Anchor Home Maintenance Tips
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How often do you think of the maintenance required to keep your home systems and appliances up and running? If you’re like most homeowners, probably not often enough. Not to worry though, we’ve done the homework for you. You can do some regular maintenance items yourself and others require the services of a professional technician. Here are several routine maintenance and troubleshooting tips for each of your homes major systems and appliances.
Click on a topic:
Never run an air-conditioning unit when the outside temperature is below 60°F. Coils may frost up, restricting airflow.
Wait at least five minutes before restarting a unit. This relieves stress on the compressor. Always turn on power 24 hours before using a central air conditioner. This gives the unit time to separate the oil from the refrigerant before cool air is required.
Keep drapes and curtains away from window units.
Keep vegetation, grass clippings and leaves away from the condenser grille.
Remove window units in winter, or protect them with tight-fitting waterproof covers.
Once a month
Clean filters with dishwashing 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.
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 a 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 a 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.
To help prevent power outages, make sure there are not too many appliances plugged into one circuit. Trip and reset the circuit breakers regularly.
Look for burn marks at the main electrical panel; they can be a sign of arcing inside the panel, which can easily lead to a fire. Loose connections or damaged insulation can cause the arcing. Note: Only a qualified electrician should remove the front panel cover.
Remove any combustible materials such as paper boxes or flammable liquids from the area near the main electrical panel. Sparks caused by arcing inside the panel can ignite material stored nearby.
Check all electrical outlets for loose-fitting plugs they are an indication of a worn out receptacle. Worn receptacles should be replaced as they cause overheating and fires. Also check electrical outlets and switches to be sure they work properly. If any switches, outlets or receptacles do not work, have a qualified electrician determine the problem and fix it to avoid fires inside the walls of your home.
Install safety covers to help protect children from electrical shock. Any appliance or tool that gives even the slightest shock should be unplugged and checked by an electrician or repair shop.
Always have a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible. Make sure it is Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listed or Factory Mutual (FM) approved. Check the gauges to make sure they are charged and ready to use. Make sure the light bulbs in all your fixtures are the correct wattage. The light fixture manufacturer recommends the correct wattage. If too high a wattage bulb is used in a light fixture, heat produced inside the fixture can lead to fire inside the fixture, ceiling or wall.
Toilet paper should be the only paper product flushed down a toilet.
Maintain water softener according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
Water filters and icemaker filters should be changed according to the manufacture's recommendations.
Avoid using your garbage disposal if you're on a septic system.
Drain sediment from water heater tank according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
Fabric softeners are waxy and can gum up in the washer if introduced undiluted with water before dispensing. So mix them with water before use. If there's a fabric softener dispenser on your machine, add the recommended amount and then top off with water. If you're pouring from a cup, use a 3-to-1 ratio of softener to water.
Avoid overloading the washer. Add clothes until the unit is filled to just below top of the agitator axle without packing down the clothes. An overloaded washer strains the motor and transmission, shortening their lives.
Once a month:
Remove and clean intake screens where water-supply hoses enter the washing machine. The screens get clogged with sediment and/or mineral buildup. Because they're difficult to reseat—improperly installed, they can jam open an internal valve—replace them with flat screened washers (available at most hardware stores) in the end of the hose. Be extra careful when removing and replacing hoses, as the plastic threads on the intakes at the back of the washer are easily stripped.
Every five years:
Replace rubber water-supply hoses if they're splitting, cracking or are losing flexibility. Rubber replacement hoses last five years, but hoses that use a braided-jacket of stainless steel, although more expensive, last at least twice as long.
Replace pinch-type hose clamps with more reliable worm-driven clamps.
Clean the lint filter after every dryer load.
Replace the door seal if it's loose, worn, damaged or hardened. If you don't, the warm dryer air will escape, forcing the unit to work harder. Check the seal by holding a tissue near door while the dryer is running. If the tissue is sucked toward the door, replace the seal. Order it and adhesive ($7 to $20) from the manufacturer or an appliance store.
Replace flexible plastic exhaust ducting with aluminum or steel. It's more efficient and reduces the risk of fire.
Limit the length of duct runs if possible, and keep sags out of longer runs if you have to use them, because they collect lint that can restrict or even block the flow of warm exhaust air. This puts a strain on the dryer fan and reduces overall efficiency.
Two times a year
Clean the lint filter with soap and water to remove built-up soap and fabric softener.
Once a year
Disconnect the exhaust duct from 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.
Two times a 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.
Once a 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.
Run the hot water in the sink near the dishwasher before starting it, so even during the first cycle the water is at or near the design temperature of 120°F. If the water isn't at least 60°F, the soap won't dissolve.
