Clean out clothes dryer vent and ductwork.
* Check washing machine for level and stability.
* Clean sump pump basin and intake screen.
* Flush deposit build up in sump pump basin with white vinegar.
* Check sump pump float and operation.
* Check water heater anode rod and temperature/pressure valve.
* Check your home’s water pressure.
* Drain sediment from water heater.

Cleaning Your Water Heater and Some Tips

Cleaning out the water heater might be some people’s idea of a fun day’s activity, but it sure isn’t mine. If you really plan to take this job on, please read on for what essortment.com has to say and be certain that your are ready for the task. Once you start, you’ve got to finish or you’ll be getting soapy water from your faucets for quite a while.

Mineral deposits in the tank, or problems caused by them, are the most common reasons to clean a tank. If you have a gas water heater the deposits form on the bottom of the tank and are usually stuck to the tank itself. Cleaning out the water heater will only remove a fraction of the deposits in there, if that’s what you are attempting to do. Electric water heaters collect any mineral deposits on the heating elements and they usually fall to the bottom of the tank over time. Some of the deposits from an electric tank will flush in the cleaning process; however, many are too large to flush through the drain valve.

If there are a lot of deposits in the tank, you might have to go through the cleaning process more than once to achieve the desired results. In water heaters that are over seven years old this process may cause the water heater to leak so much you will have to replace it, consider this before starting.

Cleaning the tank:

1. Turn the water heater off.

2. Turn the cold water supply to the water heater off.

3. Hook a high quality garden hose to the drain valve.

4. Place the other end of the hose where hot water will not cause damage. The hose should be as straight as possible and all turns should be gradual.

5. Open the drain valve.

6. Disconnect the cold water inlet pipe on the top of the water heater. This step will let air into the water heater so it will drain.

7. When the water heater is empty, close the drain.

8. Pour a gallon of acidic tub and tile cleaner into the coldwater inlet pipe one cup at a time. CLR works best and can usually be found in an economical gallon size. Pause a few seconds after each cup of cleaner is poured into the tank, failing to do so will cause the tank to spew cleaner all over you.

9. Three to five hours later drain the cleaner out of the tank. By this time the cleaner will have either dissolved all of the mineral deposits or have been neutralized. To check if the cleaner is still working, gather the open end of a small plastic bag tightly around the open coldwater inlet pipe. If the bag gradually inflates, the cleaner is still working. If the bag does not inflate, the cleaner has stopped working.

10. Reconnect the cold water inlet pipe and turn the supply back on.

11. Open the cold water inlet valve and let the water heater flush for several minutes.

12. Close the drain valve and open the hot water faucet nearest to the tank and let the water heater fill.

13. When water starts to come out of that faucet, reopen the drain and let the water heater continue to rinse.

14. When the water seems clean and is free of bubbles, close the drain. Open all the hot water faucets in the house to remove all air from the water heater and hot water pipes.

15. After all the air is out of the water heater, turn it back on.

You may get a slight amount of soapsuds from the hot water faucets for a day or two after cleaning your water heater. By this time, the cleaner is so diluted that there is no harm in the small amount remaining. After all of this you may still have problems with your water heater such as rumbling, which means there is sentiment left in the tank. As stated before, this whole process is quite complicated. If you’re still having troubles, it’s back to step one!

Now, if that seems like too much work, you might consider a chemical free cleaning. This cleaning is simpler. Follow steps 1-7 above to drain the water heater,then remove the drain plug.

Next, using a long narrow brush, go through the valve opening and scrub the bottom of the tank, side to side and front to back. The idea is to loosen all the rust calcium deposits and sediment you can. When you’ve finished scrubbing, reinstall the drain valve. Don’t forget to apply teflon tape or pipe dope to the threads so it won’t leak.

Attach a garden hose and open the drain valve. Turn on the water supply to your water heater. Let it run 15 to 20 seconds and turn it off. Let all the water drain out of the tank, add more water and drain again. Repeat this process until the water runs clear, that means your tank is clean.

Once your heater is clean, it’s time to consider prevention so you don’t have to go through this again. Every two to three months you should flush your water heater, as this is much less complicated than cleaning the tank. All you need to do is hook up a garden hose to the drain valve. The hose should be placed so it is as straight as possible with only the most gradual turns. Open the drain valve and let the water flush through the heater; the incoming water will agitate the deposits and some of it will flush out.

Also, installing a water softener is a good idea if you live in an area with hard water. A water softener will break down the minerals that accumulate and cause problems in your tank. Or, you can always replace your current water heater with a self-cleaning version made by State Industries. It’s costly, but may be worth it if you’re constantly battling with mineral deposits.

Repair or Replace? Be Careful What You Choose

In the not so recent past, if a household appliance was in need of repair, technicians invoked the 50% rule – if a repair cost 50%or more than the cost of a new unit, buy the new one. But these days as the recession deepens, more homeowners and rethinking that advice.

Getting anything repaired, however, can be frustrating. To stay profitable, service companies book multiple appointments on the same day, forcing consumers to sit home and wait for hours. And because it would be impossible for technicians to drive around with every possible replacement part, some repairs require a followup visit that can be subject to the same inconveniences.

