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About the Low-maintenance Appliances Guide

How many hours do you figure you’ll spend this weekend on maintenance projects around the house? How much money will your next trip to the local hardware store cost you? Is there really life after homeownership?

If even asking yourself such questions tires you out, take heart, Chris Kelvin is here. In Low-Maintenance Homes, Chris leads you from roof to basement, kitchen to bathroom, garage to patio, front yard to back garden, showing you the many ways you can cut down on the seemingly never-ending chores and expenses of homeownership.

It’s primarily a matter of knowledge, Chris says, not special skill. Like knowing what materials to use the next time you remodel or replace something, or using a technique that will add years to the life of your repair job, or months to your annual spring and fall tasks. Anyone can benefit from such knowledge, and Chris aims to prove it.

He gives you the best and latest information on hundreds of new and time-tested home products, like interior and exterior house paints and varnishes, roofing products, basement waterproofing materials, wallcoverings, kitchen flooring, appliances, heating and air-conditioning systems, bathroom fixtures, patio furniture, and much more. He also explains dozens of useful techniques that save time and money in the long run, for almost every part of your house, inside and out.

Being an avid gardener himself, Chris has lots of advice about the low-maintenance garden and landscape as well. He has suggestions for beautiful yet hardy trees, for shrubs that need little or no pruning or other special attention, for annual and perennial flowers that flourish despite neglect, and for vegetables that are the most pest-, disease , and drought-resistant. And he devotes an entire chapter to explaining how you can stop being a slave to that most high maintenance of all home possessions—the lawn.

About the Author of the Low-maintenance Appliances Guide

Chris Kelvin had his own house built with one goal in mind: that he would be able to get by with as little home maintenance as absolutely possible. He saw to it that the roof of his house was built steep enough so that snow and rain wouldn’t collect on it, that the walls were made of durable, easy-care brick, that the heavy-duty storm door would never need painting, and that the guttering was made of baked enamel over aluminum that wouldn’t rust.

For all his good planning, he has been rewarded with time to pursue a flourishing professional life as a winter, with 19 books and numerous magazine articles and newspaper columns to his credit. More importantly, while friends and neighbors are sacrificing weekends to house chores, Chris has time to play softball, tend to his 40 acres of farmland, gardens, and orchard, and generally enjoy life with his family at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA.

Appliance Tips

Recycle Your Old Appliances: Your appliances can make your life easier and, with proper use and care, will serve you for many years. When you are ready to get rid of an appliance, consider its use by others, recycling, reconditioning or proper disposal. The materials used to make it are valuable resources.

Keep Your Appliances' Records: Keep all your appliance instruction books, appliance warranties, and any receipts you receive for service in one place. The receipts will be useful if you have problems.

Purchasing Decisions

When you buy an appliance, you are buying a service that might make your life easier. You are also making a decision about conserving energy and water, as well as the money they cost. When buying an appliance, consider the energy and water it will need and what they will cost month after month. For example, refrigerators and freezers have been tested to see how much energy they use, but how you use appliances will also affect their energy performance and how much impact they have on your utility bills.

When shopping for an appliance, here are some things you need to consider:

* Your family needs. Larger families may need larger sizes.
* Your lifestyle. If you entertain a lot, you may want larger sizes or more features.
* Available space. Measure the space available for appliances before you shop.
* Environmental concerns — water and energy use.
* Learn to use EnergyGuide labels when available.
* Consider energy efficient and water saving appliances, and those that can be repaired and serviced to keep them operational for a longer period. This saves energy, money, water and natural resources over time. Federal law requires that EnergyGuide labels be placed on all new refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, dishwashers, clothes washers, room and central air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces.
* Look for the UL label on all electrical appliances and cords. UL (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.) tests appliances submitted by manufacturers for safety from electrical shock.
* Do you want to buy new or used? Used appliances may have more risk in repairs and services, but may be cheaper. They may or may not be as efficient as newer machines, but you do save the resources that went into originally manufacturing them.
* Does the appliance have features that make it more convenient and easy to care for?
* What utilities do you have available now? If you change your home service from electric to gas (or from gas to electric), costs can change too.
* Payment method. Using credit adds to the cost of your appliance.
* When buying any appliance you want to have long, service-free use, but problems can occur. How will problems be resolved?
* Shop for appliances with reliable dealers that either provide authorized service or where authorized service is nearby. Before having your appliance serviced, check your warranty to make sure it will cover the service provider you are using.
* Reliable dealers will carry appliances from manufacturers who stand behind their products.
* Check and compare warranties. There may be a full warranty for one year that will cover parts and service. Limited warranties may cover parts only for certain appliance components. Know what kind of protection you are buying.
* Should you buy an extended warranty that covers service after the full warranty ends? Studies have shown that most appliance failures happen in the first year. Compare the warranty with any service contract for similarities or differences in coverage.
* Check and compare consumer comparison studies or information found in your library or Cooperative Extension office. These are often independent profit or not for profit associations.

