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Information and Articles for Appliance Owners in Ottawa

At M G Appliance Services we have a long history of keeping up to date with technology, trends and the news. And since we like to share information with our friends, colleagues and clients in the Ottawa area, we’ve put together a page with current events and informative articles. Please check this page from time to time and stay current with news that is relevant to refrigerators and home appliances.


Home Appliance Industry Urges Higher Efficiency Standards

WASHINGTON, DC, May 1, 2007 (ENS) – Today the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers along with a nationwide coalition of energy and water efficiency supporters said they will lobby for legislation to establish new mandatory federal energy and water efficiency standards.

They agreement also seeks legislation for new, more efficient Energy Star levels and manufacturer tax credits for the production of super-efficient clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators and dehumidifiers that increase the efficiency of these products by 11 to 48 percent.

The agreement spells out the first national minimum water efficiency standards for residential clothes washers and dishwashers.

In addition, the agreement provides for DOE to update these legislated and current standards by conducting new rulemakings for refrigerators, clothes washers and dishwashers.

DOE has estimated that the total 30 year energy savings will amount to nearly 15 Quads of energy and 68 million acre feet of water.

Total cumulative utility bill savings for consumers are estimated to be as high as $68 billion.

These potential savings equal enough water to meet the needs of about 17 million people for one year and enough energy to meet the needs of about 70 percent of the U.S. population for one year.

Legislation is already making its way through Congress. In the Senate, Senators Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat and Gordon Smith, an Oregon Republican, have introduced legislation to execute the standards provisions in the agreement.

In the House, Representative Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, is to introduce legislation to implement the agreement’s tax credit provisions, and Representatives Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat, and Chip Pickering, a Mississippi Republican, have introduced legislation on the standards provisions.

– from Environmental News Service

Common Household Appliance Energy Use

Listed below are some common appliances, their wattage and an estimate of operating costs. There is also a simple formula for calculating operating costs below.

How to Recycle Your Old Appliances

Every year in North America we send approximately 16 million refrigerant-based appliances to our landfills. These include refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners and dehumidifiers. Each of these appliances contains a significant amount of recyclable materials. Recyclable material and parts that contain products made of steel, aluminum, copper, and plastic. Although we are all helping the environment by recycling household products and waste, when it comes to large items like appliances we often don’t know what to do. Dealing with large items such as these seems overpowering. But don’t despair there are methods available to help you to get rid of an appliance in a more environmentally friendly manner. The following are suggestions you may wish to consider.

Many of the appliances going into the garbage may be working perfectly. Many are thrown away simply because the owner wishes to upgrade to something bigger, better, more efficient, or more convenient. So rather than sending them to the landfill why not donate them to a friend, neighbour, or local charity. One of the quickest ways to do this is to post a note on the bulletin board at your workplace. This will usually solicit many positive inquiries. If anyone says they want your old appliance make sure to leave it operating until they arrive. This assures a better response because people can see it really does operate properly.

But what do you do with an old appliance that isn’t working? I would say that it too should be recycled in a way to have the least impact upon the environment. Try contacting a recycling company or a scrap metal dealer. They may charge you to pick it up since the refrigerant inside the unit needs to be removed. This type of refrigerant is now considered a hazardous waste and removing it is both time consuming and requires special equipment, equipment that can only be operated by a technician with an ODP (ozone depletion prevention) license. As the final step the technician adds a disposal tag to the machine to verify the refrigerant was successfully removed. Even most scrap metal dealers no longer accept appliances unless they are properly tagged.

Another option is to contact a local appliance repair company, have them come to your home, remove the refrigerant, and tag the appliance for disposal. Once it’s tagged, the appliance can be processed by any scrap metal dealer. The down side of this method is that the homeowner must transport the appliance themselves. All of this requires a lot of time and energy.

An easier way to recycle appliances is by contacting a used appliance company. Whether they rebuild them for resale, or dispose of them, your old appliances will be dealt with properly. Even an appliance uneconomical to repair may be exactly what they are looking for. They may strip it for recycling, or use the parts to rebuild an appliance similar to yours. As a business they are regulated both locally and nationally and therefore must comply with strict recycling guidelines. Plus, being a local company they will be more in-tune with your areas concerns and know the best and quickest way to help you.

