Preventive Maintenance is Cheap Insurance

It was a Sunday night and the house felt cold. The only way for the Doloski family to keep their Illinois house warm and cozy in December is with a working furnace. One look at the thermostat told them that clearly, theirs was not.

 

Furnace repairman peering into furnace

 

Within minutes of arriving, the service technician diagnosed the problem. They needed a new igniter. At least the problem was one they could not have resolved themselves.

Then the technician opened the side panel of the furnace. Filthy. Neglected. He said the igniter failed because the furnace filter hadn’t been cleaned. What would have taken five minutes to vacuum or replace, cost hundreds in “after hours” fees, parts, and labor. They know the furnace filter needs to be changed regularly, and usually, they do. But this year they simply forgot.

When it comes to forgetting about routine maintenance issues, the Doloski’s are not alone. Take automobiles, for example. A National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) survey showed that while 48 percent of its certified technicians always tell customers about the importance of routine vehicle maintenance, only 2 percent routinely follow that advice.

If you own a home, a car, or simply a human body, the words routine maintenance should be part of your vocabulary. Safety and good health are, of course, the most important reasons to keep what we’ve got in good working order. But the financial benefits are significant, too.

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Give Your Washing Machine This Extremely Critical Check-Up Now

As wonderful as a washing machine is when it comes to saving time and effort, it can also be a troublesome member of the household. It is critical that you perform a washing machine check-up now.

 

Washing machine control panel

 

Washing machines are responsible for more than $150 million of damage in homes across the U.S. every year. Imagine a river flowing from your laundry room with hundreds of gallons of water per hour, pouring over thresholds and flooring, soaking your furniture and prized collectibles. It happens.

Imagine a river flowing from your laundry room with hundreds of gallons of water per hour, pouring over thresholds and flooring, soaking your furniture, and prized collectibles. It happens.

Washing machine hoses score number one in the line up of the most neglected maintenance items in a home.

Last year, State Farm alone paid more than 7,500 water damage claims from broken washing-machine hoses. These claims ranged from a few hundred dollars to more than $100,000. There are steps you can and should take routinely to make sure this does not happen to you.

Supply hose leaks

More than 50% of all washing machine water damage claims can be traced back to a supply hose failure. This can be caused by:

  • The hose got pinched during installation or when moved, causing a hairline break
  • A faulty connection to either the washing machine or wall
  • The hose is old and has become brittle

Annual check-up

If you have a washing machine you need to check the water inlet or “water-fill” hoses at least once a year. Not performing a washing machine check-up is like not checking the oil in your car. Nothing seems to be amiss until your life flashes in front of you as you see your sofa floating down the front walkway.  Read more

Window Air Conditioner: How to Fix It, Clean It, and Make it Like New

With the heat of summer still bearing down on us, millions of window-mounted air conditioners are getting a real workout. And many owners of said units are wondering why their air conditioners aren’t working properly. In most situations, consumers can fix a window air conditioner themselves with the right information. If you have a window air conditioner in your home, here’s what you need to know to fix it, clean it and make it like new.

 

Window air conditioner and how to fix it.

Window air coniditoner unit being used during the how summer days for comfort,

An easy DIY project

More than any other household appliance, window-type air conditioning units are most often neglected. This is a pity because they are big energy users. A little maintenance means that homeowners can save money on both utility and repair bills. In fact, with the right information and access to replacement parts, you should be able to fix a window air conditioner yourself, saving the cost of a service call or worse, replacing the unit altogether.

All residential window air conditioners have a cooling system consisting of four primary components: a compressor, an evaporator, a temperature sensing device, and a condenser.

Air conditioner cooling systems are better understood if you think of them more as a device that removes heat and humidity from the air than a device that cools the air.

These are the essential maintenance steps you should take to keep your window-mounted air conditioning unit operating in tip-top condition while using the least amount of energy: Read more

These 9 Pocket Tools and Gadgets Make Fabulous Gifts

I’ve been doing some early Christmas shopping, specifically for unique but useful gadgets—stocking stuffers for the adults in my family, some who can be hard-to-buy-for.

Chrismas stockings with names hung up over the fireplace

That’s a task I usually leave until the last minute, which sends me scrambling. But not this year. I’m way ahead of the game since I found the perfect gifts—these super cool, unique and useful, pocket-size tools and gadgets.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.

Leatherman Micro Tool

Black and silver multi tool
Leatherman Squirt PS4 Multitool, the quintessential gadget, is a mere 2-1/4 inches in length when closed, and 2 oz. in weight—pocket size! Its spring-action clip easily attaches to a key ring or backpack or slides easily into a small pocket in a handbag.

With its three screwdrivers, wire cutter, scissors, knife blade, file, tweezers and bottle opener, you’ll have 9 tools powerful enough to keep you going when things fall apart. And did I say practical? This little Squirt PS4 requires only one hand to open and to use all the tools, too. Remarkable! The Leatherman Squirt PS4 Multitool is super cool, available in three colors and comes with 25-year warranty.

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9 Extremely Useful Home Repair Products to Fix Just About Anything

Maintenance and home repair are a never-ending reality for just about everyone—homeowners and renters alike. But it doesn’t have to be painful or necessarily expensive. The secret to making it easy is to fix stuff as it happens—right away, not next month or sometime in the future when you decide to sell.

The best way to insure you’ll actually perform quick home repairs is to make sure you have top-notch repair products on hand—in a handy place you will remember.

Check out my collection of favorite home repair products, some of which you may have already. And if you have favorites not listed below, please do share in the comments area!