Typically manufacturers outsource warranty service to another company, which subcontracts the actual work to a third party. So after contacting the manufacturer, consumers frequently find themselves calling yet another number, and then later, after the service call has been arranged, communicating with a third party — who inevitably seems to have a different idea about when the work will be done and what the warranty covers.

Appliance-repair rage has also driven at least one person, a 42-year-old woman in northern England who says she endured six months of rescheduled appointments and other delays, to hold a repairman hostage until he fixed her washing machine. “I am not proud of what I did,” Tracey Fox told The Daily Telegraph in January, “but it was the only way I was going to get something done.”

After the nightmare comes the bill. Manufacturers intentionally charge a lot for replacement parts as a way of encouraging consumers to buy more products, said Ronald Sawyer, an appliance servicer in Cohoes, N.Y., and a founding member and executive director of the Professional Service Association, an appliance repair industry group. “When manufacturers came up with a machine that retails for $400, that price covers all parts,” he said. “But when it breaks down and you needed a new timer, the timer alone could cost $250. Manufacturers create the technology when they design new machines, they control the manufacturing process, they make the replacement parts, so we’re at the mercy of the manufacturers.”

The complexity of warranties makes matters worse. Years ago, most manufacturers gave warranties of at least two years. Now, however, warranties on most midrange appliances are just one year, say retailers and service providers. Boutique companies like Sub-Zero and Miele typically provide coverage for longer periods.

The best way to avoid the hassle of repair, according to numerous repairmen and Consumer Reports, is to buy the simplest possible appliance. “The more doo-dads, the more stuff you add to an appliance, the more likely it’s going to need a repair,” said Mark Kotkin of Consumer Reports National Research Center. Consumers would also be wise to recognize that the more sophisticated the equipment they purchase, the more complicated — and expensive — the repairs can be.

Still, few products will last as long as those made during the 1960s and 1970s. “The old Maytag washer your grandmother had, she bought that thing and used it for 35, 40 years,” Sawyer said. “It held up like nothing was ever going to go wrong with it. Today, you just don’t get that quality.”

You can read the whole story HERE

Washing Machine Shaking the House? This Might Help

We have come across an intriguing product: Shake Away Plus, from Kellett Enterprizes. These pads claim to reduce the noise and vibrations that many front loading washing machines have. Some washers have even been known to “dance” across the laundry room.

Here is the Shakeaway claim:

    Shake Away Plus Vibration Isolation Pads will reduce the hassle of your front load washer vibrating.The package contains 4 KE Shake Away™ PLUS pads .
    They will effectively reduce the transfer of vibration from your washing machine or dryer to the floor surface with it’s five layer design.

    Each pad measures 2-1/2” x 2-1/2” x 1” thick.

The four pads retail for just under $30.00 plus shipping.

Dishwasher Repairs – Joke-of-the-Day

Jill’s dishwasher quit working so she called in a repairman.

Since she had to go to work the next day, she told the repairman,

‘I’ll leave the key under the mat. Fix the dishwasher, leave the bill on
the work top, and I’ll send you a cheque.  Oh, by the way don’t worry about my dog
Spike. He won’t bother you.

But, whatever you do, do NOT, under ANY circumstances, talk to
my parrot!

I MUST STRESS TO YOU: DO NOT TALK TO MY PARROT!!!

When the repairman arrived at the apartment the following day, he discovered the biggest, meanest looking dog he has ever seen.   But, just as she had said, the dog just lay there on the carpet  watching the repairman go about his work.

The parrot, however, drove him nuts the whole time with his incessant yelling, cursing and name calling. Finally the repairman couldn’t contain himself any longer and yelled,

‘Shut up, you stupid, ugly bird!’

To which the parrot replied, ‘Get him,Spike!’

See – Men just don’t listen.*

Repairing a Whirlpool Washing Machine -Video

Sometimes the hardest part of repairing an appliance, is knowing how to get the machine apart so that you can get in and get to work. A professional has seen a washing machine disassembled enough times to know when to push and when to pull. Here’s a great little video with instructions on how to take apart a Whirlpool Washing Machine to make repairs yourself.

Sears Oasis and Oasis HE Upgrade

Well, it appears that Sears has heard the many complaints about it’s Oasis washer and has finally responded.  If you have had F1 error codes,  Sears is offering owners of affected models an electronic control board upgrade at no cost.

Sears is sending letters to owners of Oasis washers notifying them of the free upgrade.  The letter qualifies the offer by noting that the owner must respond within ninety days of receiving the letter.

According to Sears, “Those units that qualify for the upgraded electronic control board have serial numbers inthe range where the first four characters of the serial number begin with CS48 through CS53 orCT01 through CT49.”  If you have an Oasis or Oasis HE washer that does not have a serial number in that range, your washer already has the new board.  The model and serial number are located on a label just below the bottom of the drawer opening.

You can call Sears at (800) 847-9063 between 8:00am and 8:00pm  Central Standard Time Monday through Saturday.  Be sure to have your model ad serial number ready.

If your model is on the list, you will be scheduled for a free in-home installation of the new board.

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