Living With Your Appliance

Once you have chosen an appliance and it is delivered to your home, stay nearby as the appliance is installed. Make sure you have the instruction (use and care) book and warranty. Ask any questions of the installer before he or she leaves. To make sure you get the best service from your appliance, do the following:

* Locate your instruction book. Read through it by the appliance in order to become acquainted with the use and care. Look for the manufacturer's 800 number. Write the model and serial numbers of your appliance in your book. These numbers will probably be on your warranty.
* There should be a registration card with the instruction book. Fill in the card and return it to the manufacturer. This records the date your warranty starts and will be useful if you have a problem with the appliance.
* Read the warranty and note the length of the warranty or warranties offered.
* Keep the appliance clean and coils vacuumed. Position the appliance according to correct recommended temperature.
* It is important to use your appliance and all of the features several times during the warranty period to make sure that everything is operating the way it should.
* Any time you have service, ask for and keep all receipts whether you pay or the appliance's warranty provides for the parts and/or service.
* If you have a problem with your appliance, look in the instruction book before you call for service; there may be something you can do to avoid needing to call. Service costs can frequently be saved by following instructions provided by the manufacturer.
* If your appliance is not working or giving the results it should, begin taking the following steps:
1. Contact the retailer and/or authorized service agency. (Note: Warranties may be void if you do not use authorized service.) Your complaint may be resolved at this point. Keep records of letters, phone calls and who was contacted.
2. If your complaint cannot be satisfied by authorized service, call the manufacturer's 800 number. Be prepared to explain what the problem is, a history of the service needed in the past (from your service receipts), and what you feel the company should do to compensate you.
3. If your complaint cannot be resolved by the manufacturer, contact MACAP (Major Appliance Consumer Action Program) at: MACAP, 20 North Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606; phone: (312) 984-5858.
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Types of appliance and tool products you will find on this site:

Air Quality
Portable Air Conditioners
Window Air Conditioners
Air Purifiers
Panasonic Air Purifiers
Fans
Exhaust Fans
Heaters
Humidifiers, Dehumidifiers & Vaporizers
Hamilton Beach Humidifiers
Sunpentown Humidifiers & Dehumidifiers
Odor Eliminators
Window Air Conditioners
Panasonic Air Conditioners
Fedders Air Conditioners
Sunpentown Window Air Conditioners
... and more.


Appliance Glossaries

Glossary: Refrigerators

Built-in water filter
A water filter, included with many icemakers, is intended to reduce levels of lead, chlorine, and other impurities. A filter usually adds to the fridge's cost, so have your tap water tested to see if you really need one. Change about every six months; filter cartridge replacement costs range from $30 to $40, plus shipping.

Cabinet-depth
Cabinet-depth models usually measure 27 to 28 inches deep, not quite flush with the cabinets, but at least three inches shallower than many standard 36-inch-wide models. You can get models with stainless exteriors or panel kits.

Child lock-out for dispenser
This feature, usually a button or switch, allows you to disable the ice and water dispensers. The icemaker continues to work while the dispensers are disabled.

Door style
While most fridges have a flat, textured "skin," some have a smooth, curved surface that can't accept custom panels.

Energy star
Appliances earning this designation use at least 10 percent less energy than the maximum allowed by the Department of Energy.

Exterior depth (in.)
Our measurement, rounded up to the nearest inch. We include tubing or other protrusions in the back, but exclude the handle. (We measured only tested models, but the similar models we list should have the same dimensions.)