Promptly repair cut or chipped plastic coating on racks to prevent rust. Use steel wool to remove rust and cap the damaged rack tines with slip-on rubber tips. You can get a rack- or tine-repair kit from the manufacturer (around $9).
Load the dishwasher correctly, follow manufacturers’ instructions. Use only dishwasher detergent in recommended amounts. Do not put any other cleaning compound inside dishwasher (laundry detergent, liquid dish detergent), as it may suds and overflow — you could fill your kitchen with soap suds!!! Store detergent in a dry, cool place, and do not keep extra packages on hand for a long time as it takes up moisture from the air and then loses cleaning ability.
Two times a 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.
Avoid unnecessary spatters by covering dishes, using wax paper or paper towels. If the oven does not have a removable glass shelf, a plate or paper towel placed under the food (such as baked potatoes) keeps it cleaner.
Wipe up spills after cooking. Wash regularly with mild detergent and water. Rinse and wipe dry with a paper towel or clean cloth. Especially clean around edge of door and door opening, to prevent soil buildup which would prevent door closing tightly. If spots seem dried on, boil water in a glass cup a few minutes; steam will help loosen soil. Leave in oven 5 minutes. Then wipe dry. If odors, either clean the interior with a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda to 1 cup warm water, rinse and dry. Or mix 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts water in a large glass cup and boil 3-5 minutes. Let cool. Then remove water and wipe dry. Never use abrasive pads or powders on oven. Follow manual directions for care. Microwave combination ovens (with convection or conventional heat) may have spills cook on from heat present. Follow manual directions for cleaning.
Don't use the microwave for deep-frying, canning, or heating baby bottles. These applications don't allow adequate temperature control for safe results.
Stay near the oven when microwaving popcorn, heat buildup can cause a fire. Time heating per instructions but lean toward the shorter time (some ovens can scorch popcorn in two minutes). If you're unsure of your wattage, check below
Don't dry or disinfect clothing or other articles in the microwave because of the risk of fire. Use only microwave-safe utensils. Hot food melts some plastics, such as margarine tubs, causing migration of package constituents. It's a good idea to use glass for fatty foods, which get particularly hot, though not all glass and ceramics are microwave-safe.
Here's a quick test for glass: Microwave the empty container for one minute. It's unsafe for the microwave if it's warm; it's OK for reheating if it's lukewarm and it's OK for actual cooking if it's cool.
Properly used, a microwave oven is extremely safe. Under authority of the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act, FDA's-Center for Devices and Radiological Health ensures that microwave ovens made after 1971 meet a radiation safety standard requiring: two independent interlock systems to stop microwave production the moment the latch is released or the door is opened. A monitoring system stops the oven if either or both of the interlocks fail.
To be sure radiation levels from a microwave oven remain as low as possible, consumers can take these steps:
Don't use an oven if an object is caught in the door or if the door doesn't close firmly or is otherwise damaged. If you have an older model oven with a soft mesh door gasket. Check for deterioration which would require servicing.
If you suspect excessive microwave leakage, contact the manufacturer, a reputable servicing firm, the local state health department. The FDA has found the inexpensive home microwave-testing devices that are available to be generally inaccurate.
Don't operate an empty oven if the introduction manual warns against this. In some ovens the magnetron tube can be damaged by unabsorbed energy.
If there are signs of rusting inside the oven, have the oven repaired.
Clean the door, oven cavity and the outer edge with water and mild detergent. Do not use abrasives such as scouring pads.
Follow the manufacturer's instruction manual for recommended operating procedures and safety precautions.
Be sure children who use the microwave know how to operate it safely.
There previously was concern that electromagnetic emissions from microwave ovens could interfere with heart pacemakers. Modern pacemakers are shielded against such interference, but some older models may still be adversely affected by proximity to a microwave oven. If in doubt, check with your doctor.
Microwaved foods typically retain more vitamins and minerals foods cooked by other methods because microwaving takes less and doesn't require much additional water.
Though microwaves produce heat directly in the food, they really don't cook food from the inside out. With thick foods like roasts microwaves generally cook only about an inch of the outer layers. The heat is then slowly conducted inward, cooking along the way.
An area of a food where there is increased moisture will heat more quickly than other areas. So, when heating up a jelly roll, for instance, it's a good idea to let the food stand after cooking for a minute or two until the heat disperses from the high moisture jelly to the low moisture pass throughout. To promote uniform cooking, recipes for microwave ovens usually include directions such as turn the food midway through cooking and cover and let stand after cooking.
As a rule, it's not good to use metal pans made for conventional ovens or aluminum foil because reflected microwaves cause uneven cooking and could even damage the oven. However, some new metal cookware is specially configured for use in microwave ovens. These pans are safe, provided instructions for use are carefully followed.
