October 23, 2014

Extend the Life of Your Appliances

One of the easiest ways to extend the life of your appliance is with some preventative maintenance. Don’t spend your hard earned money on new appliances when applying some of these simple tips can keep your laundry, kitchen and small appliances running smoothly.

Washing machine – Make sure this is set up on an even flat surface. Unbalanced machines cause uneven distribution of wash loads and may cause the appliance to “walk” or move little by little, which can eventually damage the barrel.

Don’t load your wash to above the maximum capacity. Every six months, check the hose for leaks and kinks, and replace promptly if needed as cracked hoses waste water. Periodically clean the lint screen by turning it inside out and washing it with soap and warm water to eliminate buildups. Check the hose vent for clogs.

Refrigerator – After delivery of a new refrigerator, wait at least eight to 10 hours before plugging in. Let the Freon settle down first. If you live in areas where electricity fluctuates, protect your fridge with an auto-voltage regulator (AVR).

Twice a year, clean the condenser coils located either at the back (for older models) or the front (newer models have grills that cover the coils near the bottom) of your refrigerator.

When defrosting freezers, never scrape ice from the walls to avoid damaging the appliance. Merely it turn off and remove all the food. Clean the refrigerator’s interior while you’re at it. To check the gasket, close the door on a piece of paper and pull. If it easily slides out, it’s time to replace the seal.

Air conditioner – Always follow the rule of starting the unit in fan setting for a minimum of three minutes before turning it up to high-cool to avoid overworking the compressor. Sustain airflow by cleaning the filter monthly with soapy water and a soft toothbrush. Wipe the exterior with a damp cloth and remove all debris from the central air unit to maximize air current.

Electric fan – Once a week, remove and clean the blade and grills. If you are adept at dismantling things, you can remove the shaft and apply industrial grease/oil to postpone wear and tear of the bushing parts. Let the grease dry for about three hours before using the unit again so the oil won’t enter the motor.

Television and DVD player– Avoid placing the TV near a window where splashes of rain could damage the circuits. Wipe the exterior with a damp cloth. Clean DVD players using a commercial disk cleaner once a month and remember to wipe CDs thoroughly with a soft, non-abrasive cloth before playing. Take good care of the remote controls as well.

Microwave – Never put any metals inside and don’t let splattered food stay inside for long. Use only microwavable dishes for heating. Before cleaning, heat a cup of water with a teaspoon of baking soda in a bowl for three minutes. This makes it easy to wipe off all sticky food particles with a sponge or soft cloth right after. Don’t forget to clean the door gasket too.

Rice cooker – Dry the bottom of the pot before putting it over the hot plate every time you cook rice. Position the cooker on a flat, even surface. Clean up any overflow on the sides right after cooking.

Electric air pot – Always boil water at the correct water level. Avert or remove hard water deposits by pouring pure white vinegar just above the water stain. Boil in one cycle, leave overnight, then clean as usual. Remind members of the family to gently press on the controls so as not to damage the pads.

It may take some extra effort, but you’ll find the both savings and the piece of mind of knowing everything is running smoothly are worth it. You can read more here.

LG to Compensate Customers of French Door Refrigerator

Earlier this month we wrote here about LG’s french door refrigerators losing their EnergyStar rating.  Now, in agreement with the United States Department of Energy (DOE), LG will also compensate owners, modify unsold inventory and remove five current models from the Energy Star program.

LG Electronics has offered to make in-home modifications on French door refrigerator models that were improperly certified as Energy Star compliant.

Under terms of an agreement with the United States Department of Energy (DOE), LG will also compensate owners, modify unsold inventory and remove five current models from the Energy Star program.

Affected models include 10 LG-branded SKUs and 12 Kenmore-branded Trio units designed and manufactured by LG and sold by Sears.

Current LG models include the LFX23961, LFX25971, LFX21971, LMX25981 and LMX21981, all with in-the-door ice and water dispensers.

Five discontinued models include the LFX25950, LFX25960, LFX21960, LFX25980 and LFX21980.

The affected Kenmore units have in-the-door ice and water dispensers and model numbers beginning with 795.

Under terms of its agreement with DOE, LG will offer to modify consumers’ refrigerators at the company’s own expense. The modification, which involves replacing the ice maker’s circuit board and reprogramming the fridge, will make the units more energy efficient but not Energy Star compliant.

LG will also provide consumers with a one-time cash payment covering the difference between the energy rating listed on the original EnergyGuide label and the restated energy rating, plus annual payments for future incremental energy usage for the expected useful life of the appliance, up to 14 years.

LG said it will attempt to contact all previous purchasers of the affected units, and has established a special hotline — (888) 848-1266 — and Web site (www.lgrefrigeratoroffer.com).

The company is also modifying all unsold inventory, changing all labeling and marketing material to reflect the new energy ratings, and will introduce redesigned, Energy Star-rated ice-and-water dispensing French door refrigerators early next year.

Should You Fix the Old Appliance or Buy a New One?

