Angie's List | Appliance use during the holidays

We rely on our household appliances each and every day to help make our lives simpler, but all too often we don't always treat them right. We don't take proper care of them and then we end up disappointed when they don't work right.


According to the nationwide Angie's List poll:

  • More than 40 percent of respondents say they'll host holiday dinners this year, putting their ovens, refrigerators and garbage disposals to the test.
  • 11 percent of respondents said they've had an appliance die in the midst of preparing a special meal.

"If you're going to be hosting dinner over the holiday season be sure to do a test run before the big day. Do it at least two weeks ahead of time of time. Cook a nice meal to make sure the oven is working properly because the last thing you want to do when guests are there is serve them frozen turkey," offers Angie Hicks.

Appliance repair technician Rick Cantleberry says their company receives calls from people that haven't tried their ovens for a month, two months, three months, or six months. The day before Thanksgiving they want to cook a turkey and their oven doesn't work so they end up getting emergency calls all the time.

A basic service call on an appliance is going to cost anywhere from $60 to $100. Keep in mind that does not include parts and labor. That will be added onto the bill but a lot of times you're going to get a credit back for that service call fee. Sometimes people think "wow, do I want to spend that kind of money," but when compared to the amount of money it would take to replace that appliance - it can be money well spent.

Repair companies tell Angie's List they see homeowners do things such as stuff the freezer and fridge too full of food - blocking the air supply, overfilling dishwashers so it doesn't even have a prayer of being able to get the dishes clean. – or simply not giving the machines the routine maintenance they need.

Appliance repair technician Rick Cantleberry says, "As far as dishwashers, one of the biggest problems we have, especially during the holiday season, is you've got a house full of people coming over and people tend to take their plates and wipe them off into the dishwasher or just throw them into the dishwasher. We literally see people with steak or chicken bones inside their dishwashers and then the people say "well, they told us there was a disposal in there and it will chop up the food."  Not true, really. There are a lot of dishwashers that have a chopping blade in there, which will chop up small pieces: corn, beans, things like that. You're going to end up ruining that chopping blade and then calling us because a clog and then you got a repair bill on your hands. Clean the plates off in your disposal or get the paper plates out."

Rick adds, "Oven cleaning depends on how often you use it. If you are using it once a week you're not going to have to clean it that often. If you have a large family and you cook everyday you're going to get a lot food on the bottom, sides splattering, and stuff like that so you're going to clean it a lot more. There are certain manufacturers on the market that do have problems with the self-clean. You go into a self-clean cycle and it may overheat a little bit, get a little too hot and it pops a protective thermostat and then you are going to have call a company to have that repaired."

To maintain your refrigerator Rick tells us, "The only thing you can do besides wiping your refrigerator down and keeping it clean, is to remove your kick plate to expose the coils underneath there, then you can vacuum them and keep them clean. Some are on the back behind a  back panel and you have to pull it out and take the back panel off to do some cleaning, but be sure you unplug it when you do that. If the coils are on the back wall, just dust them off, that's all you have to do."

Angie's List dos & don'ts to get the most out of your appliances:

  • Stoves/Ovens– Self-cleaning cycles cause the oven to run at extremely high temperatures. Do not run the self-cleaning cycle right before your big meal. Check your oven's performance at least two weeks before the big day by getting a basic cake mix and following the directions exactly. If the cake isn't perfect in the time frame set out on the box, your oven's temperature might be off. Clean the oven after each use with soap and water – that will help prevent having to run the self-clean function.
  • Refrigerators – In addition to overfilling, the No. 1 issue with refrigerators is a failure to clean the condenser coil, which dissipates heat from the unit. Clean the coil every six months by unplugging the refrigerator, vacuuming the coil and using an air blower to get out any remaining dust or debris. Failure to keep this clean leads to performance issues. Refrigerators with misaligned doors from hinges damaged by people hanging on the door, or a bad seal, can also lead to trouble keeping food cold. You can test if the seal is tight by sliding a piece of paper
    • between the seal and the door. If the paper slides down with the door closed, you should probably have the seal replaced.
    • Dishwashers – Clean your dishwasher's filter at least twice a year to remove particles and debris. The filters location can vary depending on the model so be sure to check your owner's manual.Rinse large food particles off dishes. Check the spinning arms to make sure the spray holes are free of debris. Avoid leaving a dishwasher running with no one home. If the automatic shutoff fails, you could come home to an overflowing unit and a water-damaged house.
    • Garbage disposals – Keep the blades sharp by running cold water and sending a cup of ice down the disposal. Run cold water for 10 seconds before inserting food into the disposal and for 30 seconds after each use. Cold water helps solidify grease and fat so they can be chopped up by the disposal.
    • Maintain your appliances: Maintenance required for your appliance will depend on the manufacturer. Always check with your model's manual. Whenever you perform extensive maintenance work on your appliances, take the necessary safety precautions. Shut off electrical and gas lines when working on them. Consult an appliance repair professional for major maintenance/repairs.
    • When to repair versus replace: If an appliance repair will cost more than half the cost of the new appliance and the unit is more than six or seven years old, you're probably better off replacing it with a newer model.

    There are many factors consumers need to consider before hiring an appliance repair service. Home appliances are expensive, and you want to ensure the company you hire is reputable and has the skills required to complete the fix in a timely and efficient manner.

    Angie's List Tips: Hiring an appliance repair service

    • Research potential hires. Get at least three estimates and compare the bids based on price, parts, labor and warranty. You also want to research how long the company has been in business, check reviews on Angie's List and speak with past clients.
    • Inquire about costs. Expect to pay up to $100 for a typical service call. Additional parts and labor charges will apply if you hire the company for a repair, but many companies will deduct the service charge.
    • Check skill level. It's important to hire a company whose employees have the training to complete the job. Ask if the employees are factory trained or certified in appliance repair. Ask if they have experience working with your make and model.
    • Is the work under warranty? Check to see if the repair service guarantees its work, and determine how long. Most warranties vary from 90 days to one year.
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