Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How to Extend the Life of Your Appliances

When it comes to household appliances, a little preventive maintenance can go a long way. In order to get the most mileage out of your appliances, here are some cleaning and repair tips to help keep everything running smoothly.

Refrigerator- A refrigerator is one of those appliances we never really think about until they stop working. While the average lifespan of a refrigerator is 13 years, they can break down long before that without proper care.
What Should I Do? Once every 3 months, set a recurring reminder on your smartphone or computer to clean the fridge coils. Use a long-handled refrigerator coil brush ($8.98, Amazon.com) to clean around the condenser coils located underneath the fridge. You can also use the crevice tool of your vacuum cleaner if you prefer. This will remove the buildup of dust, crumbs and pet hair that accumulates. Make sure to wipe down the door seals and gaskets that keep the fridge door securely shut at this time; even small amounts of gunk can cut down on the fridge’s effectiveness to keep the cold air inside.

If your fridge model produces filtered water from a dispenser, it is recommended that you replace the filter once every 12 months. This will keep water tasting fresh.

Range- While a range typically has a 13-year lifespan, taking good care of it can boost its performance and cut down on costly repairs, giving it a longer life.
What Should I Do? For gas ranges or electric ranges with burner plates, soak the burner caps and rings in soapy water to remove residue, and use a thin sewing needle or paper clip to poke through the little holes where the gas comes through the burner to clear them of any debris.
If you have a smoothtop range, make sure to wipe down the glass cooktop regularly, using a damp rag or, in the case of dried-on food, a non-abrasive cleanser specially formulated for glass cooktops. Smoothtop ranges generally require less maintenance than their gas counterparts, but leaving spills behind can cause pitting or damage to the surface if not cleaned regularly.

Dishwasher- A dishwasher has an average lifespan of 9 years, but many dishwashers find themselves in need of repair or replacement long before that if they are not cared for properly.
What Should I Do? A thorough wipe-down of the dishwasher door gaskets, doorframe and hinge will keep the seal nice and tight, avoiding common problems like water leaks during wash cycles. Also, if your model has a removable filter, it is a good idea to rinse it out regularly to avoid nasty buildup which can affect performance, not to mention make your dishwasher stink.

Microwave Oven- With an average 9-year lifespan, the microwave is an appliance that doesn’t seem to need much maintenance at first glance, but can definitely benefit from a few performance-boosting, life-extending tips.
What Should I Do? Cleaning the interior of the microwave regularly with a damp cloth can help prevent buildup of food particles, keeping the microwave in good working order. If you have an over-the-range type microwave, make sure to clean the grease filters from the vent hood once a month by removing them, soaking them in soapy water, rinsing and drying before replacing. Some vent hoods have charcoal filters, which need to be replaced every 6-12 months.

Garbage Disposal- Though we typically don’t think of our garbage disposals when we think of our household appliances, they are definitely a very important part of our kitchen, and can be quite costly to repair. The average lifespan of a garbage disposal is 12 years.
What Should I Do? To keep the blades sharp and free of buildup, grind up a couple of ice cubes periodically. To reduce odors, throw lemon or orange peels in there and grind them up at least once a month. Never put large quantities of rice, noodles or grease down your disposal, and always use cold water when running the disposal, and for a couple minutes afterward, so fat and grease deposits get washed away.

Washing Machine- With an average lifespan of 10 years, your washing machine can last you a long time if you pay attention to it and take good care of it.
What Should I Do? Make sure your washing machine is hooked up to stainless steel mesh drain hoses, which last much longer than rubber ones. Also, wipe out the detergent dispenser drawer regularly to ensure that the detergent flows out as intended without any clogging or buildup. If your machine is a front-loader, wipe the door gasket seal dry after each use, which will prevent odor-causing mold and mildew from forming.

Dryer- Your clothes dryer is made to last 13 years on average, and the importance of keeping it clean is essential for not only extending the life of the appliance, but for basic safety as well.
What Should I Do? Clean out the dryer lint filter before or after every single load without exception. Once a year, use the same long-handled brush you use to clean your refrigerator coils to clean out your dryer vent, or use the crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner. If you are unable or unwilling to clean out the dryer vent yourself, you can hire a pro to take care of it, but beware- prices generally start around $200. Not only does lint buildup reduce the efficiency of your dryer, but it can also cause the dryer to overheat and catch on fire.

Vacuum Cleaner- On a personal note, this is the appliance that breaks down most often for me. The average lifespan of a vacuum varies based on the model, but I find myself having to buy a new vacuum once every 1-2 years. That can’t be right!
What Should I Do? Not many models have vacuum bags anymore, but if you are in possession of a bag model, the bag should be changed once a month, more frequently if you have a pet. You should clean or replace your filters once every 6 months (many models can be rinsed clean), and every 8 weeks the HEPA filter should be cleaned out as well. This will improve the airflow for maximum performance. Once a year, or sooner if the brush roll is making a vibrating noise, belts should be replaced. If your belts are too loose, they can make the brush roll turn too slowly, causing less dirt to be captured. Too-tight belts can cause excessive wear on the motor, though, so make sure they fit just right!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Repair or Replace? What Should You Do?

