Homeowner’s Manual: Appliances (Updated for 2021!)
Understanding and Caring for Your Home’s Appliances
Check the dishwasher for freely spinning washer arms, proper door spring operation and attachment to the counter. Close the soap dish door and operate the unit in the normal cycle. During the rinse cycle, open the door (washing should stop) to see if the washer arms are turning and the soap dish door has opened. When using the dishwasher, make sure no loose objects fall to the bottom to interfere with the rotating spray arm.
Remove the kick plate from the bottom front of the unit to check underneath for leaks. If the dishwasher is an older model and needs several repairs, consider replacing it. Even a seemingly minor problem like rust on the baskets can cost $200-300 to replace the offending parts. Finally, check the drain hose to see if it has an anti-siphon loop or an air-gap device. This anti-siphon loop and/or air-gap device is intended to help keep water and food in the sink or disposer from backing up into the dishwasher tub. The drain hose should be looped up against the bottom of the countertop or connected to and air-gap device before it connects to the disposer or drain pipe under the kitchen sink. To prevent over-sudsing as well as detergent build-up, run hot water at kitchen sink water fixture before starting the dishwasher. Add a cup of vinegar to the beginning of the wash cycle periodically to freshen the dishwasher. Use only detergent specifically intended for dishwasher use.
Food Waste Disposer
Remember that the disposer is a vegetarian, especially if sewage disposal is through a septic system. Fats and grease can plug drainpipes and hinder bacteria in a septic system, and large bones or other hard objects can damage or jam the grinding plate. If drain line is long and quite horizontal, fibrous foods or too much garbage at one time can clog the line. Use a strong flow of cold water and keep it running at least 30 seconds after noise of grinding has stopped to flush all food particles through the drain line. To operate your disposal safely and efficiently, follow directions in the manual with your disposer as to what should not be put through the disposer, and keep all metal and wood objects away from the mouth of the device. If you wash dishes in a sink with a disposer, check to be sure that all small objects are removed from the sudsy water before you drain the sink. Any unusual noises while disposer is operating may mean a foreign object is in the disposer barrel. Turn off disposer immediately and and unplug the disposer or turn the electrical circuit breaker energizing the disposer off before attempting to retrieve the object.
If the rubber splash-guard is worn and allows garbage to splash out the top during operation, you may find a replacement splash-guard or a strainer for the sink drain at most home centers. Excessive vibration and noise, or a unit that is rusted out means its time for a new disposer. Since the dishwasher drains through most disposals, it is a good idea to run your disposal for a few seconds before starting your dishwasher. Avoid using both systems at the same time as this can cause food waste to back up into the dishwasher. Always run cold water when using your disposal. Leave water running a few moments after turning off disposal to prevent waste build-up in trap. To freshen the disposal, pour a glass of salt water through the system once or twice a week.
IMPORTANT: Be sure the disposer is unplugged or the circuit breaker energizing it is turned off before inserting your hand to remove material when the disposal is stalled. Also be sure it is off before using a wrench.
- TURN OFF DISPOSER! It is very important that the electrical on/off switch is OFF. (Unplug if possible)
- Turn off the water, if it’s still running.
- Get your Self-Service Wrench, it came with your disposer. You can also use a 1/4 inch Allen wrench.
- Look at the bottom of your disposer. Locate the hole in the center of the disposer.
- Insert the wrench into the hole and work it back and forth in both directions until it turns freely in complete circles. (If disposer is not equipped with this feature, The same thing can be accomplished by inserting a broom handle into the mouth of the disposal to unlock the blades.
- Remove whatever was jammed in the disposer by using a pair of tongs to reach down into your disposer. AVOID sticking your hand inside the disposer.
- Now locate the red reset button on the bottom of the disposer. It should be flush with the bottom of the disposer. If it isn’t, press the button in.
- Still not operating? Call a Licensed plumber.
Food Waste Disposer Do’s and Don’ts!
- Run the disposer each time you put food waste in it. This is particularly advisable in the less expensive models, which are more subject to corrosion from the acids formed by food waste left for a long time.
- Grind food waste with a moderate flow of cold water.
- Grind hard materials such as small bones, fruit pits, etc. A scouring action is created by the particles inside the grind chamber.
- Grind peelings from citrus fruits to freshen up drain smells.
- Flush disposer for cleaning. Allow disposer and cold water to run after grinding or after draining sink of dishwater. Some detergents are caustic; flushing will pass such material into the drain line without disposer damage.
