Stay Out of the Store!
With most major home appliances costing hundreds to thousands, it pays to get as many years of use from them as you can. Even though each product's exact lifespan depends on the model, a little TLC goes a long way. From how often to clean them to which parts to keep tabs on, following the manufacturer's care manual and referring to the tips that follow will save you big. Photo by Getty Images.
Refrigerators and Freezers
According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), refrigerators can last up to 13 years, while freezers have a lifespan of 11 to 12. To get the most out of your fridge, Rick Muscoplat of The Family Handyman Magazine advises dusting off the compressor coils-usually in the back or bottom-every six months. Skip doing this, and the coils won't effectively remove heat from inside, which causes the appliance's compressor to run longer and hotter-and fail faster. Another part to pay attention to: the door's rubber gaskets, which keep in the cold on both refrigerators and freezers. Keep them sealed tightly by regularly scrubbing off food and debris with soap and warm water, suggests Mariska Krause of Abt Electronics and Appliances. Then, dry them off with a towel or sponge. One last tip: Don't overfill your fridge or freezer. That blocks airflow and makes it tougher to cool newer additions-and overworks the appliance.
The speedy cooking tool can last about 10 years, but to get the most meals out of yours, clean it often and well, Muscoplat advises. Particles left for too long can turn into carbon, resulting in appliance-damaging electrical sparking, says Eric Kleinert, author of Troubleshooting and Repairing Major Appliances. The best way to clean: Heat up a microwave-safe glass of water until the liquid boils. The steam will loosen any stuck-on gunk inside. Then, you can easily remove it all with dishwashing soap and water.
Cleaning is also the secret to getting your electric range stove to keep heating for 13 years or longer. Too much buildup and the appliance overworks itself, shortening its life, says Muscoplat. For glass-top models, use a glass cleaner at least twice a week. For models with burners, clean all removable parts and the area around the igniter with warm water and mild detergent to avoid a fire hazard and subpar heating.
Although these tend to outlast electric stoves by two years, cleaning them is equally crucial. Wipe up debris and spills from the burners often-being careful not to touch the igniter-to avoid the ports getting clogged, which takes a toll on the stove's efficiency. Use soapy water to clean the grills to keep them heating up as they should.
Despite their intense use in the hot summer months, air conditioners can keep cooling for 10 to 15 years. To get yours to stand the test of time (and temperatures), clean the filters every 225 to 360 hours of operation (or every nine to 15 straight days of use; more often for pet owners and allergy sufferers), says Kleinert. Just rinse the filters in the sink with a damp cloth and soap, explains Krause. Use a blow dryer once a week to shoot dust out of the vents.
You'll get about nine years out of this appliance-if you keep the door gaskets and bottom edge of it clean, which prevents leaks. Water and bleach are all you need, says Kleinert. Also, clear out objects in the pump area and spray arms. Otherwise, they can clog the drain system and prevent dishes from getting spick and span.
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Clothes washers tend to stick around at least 10 years, one more year if it's a front-loader and three more if it's a top-loader. Their staying power depends on replacing brittle hoses with steel-clad ones to avoid flooding. Also, never slam a washer or dryer door. That can break the door switch, according to Muscoplat. And even though you want to spend as little time doing laundry as possible, stick to the manufacturer's recommended load weight. Overstuffing your appliance can wear out the motor and drive belts.
Washers' counterparts' lifespan is similar, at about 13 to 14 years. As with washing machines, avoid going over the manufacturer's recommended load weight. Muscoplat advises cleaning the lint filter after each use with a brush or paper towel. Leftover lint will "collect in the burner or heater element area and then start building up in the vent." The result: longer drying times, thanks to limited airflow, and a higher risk of starting a fire. Lastly, clean the aluminum vent pipe twice a year with a vent brush. Any built-up lint there is another fire hazard.