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Save Time And Money By Fixing Your Own Appliances: It's Easier Than You Think

A useful guide to proper usage and maintenance for home appliances with tips on how to fix common problems.

[Editor's Note: Since some of Chris's suggestions are at odds with energy conservation practices, use your own judgment about which is a higher priority for you.]

Washing Machine

Usage: Laundry detergents require a minimum water temperature to dissolve and work properly. Detergent manufacturers recommend a temperature of at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Maintenance: Replace the rubber fill hoses on your washing machine at least every five years to prevent a flood caused by a burst hose. Use stainless steel hoses for more peace of mind.

Repair: If your washing machine no longer fills as fast as it used to, or if the warm water is too hot or cold, you may need to replace the water inlet valve. This is a common failure of washing machines and is quite easy to install.


Usage: Many dryers come equipped with an automatic setting. If the automatic feature uses a temperature sensor rather than a moisture sensor, you may be wasting energy during the drying cycle. A typical load of laundry should take no more than 45-50 minutes to dry. How does yours stack up?

Maintenance: Be sure to clean the lint filter after every load. If the lint filter is too full, the drying time will increase dramatically. Also, be sure to clean the duct leading outside at least once a year as lint accumulates in the duct and can increase drying times and pose a fire hazard. Always use aluminum ducting rather than white vinyl ducting.

Repair: It is common over time for dryers to stop heating. If the dryer is electric, this usually means the heating element has burned out. If it's gas, the igniter should be checked. These are repairs that many do-it-yourselfers can tackle.


Usage: Powdered detergents seem to work better than gels. And, the hotter the water, the cleaner the dishes. If your dishwasher has a "sani" or extra heat setting for the wash water, use it.

Maintenance: Dishwashers have seals that last much longer if they remain wet and are used regularly. Use your dishwasher at least once every two weeks – even if that means running it through a short cycle empty.

Repair: If the dishes aren't getting as clean as they used to, there may not be enough water getting into the machine. It's common for the water inlet valve to need replacing every five to six years. This is a repair for a do-it-yourselfer with common tools.


Usage: Use the "timed bake" feature on your oven to simplify many cooking tasks. You can even use the feature to preheat the oven for you. Just set the timer to turn on the oven 15 minutes before you'll need it; the oven will be hot and ready to go when you are.

Maintenance: It's not a good idea to line the bottom of your burner drip pans with aluminum foil. This can cause a short circuit at the burner. Instead, replace the drip bowls with new ones. Your range will look new again, and the burners will work more efficiently by reflecting more heat toward the pan.

Repair: Stove burners fail over time. When gas burners fail to light properly, cleaning and unclogging the burner assembly usually solves the problem. An intermittent electric burner is usually the fault of a bad connection with the stove element socket, which is much like a socket in your home. Replace the socket and return your stove to full power.


Usage: Be sure to store your meats, butter and produce in the proper drawers in your refrigerator. These drawers are designed to maintain the temperature or humidity at a more ideal setting for specific types of food than the main part of the refrigerator.

Maintenance: Clean the condensing coils under the refrigerator every year. The coils are needed for proper cooling of the refrigerator, and when they become dirty, the refrigerator has to work harder. This can shorten the life of the refrigerator significantly.

Repair: Self-defrosting refrigerators seem complicated, yet most of them have only three functional defrost components. When repairing a self-defrosting problem, it is often cheaper to replace all three parts than it is to hire a technician to come out. In addition, many functional parts have a similar life expectancy. So replacing all three parts may prevent another repair in the near future.


Usage: Generally, the colder the weather outside, the more humidity you need inside. That's because colder air tends to be drier air--and, as the outside temperature drops, the humidity level in your home also drops. Use an accurate hygrometer to measure the humidity level. A hygrometer works like a thermometer but it measures humidity instead of temperature. Most people find that humidity levels between 40 and 50% are comfortable during the heating season.

Maintenance: When your humidifier's pad or filter gets covered with hard water scale, you probably won't be able to get it perfectly clean again. It's best to just replace it each year.

Repair: A small motor on the side of the humidifier spins the rotating filter pad on the reservoir type of humidifier. If it doesn't spin, adjust the humidistat to make sure it's calling for more humidity. Then turn on the furnace. If the pad still doesn't rotate with the furnace blower on, the motor may need to be replaced.

This article courtesy of (, a one-stop online shop for appliance repair needs. The site's troubleshooting information will help you determine the problem, and the PartDetective will help you find and order the parts you need to make a repair.

refrigerator parts

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