- Use a disposer cleaner, degreaser, or deodorizer as necessary.
- Use hot water when grinding food waste. It is OK to drain hot water into the disposer between grinding periods.
- Turn off motor or water until grinding is completed.
- Be alarmed if a brown discoloration appears on the face of the grinding disc. This is normal. It is surface discoloration only and will not affect the life or performance of the disposer.
- Grind large bones or extremely fibrous materials like corn husks, artichokes, etc. to avoid possible drain blockage.
- Do not pour liquid fats down the drain line. (You should solidify liquid fats in empty tin can in the refrigerator and dispose in the trash.)
Most older range hoods have an exterior vent, while many newer models over electric ranges simply recirculate the air through filters and back into the kitchen. Some cooktops are designed with a downdraft vent on the cooktop surface. All are acceptable. Some of the older exterior vents terminate in the attic, this is an unacceptable practice today. This arrangement blows grease into the attic, creating a fire hazard. We recommend that the vent be extended to the outside. Test the function of the unit by operating the fan and light. If the light does not work, try replacing the bulb. If the unit is very dirty, cleaning may be necessary. Be sure the power supply is shut off before using any cleaning fluids around the fan motor. Range hoods and fans remove grease and moisture from cooking, and so they collect dirt and grease that needs to be cleaned regularly. Wash the exposed metal (inside and out) with warm suds solution and rinse. If very greasy, use ammonia and water and rinse. Never use abrasive pads or scouring powders, as they will scratch the finish. Metal filters can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Some hoods have active charcoal filters. The charcoal filters in recirculating range hoods have a life of only ten hours. These filters cannot be cleaned. They should be replaced approximately once a year.
Range / Oven / Cooktops
Illegible or broken control knobs should be replaced. Surface burners and heating elements should be inspected for proper operation on both high and low settings. Any “on” indicator lights should illuminate. Check heating accuracy by placing an oven thermometer in the oven and setting the temperature at 350 degrees. Let the oven heat for at least 25 minutes, then check the thermometer. If it reads within ( + ) 25 degrees of 350, the oven is operating within normal limits. If not, most oven thermostats can be corrected (sometimes at the control knob). When broiling food in your oven, keep the door slightly open to prevent smoke from staining the oven surface. Oven surfaces should not be cleaned with abrasive cleaners, as these can mar the surfaces. Usually, a mild soap and water will be enough to keep your oven surfaces clean. Cleaning instructions do vary depending on manufacturer, so be sure to check the owner’s manual for your oven.
New ranges are being installed with an “anti-tip device.” This bracket type device at the back of the range prevents tipping if a child climbs onto the oven door to see what is in the soup pot. Most older ranges were installed without this device; consider having one installed if small children are around your house.
For your safety:
Never use your range for warming or heating the room. Your oven and cooktop are not designed to heat your kitchen. Top burners should not be operated without cookware on the grate. Such abuse could result in a fire and damage to your range and will void your warranty. Do not store or use combustible material, gasoline or other flammable vapor and liquids in the vicinity of this or any other appliance. Explosions or fires could result. Do not use your oven for storage area. Items stored in the oven can ignite.
Do not let cooking grease or other flammable materials accumulate in or near the range.
Microwave Cooking Equipment
Avoid unnecessary spatters by covering dishes, using wax paper or paper towels when a looser cover is desired. Use an appropriate cover for the cooking process. If oven does not have a removable glass shelf, a plate or paper towel under foods cooked directly on oven floor (as baked potatoes) helps keeps it cleaner.
To keep your microwave oven free from grease and soil build-up (wipe up spills at once), wipe it out with a damp cloth after each use. Use liquid window cleaner or a mild detergent and a soft cloth to clean the interior and exterior oven surfaces. Especially clean around edges of the door and door opening, to prevent soil buildup which will prevent door closing tightly. A plastic scrub pad can be used to remove stubborn soils. Do not use abrasive cleaners or steel wool, as they will scratch the interior surface. To keep your oven odor-free, boil one cup of water and several tablespoons of lemon juice in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Wipe out excess moisture after each use.
- Do not operate the oven with door open.
- Do not use the oven for storage.
- Do not operate the oven as a timer or without food.
- Don’t use an oven if an object is caught in the door or if the door does not close firmly or is otherwise damaged. If you have an older model oven with a soft mesh door gasket. Check for deterioration, which would require servicing.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instruction manual for recommended operating procedures and safety precautions.
