Tip 1: Clean refrigerator coils

Clean refrigerator coils

Vacuum dust off refrigerator coils every six months to prevent premature failure.

On the back or underside of your fridge, there are coils that dissipate the heat that’s removed from the fridge (kind of like the radiator on your car). Dust buildup on these coils reduces airflow and wastes energy. Worse, it causes the compressor and condenser fan to run longer and hotter. That causes premature failure.

Tip 2: Don’t block air vents

The freezer and refrigerator compartments require proper airflow to keep foods at the right temperature. So think twice before you buy warehouse-size packs of frozen food. Because if you jam them into the freezer and block the vents, you can cause cooling problems in the refrigerator and force the compressor and fans to run overtime. That’ll result in premature fan and compressor failures.  But if the compressor fails, you’re better off buying a new refrigerator.

Tip 3: Don’t overload your washer or dryer

Overloaded washer

Heed the weight limits on your washer and dryer to prevent expensive breakdowns.

You may think you’re saving time, water or energy by cramming more clothes into your washer and dryer. But the manufacturers list a maximum load weight for a good reason. If you overload a top-loading washer, you can fry the drive belts or break the drive coupler,  And, overloading can also cause socks and underwear to float over the basket. Then they get sucked into the pump and wreck it.

If you overload a front-loading washer or dryer, you can burn out the rear bearing or motor. That repair is so expensive that you’d be better off buying a new machine. In the dryer, the extra load weight not only takes longer to dry but also wears out drum support rollers and drive belts .

Weight limits range from as little as 6 lbs. to as much as 15 lbs. for top loaders and about 18 lbs. for front loaders. So consult your owner’s manual and find the load limits for your machine. Then grab an armful of clothes and stand on a scale to get an idea of just how much your machine can handle.

Tip 4: Clean refrigerator gaskets

Avoid sticky gaskets

Keep fridge gaskets clean to prevent tearing and to assure a tight door seal.

If you keep your refrigerator door gaskets clean, they’ll seal properly and last the life of the fridge. But if you let sticky foods like syrup and jam build up on the door gasket, they’ll glue the gasket to the frame. Pulling harder on a stuck door eventually tears the gasket. Plus, if the door doesn’t seal properly, the fridge has to run longer, and that’ll boost your electric bill. Clean the door gasket with warm water and a sponge. Don’t use detergents; they can damage the gasket.

Tip 5: Don’t slam the door

Don’t slam doors

Slamming washer or dryer doors can break switches, which are expensive to replace.

You can rationalize all you want about why you drop or slam the lid or door to your washer or dryer (your hands are full, you’re in a hurry, etc.), but your appliances don’t care. So forget the excuse and know this: If you continually drop or slam the lid to your washer or dryer (top or front load), you’re going to break the lid/ door switch. That’s right—you can avoid this repair by lowering the lid and gently closing the door. Easy, huh?

Tip 6: Clean the lint filter

Clean the lint filter

Clean your dryer’s lint filter after every load for better drying efficiency and longer dryer life.

With a clogged lint filter, your clothes dry slower, and the machine works harder and wastes energy. But that’s just the beginning of your troubles. Because the lint still has to go somewhere, it bypasses the filter, collects in the dryer’s vent line, and reduces airflow even further.

At a certain point, the blockage gets so bad that the dryer overheats and the thermal fuse blows. The dryer will still start up, but it won’t heat. .

Avoid the entire lint and thermal fuse issue simply by cleaning the lint filter after each load. If you’ve neglected the lint filter and want to avoid a repair bill, clean out the dryer cabinet and vent line yourself. Also, if you use dryer sheets, wash the lint filter with detergent every six months. Dryer sheets leave behind an invisible film, which blocks airflow.

Tip 7: Don’t spray switches

Most people clean their stove and dishwasher knobs and touch-control panels with spray cleaners. But those liquids can easily work their way into the switches and behind the control panels and short them out. The repair bill for a shorted stove igniter switch can cost $125, and a shorted control panel can easily run about $300. Spray just a little liquid cleaner onto a rag or sponge and then clean the knobs and touch-control panel. That’ll prevent shorting.

Tip 8: Don’t drag clothes out of the washer

Nobody likes lifting a heavy bundle of clothes in or out of a front-loading washing machine. But it’s a mistake to drag them over the door ledge. That may save your back, but zippers and buttons gradually tear up the rubber door gasket. Replacing that gasket requires a lot of disassembly. So lift out the wet clothes.

Tip 9: Clean your dishwasher screen

If your dishwasher has a filtering screen under the bottom spray arm, clean it regularly. If you don’t, the stuck food particles degrade into slime that blocks water flow and reduces cleaning performance. So you’ll pay a minimum service call just to have the filter cleaned. And while we’re on the subject, cut back on the soap use too. You don’t need more than a teaspoon to clean most loads. Excess soap builds up in the entire dishwasher and eventually reduces water flow, requiring another “cleaning” service call. To remove soap buildup, use a product like Dishwasher Magic, available at most hardware stores and home centers.

Tip 10: Change the furnace filter

Change a dirty furnace filter

Clogged filters force the furnace to work harder and even shut down, leading to expensive repairs.

A dirty furnace filter can actually damage your furnace. The clogged filter restricts airflow so much that the area around the heat exchanger reaches an unsafe temperature and the burners shut down. Once the furnace cools down, it’ll fire up again. But if the overheat/shutdown cycle repeats enough times, the furnace controls will shut it down for good.