By Angie Hicks
Every day our appliances take a beating. From the constant opening and closing of doors to turning them on and off, our daily actions can eventually lead to a repair call or earlier-than-expected replacement.
With a little preventative maintenance and by following the manufacturers’ usage guidelines, though, we can keep our appliances in good working order and lasting longer.
Here are some tips of things you can do — and things you should never do — that can help keep your appliances in good shape:
Refrigerators: One easy step you can take to keep your refrigerator working well is to clean the condenser coils — typically located along the bottom or in the back of the unit — with a brush before vacuuming them out.
“That’s the No. 1 thing you can do to prolong the life of your refrigerator,” said Paul Hleovas with Reliable Appliance in Colorado Springs, Colo.
If you have an icemaker and water dispensers built into your refrigerator, it’s also important to change that filter according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
“If you don’t change your water filter, it can make the ice smaller, which can break the icemaker,” said James Smith, senior technician with 123 Appliance Repair in Pineville, N.C.
Stoves or ovens: The self-cleaning feature on ovens is notorious for creating more problems than it solves. Avoid running this, especially before a big dinner party.
“I don’t recommend cleaning it around the holidays,” Smith said. “It can knock out a component, and you might not have it for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Calls (for service) are really heavy during the holidays. If you do clean it, clean it by hand.”
Washing machines: Smith recommends checking the fill hoses on the back of the washer to make sure they’re in good shape. Also, avoid overloading a washing machine.
Dryers: The most common issue with dryers is a clogged vent. If your dryer takes longer one cycle to dry a standard-sized load, a vent cleaning could rectify the issue.
Cleaning out the lint screen after every load will help reduce lint buildup in the vent, but isn’t sufficient. Clogged dryer vents are common causes of house fires.
It’s also important to check the duct leading out of the dryer and ensure it’s made of metal and not plastic.
“A four-inch duct out of the back of the dryer is made to blow out a certain amount of cubic-feet-per-minute of air,” Hleovas said. “If that is restricted, even in the slightest bit, you will burn (it) out.”
Dishwashers: Avoid leaving a dishwasher running with no one home. If the automatic shutoff valve fails, you could come home to an overflowing unit, which could create thousands of dollars in water damage. Also, never put dish soap in a dishwasher.
Often, when an appliance stops working, our first urge is to think we have to replace it. Calling a reputable company first, though, could save you big bucks. A new appliance could cost thousands of dollars, but the average price of a repair call typically ranges from $60- to $100.
Typically, if a repair will cost more than half of the cost of a new unit and the old appliance is more than half its life expectancy — say, six or seven years into its life — it’s likely time to replace it.
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. www.angieslist.com,