Exterior height (in.)
Our measurement, including the top hinge, and rounded up to the nearest inch. (We measured only tested models, but the similar models we list should have the same dimensions.) Built-in models have the compressor on top, making them about a foot taller than regular refrigerators. They fit flush with cabinets and counters.

Exterior width (in.)
Our measurement, including all protrusions, and rounded up to the nearest inch. (We measured only tested models, but the similar models we list should have the same dimensions.)

Freezer light
Available on most models.

Freezer usable (cu. ft)
Our measurement of usable volume.

French-door
French door models are bottom-freezer refrigerators whose upper compartments have two narrow doors that open similarly to the doors of a side-by-side refrigerator. These narrower doors use less space in front of the refrigerator when opened, and allow access to either or both sides of the full-width fresh-food compartment. Typically more expensive, French-door models are usually 36 inches wide, though some newer models are 33 inches wide.

Fridge usable (cu. ft.)
Our measurement of usable volume.

Gallon storage on door
Door shelf can accommodate a standard one-gallon plastic milk container and makes for easier access to beverages.

Half or split shelves
Half shelves, typically found on top-freezer or bottom-freezer models, can be set at the same height to provide a full-width shelf or can be set to different heights to improve storing flexibility. Split shelves, found on some side-by-sides, allow one side either to fold under the back half, fold up and out of the way, or move right to left. This leaves extra headroom for tall items.

Ice dispenser
Side-by-side models typically have through-the-door service. This adds about $100 to the price--and according to our repair data, may also add reliability problems.

Icemaker
Typically makes 3 to 4 pounds of ice a day--but according to our repair data, an icemaker may also add reliability problems. Some higher-end models have a feature to speed ice-making, which produces as much as twice the amount in the same time. Many models offer the option for crushed ice in addition to standard cubes.

Price
An approximate retail price.

Pullout shelves/bins
These let you reach items in the back more easily. Some refrigerators have these features in both the freezer and main compartment.

Spill guard on shelves
Raised border on glass sealed shelves prevents liquids from traveling.

Stainless/SS-look option
Stainless-steel is stylish, but it shows fingerprints. Another option: a vinyl-covered metal finish that gives you a stainless-steel look but resists smudging.

Temperature controlled meat/deli bin
Keeps meat, fish, and cold cuts at around 32 degrees--several degrees colder than the rest of the fridge with a separate control. This feature generally does what it's supposed to, unless the thermostat in the main compartment is set too high.

Total usable capacity (cu. ft.)
Usable capacity is the volume, in cubic feet, of usable interior space, based on our measurements. We included ice-makers in the storage measurements for top-freezer and bottom-freezer models, but not for side-by-sides.

Touchpad controls
In some models, you can use an electronic touchpad to adjust the temperature settings. In some higher-end models, the display will show the actual temperature.

Type:

Top-freezer models: The eye-level freezer offers easy access. Fairly wide refrigerator shelves make it easy to reach the back, but you have to bend to reach the bottom shelves. Top-freezer models are generally less expensive to buy and run-and more space-efficient-than comparably sized side-by-side models.

Side-by-side models: Part of both the main compartment and the freezer are at eye level, where it's easy to reach. Side-by-sides are the most fully featured with through-the-door ice and water dispensers, temperature-controlled bins, and rapid ice-making cycles among the most requested. Narrow doors are handy in tight spaces. High, narrow compartments make finding stray items easy in front (harder in the back), but they may not hold items such as a sheet cake or a large turkey. Compared with top- and bottom-freezer models, a higher proportion of capacity goes to freezer space. They're much more expensive than similar-sized top-freezer models and are less space- and energy-efficient.

Bottom-freezer models: These put frequently used items at eye level. Fairly wide refrigerator shelves provide easy access. Though you must bend to locate items in the freezer, even with models featuring a pull-out basket, you will probably do less bending overall because the refrigeration compartment is at eye level.

