Save money on home appliance repairs

Appliances should hum right along for a decade or more, but when something like a washer or dryer, or even a refrigerator goes down, a whole household can be left in turmoil. Nothing is a bigger budget buster than an appliance that goes south. There may even be a charge for someone to come out just to tell you what is wrong.

Angie Hicks, with the popular website Angie's List, said consumers should not be put off by that service fee.

"Keep in mind, many service companies will deduct that service call fee if you hire them to do the work, so don't be afraid to ask," said Hicks.

Hicks told Local 2 the best way to save money on appliance repairs is to start before your appliance is broken.

"Basic maintenance is what is going to keep your appliances running longer. That means you need to dust off your appliance's owner's manual to determine what needs to be taken care of now. Do you need to inspect the hoses on a washing machine? Or clean the dryer vent, for example," Hicks said.

Gary Miller with Mr. Appliance told Local 2 that refrigerators make up a majority of his house calls. Before yours goes bust, Miller said check the seal. If it is not firm, it is costing you money. If you can reach the coils, a quick vacuum cleaning will hold off the repairman.

"We go out often to repair icemakers. It's important to recall and notice if you have a power outage," Miller said.

This is something to think about even without a complete outage. If the door has been opened more than usual, especially in the hot summers in Houston, the ice can melt and drip into the workings of the ice maker.

"When the power comes back on it will refreeze that ice around the auger and when you go to get ice that auger will try to rotate and can break," Miller said.

When it comes to being a preventative appliance owner, the No. 1 spot to focus on is filters. Whether on dishwashers, washers and dryers, A.C. units or any other running machine, even hair dryers keeping them clean can save big in the repair department.

In the laundry room, Miller said people should empty their pockets. Repairman report finding all sorts of little bits from golf tees to rubber bands caught inside the inner workings of machines.

Another quick tip to think about, use the right amount of detergent. Too much, especially in dish and clothes washers can clog the mechanics. Less is always more in this case.

Appliance repair suggestions from Angie's List:

Your refrigerator/freezer:

· Do clean the condenser coils. It's an easy vacuum cleaning job for most of us and will help the fridge run efficiently. Built-ins might require a service call.
· Do check the seal. If it's not tight, you're losing efficiency and not keeping food properly chilled. Close the door on a thin sheet of paper and if the paper slips, your fridge is wasting energy. Replace the seal or adjust the door latch if needed.

Your dishwasher:

· Do clean your dishwasher's filter to remove particles and debris. Filter locations vary depending on the model, so check your owner's manual if you can't find it.

· Do use the right amount and type of soap. Your owner's manual will advise you. Going wrong here will affect your pump. Powdered soap tends to work better than liquid.

Your garbage disposal:

· Don't stuff the disposal full of food waste and then turn it on.

· Do run cold water for 10 seconds before feeding in small bits of waste, keep the water running as you feed in the waste and for 30 seconds after it disappears.

Your oven:

· Do check your oven's temperature gauge. An easy way to do this is to bake a cake by exactly following the directions on a basic mix. If the cake isn't perfectly baked, you may need a service call to fix the oven.

· Don't use the self-cleaner before important meals. Self-cleaning cycles require ovens to run at extremely high temperatures and often cause the oven's electronic components to fail. Most highly rated repair specialists say it's better to clean up spills when they occur and to use drip pans than to rely on the self-cleaner.

Your washing machine:

· Don't stuff too many clothes in the machine. Overloading your unit will cause it to prematurely wear out.

· Do set the water level at the appropriate setting for the amount of clothes being washed or you damage the washer's motorized components.

· Do empty pockets and put lingerie in mesh bags before washing: Repair specialists report finding all sorts of small items in the guts of machines that would have spun happily for years. Among the troublemaker items: bra under wires, golf tees, baby spoons and coins.

· Do replace washer fill hoses every five years.

Your clothes dryer:

· Do clean the vent with every load. A clogged vent will slow down the dry-time of your cycle and increase the potential for a dryer fire.

· Do have the outside vent (exhaust duct) inspected annually and cleaned yearly. Most cleanings cost less than $100 and can make your dryer run as good as new.

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