A final source for recycling is one that most people forget to consider — their own town or city. Contact your municipality to ask if they offer a recycling program. Some cities do it themselves at their landfill or sorting sites. Others depend upon local businesses to provide the service for them and will offer you a list of who to contact. These businesses will accept appliances for recycling at their own premises. Some may even come to your home to pick them up.

Throughout this article we have been suggesting you use a ‘local company’ or someone in ‘your town’ rather than a large national recycler. This is because it seems strangely contradictory to the basic principles of recycling to transport old appliances vast distances before the process can begin. Transporting them to a central processing plant hundreds of kilometers distance means a lot of unnecessary waste of vehicles, gasoline, and manpower. Why not do it locally and eliminate all that wasted energy. Also, some utilities companies are offering an appliance recycling program that under closer scrutiny would seem not to be as environmentally friendly as you might wish. They pick up old appliances but rather than recycling them some may be resold to third world countries. “Is reselling a used appliance to another country recycling?” That is a matter of interpretation. Even if the appliances are going to be reused what will be the eventual cost to us all. Once in these countries, where concerns regarding recycling or garbage disposal are not highly enforced, they have a far greater potential to end up harming the environment. We must never forget there is only one environment and we are all responsible for its maintenance and protection.

Whichever method you finally use to recycle your old appliances, give yourself a pat on the back. By being a better recycler you are not only helping yourself, you are helping your children, your grandchildren, and other generations far into the future.

By Donald Grummett

Copyright © 2010 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Would You Steel Your Household Appliances

Stainless steel household appliances are the “in” style right now. People are being drawn to the strong, clean look of stainless steel for their kitchens. It has become the fastest growing sector of household appliances. Not only for major household appliances such as refrigerators and ranges, but even for toaster, kettles, can openers, microwaves, bread makers and range hoods. There seems to be no end to the demand for the steel look. So if a kitchen-remodeling project is in your near future, then steel appliances may be something to consider.

Steel can provide the consumer with a feeling of strength, simplicity, elegance, and durability. Part of its appeal is the commercial or professional look it suggests to people. As part of the Martha Stewart generation we are fascinated with, and drawn towards, all things shiny and metallic. To this generation steel denotes: expensive – professional – status.

Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel

But are the steel appliances any better than other types of finishes? The simple answer is no. Do they operate any better than other high-end products? No. Are they more troublesome? No. They are simply a style of appliance that the public has fallen in love with at this period of time. Consumers like the idea that stainless steel appliances always appear clean (if properly maintained) while at the same time being a very durable product. Hence the reason it is the standard in the commercial area, including restaurants.

Stainless steel is becoming the new “white”. That is, it will match just about anything else in the kitchen. It will match most finishes of cupboards, countertops, and flooring. You can match a classic design of kitchen with an ultra-modern looking stainless appliance. This is a very positive feature that has been discovered by both consumers and designers.

On the negative side, some people dislike the idea of having to work to maintain the clean look. Stainless steel does require more cleaning. Fingerprints have always been a problem for stainless steel. Steel cleaner has to be used to alleviate this problem. The cleaner leaves a light oily residue on the steel, which will resist the fingerprints. General Electric and Sears are about to introduce a new stainless finish that they claim will resolve the fingerprint problem. If true, this will be a major marketing advantage for these manufacturers. Also, stainless steel is very expensive to produce. So if junior decides to scratch the dishwasher door you should be prepared for a large repair bill.

Stainless steel is a steel to which has been added nickel and chromium, resulting in a very hard surface. Consequently it’s durable, and will resist both pitting and rusting. The chromium is what gives it the characteristic shiny surface layer. The nickel makes it non-magnetic so when your refrigerator magnets do not stick, blame the nickel. If scratched, stainless steel can in fact self-heal. A new layer of oxide will be produced that can cover over small scratches. But, since the surface layer is extremely thin rust can result if the scratch pierces this layer and exposes the base steel.