Some oven models have a protector on the magnetron tube to allow use of a small amount of metal, such as meat skewers or strips of foil over chicken wings and legs. The instructions that come with each microwave oven tell what kinds of containers to use and how to test for suitability for use.
Do you know your microwaves output? You can figure it out. Fill a glass measuring cup with exactly 1 cup of tap water. Microwave, uncovered, on "high" until water begins to boil.
|If boiling occurs in:||less than 3 minutes||3 to 4 minutes||more than 4 minutes|
|Wattage is:||600 to 700||500 to 600||less than 500 watts|
Wipe down the range top. A clean surface prevents scratches and stops acidic food from eating away at the appliance finish.
Clean up thoroughly after a boil-over. If necessary, unclog burner ports on a gas range with a straight pin. Don't use a toothpick, which can break off in a port.
Four times a year (at least)
Run the self-cleaning cycle after removing racks (they discolor at high temperatures). Clean around the door and its gasket first—these areas often don't receive enough heat to thoroughly burn off grease and splatters. To cut down on smoke during cleaning, sweep out crumbs. The minimum duration of the cycle should be two and a half hours; some manufacturers recommend three or more. The self-cleaning cycle, which costs around $1 to run, burns off residue with an automatic 850°F setting. After the cycle has completed and the oven has cooled, wipe out ashes with a clean wet rag. Run the self-cleaning cycle at night, when kids won't get near the hot stove and you won't notice the odor as much.
Once a year
Inspect the oven-door gasket. It should be soft and pliable. If it is hard, it may leak heat, which taxes the element in electric ovens and affects the performance of the oven. What's more, it will cost you energy dollars. If yours is held on with screws and clips, replace it. Most, however, require disassembling the oven door to replace the gasket—you might want to call a technician for this. In a gas range, inspect the pilot flame. The flame should be a sharp blue cone 1/4 to 3/8 in. high.
Keep the top of the refrigerator clear and make sure there is at least a 1/2-in. clearance on sides. Make sure the refrigerator is level or tilted back slightly so the door closes completely.
Once a month
Clean door gasket with 1 tsp. of baking soda dissolved in a quart of warm water. Besides cleaning the gasket, it will keep it soft and pliable.
Two times a year
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 inline 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.
To clean a garbage disposal of built-up sludge and debris, fill it with ice cubes and a cup of rock salt, then run it for about five seconds. If your garbage disposal smells bad, you can deodorize it by running warm water down it while you grind a lemon.
Use cold water when grinding food (hot water can melt fats and clog the mechanism and the pipes)
Do not overfill
Do not pour bleach, drain cleaners, or other chemicals into the unit
Do not grind overly fibrous materials, bones, or coffee grounds (check the owner’s manual) or materials like glass, metal, or rubber
Run water before and after you use the disposal
If something has been put in the disposal that should not have been, including metal, rubber, glass objects, or fibrous food waste such as artichokes and corn husks, shells, or large whole bones, use tongs or pliers to pull the material out. Never use your hand.
If your garbage disposal stops operating, try the following trouble-shooting tips before calling a professional:
A disposal wrench is usually provided with your unit to repair any potential jams that may occur. This wrench can be found in a pouch on the side of the disposal or in your kitchen drawer. There is a female receptor for the wrench at the bottom of the unit. Place the wrench in the receptor and turn it counter-clockwise until it rotates freely.
Press the reset button located at the bottom of the disposal and it should once again operate properly.
Be sure there is power running to the disposal.
Most disposals are manufactured to grind scrapings from plates, not mounds of food. Do not overload your disposal by throwing large batches of potato peels, cornhusks, or celery (due to the stringy consistency) into your disposal.
If your garbage disposal is starting to give off a foul odor, try grinding a few citrus peels such as orange or lemon rinds. This will help neutralize the odor
In order to keep your grinding blades sharp, throw a few pieces of ice down the garbage disposal while running, this will help “sharpen” the blades.
If these simple steps do not correct the problem it may be time to replace your garbage disposal. Go to Jobs On Demand to get a service technician that will help you find the right disposal for you.
Please read your contract for specific coverage, exclusions and limitations. These "home tips" are offered as suggestions for your home systems and appliances. If you do not feel comfortable you have the requisite knowledge, skill or experience to safely and properly implement any of the "home tips" that may apply to your systems or appliances, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FOLLOW THE "HOME TIPS!". CALL ANCHOR HOME PROTECTION AND WE WILL SEND YOU A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL. Anchor Home Protection disclaims any and all responsibility and liability for any injuries, damages or liabilities that may arise out of any application or implementation, or reliance upon, these "home tips".