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How to Care for Your Refrigerator
Every three months, vacuum the fan and condenser coils on the rear or bottom of
the appliance using the brush attachment. Families with shedding pets should clean
the coils monthly.
Every three months, clean the door gasket with warm soapy water and towel dry. Inspect
the seal for snugness all the way around. Replace when loose, cracked, or torn.
Every six months, replace the unit’s water filter (when present) to ensure clean
water and ice, and to prevent clogs and leaks.
Always keep food covered to prevent odors from migrating throughout the fridge and
freezer. An open box of baking soda will absorb odor-causing acids for up to three
Always maintain an adequate amount of clearance on all sides of the appliance except
for those that are zero-clearance or front-vented.
Every month, empty out the icemaker bucket and start fresh, as old cubes can absorb
Every three months, verify that the appliance is level both front to back and side
to side to ensure both proper door movement and ice maker operation.
How to Care for Your Washer & Dryer
Replace vinyl dryer exhaust ducts with metal ductwork to reduce fire hazards.
Before every dryer load, clean out the lint filter.
Every three months, wash the lint filter with detergent to remove invisible chemical
residues that can restrict airflow.
Every month, visually inspect the dryer exhaust duct for crimps, obstructions, and
Yearly, remove and clean out the entire exhaust duct line from dryer to exterior.
Replace rubber washing machine hoses with braided-metal ones to reduce the risk
Monthly, inspect washing machine hoses for tight fittings, bulges, cracks, and leaks.
Tighten loose fittings. Replace damaged hoses.
Always ensure that the washing machine is level and on firm footing.
Always use the proper type and amount of detergent for the machine and load.
To prevent washing machine odor in front-load machines, always allow the interior
to dry before shutting the door. Families with small children, however, should not
leave the door ajar. Instead, use products specifically intended to eliminate odor-causing
When to Replace Your Appliance
Check the owner’s manual and your records to see if the unit is still under warranty.
If so, schedule a service call with an authorized technician. Warranties vary widely
between manufacturers, appliances, even retailers. Most cover parts and labor for
a specified time, followed by a period of just parts. If you purchased an extended
warranty from the retailer, examine that document as well.
The closer an appliance is to the end of its average useful life, the wiser it is
to replace rather than repair. Average Useful Life is the typical age at which an
appliance needs to be replaced because it dies or proves too costly to repair. Given
that most refrigerators last an average of 14 years, it may not be financially prudent
to repair a 12-year-old model. Conversely, it might make sense to fix an 8-year-old
built-in oven knowing that generally, it should last 16 years.
For appliances that are no longer under warranty but still in the prime of their
useful life, consider the 50% rule. If the cost of the repair will be more than
half the price of a comparable replacement, it’s generally wise to replace it, says
Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor at Consumer Reports magazine. The rationale?
For the price of the repair and one future repair, you can enjoy a more reliable
new machine. To help make your decision, get a repair estimate. Service calls come
with a price whether or not the appliance gets fixed, so factor that into your decision.
Angie’s List pegs the average cost of an appliance service call at $60 to $100,
not counting the repair itself. Many service providers
will deduct these charges if they’re hired to complete the repairs. If you decide
to go ahead with the repair, expect additional service visits to complete the process.
Because labor accounts for more than half the cost of a typical repair, you can
save big by tackling jobs yourself. Numerous online resources can help diagnose
and fix common appliance ailments. Many of these same sites also maintain databases
of owner’s manuals while connecting appliance owners with reputable parts suppliers.
The downside? You risk causing additional damage to machines if you’re not the handy
person you thought you were. Worse, there’s the danger of physical harm. And self-help
repairs often nullify warranties.
Present-day appliances are so much more energy and water efficient than previous
models that it can be fiscally wise to upgrade rather than repair. A modern refrigerator
uses roughly half the electricity of its 20-year-old predecessor. New dishwashers
get plates every bit as clean as older machines while using a fraction of the water
and energy. But replacing an aging appliance with a new highly efficient one still
requires some evaluation. If you intend to stay in your home for another 10 to 15
years, it may be worthwhile to upgrade to the latest efficient model. If you’re
planning a move soon, it may be smarter to repair it and pass it on to the next
There’s more to the cost of replacing an appliance than the price of the new machine.
If you have built-in cook-tops and refrigerators, you may face costly modifications
to countertops and cabinetry when you replace. Even so-called standard-size machines
may not fit into the same space as your previous model as standards continue to
evolve. Or the placement of water connections and power outlets may differ. And
switching from an electric range to gas can involve a costly visit from the plumber
or utility company. Likewise, upgrading from an older gas range to a newer one with
electronic features may require the installation of a new wall outlet. Although
these guidelines can help you make an orderly fiscal decision, you may find that
your enjoyment of a new unit—perhaps your dream appliance is on sale—simply trumps