You’ve cut back on eating out, you’ve lowered the thermostat by a couple degrees, and you’re combining errands to save gas. You’re taking all the right steps to survive these tough economic times. Then, wham, a major appliance breaks. Suddenly you’re faced with a repair bill, or worse: replacement costs.
You’ve cut back on eating out, you’ve lowered the thermostat by a couple degrees, and you’re combining errands to save gas. You’re taking all the right steps to survive these tough economic times.
Then, wham, a major appliance breaks. Suddenly you’re faced with a repair bill, or worse: replacement costs.
An unexpected breakdown can cause a budget meltdown. How can we eke a longer life out of our appliances?
Service companies from the Canton, Ohio, area offered advice on proper use and maintenance of dishwashers, garbage disposals, water heaters and washing machines. The experts agreed that hard water is tough on appliances and recommend that homeowners consider a water softener.
Flush often, says Mark Armstrong of Baum Plumbing & Heating in Canton.
“The average water heater has 100 to 150 pounds of lime built up in it if the customer doesn’t flush it religiously,” Armstrong said. “It’s about 6 to 10 inches in the bottom.”
That layer of crud translates to higher bills.
“It takes four times the BTU’s to heat through 1 inch of calcium and iron sediments in the bottom of the tank. That’s per every inch,” he said. “Getting rid of that would be a tremendous cost savings.”
How often do we have to flush the tank?
“If they don’t have a water softener, once a month. If they have soft water, twice a year.”
To flush, open the faucet at the base of the heater and let it drain for three to five minutes. Armstrong says it’s not necessary to empty the tank.
With soap, less is more, says Dennis Cramer of Diversified Home Services in Jackson Township.
“If you notice a white film on everything, you might be using too much soap,” Cramer said. “The problem is, people see that film and then add more soap, and it gets worse and worse.”
He recommends cleaning out the lime and soap buildup on the racks and walls of the dishwasher.
“Every six months, run an empty load with a couple cups of white vinegar,” he said.
If one of the posts on the rack gets “wiggly,” Cramer says to break it off and buy a product to touch up the coating.
“If you don’t, it could break off and get down into the pump. Then you’ll have problems.”
And if you hear something unusual, call a repair person.
“If it persists, it means something is wrong,” he said. “Have it looked at right away and save yourself a big repair bill. Don’t just turn the TV up louder!”
“Run the cold water for a full minute after the food has ground up,” recommends Jerry McCausland of J&J Plumbing in Tallmadge. If you turn off the water too soon, the food left in the disposal causes “premature corrosion.”
“The food lays there, causes gumming up, then eventually, inefficient cutting action,” McCausland said. “And finally, people call us and say it’s just making a humming sound.”
Don’t overload the disposal. Don’t run drain cleaner through it. Don’t grind fibrous foods, such as celery, rhubarb and corn husks.
If you do have to replace the garbage disposal, McCausland recommends a 3/4-horsepower motor.
“The smaller ones have more problems, like when people have the bread ties on the counter and they fall into the disposal. The smaller one will jam up, but the 3/4-horse will chew them up,” he said. “The bigger ones have a better cutting chamber too, that resists corrosion.”
Use the right soap, recommends Tim Spangler, store manager at Maytag Home Appliance in Jackson Township.
“Get the right detergent. The new high-efficiency machines require a high-efficiency detergent,” Spangler said. “Look for H-E on the detergent. It’s more compatible."
He also warns against overloading the washing machine, which stresses it, and says to level the machine after moving it.
“If you are going to leave for any period of time, make sure to shut off the water to the washer so you don’t come home and find a burst hose,” Spangler said. “If there’s a weak spot in the hose, that can happen. There’s a stainless steel braided hose we recommend now.”