Living Smart: Keep care of kitchen appliances on front burner

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Next time you use your fridge, dishwasher or stove, be careful that you’re not unknowingly making it vulnerable to an early breakdown.

Appliance repair pros who’ve earned top ratings from Angie’s List members offer tips for making sure your kitchen appliances meet or exceed their expected life spans:

STOVE GUIDELINES

Average life span: 10 to 15 years.

Common repairs and costs:

Igniter cleaning or failure, $110 to $200

Broken control board, $260 or more

Bake element problems, $160 or more

Basic maintenance tips:

Keep your stove clean, but avoid getting cleaning fluid or water into dials and switches, which are connected to electrical components.

Avoid using aluminum foil under the oven’s bake element or oven coil. Appliance technicians say the reflective surface can disrupt the heat level, leading to over- or under-cooked food.

Repair or replace? Consider replacing if you’re investing more than half the price of new unit into a repair.

What to budget for a new stove: $650 to $2,000.

FRIDGE GUIDELINES

Average life span: Six to 15 years.

Common repairs and cost:

Ice maker failure, $275 to $325

Main control board failure, $260 or more

Clogged drain line, $110 or more

Basic maintenance tips:

Clean the condenser coils at least once a year and more often if you have pets. The coils are typically under or behind the unit, and sometimes on top. Over time, they collect dust, debris and pet hair. A dirty condenser makes it difficult for the refrigerator to transfer heat from within to the outside, which wastes energy and can cause premature breakdown. You can buy refrigerator coil brushes online or at hardware stores or you may be able to clean them by hand and with your vacuum cleaner.

Allow for adequate air flow. Unless your unit is designed for in-cabinet installation, putting a fridge in a tight-fitting space without ventilation room can cause the compressor to overheat and fail. To properly remove heat, most fridges need several inches of space around the top and sides.

Repair or replace? Factor in the unit’s age and performance history. A compressor failure is almost always a sure sign that the fridge should be replaced.

What to budget for a new fridge: $900 to $8,000.

DISHWASHER GUIDELINES

Average life span: Eight to 10 years.

Common repairs and cost:

Drain pump cleaning, $100 to $300

Water inlet valve, $160 or more

Control board failure, $190 or more

Basic maintenance tips:

Scrape dishes before loading. Larger food clumps can clog washer arms and pump screens. However, many appliance technicians debate just how clean dishes should be before you wash them in the dishwasher. Some say detergent requires something to adhere to, or it will leave residue on the dishes and dishwasher interior.

Don’t overdo soap. Repair pros say people commonly use too much dishwasher detergent, which builds up in the machine, putting a strain on the pump/motor assembly, spray arm and other components.

Repair or replace? If the unit has rust, rot or corrosion, or if you’re looking at a repair equal to or more than half the cost of a new dishwasher, you should replace it.

What to budget for a new dishwasher: $400 to $700.

BEFORE YOU HIRE AN APPLIANCE TECHNICIAN:

Make sure the company is appropriately licensed, insured and bonded.

Confirm that it has good online reviews from consumers on a trusted site.

Get several estimates and compare bids based on price, parts, labor and warranty.

Make sure you understand all costs before agreeing to work.

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