Cabinet-depth models or built-in look: Cabinet-depth models usually measure 27 to 28 inches deep, not quite flush with the cabinets, but at least three inches shallower than many standard 36-inch-wide models. You can get models with stainless exteriors or panel kits. Built-in models are only slightly deeper than a standard, 24-inch kitchen cabinet. They are higher than standard refrigerators, around 7 feet tall, so you may not want cabinetry above, and they have no finished sides. While many built-ins come with stainless steel front doors, others give you the option of adding a front panel that matches cabinets. That can cost $400 or more.

Uniquely adjustable shelves
Shelves that can be moved up and down without removing food. An example is a shelf that adjusts by rotating a crank handle.

Water dispenser
On side-by-side models, the water dispenser is normally accessible from the outside as part of the ice and water dispenser. On top and bottom-freezer models with a water dispenser, it is normally located in the fresh food compartment.


Glossary: Washing machines

Auto bleach dispenser
Automatic Bleach dispenser releases the bleach at the proper point in the cycle, giving the detergent additives sufficient time to work.

Auto detergent dispenser
Automatic Detergent dispenser releases the detergent at the proper point in the cycle.

Auto fabric softener dispenser
Automatic Fabric Softener dispenser releases the fabric softener at the proper point in the cycle.

Auto soak
A feature that provides a set time for soaking, then automatically moves into the wash cycle without further action on your part.

Auto temp. control
This feature automatically mixes hot and cold water to reach the chosen wash temperature (which differs on various makes of washers). It's a good way to compensate for normal variations in tap-water temperature and prevents problems caused by water that's too cold, which keeps detergent from working properly.

Automatic lock
Prevents the lid on top-loaders from being opened during the spin cycle; may be useful in households with children. Most front-loaders lock at the beginning of a cycle but usually can be opened by interrupting the cycle.

Brand
This gives the make and model number. The bracketed letter or number is a color code.

Cycle indicator
Some washers have lights indicating the stage of the cycle, which can be helpful. Displays indicating time remaining may not always be precise, in our experience.

Dimensions (in.)
The exterior measurements of the washer with the door or lid closed, in inches. Be sure to allow a few extra inches in the rear for hoses and connections.

End of cycle signal
Sounds a bell or chime when the wash is done. Useful when the washer is in the basement or garage, or otherwise out of sight. On some models you can turn off the signal or adjust the volume.

Express or quick wash
The shortest possible cycle.

Extended spin
An extra spin, can be useful to extend the spinning time, perhaps extracting more moisture from heavy items like towels.

Extra rinse cycle
This feature can be useful for those with a sensitivity to detergent and others who find one rinse insufficient.

Internal water heater
On some washers, an internal heater brings water to higher temperature than the home's domestic water heater provides, for a sanitize cycle, for example. Generally doesn't improve performance enough to warrant any increase in the washer's cost. Some compact washers may accept only cold water and have an internal water heater to allow for a hot-water wash.

Porcelain top/lid
A porcelain top/lid resists scratching better than a painted one but generally adds to a washer's cost. Painted tops, far more common, are often quite durable in normal use.

Price
An approximate retail price.

Push button
The desired cycle and options are selected by pressing in pushbuttons. Like rotary controls, these are easy to use and understand.

Rotary dial
The desired cycle and options are selected using dials. They are generally easy to understand and use.

Spin hold
Allows you to turn off the spin cycle, useful if you're washing silk or sweaters, for example.

Stackable
Some washers with front controls can be installed with a suitable dryer stacked on top, to save space. A special kit is sometimes required to mount the dryer on top of the washer.

Stainless-steel tub
Tubs constructed of stainless steel are likely to be more durable than plastic or porcelain, and they allow for higher spin speeds. Plastic is the next most durable choice.

Touchpad
The desired cycle and options are selected using an electronic touchpad which generally includes a digital readout. A touchpad can be more versatile than rotary and push button controls enabling you to program settings into memory, for instance.

Touchscreen with display
The desired cycle and options are selected using an electronic touchscreen. A touchscreen can be more versatile than rotary, push button, and touchpad controls but it may be a bit more confusing, especially at first. Touchscreen controls can also provide step-by-step instructions, as well as feedback on cycle status. Touchscreen controls sometimes require you to page through several screens to choose options and features, which can be tedious.

