Helpful hints to keep appliances running like new

Maintain Your Appliances and Save

by Tricia Goss

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Repairing or replacing major appliances can really put a hole in your budget. Preventative maintenance can keep your appliances running as well as possible for as long as possible. Here are helpful hints for ten major appliances to get you started.

  1. Clean your air conditioner filter once a month with dish soap to sustain airflow. Never operate the A/C when the external temperature falls below 60 degrees. This can cause the coils to freeze up. Hose off your central air unit monthly to remove debris and maximize airflow. This will also help your electric bill stay down.
  2. Change your furnace filters monthly when in use. Again, this increases airflow and keeps your utility use lower. Most local gas companies will come to your home to inspect your unit at the start of the season. They often carry small, common parts and will replace them as a service to their consumers.
  3. Make sure your washing machine is on a flat surface with a level. Uneven settings can cause unbalanced loads and "walking," which can damage the barrel over time. If your barrel shows rust, try running a load of hot water and two cups of lemon juice. At least twice a year, check the water supply hose for kinks, bulges, or cracks. Consider replacing damaged rubber hoses with flexible stainless steel connectors, which have a much longer life span.
  4. Scrub your dryer's lint screen with warm, sudsy water to eliminate buildup of softener and soap. Use a steel vent brush to remove lint clogging the vent hose, being careful to disconnect the power source first.
  5. Every month, place a bowl with two cups of white vinegar upright in the dishwasher. Run by itself on a normal cycle. This will eradicate mineral and soap accumulation. Periodically remove the strainer and soak in soapy water. Remove the spray arm from the bottom carefully and use a thin, stiff wire to clean the small holes. Remove mineral deposits with white vinegar, then replace. Scour strainer with a plastic scrubber and return to the washer.
  6. Clean your refrigerator's condenser coils with a special brush found at most hardware stores. Newer models have a grill covering the coils in the bottom front that pops out, while older refrigerators will need to be pulled away from the wall, as the coils are located on the back. Do this every six months. This is also a good time to check your icemaker's inline filter. Clean the ice box's door gasket monthly with a blend of baking soda and warm water. Not only does this cleanse icky food stains, it will also help the gasket stay pliable and hold a better seal. Test the seal by closing the fridge door on a dollar bill and tugging on it. If it slides right out, you need to replace the gasket. To remove ice from a manual defrost freezer, never try to scrape it away as you could puncture a wall and ruin the appliance. Simply remove all food and unplug. Do this every other month to avert buildup and shorten defrosting time.
  7. Prolong the life of your microwave by keeping it free of spattered food that can burn up inside. Make it easy by placing two cups of water and two teaspoons of baking soda in a microwave-safe bowl and heating it on high power for three minutes. Any gunk will then easily wipe off with a sponge. Wipe the door gasket as well.
  8. Place lemon wedges into ice trays and cover with water. When frozen, toss a couple of the cubes down the drain and turn on the garbage disposal to freshen the drain and sharpen the disposal's blades.
  9. Keep your stove burner pans clean by scrubbing with soapy water and a non-abrasive pad. Never line with foil, as it may cover necessary vents or even cause a short circuit. Clean the range vent filter with dish soap and degreaser.
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  11. Drain your water heater twice a year to prevent sediment buildup. As with your washing machine, check your fill line and replace if kinked, cracked, or bulging. Test the relief valve by placing a pail under the copper overflow pipe that is near the floor and carefully pressing the valve at the top. If hot water does not spray out, replace the valve. This is a crucial safety device.

Remember the old adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. Make maintenance a habit to get the most out of your appliances and keep your budget healthy.

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