Scratch Fix Pens

Miller Scratch Fix pens are the absolute best for hiding scratches on furniture, floors, cabinets, doors, and moldings—even antiques. Makes scratches, stains and imperfections invisible. Dries in seconds making multiple coats, if necessary, super simple. Contains waterproof wood stain instead of ink, which means that once dry, even wax and polish won’t smudge it. Follow the directions exactly for the best result. Keep a set of these stain markers in the house to touch up nicks and scratches on all your wood surfaces to keep maintenance easy and manageable.

Weldbond Adhesive Glue

Weldbond Adhesive Glue is amazing for most applications. This adhesive cleans up with water, is non-toxic, nearly odorless and dries clear while remaining flexible. This is the glue you want if your repair will remain visible. Works on porous and non-porous surfaces. Best if you scuff the materials to be glued with something like a nail file. This stuff is great on most plastics, wood, metal, tile, porcelain, fabric—items all of us have around our homes that need to be repaired from time to time. Cures fully in only 24 hours.

Original Gorilla Glue


Gorilla Glue comes in a number of varieties, many of which I can live without. It’s the Original Gorilla Glue that has saved my bacon more than a few times and occupies a permanent location in my repair products drawer. It will stick anything together and hold it there for dear life and quite possibly through eternity! However, the repair may remain very visible so plan your strategy carefully.

I love Original Gorilla Glue because it takes a while to dry, which means I have time to reposition and get things just right. Original Gorilla Glue is perfect for situations where you just don’t have a clear, clean break with two like surfaces to join together.

Example: The wire frame on one of my lampshades broke leaving the thing hanging cockeyed. There was no apparent way that I could reattach it because, well, you’d have to see it to understand. But that was not an impossible challenge for Original Gorilla Glue.

It worked beautifully to attach the severed wire frame—delicately—to the lampshade fabric on the inside where it is not readily visible! That repair is now the strongest point on the entire lampshade. Yep, good forever.

Now you can understand why I don’t want to live without my trusty bottle of Original Gorilla Glue. Read more

Pocket Some Serious Energy Savings Plus More Great Reader Tips

According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, the typical U.S. family spends at least $2,200 a year on home utility bills of which almost half goes for heating and cooling.

If your home has a fireplace with a flue that is not adequately “weatherstripped,” it’s like leaving a door or window open. You’re losing expensive warmed air in the winter and cooled air in the summer. Today’s first reader has a terrific recommendation for how you can easily take care of this problem and pocket some serious energy savings in the process.

man inserting inflatable draft dodger in fireplace

DRAFT DODGER. Last year I bought two Battic Fireplace Plugs. They look a lot like little life rafts. You insert them up against the flue (when the fireplace is not in use) and inflate them to keep warm air from escaping through your leaky chimney damper, sealing out the draft. The difference in our heating bill the month after installing them was astounding. Flues rarely fit snugly and so much heat is lost up the chimney. I have no affiliation with the company, but I certainly have not been shy about recommending them to my friends. Chris

AUTOMATIC SOCK MATCHER. You need: A box of safety pins and a container to keep them where you take your socks off. Remove socks and join together with a safety pin. Socks will remain together in washer and dryer. Remove from dryer and your socks are ready to go into the sock drawer already matched and they don’t get lost or attached to other items. Think of all the time you’ve wasted matching socks!  Jeanne

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Appliance Maintenance You Can Do Yourself

It was Christmas Eve. Company would be arriving in a matter of hours. I opened the refrigerator only to discover everything inside had reached a balmy 70 F. This could not have happened at a worse time.

Away to my computer I flew like a flash, straight to RepairClinic.com, where I entered the make and model of our refrigerator and read all the possibilities for why it was running but not cooling.

By following the suggestions and detailed instructions, we performed eight years’ worth of maintenance by looking under the darned thing for the coils that had become hopelessly covered in refrigerator gunk. We were back up and cooling in no time at all.

One thing I learned from my holiday refrigerator crash is that, like cars, major appliances require routine maintenance to keep them working at the peak of efficiency and to guarantee a long and useful life.

Here are five simple appliance maintenance jobs all home dwellers should do—each of which takes only minutes and can be tackled by anyone.

DISHWASHER RACKS

Inspect the dish rack tines for rusting. Rust particles can ruin the pump and seals, causing a hidden leak or pump failure.

A tine repair kit, available at manufacturer websites or Amazon, can save you the cost of a new dish rack. The kits come in various colors to match yours. If the dish rack is beyond salvation, it should be replaced. Read more

A Quick Fix to Keep the Plumber Away

If you’ve ever called a plumber to unclog a drain, you know it’s not cheap. Certainly there are times when the clogged drain is beyond a quick do-it-yourself solution, requiring the skills of a professional. But many times, according to my inbox, a simple gadget and a modicum of know-how can avoid an expensive house call.

DRAIN CLEANING TOOL. I read the tip from the reader who used a bamboo skewer to remove hair from the drain. Sounds OK, but there is actually a tool made just for this task. It’s very cheap—about $3. It has a little handle at the top, is about 18-inches long and has a fish-hook type of end. You simply push it into the drain, snag the tangled hair and fish it right back out. My granddaughter was constantly calling her apartment manager to get her bathroom drains unplugged, plus using lots of drain cleaner. I sent her one of these little gadgets and she has been drain-clear ever since. Diana

Note: The tool Diana refers to is a Zip-it Drain Snake Cleaner. Check the plumbing aisle of your local hardware store. Or get a pack of three for about $7 online. I did, used it to check every drain in the house and wow, this thing is amazing. -mh   Read more