Tub
Tubs constructed of stainless steel, typically found on higher-priced washers, are likely to be more durable than porcelain-coated tubs, which can chip and rust. Stainless-steel tubs allow higher spin speeds than plastic.

Type
Front-loading washers With a door located on the front of the washer, one needs to stoop in order to load it. Front-loaders get clothes clean by tumbling them into water. Clothes are lifted to the top of the tub, then dropped into the water below. This design reduces water and energy use and makes front-loaders gentler on clothing and more adept at handling unbalanced loads. Be aware that front-loading washers give best results when used with high-efficiency detergent, which produces fewer suds than regular detergent. They're typically 27 to 29 inches wide.

Conventional top-loading washers With the opening on the top of the washer, top-loaders are somewhat easier to load than a front-loading washer. Most top-loaders allow you to fill the tub with enough water to cover the clothing. Because they need room to move the laundry around the agitator to ensure thorough cleaning, these machines have a smaller load capacity than front-loaders. They're typically 27 to 29 inches wide.

High-efficiency top-loading washers These look much like conventional top-loaders on the exterior, but these machines replace the usual vertical agitator post with other wash mechanisms, such as disks or plates that lift and move clothing around the tub. They generally use less water, and thus less energy, than conventional top-loaders and often have a larger capacity. They provide best results when used with high-efficiency detergent, which produces fewer suds than regular detergent. They're typically 27 to 29 inches wide.

Wash/spin speed combinations
Settings that allow you to modify the preset wash speed and spins. Useful to reduce spin speed on woolens or agitate more vigorously for extra dirty cottons.

Water levels
In our opinion, four or five water levels are sufficient. An automatic water-level control--standard on front-loaders--generally improves water efficiency.


Glossary: Dishwashers

Adjustable tines
Most models hold cups and glasses on top, plates on the bottom, and silverware in a basket. Features that enhance flexibility include adjustable tines, which flatten areas to accept bigger dishes, pots, and pans. A 'yes' here indicates adjustable tines on at least the top or the bottom rack.

Adjustable upper rack
Most models hold cups and glasses on the top rack, plates on the lower rack, and silverware in a basket. The ability to adjust the upper rack up or down an inch or so allows for more flexibility in loading items such as tall glasses.

Ample flatware slots
Flatware baskets with lids provide individual slots for most of the utensils in our silverware load. Such lids prevent "nesting" and thus improve flatware cleaning. It is more time-consuming to load the cutlery into individual slots, though, so you can remove the lids if you prefer.

Brand
The "nameplate" of the model.

Displays remaining time
A digital display lets you know how much longer the dishwasher will take to complete the chosen cycle. Rotary dials generally give an indication of the stage the cycle is in, less precise but still helpful.

Door Lock
All dishwashers automatically shut off when the door is opened during operation, so water won't flood out. A few models have door locks that prevent children from opening the dishwasher and touching sharp objects or hot surfaces.

Hidden controls
Controls along the top edge of the door contribute to a sleeker look. Some models hide all controls; others hide only some controls.

Price
An approximate retail price.

Requires custom door panel
Some dishwashers lack a finished front door panel, so you must furnish your own at an additional cost. This enables you to match the dishwasher's panel with your kitchen cabinetry, or to choose a stainless-steel front. Many models with finished fronts also allow you to add custom panels to change the finish.

Self-cleaning filter
A filter that cleans itself is convenient, but it can contribute to noise. Note that it's often the costly foreign brands that lack self-cleaning filters and require periodic manual cleaning of the filter.

Sensor
A sensor adjusts water usage and cycle time to the amount of soil on the dishes. This should make a dishwasher use water more efficiently, but we found that wasn't always the case. Moreover, a sensor can increase a machine's running time.

Stainless-steel tub
Unlike a plastic tub, a stainless-steel one won't discolor, but it does increase the cost of a dishwasher by about $100.

Stainless/SS-look option
Stainless-steel is stylish, but it shows fingerprints. Another option: a vinyl-covered metal finish that gives you a stainless-steel look but resists smudging.

