It's not your imagination. Today's appliances don't tend to last as long as the ones you grew up with, largely because of the intricate electronics and features built into modern appliances. Still, repair contractors say there are simple things you can do to add years of use to the appliances in your home:Washer, average life, 12 years.
Wash smaller like-item loads rather big mixed loads, since large loads with different-weight items are more prone to getting off balance (all that banging and thumping is hard on the washer). The excessive weight of big loads also puts strain on the motor and bearings. Change washer hoses every five years – sooner if you spot signs of bulging or cracking – and use the steel-mesh type rather than plain rubber.
Dryer, average life, 14 years.
Clean your lint filter after every load, but don't stop there. Periodically wash it with dish soap and a soft scrub brush to remove airflow-impeding buildup from dryer sheets. (Here's a test: If you put your lint screen under the faucet and the water pools rather than running straight through, you have buildup.) Also, periodically wipe down the dryer drum with a microfiber cloth and check to make sure the hose isn't crushed behind the machine. To remove flammable lint trapped in the vent hose, consider having your dryer vent professionally cleaned every year, depending on how much laundry you do.
Refrigerator, average life, 14 years.
Once or twice a year, vacuum the coils. Depending on your refrigerator, they're located behind the kickplate at the front of the refrigerator near the floor (it just pops off) or behind the refrigerator. To ensure your refrigerator door seals tightly, clean spills and splatters from gaskets using warm water and a sponge (no harsh detergents). When you pull out your refrigerator to clean, take care not to pinch the icemaker hose when you push it back.
Range hood, average life, 14 years.
At least once a year, clean the range hood filter, which is typically a square metal grate inside the hood. Look for a tab or ring you can pull to remove it. Follow manufacturer's instructions, but generally, you can loosen caked grease and dust by putting the filter in a sink full of hot, soapy water with a little baking soda. After soaking, scrub to remove the grease, taking care not to damage or bend the filter. Dry thoroughly before reinstalling.
Dishwasher, average life, 12 years.
Loading unrinsed dishes into the dishwasher makes great dishwasher soap commercials. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much for the machine's lifespan or its smell. All those food bits have to go somewhere, and they can end up clogging your dishwasher's pump or spray bar. While you don't want to completely prewash dishes (leaving nothing for the dishwashing detergent to adhere to other than the interior of the machine), do get rid of chunks and goop. Twice a year, remove the lower rack and filter cover to expose the screen (see your owner's manual for instructions). Use a wet/dry shop vac to suck out debris that's collected there. Then, run an empty cycle with one cup of vinegar to neutralize odors.
Garbage disposal, average life, 13 years.
Grease and decayed food trapped in the garbage disposal leads to odors. Periodically lift the black rubber flaps and clean the undersides with an old toothbrush to remove residue. Pour in one cup vinegar and one-half cup baking soda and let if fizz and foam for about 10 minutes. Then finish by grinding up a quartered lemon, peel and all. To prevent clogs and breakdowns, know the six foods you should never put down the garbage disposal.
BONUS TIP: To prevent worries about water damage from leaking appliances and plumbing, invest in water sensors to alert you at the first sign of trouble. You can connect them to your smartphone or even a master shutoff. Not only do you get peace of mind, you'll get a protective device discount on your PEMCO homeowners, condo or renter insurance!