10 tips to extend the life of appliances

Replacing a refrigerator or oven range can take a bite out of your budget, as can buying a new washer or dryer. To make sure your appliances stand the test of time and continue to perform, follow these pointers:

Keep your fridge and freezer clean.
In general, appliances operate best when spick-and-span. Besides regularly cleaning up leftovers in the fridge, keep condenser coils clean, says Bud Eader, manager at Bettar Appliance in Kensington, Md. Do so by using a condenser coil brush.

To clean the freezer, unplug it, remove all food, wipe it down with a baking-soda solution, use water to rinse it, and then dry the freezer with a towel before plugging it back in.

Defrost your freezer. Many freezers today are frost-free. However, if you have a manual defrost freezer, plan to defrost it at least once every year, before frost gets to about a half-inch thick. Use a plastic or wooden scrape — no knives or other sharp instruments — to remove the frost layer.

Scrub your oven and range, too.

Clean inside your oven often and never let food debris stick around on burners, even if it requires a bit of elbow grease to remove. Don’t spray cleaning fluid directly on control panels though, which could cause them to short circuit. Instead, apply a little onto a rag to clean that surface.
Don’t foil your oven. Experts debate whether you should use the self-cleaning feature if your oven comes with one, but they agree you shouldn’t use aluminum foil under the baking element.
Replace filters. Whether it’s a charcoal filter in an oven, a filter in some dishwashers or refrigerators or the one in your furnace, follow manufacturer guidelines to clean and/or replace them as directed.

Don’t use dish soap in the dishwasher. This can hamper the machine’s performance by creating gunky buildup. Use only dish detergent.

Scrape off plates. Food debris can clog dishwasher pumps.“It’s going to stop up the spray arms and, in the case of emptying the water out, it’s possibly going to make the pump fail prematurely.

Don’t overload your clothes washing machine.

Doing so adds strain on the motor, tub bearings and other parts, besides not getting your clothes clean if water and detergent can’t swish between them. “You shorten the life of the machine,” Eader says. Instead, follow the owner manual instructions on how much to load. Hint: If your machine is banging around under the weight of all of your laundry, you’ve gone overboard.
Improve your dryer’s circulation. Often forgotten, the lint screen needs to be cleaned regularly. Failing to do or allowing your dryer vent to become clogged will force your dryer to work overtime (read: retire sooner) and can present a serious fire hazard. Plan to have your dryer’s exhaust system cleaned annually.
Watch where you apply stain removers. Spraying it on top of washers or dryers can corrode painted or plastic parts.

HOW MUCH ENERGY APPLIANCES USE

Appliances account for about 13% of your household’s energy costs, with refrigeration, cooking, and laundry at the top of the list.

When you use electricity to cook a pot of rice for 1 hour, you use 1,000 watt-hours (1,000 Wh) of electricity! One thousand watt-hours equals 1 kWh. Your utility bill usually shows what you are charged for the kilowatt-hours you use. The average residential rate is 11.04 cents/kWh. A typical U.S. household consumes about 11,800 kWh per year, costing an average of $1,297 annually.

appliance-energyThis chart shows how much energy a typical appliance uses per year and its corresponding cost based on national averages. For example, a refrigerator uses almost five times the electricity the average television uses. Appliances account for about 13% of your household’s energy costs, with refrigeration, cooking, and laundry at the top of the list.

KITCHEN TIPS

10 Simple Kitchen Tips You Wish Someone Told You Earlier

1.Use tongs to cooking pretty much everything

Spatulas are awesome for anything that needs to be flipped or scraped, like eggs and pancakes. For everything else, tongs are the way to go. They’re much more nimble and less awkward to use, and you’ll find far fewer things jumping from your pan onto the floor. If you have non-stick cookware, be sure to use tongs with nylon tips.

2. Store everything in tupperware

As much as I’d like to be the kind of person who trims their herbs, puts them in an vase then wraps them in a damp paper towel so they last a week, I’m way too lazy for that. The good news though is that tupperware keeps almost everything fresh for much longer than your crisper, including berries, salad greens and produce that has already been cut. Because it is reusable, it is also more ecofriendly.

3. If you own a knife, don’t use a garlic press

Peeling and pressing garlic is a huge waste of time. To use a clove of garlic, set it on a cutting board and smash it with the flat side of a big knife . The papery skin will come right off, and you can mince it real quick right there in about 10 seconds. Done.

4. Keep a separate cutting board for things you don’t want flavored with garlic and onion

Assuming you follow any recipe ever, you’ll probably be using your cutting board for cutting onions or garlic. If so, I recommend getting a separate board you keep aside for cutting fruit, cheeses and other things that you’d prefer didn’t absorb the odors of previous meals.

5. Herbs that are supposed to be green should be purchased fresh, not dry

With the possible exception of dried oregano (great in Mexican, Greek and Italian foods), herbs are always better fresh. They’re also cheap and available almost anywhere. In particular, always buy fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, thyme, tarragon or chives if you can help it (a few should be in your fridge at all times). The dried versions are OK if not too old, but they’re very delicate and the jar will probably go bad before you use it twice.

6. Don’t bother with pre-filled spice racks

If you want spices to serve their purpose (making food taste better), you shouldn’t own a pre-filled spice rack. Spices go off quickly, and when their color starts to dull they’ve lost a lot of their flavor. There are several dried spices that are invaluable in my kitchen (cinnamon, cloves, curry powder, cumin, coriander, chili pepper, etc.), but you should purchase them as you need them, and in small quantities unless you use them frequently.

7. Overcooking is probably your biggest kitchen mistake

Overcooked vegetables are mushy and flavorless, overcooked meat is tough and chalky, overcooked grains are soggy and fall apart. In other words, overcooked food is bad food. Learn the art of taking food off the heat just before it is done, and let it finish cooking with its internal temperature. You can always cook it more, but you can never cook it less.

8. If it tastes OK but not great, it probably needs salt—and maybe some vinegar or olive oil

If you think you’ve added enough salt but something is still off, try a small splash of vinegar or lemon (any acid) to brighten the flavor. If the food is dry or sticky, try adding a touch of olive oil. These three things can fix almost any lackluster meal.

9. Don’t buy regular big onions, use shallots or leeks

For most everyday cooking, milder onions will enhance your dish and give it more nuance. Big, strong onions certainly have their place in cooking (soups, roasts, etc.), but most kitchen experiments will be improved by more subtle onion flavor.

10. Fruit (other than berries) shouldn’t be stored in the fridge

Refrigerators dull the taste of most produce, so if you bought something that doesn’t need to go in there leave it out. Most fruits including apples, oranges, pears and bananas don’t belong in the refrigerator unless you’re not planning on eating them soon. I don’t refrigerate tomatoes, avocados or peppers either. Very hot climates are an exception, however.