Not Just High End Any More

Most appliance manufacturers offer stainless steel appliances in their high end product lines. General Electric calls their stainless series Profile or Monogram. Frigidaire calls theirs Pro Gallery. Maytag, Whirlpool, and others also offer stainless steel versions of their products. Seeing the demand for stainless steel appliances all these manufacturers will soon offer stainless versions within their less expensive models. So stainless steel refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers will soon be available for all price ranges.

Fad or Functional?

Are you old enough to remember other fashions from the kitchen? Do you remember green, yellow, or brown refrigerators? How about turquoise stoves, or black washing machines? At one time these were all considered the “in” thing.

So is the stainless steel appliance just another fad? I don’t think so. Stainless steel appliances are a style that has captured the public attention and will continue to do so. It’s an appliance type that attracts consumers in ever-increasing numbers, for reasons that even the manufacturers don’t fully understand. Whatever the reason for the recent love affair with stainless steel, it appears that it will continue. It is safe to say that they will remain on consumer wish lists into the foreseeable future.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2004 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

All about Household Fuses

The invention of the modern electric fuse is generally attributed to Thomas Edison. Beginning around 1880, his team of inventors were the source of many of today’s standard electrical products. As his electrical ideas came to fruition many products we now take for granted had to be perfected. The device we simply call a “fuse” is one of these inventions.

Most people think the purpose of the fuse is to protect the electrical device being used — this is incorrect. Actually the primary purpose of the fuse is to protect the wiring that runs through the walls of your home. Without the fuse the wiring could overheat, causing the wood in the walls to become warm, and eventually cause a fire. The fuse is the first line of defense in the protection of your home and family.

Basically a fuse is a safety device that stops the flow of electricity if an electrical limit is surpassed. In this way the amount of electricity is never allowed to exceed this preset limit. At the heart of its simplicity is the fact that once it blows it must be manually replaced. This forces the homeowner to question why the fuse failed. The answer is usually because of a failure of something within that particular circuit.

Most household fuses are either “P” type or “D” type. This is easily confirmed by the capital letter stamped onto the top of the fuse. The P means plug and the D means delay. Fuses come in many different sizes and shapes but the most common type used in homes is still the “plug” fuse. It has a cylindrical glass body, with a threaded metal base that allows it to be screwed into a matching fuse holder in your appliance or fuse box. At its tip is a metal contact through which the electricity flows once contact with the fuse box is made. Inside every fuse is a soft metal link (usually lead) through which the electricity flows. The link is calibrated to disintegrate if the fuses maximum rating is exceeded. It can disintegrate either from too much electricity passing through it, or because it became overheated.

Fuses are rated in amperes, which is a measurement of electrical flow. The higher the amperage rating the more electricity can flow through it before the fuse blows. For 90% of your household electrical circuits the maximum allowable fuse is 15 Amps. The exceptions to this rule are your dryer, range, and hot water tank. They are higher amperage because they are specially wired to safely surpass the standard 15 Amp limit.

The first rule to remember about fuses is to never replace any fuse with one of a higher rating. Secondly, never replace a fuse with any other material or device. We have all heard horror stories about people replacing fuses with coins, pieces of metal or even metal bottle caps. Anyone who does this is placing both themselves and their family at risk. So when replacing a defective fuse only uses the exact match to the type being removed. If unsure of fuse amperage remove it and look for a number at the tip of the fuse, on top of the glass section, or printed on the paper label inside the fuse. If all else fails make note of the color of the paper label inside the fuse. Each different size of fuse has a specially colored label representing different amperage ratings. The label inside a 15 Amp fuse is always blue, 20 Amp is brownish orange, 25 Amp is red, and a 30 Amp is green.

