Preventing Appliance Repair Emergencies

In winter we are indoors, and homeowners seem to think about the forgotten items: the oven, furnace, hot water heater, pipes, disposal and all their other used-daily appliances.

What’s a broken pipe leaking in the basement worth, or a cold water heater? Planned maintenance on a furnace, according to Consumer Reports and Angie’s List, is only about $100 annually. Emergency calls for repairs cost $100 an hour, plus travel time, though the truck may not have the part.

Appliance failures can be unexpected, but you don’t want unsuspected failures. Avoid repair emergencies with simple maintenance so you are prepared.

• Change filters regularly.
• Professionally service once a year, including deep-cleaned and burners checked.
• If you have a gas furnace, maintenance is important because of possible carbon monoxide leaks.
• It is estimated 80% of ‘no heat’ calls are the result of improper maintenance of the heating system.

• Throw all big food pieces in the garbage, not disposal.
• Don’t grind potato peels, eggshells, cornhusks or bones.
• If the disposal buzzes or hums, try to free-rotate the cutter plate with an Allen wrench from the canister bottom, or jam a broom handle from above.
• Please, please, shut off the power before working on the disposal.
• If it will not run, hit the reset switch – a small button on canister bottom of most units.

Frozen pipes
• Insulate pipes from the cold outside, not from the heat of the house inside.
• Crawl space pipes must not be exposed to drafts or freezing weather.
• If the pipe has frozen in the past, try a heat tape, then cover with foam pipe wrap.

Hot water heater
• Drain your water heater once a year; use a bucket so you can look for sediment that hurts performance. And continue to drain until water runs clear.

• Do not use the self-cleaning setting right before a party. That is when most breaks happen.
• The cleaner the stove, the more efficiently it will burn gas or electricity. But clean the oven manually.
• Moisture on the outside oven door, like sweating, means a faulty door gasket, affecting proper cooking temperature. Replaced promptly.
• Check your oven performance with an inexpensive oven thermometer, $3.

• The water filters on new models may need to be changed once a year.
• Clean the heat coils each year.
• Always replace supply lines with braided metal lines. Often a leaking plastic water feed causes unnoticed damage to walls, floors and motor.

• Do not overload your electrical circuits.
• Check that all cords for outdoor lights really are outdoor cords.
• And if you are going up ladders, don’t fall. That’s just embarrassing.