It’s a common question – when your appliance needs repairs is better to fix it or start looking for a new one?  Often fixing the broken appliance can take days or even weeks if the parts are not available.  A new one can often be purchased and installed within hours.  But is buying a new appliance the right choice?

“We surveyed 13-thousand of our subscribers, covering more than 20-thousand broken products, and plenty of them had complaints about the repairs they got,” said Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman from Consumer Reports.

The biggest problems were with electric cooktops and wall ovens.

“The parts were very difficult to find and the repairs often took two weeks or more to get done,” said Kupersmid-Lehrman.

When it comes to dryers, washers, and other larger appliances, the survey showed people have much better luck using an independent shop once the warranty is up, rather than a factory-authorized service center.

But Consumer Reports says sometimes an appliance just isn’t worth fixing.

“You should replace it if the repair is going to cost more than half the price of a new model.” said Kupersmid-Lehrman.

Additionally, Consumer Reports says that it is not necessary to buy an extended warranty, as the cost for repairs, if needed will likely be about the same as the cost of the warranty.

 

Sometimes You Really do Get Customer Service

Here at Appliance.net we get a lot of comments (read: complaints).  People want to vent their frustration about their broken dishwasher, inept repairman and customer service that isn’t.  Our forums are great place to share what has worked for you and of course, what hasn’t.  Sometimes we find a tip that just needs to be shared.

Customer Service representatives have a responsibility to both the customer and to their employer. They are the link between consumers and the manufacturers.  Here’s a great story from a woman who called Kitchenaid’s customer service department regarding her stand mixer:

Hi, just thought I’d share my experience for the benefit of those who just ran into problems with their KA.

 I had a KA Ultra Power, purchased about 15 years ago.  Used it on and off through the years, but really cranked up use the last three months or so when I discovered bread baking.  I prefer whole grain breads so have been experimenting with these heavy doughs.  My machine started to smell funny about a month into my bread baking venture and has been sounding funny ever since.

 Last weekend, I basically resigned myself to saying sayonara to an old friend.  I called up KA because I wanted to see if it could be fixed first.   I had planned on getting a Bosch, but the price tag just made me heartsick.  I described to the rep how I had been using my machine.  Even though my machine was 15 years old, the rep said that she was concerned about the smell my machine was emitting.  She offered to replace the machine…granted with a refurbished one, but that’s better than having to buy a whole new one outright!  She upgraded me to an Artisan level machine with a choice of colors. 

Customer service, not always the oxymoron we might think it is.

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Basic Appliance Care and Safety

If you are lucky, you rarely need to pay much attention to the appliances that run, some of them 24 hours a day, in your home. But to keep everything trouble free, it’s good to follow some basic guidelines for care and safety when using or installing appliances in your home. Handymanclub.com offers some simples steps for use with your washer, dryer, refrigerator, ranges, cooktops, even your water heater.

Ventilation and combustion (dryers, water heaters, ranges and cooktops)
• Clean the clothes dryer’s lint filter before or after each load. Check behind the dryer for trapped lint. Clear lint from the exterior vent often. Lint buildup results in inefficiency and excessive wear and can even pose a fire hazard. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 15,500 fires each year are associated with clothes dryers.
• Use only metal ducting for gas dryers because they run hotter than electric machines. Rigid rather than accordion-pleated ducting is best for airflow.
• Never vent clothes dryers or water heaters into the house to supplement heating.

Plumbing (washers, refrigerators and water heaters)
• To prevent leaky or bursting waterlines, check washing machine hoses for signs of wear. Consider replacing rubber hoses with newer braided stainless steel hoses.
• Check the screens at either end of the water hoses and remove sediment that may have collected there. This is especially important after road construction or water-main work has been done in your area.
• Periodically check that the washing machine is soundly footed and level so the hoses and the drain hose do not come loose.
• If a dishwasher’s tub doesn’t empty after operation, detach the drain line from the household drain and clean any debris from the line.

Gas (dryers, ranges and water heaters)
• Never use an oven as a room heater — combustion pollutants resulting from fuel-burning appliances can cause illness or death. Have gas appliances serviced periodically to ensure they burn with the proper mix of air and fuel.
• Be sure all vented appliances are checked for backdrafting. (This is one reason that it’s important for a city building official to inspect newly installed vented appliances.)

Electric
• Diehard DIYers may bristle at this warning from the CPSC — nonetheless, it’s a lifesaver. Never attempt to repair a microwave oven — because they use high-voltage power, they can pose a risk of electrical shock even after they are disconnected from the power source.
• Use dedicated circuits for large appliances such as washers and dryers.
• Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces.

Inside a Washing Machine

We don’t often consider how our household appliances work, we tend to take them for granted.  But when I stop to think about all they do, I wonder about the mechanics of it all.  The site howstuffworks.com is so much fun. It has a wonderful way of explaining how our everyday world works.  Below is an excerpt from the section about the workings of a washing machine, you can read the whole article here.

If we take a look under the washing machine, you’ll see what makes it so heavy.


