- Posted by Hinged
When we moved into our most recent house about three years ago, we replaced the laundry machines, stove, and dishwasher; all the other appliances were under ten years old and seemed to be working fine, so we decided to take our chances. Now it seems like we’re replacing or repairing something every other week and the repair guys show up more often to work on the new appliances versus the old ones.
It’s not that ‘they don’t build them like they used to’. Let’s face it, appliances weren’t built to last in 2003 either. Part of the problem is that appliances are more complicated than they used to be. With more features and capabilities built into each one, there is more to go wrong and more repairs to be made. New “smart” appliances are coming out, so I expect this trend will continue and if anything, get worse.
Here are some tips to help prolong the life of your appliances and some advice on dealing with repairs.
Owner registration cards. Thinking that it was an obvious ploy to gather personal information, until last year I always ignored the warranty cards asking me to register my new appliance. Then our dishwasher broke down less than a year after we bought it. I called to schedule what I assumed would be warranty service and was politely informed that since I failed to register, they would only cover for one year from the manufacturing date, which of course was well over a year ago. So much personal information is available on line already that telling GE what unit you bought is not really a homeland security issue. Sending in the card or registering online has the added advantage that the manufacturer will notify you if there is a service or recall issue.
Maintenance is key. Most appliances have manuals with recommended maintenance service. If you don’t have the manual handy most manufacturers offer them online. There are specifics for each machine, but in general it is all about cleaning.
For refrigerators and freezers there is always some type of radiator with cooling fins that transfers heat from inside your unit into the atmosphere. Dust builds up on the fins and dramatically reduces their efficiency. The unit has to work harder and wears out faster. Simply vacuum every six months to keep them clean. The trick of course is that the cooling fins are not always easily accessed. Smaller units usually have them on the back, which means wrestling your refrigerator away from the wall. Built-ins have an access panel that usually has slats to let air circulate around the radiator. Sometimes the panels slide or flip up or down, but often you will have to remove a few screws. The fins are sharp and bend easily so be careful and gentle while working on them.
Dishwashers have filters to keep debris from damaging the pump and jamming up the drain. As the filter gets clogged, less water gets to the pump and it has to run longer and work harder. Usually the filter is accessible under the lowest rack. Most machines have multiple filters, a screen over the sump and a basket inside. Anything that breaks into small pieces ends up in these filters so don’t attempt to clean them by reaching in with your bare hands. Been there, done that and can state that tweezing glass shards out of your fingertips is no fun!
Dryers have lint filters, usually in or near the door, that have to be cleaned after each use. Lint also tends to build up in the exhaust duct, restricting air flow and efficiency. Often there is a flexible duct between the unit and the wall outlet. Lint can get trapped on the ridges of the duct especially if it is not sized well and has multiple bends and kinks. Not only does this make your dryer have to work harder, it is also a fire hazard. The easiest way to clean the duct is with a shopvac. Simply loosen the clamp holding the hose to disconnect the hose from the unit and then push the suction hose from the vac into it. Unfortunately, in most cases you have to pull your unit away from the wall first. If there are piles of lint behind your dryer you probably have a leak either in the hose or at the connection. Running your dryer while feeling around the duct for warm air is an easy way to find leaks and metallic duct tape works great for sealing them. While you have the shop vac out clean the lint away from the exhaust port on the outside of the your house too.
Stoves and ovens don’t have a lot of moving parts and just need to be kept clean. A tip to prolong the life of your oven is to keep the door closed during cooling. Most stoves and ovens are not designed to withstand leaving the door open to cool. Over time the heat rising into the controls can make the circuit boards brittle and in extreme cases literally melt the circuitry.
If you don’t want to tackle these chores on your own, you can easily schedule an appliance maintenance service at Hinged.com.
When dealing with repairs, the service company will need your model and serial number. If you’re a Hinged homeowner, that information is recorded by our team during your home inspection and automatically provided to the appliance company when you schedule from the site. If you’re not already registered with Hinged, you’ll have to look around the unit before you make your calls.
There are so many types, models and makes of appliances that it is impossible to keep up with recalls and service issues for all of them. Your appliance repair company may have seen the problem before and may know exactly what they need to repair your machine, but don’t count on them to know whether or not the work is covered by a recall. If your appliance is not registered you can do a search at https://www.recalls.gov/cpsc.html.
Most appliances have an expected lifespan of about 10 years, but there are plenty of machines out there that are 20 years or older and still going strong. When it breaks, if the repair bill is going to come to over half the cost of buying a new one, my advice is to replace it. This is based on the idea that if one part wears out something else will wear out soon. Other factors to consider are that a replacement gets you new features, styling, better energy efficiency and a warranty. Of course, this brings us back to the beginning in that those new features bring more complications and more repairs.