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DIY Tips & Troubleshooting:

Ultimate Guide to Troubleshooting & Repairing Microwave Ovens

Ultimate Fix-It-Yourself Manual--Appliance Repair Basics

Guide to Simple Fixes for Appliances

Major Appliances: Operation, Maintenance, Troubleshooting and Repair

Fix-it-Yourself--Major Appliances

Do-it-Yourself Guide to Installing, Troubleshooting and Repairing Major Appliances

Fundamentals of Facilities Maintenance:

Microwave Oven Repair:

All About Low-Maintenance Appliances:

How to Wire Appliances:



Improve your skills: Check out our Appliance Book and Reference Library



Appliance Tips (cont.)

Question about attic air-conditioner condensation problem:

I have an attic air unit which seems to have a problem with condensation on the bottom of the condensation tray. The water then leaks from the cabinet into the rubber drip pan. I have a 1400 sq. ft attic with a hip roof. There is an 8 inch roof vent on all 4 roof slopes. I have electric duct fans in two of the vents exausting air to the outside with the other 2 drawing fresh air. There are no sofet vents. My dealer is at a loss to correct the problem. More air flow would not reduce the humidity of the incoming air.

Answer:

This is how we understand your situation: your condensation pan is collecting condensation from the A/C. The water in that pan is cold, therefore chilling the pan and creating condensation (glass of cold iced-tea effect) from the attic air on the bottom of the pan, which is eventually dripping in the to rubber catch pan.
Further question: Are the drain lines for the condensation pan free to drip to the outside? In addition, is the rubber pan drained outside? If the condensation pan freely drains, then there is less water sitting there cooling the pan (although is still happens if the water is passing through the pan, just not as much cooling effect), therefore you have a reduced chance of condensation.
One expert noted seeing new construction, in South Carolina; drain both pans to the outside from attic units, as a method of protecting the drywall ceiling under the unit and to allow homeowners to determine if the main pan is overflowing/leaking. In a system under normal operating conditions, the main pan line will be dripping water where the rubber pan line would be dry. If something happens to make the main pan to overflow or leak, the line from the rubber pan would be dripping, thus indicating a problem.
A side note: A/C drains should be directed away from the foundation structure of the home. Wet, soggy ground near the foundation is rarely good.
Trying to keep the air temp in the attic as low as possible with the fans will help with condensation some...the lower the temperature difference between the A/C condensation water and air will reduce the exterior condensation by a small percentage (every little bit helps).

Follow-up:

The proper condensation pan drains into a small pump that pumps the water down to the basement and into a drain. That pan is working properly. It runs from both places, top and bottom of pan. There is a small manual drain line attached to the rubber pan but it is too low and too flat to be of much help.
Would gluing a piece of Styrofoam to the bottom of the drain pan keep the condensation down? I know that having more attic airflow would help but cannot increase it any more with out a major re-do of my venting system. It was hoped that the two 8 inch duct fans fitted directly into the roof vents would flow enough air but without soffit vents the other two 8 inch vents don't allow enough air to do much good.

Ideally, you should only have flow out of the top pan, but if you have condensation dripping into the lower pan, you will have flow from there, too.
Limiting the amount of attic air that is able to flow around your pan by blocking off openings, may help. Whatever air that is trapped in there would have its moisture pulled out in the beginning and be drier and since it would not be replaced readily with 'fresh' air, the moisture in the 'fresh' air would not enter, as well. Before you go sealing up the area around the pan, consult with an HVAC tech to make sure that there isn't any equipment in the unit that requires good ventilation. In addition, make sure the tech clearly understands your intentions.

There should be NO standing water in the attic from the ac system. The condensate rolls off the evap coil into a catch pan at the bottom of the coil and into a pipe usually PVC. The water then flows to a drain. the pan below the unit should NEVER have water in it if there is water in this pan there is a leak or obstruction in the drain line you mentioned a pump, the need for a pump to force water downhill is not necessary (unless there is a long horizontal run before the hose drops down). The drain from the unit (evap) should enter the pump reservoir them the pump activates making the water go away. The purpose of the pan under the unit is to prevent water damage. It has a separate drain the outlet of which should be visible so the homeowner realizes there is a problem.


Appliance Forums/Message Boards/Blogs:

1. applianceblog.com

2. appliancepartspros.com

3. appliantology.org


 



Updated: Sunday, 2016-12-25 11:31

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