Appliance replacement is something most people have had to deal with at some point in their lives. Sadly, it seems like many appliances built today use the concept of planned obsolescence to require us to buy another appliance in just a few years because it no longer works like it did when it was new. While we can’t force appliance makers to build better quality appliances, we can make sure we’re maintaining our appliances as intended to get the best shot of a long life out of these multi-hundred or often multi-thousand dollar appliances.
I asked the ChooseFI Facebook community for their ideas on how to make appliances last longer and compiled their advice with some of my own knowledge and research. I’ve listed what you need to know to get started below, but feel free to check out the post on the ChooseFI Facebook group for more details or to add your own ideas.
General Appliance Tips
If you’re buying a new appliance today, do plenty of research for the models you’re considering. Read reviews from people who’ve had the appliance for more than a few days to see how they really like it. Also, look for multiple instances of the same problems popping up in reviews as that can show poor design by the manufacturer.
Once you get any appliance, read the instruction book. Set up the appliance according to the instructions and perform any maintenance the instruction book recommends. While there is plenty of junk and silly warnings that their lawyers make them include, there is plenty of good information in these manuals, too.
If your appliance breaks, don’t freak out. If you have any inclination to look into the repair yourself, your first step should be Googling how to fix your appliance. Sometimes it’s a super easy fix that you can take care of yourself after watching a YouTube video. That said, if you don’t have the expertise to do the job, don’t risk hurting yourself or further damaging your appliance. Call a pro instead. Also, consider the expense of any materials or tools that may be cost prohibitive in comparison to hiring a professional.
Dave Klemarczyk from the ChooseFI Facebook group had a tip about finding replacement parts. He says RepairClinic.com is a great place to identify the item numbers you need to fix your appliances. However, he suggests that you shop around because you may find better prices on your parts elsewhere. And if you can't find what you need on YouTube, RepairClinic.com also has over 3,000 expert repair videos.
An air conditioner is one of the most expensive systems in your home and can cost thousands of dollars to be replaced. By doing a few maintenance tasks on a regular basis, you can help extend that life.
First, replace the air filter when it’s dirty. Don’t simply replace it every 30 days just because that’s the general rule of thumb. Instead, look at the filter to see if it is dirty and air flow is impeded. If it is, replace the filter, if it isn’t, wait until it is then change it.
If you live in a climate that has corrosive salt-water air like mine, it helps to rinse your air conditioner coils off once every few months. Doing this will remove potentially corrosive materials such as salt from the coils and prevents it from eating away at them. The coils are how the system cools. If they break down, your air conditioner is less efficient.
Keep the area around your outside air conditioner clear from shrubs and plants so the air can flow over it naturally. Reduced airflow makes your system work harder.
Finally, schedule regular maintenance visits so a trained technician can make sure everything is in tip-top shape. This includes cleaning the interior parts of your system that you don’t normally access and checking coolant levels among other tasks. Personally, I leave this to the trained professionals as the amount of electricity that runs through an air conditioner can be very dangerous.
Hot Water Heater
Hot water heater maintenance is pretty straight forward. First, keep the immediate area around your hot water heater clear from junk. Since many hot water heaters are in closets or garages, it’s easy to want to store stuff right next to them. However, you need to give your hot water heater space.
Additionally, draining your hot water heater once per year from the bottom of the tank is beneficial to clear any sediment that may have built up. This sediment makes your hot water heater work harder. When draining the hot water heater, be extremely careful as the water will, hopefully, be hot.
Refrigerators are relatively easy to maintain. You’ll want to vacuum the condenser coils a couple times per year to clear them of any dust, pet hair, or dirt buildup. If these coils are clean, they can cool your refrigerator more efficiently which will hopefully extend the life of your refrigerator. Cleaning the door seals when needed will help the seals keep cool air in as best as possible. You can even replace them if you need to.
Clothes Washer and Dishwashers
Clothes washers and dishwashers aren’t difficult to maintain either. A ChooseFI Facebook group member explains that you should clean the water screens on your clothes washer on a regular basis to remove buildup so the water pumps aren’t overworked. It's also important to make sure your clothes washer is level from time to time.
As far as dishwashers go, there is usually a screen or trap on the bottom that should be cleaned or emptied every once in a while, too. For both the dishwasher and clothes washer, it is good to run a cycle of cleanser on a regular basis, as well as a white vinegar rinse, especially in areas with hard water. This assists in keeping the buildup of minerals from clogging the plumbing and impeding the efficiency of the appliance.
Finally, don’t forget to inspect water hoses on a regular basis. While it may not make your appliance last longer, replacing a damaged hose could save you a ton of money in water damage down the road.
Last but not least is the clothes dryer. Clothes dryers naturally build up lint around the lint catcher. Clean the area around the lint catcher occasionally to remove any buildup in addition to cleaning the filter between every load.
Also, clean the exhaust vent on the back of your dryer and the exhaust tube to remove lint buildup. Finally, inspect the vent outside to make sure it is clean and hot air comes out when your dryer is on. If it isn’t, get the exhaust tube cleaned. If you don’t or this gets blocked, it is a huge fire risk as lint is very flammable.
Maintaining appliances can be done with a bit of DIY courage, research, and practice. Thankfully, Google seems to know everything about most appliances and models. Simply research your model and maintain it as intended. Extending the life of your appliances is it's own reward and peace of mind. Also, keep in mind, planning for appliance replacement allows for one to pick and choose what they really want in features and variables versus the immediate need of replacing during a crisis.
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