Household appliances get so much daily use, sooner or later they’re bound to give out. But when do you know when it’s time to replace those appliances, and when should you opt for a good repair service to come and fix it instead? In this informative article from Douglas Trattner at Houselogic.com, you can learn when it is more beneficial to try to get your non-working appliance repaired, and when it’s time to call it a day and go shopping for a replacement. Here is a brief overview of the good advice in the article- hopefully it can help you decide whether to repair or replace.

It’s turned on, right? Determining whether an appliance is really broken, as opposed to not turning on due to a faulty circuit breaker, clogged filter or, perhaps most obviously, not being plugged in. Make sure you check to see that your appliance is properly hooked up and switched on before you run out and buy a new one.

Is it still under warranty? If your appliance is still covered even in part by a manufacturer’s warranty, you’ll want to call and see if they can offer assistance with repair (or maybe even see if they will send you a replacement) before running to the store.

Is it at the end of its life? Nothing lasts forever, and that even includes the best-made appliances. If your washer suddenly stops working after 12 years of use, take comfort in knowing that it actually surpassed its typical 10-year lifespan, and make plans to purchase a new model.

Follow the 50% rule- This rule basically states that if an appliance is more than 50% through its lifespan (see handy chart in the body of the Homelogic article to determine the lifespans of various appliances), and if the cost of repair is more than 50% of the cost of buying new, then you should replace the appliance rather than try to get it repaired. For example, if your refrigerator suddenly goes out at the age of 5 (less than half of its 13-year average lifespan), and the repairman wants to charge you $400 for the part it needs, you should go ahead and get that repair done because it is less than 50% of the typical cost for a new refrigerator.

DIY- Don’t be afraid to have a go at repairing appliances yourself…but do know your limits. My father-in-law was a great tinkerer, and could fix just about anything he encountered with the aid of his handy toolbox, decades of experience as a mechanical engineer and tons of patience. Me-not so much, but even though I (probably wisely) shy away from any repairs that involve opening up an appliance and messing around with its insides, I can still pull out the manual and troubleshoot minor issues, such as oven calibration, frost accumulation in a freezer or a lopsided dryer due to a missing foot. As long as you are careful and don’t bite off more than you can chew, repairing appliances on your own could not only potentially save money in repairs or replacements, but you will feel like a super-genius!
Beware hidden replacement costs- Uh-oh! Your shiny new stainless steel refrigerator won’t fit in the tiny space previously occupied by your old fridge. Oh no! Your fancy new range has so many cool new features that you need to add extra electrical wiring to make it work! Be sure to research the total cost of upgrading your appliances, and try to choose replacements that are similar to the old ones in size and ability unless you wish to make all the necessary modifications for something new.

Which appliance do you think you’ll have to replace next? Tell your story in the comments section.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Get your Granite Gleaming!

Congratulations! You’ve just upgraded your kitchen, and now you have gorgeous granite countertops. But what do you use to clean them? You may be tempted to use household disinfectant wipes and spray cleaners as you would with other materials of countertop, but the harsh chemicals can dull the granite over time. Here are three recommended cleaners for granite surfaces that will keep your kitchen counter looking as beautiful as the first day it was installed.

Method Daily Granite Cleaner- $5.99, Target
This non-toxic, naturally derived, biodegradable cleaning formula is 100% safe for use around children and pets, yet is surprisingly effective in cutting grease and grime to get your countertops clean. The Apple Orchard fragrance is mild and pleasant, not overpowering like bleach cleansers. Best of all, it has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon, with many favorable consumer reviews swearing by its efficiency.

Formula 409 Natural Stone & Steel Cleaner- $6.99, retail stores
Clorox brand Formula 409 is a household brand name when it comes to cleaning products, and the company’s new cleaner for granite and other natural stone finishes lives up to its reputation. The best part about Formula 409 Natural Stone & Steel Cleaner is right there in its name- in addition to cleaning your granite countertops, you can use the cleaner for your stainless steel appliances, as well as glass, wood, Formica, Fiberglass, and plastic. This means virtually everything in your kitchen can be cleaned with one product, which saves both time and money!

Granite Gold Clean & Shine- $7.99, Bed Bath and Beyond
In addition to cleaning countertops effectively, Granite Gold also works as a polish to keep your countertops shiny and new looking. The manufacturers also claim that Granite Gold reinforces the protective seal on stone surfaces, making it easier to clean up future spills. It is a little more pricey than the previous two options, but it maintains a dedicated following of happy customers and has received rave reviews on Amazon.

Of course, if you would rather save your money and go the do-it-yourself route, many owners of granite countertops insist that all you really need to do is wipe them down with warm, soapy water (use a mild dish soap), dry with a microfiber cloth to avoid streaking and shine with a spray-bottle mixture of equal parts water and isopropyl alcohol. The choice is yours, but whatever you do, take care of your granite!