Motor and counterweight

Yes, that is in fact a block of concrete in the picture above. The concrete is there to balance the equally heavy electric motor, which drives a very heavy gearbox that is attached to the steel inner tub. There are lots of heavy components in a washing machine.

The washing machine has two steel tubs. The inner tub is the one that holds the clothes. It has an agitator in the middle of it, and the sides are perforated with holes so that when the tub spins, the water can leave.

The outer tub, which seals in all the water, is bolted to the body of the washer. Because the inner tub vibrates and shakes during the wash cycle, it has to be mounted in a way that lets it move around without banging into other parts of the machine.

The inner tub is attached to the gearbox, which is attached to the black metal frame you see in the picture above. This frame holds the motor, gearbox and the concrete weight.


Cable-and-pulley support system

The picture above shows just the black metal frame, without the tub or gearbox. The cable that you see on the left side of the picture is the other end of the same cable that you see on the right side. There are a total of three pulleys, so that if one side of the frame moves up, the other side moves down. This system supports the weight of the heavy components, letting them move in such a way as not to shake the entire machine.

But, if all of these parts are just hanging by cables, why don’t they swing around all the time?

A laundry machine has a damping system that uses friction to absorb some of the force from the vibrations.


Vibration-damping system

In each of the four corners of the machine is a mechanism that works a little like a disc brake. The part attached to the washer frame is a spring. It squeezes two pads against the metal plate that is attached to the black frame. You can see where the pads have polished the plate from movement during vibration.

Appliance Maintenance Tips and Lifespan Estimates

I think it’s good to be reminded regularly to look after these appliances we spent so much to acquire.  So I feel justified in offering this list from the Sun Herald that nudges you to take a minute and check up on your household appliances. It could add years to their lifespan.

Refrigerator

Average life span: 14 years

What you need to do: Locate the condenser coils by checking your owner’s manual. Clean them by unplugging the fridge and removing dust gently with a broom or brush. Check the seals by sliding a piece of paper in the closed door. If it falls out, you need to replace your seals. And defrosting regularly can’t hurt.

Inspected and cleaned: Have it done if your at-home remedies don’t work or if there are noises you can’t locate.

Washer, dryer

Average life span: Washer: 12 years; Dryer: 14 years

What to do: Clean the dryer’s lint filter and hoses. Kinks or ridges can cause highly flammable lint to build up, a major cause of fire.

Inspected and cleaned: Replace the hoses on your washing machine every 3 to 5 years.

Window air conditioner

Average life span: 13 years

What you need to do: Changing the air filter every month helps the system run more efficiently and improves air quality. Dirt and neglect are the main causes of AC failures, so clean it well.

Inspected and cleaned: Do it twice a year, usually fall and spring.

Garbage disposal

Average life span: 13 years

What you need to do: Keep anything stringy, like pumpkin pulp, out of it. Also leave out tough produce, anything hard that can dull the blades, and grease, which can clog your pipes.

Inspected and cleaned: Have this looked at whenever your plumbing is checked.

Microwave

Average life span: 5 to 8 years

What you need to do: Microwaves are simple appliances; they don’t know the difference between the food you want cooked and old splatters in the chamber, so keep it clean and don’t exceed the recommended usage.

Inspected and cleaned: Anytime there’s a problem. You should never attempt to work on it yourself.

Dishwasher

Average life span: 9 to 12 years

What you need to do: Be mindful of what you put in it. Leave out small pieces that can get lodged in the drain and make sure everything is dishwasher-safe. Use a powdered detergent, because gels can cloud dispenser and glasswear. Spend the few dollars on a rinse aid, such as Jet-Dry, every month or so.

Inspected and cleaned: Every 2 to 3 years.

Water heater

Average life span: electric: 6 to 14 years; gas: 5 to 9 years

What you need to do: Check your hoses, fittings and release valves. Also watch for damaged areas on the outside of the tank and leaking.

Inspected and cleaned: Every couple of years.

Stove

Average life span: electric, 16 years; gas, 19 years

What you need to do: Check temperature with a thermometer or by following a basic white cake mix and making sure it cooks correctly. Keep it clean inside and out, using nonabrasive cleaners. Check your seals and the hinges, which can bend over time and let heat escape.

Inspected and cleaned: Any time it’s not heating properly.

Central air system

Average life span: 10 to 20 years

What you need to do: Check for leaks around the system and with hose connections. You should also change your filter monthly.

Inspect and cleaned: Seasonally

Black & Decker In- Car Charger

Having a dead battery is never fun. Having one late at night or in the freezing snow is bad. How about late at night and in the freezing snow? Okay- enough! Dead batteries happen, but being prepared can make the situation easier.

Black & Decker has a gadget called Simple Start that can jump start a car with you not even having to get out of it. Plug the charger into your cigarette lighter and in about ten minutes, you’re good to go. To be sure it is always ready, recharge the starter once a month through your car’s cigarette lighter, or an electrical outlet.

The Simple Start also has a built in LED light and a 12 volt DC charging port for charging cell phones.

I’ve found the Simple Start online for about $40.