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PAUL MAIDA:
NH & MA Home Inspector
Since 1983

American Society of Home Inspectors - ASHI -
Certified Home Inspector
(Member #011818)

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Home Inspector (#0070)

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Maintaining Appliances

Thanks for visiting Maida New Hampshire & Massachusetts Home Inspection Services tips and information series. High quality home appliances can be very expensive to purchase and replace. Below you'll find tips and resources to protect your investments and keep your appliances operating safely and efficiently during their lifetime.

Clothes Dryers

Maintenance Tips for Clothes DryersDisconnect the exhaust duct from the back of the dryer and remove accumulated lint. This should really be done a couple of times a year if possible. Vacuum lint from the dryer heater box. To get to this area, remove the access panel. Most are held in place by clips or screws, but check the product manual. Always unplug the machine or shut down the gas connection before you remove the panel.

Clothes Washers

Sample Washer MaintanenceEvery three to five years replace rubber water-supply hoses if they're splitting, cracking or are losing flexibility. Rubber replacement hoses can last approximately five years, but hoses that use a braided-jacket of stainless steel, although more expensive, last at least twice as long.

Refrigerators/FreezersRefridgerator Maintenance

Clean coils with a condenser coil brush ($6), available at an appliance dealer. The coils are usually behind the snap-out grill at the front bottom of the unit. On older models, they're located in the back and are partially covered by cardboard. Unplug the unit first so you don't strike the moving fan. Even when the unit is unplugged, avoid disturbing the insulation or bending the fan blades, which could damage the fan. If your pets shed, do this four times a year.

Test the door gasket. A leaky gasket wastes energy and shortens the life of the compressor. Close the refrigerator door on a dollar bill at various places along the door, and pull lightly. If the bill does budge, replace the gasket (about $60). Peel back the gasket enough to loosen the retainer strip screws and slip a new one in place.

Change the in-line water filter on the ice-maker after turning off the source water. Use a bucket to catch water in the system. Buy recommended replacement filters. Once a year slide the refrigerator out and vacuum around and beneath it. Left unattended, this dirt will end up on the coils.

Furnaces

Once a month: Change or clean filters. To determine how dirty the filters are, hold them up. If you can easily see light through them, then they're still clean enough to use. Inspect the furnace for worn, shiny and sagging belts. They cause undue stress on the fan motor. Repairs require loosening the motor chassis mounts and sliding the motor back enough to make the belt taut and aligned with the fan.

Once per year: Get a yearly preventive maintenance check (about $130) from a service company. At a minimum, the technician should check the fan controls, air filters, blower belt, belt alignment and ducts. He should also check and adjust the burner flame, if necessary.

Cut power 15 minutes before working on a forced-air unit. The blower is a flywheel-type device that spins long after power is off. Also, don't start the unit up until you've screwed the blower back in place. Vacuum the blower and blower area, and clean blower blades with a brush.

Lubricate the motor with five drops of SAE 20 non-detergent oil. Don't overfill.

Once per year: Get a full checkup (around $130, plus parts) before the start of the heating season. The technician should clean and tune the unit, and inspect, repair or replace as necessary the following: fuel nozzle, oil filter, electrodes, pump strainer and pump gaskets, fuel pump, fuses in the burner circuit, thermostat and transformer. If you're heating forced air with oil, the tune-up should also include a check of the fan controls, air filters and blower belt and ducts.

Water Heaters

Water Heater TipsOnce per year: Check the pressure-relief valve to make sure this crucial safety device isn't clogged. To relieve any over pressurization in the tank, place a bucket beneath the copper overflow pipe where it hangs near the floor. Carefully push the relief valve at the top and a burst of hot water should spray out of the pipe. If not, the valve needs to be replaced. Two times per year: Drain and flush sediment, which reduces efficiency and causes rumbling, from the tank. (Do this monthly if the level of sediment in your water is high.) To drain the tank, turn off the water supply at the tank top, hook a hose to the spigot at the base, open a hot-water tap anywhere in the house and open the spigot. When the tank is drained, turn on the water supply at the tank top and let it run until the water draining out is clear. Close the spigot and turn off the tap.

Dishwashers

Two times per year: Lift out the strainer and clean it with warm soapy water and a soft-plastic scrubby pad. Remove the spray arm and clean it by poking a piece of stiff wire through the holes. Then shake the spray arm to make sure nothing is inside, such as seeds from fruit like watermelon. Finally, scrub any mineral deposits off the spray arm with hot distilled white vinegar. (The cap holding the shower arm in place is typically reverse-threaded, which means you should turn it clockwise to remove it. Be careful not to drop the nut or washer into the motor.) When you run a regular wash cycle, place a small container filled with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar in both the dish rack (lower) and the cup rack (upper); the dishwasher will disperse the vinegar during the wash cycle. This dissolves mineral accumulation and soap residue throughout the dishwasher, especially at the hinges where rust-causing buildup occurs.

Air Conditioners

Once a month: Clean filters with dish washing detergent, rinse thoroughly and let them dry before replacing. This allows a free airflow, reducing stress on the fan. It also keeps the coils clean, so heat can dissipate easily, leading to lower operating costs.

Twice a cooling season: Slide the chassis out, if possible, and lubricate the compressor fan; the oil ports are often hidden by caps or screws. Use five drops of SAE 20 non-detergent motor oil for a window unit and 10 drops for a central unit. (Some window units must be removed for oiling.) The sealed motors on newer units don't require extra oil.

Clear the drain hole in the chassis using a stiff wire. Add a capful of bleach to the tray or pan base or wherever water collects.

Once a year: Clean evaporator fins of bugs and debris, and straighten fins with a fin comb. These are available from refrigerator dealers, or call Sears Industrial Tools 800-776-8666 and ask for part 9-RB14401 ($10). If visible coils are dirty, coils within the unit probably are too. Take the unit apart and wipe the coils with a clean, damp rag. Use dish soap, which won't corrode metal. Finish by wiping the coils with a soap-free wet rag.

If your unit is solely an air conditioner, turn it off at the breaker in winter. Otherwise the compressor heater will try to keep the oil in the unit warm and ready for use.

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