The lowly toaster. It’s there for you every morning. Then, one morning as you are rushing off to work, it stops working. How about your refrigerator? Everything is cool, right? Washer, dryer and many other appliances are expected to do their thing without disappointment. Like your car that needs an oil change routinely, if it is neglected, bad things can happen.
Of course, most of your appliances cost a fraction of what your automobile may cost, and they don’t take you to work or other important places. Because of that they end up relegated to the “back burner” of things to worry about. Think of what you have invested in all of your appliances. Washer, dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher, and other things, including that toaster. It adds up to thousands of dollars. What if you had to replace them all at once? See where I’m going?
Every mechanical device needs some sort of service. Let’s start with that refrigerator. Down below or perhaps behind it, there are coils that exchange the heat for cold. Air movement is necessary for the exchange to happen efficiently. If these coils are covered in dust, the heat exchange begins to become compromised. Soon, the compressor must run longer, adding wear and tear to its life. More electricity is used, up to $10 extra a month. If the compressor fails, your food becomes spoiled and you get to go out and buy another refrigerator. All you have to do is take a few minutes every couple of months and vacuum out the pet hair and dust. While you are checking behind the refrigerator, check that ice maker supply line, filter, and bib for water leaks.
|Rear refrigerator coils|
|Dirty lower coils|
That toaster; I’ll bet you never even thought about it. Inside the toaster, there are heating elements that do the toasting. If the crumbs pile up, the sensor controlling the amount of toasting becomes inaccurate, and you may not have toast. Instead, it might become charcoal or not toast at all. Heating elements become stressed and may burn out. There is a little tray under the toaster that you can pull out, empty those crumbs, and have consistent toasting. Shake it out over a sink or garbage can. You’re thinking, ‘Come on, you think I’m worried about a toaster?’ Taking care of the toaster keeps you in the habit of servicing all of your appliances. Don’t forget to unplug the toaster while cleaning. Keeping a clean toaster will help keep the bugs away too.
Have you noticed that your dryer is taking longer and longer to dry your clothes? Lint build-up doesn’t just occur in the lint filter. Sadly, I have seen cases where members of the family assume someone else cleaned the filter and it doesn’t get checked. A fire can occur if the lint filter is clogged enough. Imagine the increase in electric bills, too. If the filter is clean and it still takes a long time to dry the clothes, there could be blockage farther down the path of the exhaust. Check the duct connecting the dryer to the outside vent. Even the vent pipe could be clogged. Over time, the blockage could be severe enough to damage the dryer and require an expensive house call to clean the duct work. You can delay that visit, perhaps for many, many years just by cleaning that lint filter.
|Typical dirty lint screen from dryer|
|Clogged exterior dryer vent|
Do you leave the supply faucets for your washing machine on all the time? In theory, you are supposed to shut them off when you are not using the washer. Nearly all of us don’t shut them off when we should. Usually the faucets are located behind the washer in a box. Others may just be and exposed hose bib. In any case, you should look them over for leaks. The packing nuts can leak, and so can the washers inside the supply hose. Water damage is one of the most silent and destructive sources of damage. It’s easy to prevent such damage just by looking around for it. If you have your supply faucets in a box on the wall, be sure the washing machine drain hose is inserted completely into the drain. If the hose is is not completely inserted, back splash can occur when the washer empties. Inspect those supply lines. Bubbles and blisters are an indication that they are soon to be history. Replace them with reinforced hoses.
|Typical washer supply box|
|Reinforced supply hoses|
Your air conditioning system is a high-dollar investment. There is the cost of replacing the unit as well as the efficiency of the unit. HVAC units can draw huge amounts of electricity. It is very easy to service the filter regularly. If you have pets, it’s even more important to change or clean the filter frequently. The outside unit has no filter, but it does need cleaning to remove surface dirt from the coils annually. Take a garden hose and gently spray the coils. If you use a hand-held sprayer, you can damage the fins with the higher water pressure. You may want to spritz a little coil cleaner in there before you hose the coils down. Do not wash the coils while the unit is running. Inside, the filter is usually located under the HVAC unit or sometimes located in a return air grill of some type. Familiarize yourself with the location and change the filters monthly. Be sure to replace the old filter with the correct size. Don’t just look at the old filter for the size. Sometimes people put anything that “fits” in the filter housing. The wrong size filter can do as much damage as not having a filter in the unit at all.
|Dirty A/C coils|
|Typical air handler. Filters can be in a drawer below the unit.|
|Outside HVAC unit.|
|Typical air filter|
Gas furnaces should only be inspected by a licensed HVAC tech. There is too much potential danger in checking it yourself. Heat exchangers can become rusted through and leak carbon monoxide into the air flow. While we are on the subject of carbon monoxide, if you have gas heating, you should have a carbon monoxide detector install near the unit.
Dishwashers are overlooked more often than you might think. There is more to a dishwasher than just piling the dishes into it. You should inspect the seal that goes around the door and tub occasionally for debris and soap deposits. The seal is soft. Over time, it becomes less pliable. Debris and soap scum can permanently alter the seal’s ability to do its job. You should pour a gallon of vinegar into the machine at least twice a year and run it empty of dishes with the vinegar in it. There is also a product called “Dishwasher Magic” that you can use to clean the dishwasher. Some dishwashers have a cleaning cycle. Use it. Keep the rinse agent filled and be sure that no build up interferes with the soap door’s operation.
|Dishwasher door gasket|
Vinegar works well to clean coffee and tea pots too.
The vacuum cleaner. It has to suck up dust, dirt, and other undesirable things. These days there are vacs with and without bags. Bags are less convenient, but do a better job of capturing the dirt and fine dust. Nearly all vacuum cleaner have HEPA filters. These filters trap the finest dust particles. With that, they clog the fastest. If you notice a loss of effectiveness in the your vacuum’s operation, it’s most likely due to a full bag or clogged HEPA filter. No one likes to spend a lot of time vacuuming. One bad habit that goes with that is not checking the bags and filters. Don’t forget to empty the bag-less units and check the HEPA filters on those machines too.
|One style of a HEPA filter|
There are many more appliances that you may have in your household. Read the owner’s manuals for those appliances to see what services they may need. After all, you purchased them to make life easier. Taking care of them will allow them to continue to serve you well. Thanks for reading!
Need a handyman to check these things for you? In San Antonio, TX, call Mike @ 210-452-5816
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