- Don’t use the microwave for deep-frying, canning, or heating baby bottles. These applications don’t allow adequate temperature control for safe results.
- Stay near the oven when microwaving popcorn, heat buildup can cause a fire. Time heating per instructions but lean toward the shorter time (some ovens can scorch popcorn in two minutes).
- Don’t dry or disinfect clothing or other articles in the microwave because of the risk of fire.
- Use only microwave-safe utensils. Hot food melts some plastics, such as margarine tubs, causing migration of package constituents. It is a good idea to use glass for fatty foods, which get particularly hot, though not all glass and ceramics are microwave safe.
- Here’s a quick test for glass: Microwave the empty container for one minute. It is unsafe for the microwave if it is warm; it’s OK for re-heating if it’s lukewarm; and it’s OK for actual cooking if it’s cool.
- Don’t operate an empty oven if the introduction manual warns against this. In some ovens the magnetron tube can be damaged by unabsorbed energy.
- Be sure children who use the microwave can do so safely.
- There previously was concern that electromagnetic emissions from microwave ovens could interfere with heart pacemakers. Modern pacemakers are shielded against such interference, but some older models may still be adversely affected by proximity to a microwave oven. If in doubt, check with your doctor.
- An area of a food where there is increased moisture will heat more quickly than other areas. So, when heating up a jellyroll, for instance, it’s a good idea to let the food stand after cooking for a minute or two until the heat disperses from the high moisture jelly to the low moisture and passed throughout. To promote uniform cooking, recipes for microwave ovens usually include directions such as turn the food midway through cooking and cover and let stand after cooking.
- As a rule, it’s not good to use metal pans made for conventional ovens or aluminum foil inside a microwave because reflected microwaves cause uneven cooking and could even damage the oven. However, some new metal cookware is specially configured for use in microwave ovens. These pans are safe, provided instructions for use are carefully followed.
- Some microwaves have a protector on the magnetron tube to allow use of a small amount of metal, such as meat skewers or strips of foil over chicken wings and legs. The instructions that come with each microwave oven tell what kinds of containers to use and how to test for suitability for use.
- If there are signs of rusting inside the oven, have the oven repaired.
Bathroom Exhaust Fans and Heaters
Bathroom Exhaust Fans
Before servicing or cleaning any mechanical exhaust vent, you should disconnect to the power source at the
service panel. To clean the fan cover, fan blades and interior housing of the exhaust fan you can use a vacuum cleaner and then use a damp wash cloth. Under current building standards all interior mechanical exhaust vents should be vented to the exterior of the house and not into the attic area. If there is a bathroom in the home that does not have a working window in place, the bathroom should be equipped with a mechanical exhaust vent that vents to the exterior of the house.
In many older homes you will find a gas space heater mount in the wall of the bathroom. These gas space heaters are not vented to the exterior of the structure and are considered unsafe to use under current building standards. We strongly recommend that these gas heaters are removed and the gas supply properly disconnected by a licensed plumber.
Garage Door Operators
For a garage door opener to operate properly, it is important that the garage door be in good condition and functioning properly. Examine garage doors and the surrounding framing for evidence of wood rot and physical damage. Check doors for proper operation and balance. Release the automatic operator from the door in the down position. The door or should easily open to its full height and close smoothly without crashing to the floor. A balanced door will stay in place when opened to a height of five or six feet. Rollers and hinges should not be loose and should operate smoothly. Regular servicing of rollers and tracks will help keep them working well. Since springs are under great tension and can cause serious injury or damage if mishandled, the adjustment of door springs is best left to a qualified contractor. Reattach the automatic operator and test the safety reversing mechanism. Door operators manufactured after 1993 will also have optical sensors installed near the floor on each side of the door opening. These sensors should be installed within 6 to 12 inches of the garage floor. If the beam between the sensors is broken while the door is closing, it should reverse directions and open. If the optical sensors are not properly aligned, the door will not function as intended. Do not attempt to circumvent these safety features. They are designed to minimize the risk of a large, heavy, moving object.
Every three to four months, check your dryer vent for excessive lint buildup and clean the vent. Cleaning the dryer’s lint screen before each use prevents lint buildup and saves energy. If you experience problems with your dryer ventilation system, you should have the problem corrected as necessary. Do not disconnect the dryer vent and vent it into the garage area, attic area or crawl space area. This is a known health and fire hazard. Under current building standards all dryer vents should vent to the exterior of the house.
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