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It Pays to Maintain Appliances

September 12, 1998|From Associated Press

Routine maintenance of household appliances will pay for itself in improved efficiency, longer life for the appliances and improved appearance. Just keeping them clean, inside and out, can make a world of difference.

Refrigerators, like air conditioners, move a lot of air across their condenser coils. With this air comes dust, pet hair and lint that clings to the coils, reducing their ability to disperse heat. When this happens, the compressor runs longer and cools less. This makes for an inefficient appliance and higher electrical bills.

Cleaning these coils twice a year makes a big difference and will take only minutes to do. As for gaining access, the condenser coils are behind a grille below the door.

The location of the evaporator plate (or evaporator coil) will vary. On older models, the evaporator coil is next to the compressor motor at the appliance's back behind an access panel. Newer models usually have an exposed coil in the form of a large metal grid on the refrigerator's back.

As the condenser coil does most of the work, it will deserve the greater share of your attention. Begin by lifting the grille from its place below the front door. The coil will probably be loaded with clusters of greasy fuzz. Use a vacuum cleaner to pull the dust from the coils. If the coils feel very greasy, use a spray bottle and some degreasing cleaner to rinse the fin tubes.

Next, pull the refrigerator out so you can work on the compressor compartment. Remove the access panel and vacuum the compressor and evaporator coil. Finally, replace the grille and access panel and move the refrigerator back.

Kitchen ranges come in gas-fired and electric models. Of the two, the gas models require more maintenance. The reason is that gas is flamed from the edges of burners and pilot tips, which means that both pilot and burner can become clogged. Electric ranges come with direct electrical connections that remain more or less intact.

Probably the most familiar source of trouble is range-top pilot flames. There are two problems. First, the pilot orifice may become clogged with carbon grit. Second the flame shield under the cook top can accumulate carbon and soot, reducing the flame space between the orifice and shield.

In either case, tip the cook top up, and check for carbon buildup. If you find a buildup on the shield, remove the cooktop completely and scrape the carbon off with a knife. Then, for good measure, use a safety pin or thin wire to clean the pilot flame orifice. Do this to both sides of the top before lighting the pilots. If the pilot flames seem too tall or too short, follow the pilot feed lines back to the mixing valve at the control panel and adjust the flames using the slotted adjustment screw.

While you have the cook top tilted up or removed, check the flame at each burner. If several openings in a burner appear clogged, clear them with the same pin or wire. Then clean the area under the burners. A similar approach can be used to correct a temperamental pilot near the oven burner.

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