How do I check the appliances included with my next home?July 31, 2017
So you’re moving or planning to move into a new home or apartment? Congratulations!
Now you probably have a home inspection checklist at the ready – test outlets and look for leaks – but what do you plan to do about some of the most valuable, and costly to fix or replace, elements in the residence: the appliances? It’s not enough to know the refrigerator is cold and the burners ignite, you must ask yourself:
- How many more years can I really expect from these appliances?
- How can I spot subtler problems that indicate a more immediate need for repair or replacement?
We sat down with our own Todd Daganaar, owner of Nebraska Home Appliance to get his take on what to do.
What are some tell-tale signs that a refrigerator will need repairs soon?
The obvious sign is if the refrigerator has poor cooling and is unable to maintain a cold temperature. If the door seal doesn’t feel like it pulls in well, it could be as simple a problem as warm air leaking in. If the seal feels tight, then the problem may run deeper and will require service.
Another sign is if the refrigerator seems to be running all the time, instead of sitting idle after cooling off. If this is the case, locate the condenser and check for a buildup of dust and debris. If dust and debris exist, all it likely needs is a condenser clean. If clean, the problem may be bigger and require service.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with used refrigerators is that refrigerant leaks can be temporarily fixed by adding refrigerant and leak stop, at which point it can take up to 6 months to leak out. A fridge that seems to be in perfect working order when you buy it can be a doorstop a month later, and it’s basically undetectable (no standing pools of refrigerant, no immediate loss in cooling). You can verify that no access or piercing ports have been added to the refrigerant lines in the machine compartment behind the unit, but this usually requires some tools.
How long can one reasonably expect a refrigerator to last?
20 years with great maintenance, 30-40 if it’s a Sub-Zero.
Ovens and ranges:
What are common problems that used ovens / ranges have?
The most common issue is that cords are installed incorrectly by a previous owner. This can create dangerous situations where the chassis of the stove is ungrounded, which can be dangerous or deadly. The second-most common issue is another installation problem, specifically, the strain relief not being installed, which can cause live wires to touch the case. Combine both problems and you’re in trouble.
Another common issue on traditional ranges is poor connections between the burners and terminal blocks they plug into from years of use. This can cause intermittent operation, sparks, or worse. Combine this problem with grease under the stove top, and you have a grease fire on your hands.
What are some tell-tale signs that an oven / range will need repairs soon?
For electric ranges, if you have to give it the old Arthur Fonzarelli maneuver (a whack with your fist) to get the burner working, you’ll probably need to replace the burners and receptacle sockets on top.
For gas ranges, there are two clues to look out for: 1) If it takes a long time to ignite top burners (often because they’re dirty and need a professional cleaning), or 2) If the oven takes a long time to ignite, or doesn’t hold even temperatures, you may need a new oven ignitor. It’s a bit hard to test for consistent oven temperatures though, as it requires a quality thermocouple, so you may want to call a professional.
How long can one reasonably expect an oven/range to last?
A well-maintained and cleaned range can last for 20 years, easily. As they’re mostly simple appliances, they can realistically last until the mice eat all the wires, or you’re sick of the color.
What are some tell-tale signs that a hood will need repairs soon?
If it’s loud. When their motors start to wear out, bearings get louder, and one day the hood will go from loud to POOF. Dead.
How long can one reasonably expect a hood to last?
They’re workhorses and usually last 10+ years with only minor maintenance, like cleaning grease filters and changing light bulbs.
Are there any issues common to Omaha, Nebraska?
The Omaha area has stupidly hard water, meaning it has high mineral content. All this mineral content is bad for water valves, which can become internally restricted due to calcium and mineral debris buildup. This limits the flow of water through the valve, causing dishwashers to not fill with enough water and clean poorly.
What are some tell-tale signs that a dishwasher will need repairs soon?
Food debris on glassware; loud noises either during fill or other parts of the cycle; water on the floor in front of the unit, or in the basement below the dishwasher; all these are signs your dishwasher is in need of repair.
How long can one reasonably expect a dishwasher to last?
Used dishwashers are like used parachutes. When they fail, they fail big, tending to leak catastrophically. Not to mention, since they are building up debris their whole life, their performance will be a steady downhill trend.
To get 10-15 years out of your dishwasher requires serious maintenance during its life, for hard water issues and buildup in the pump. This can necessitate anything from a professional cleaning to pump and valve replacement. On a day-to-day basis, it also helps to use better detergent, rinse aid, and run hot water at the tap before starting.
Are there any issues common to Omaha, Nebraska?
As with dishwashers, Omaha’s notoriously hard water clogs up pumps, valves, etc.
What are some tell-tale signs that a washing machine will need repairs soon?
In addition to the typical problems – noisy, leaking, poor cleaning – my main problem with used washers is knowing that other people’s mold, mildew, band aids, and pet hair are trapped inside the machine. If you saw the inside of a washer pump, you would never use a laundromat or shared washer again. Point is, you’re going to want to clean or replace the pump.
How long can one reasonably expect a washing machine to last?
10 years or more, 20 with great maintenance.
What are common problems that used dryers have?
Poor heating usually means the inside of the machine is packed with lint, though the problem may run deeper. It’s also not uncommon to find birds building nests in dryer vents, especially in the spring.
If you’re hearing squeaking noises or the dryer is exceptionally loud to run, you may want to call for service.
How long can one reasonably expect a dryer to last?
Nearly forever with maintenance, if it’s a quality unit. Dryers are dead simple and most parts are cheap. Unfortunately, many working units get disposed of when people purchase new laundry sets. What a shame…
Hopefully this helps you determine the condition and integrity of the appliances in your new apartment or home.
The simplest thing to do to ensure your appliances are in good working order and will last is to call a service technician to come out for a professional cleaning, which solves more problems than you’d expect.
Contact Nebraska Home Appliance to schedule a professional appliance cleaning / home appliance inspection.