While most people recognize the simple plug fuse the delay type is generally misunderstood. While physically identical to the plug type the delay fuse is used for special high amperage circumstances. For instance, electrical devices that use large motors may require high starting amperage. Examples might be a power saw, furnace motor or sump pump. The delay fuse solves this problem by allowing high amperage for the first few seconds that the device starts. One of the most common uses of a delay fuse is when using a window air conditioner. It may require 40 or 50 Amps of electricity during the first few seconds it starts, before dropping down to its normal operating amperage of 5 to 10 Amps. If a 15 Amp plug fuse were used it would blow the fuse every time the air conditioner started. But by substituting a 15 Amp delay fuse it will allow momentary high amperage while still protecting the household wiring. The disadvantage of delay fuses is that they are much more expensive. Usually two or three times the cost of a plug fuse. Therefore, only purchase a delay fuse when absolutely necessary, or when required for special appliances such as a window air conditioner.

When replacing a fuse remember that it may be hot to the touch – therefore use caution. To remove it grasp the glass top of the fuse and unscrew it by turning counter-clockwise. It should turn easily. If the fuse will not turn don’t force it or try to remove by using pliers. If it can’t be removed contact an electrician – it may have melted inside the fuse holder and only a professional will be able to correct this problem. Replace the blown fuse by screwing it back into the fuse holder and turning it clockwise. Turn until you feel the fuse stop. Again don’t force it any further or apply unnecessary torque. The circuit the fuse protects should now have electricity flowing throughout. A plug fuse is very durable and should only have to be replaced very rarely. If you repeatedly replace a fuse you should contact an electrician for advice. You may have wiring problems that will need to be corrected.

By Donald Grummett

Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved


Refrigerator Odours…Why, What, How?

Ever had a bad smell in a refrigerator? It’s not pleasant. Nor can it be easy to find the actual source – it may take days. Plus the air in a refrigerator can seemingly compound an odour. A simple odour can move throughout the interior, until the whole refrigerator smells bad. Because the air constantly circulates an odour in one area can quickly be picked up and passed throughout the interior until even the food is affected. But have patience, most refrigerator odours can be localized using your eyes and nose. It’s usually an old piece of forgotten food, or an outdated carton. But, if the source evades you the following is a list of some of the most common places to look and ways to help yourself resolve this problem.

1. Check the food
It is the primary reason for refrigerator odours. Use your nose as the smell detector. Use your hands to feel for spills. Be suspicious of any foods that feel wet or sticky

2. Check the crisper drawers and shelves
Although obvious, this is often overlooked. Remove crispers and shelves and wash thoroughly in warm soapy water. Use a soft scrub brush to get into cracks and crevices. Many metal shelves are small enough to be washed in the dishwasher. When replacing shelves don’t forget to clean the plastic supports they snap into.

3. Check glass shelves
Small liquid spills here can be transparent. Also glass shelves can be complex – requiring intricate frames. Check the undersides of frames for hidden debris.

4. Clean the door gaskets
Start at the bottom. It’s a major location where food and mold accumulates. Rap a soft wet cloth around a butter knife to get in behind the gasket. Avoid pulling on gasket because it can rip.

5. Clean the freezer section floor
It too can be an odour producer. If you see loose frozen vegetables on the freezer floor look for the source here. Carefully run your hand around the freezer interior. There may be hidden holes that are not normally visible. Loose foods can be trapped here.

6. If odour persists try using baking soda

Spread two tablespoons of baking soda onto a saucer, and place into the refrigerator section. If the freezer is under suspicion then also place one there. The baking soda must be thinly spread to be affective – leaving it in the box will do limited work at fighting odours. Check every few days. When the surface begins to harden replace with fresh baking soda. This works well, but does require patience. Allow two or three weeks for even simple odours to subside.

7. When all else fails

Turn off refrigerator, allow it to warm to room temperature, remove all shelves and drawers, and thoroughly wash the interior walls. Use warm, soapy water. Avoid using any cleaning products that have a strong chemical smell or are heavily scented. Dry completely using a clean dry cloth. Be especially aware of crevices near bottom of refrigerator interior. If crevices appear dirty clean with a soft brush.

Whether or not you find the odours source always avoid any product that is sprayed into the refrigerator. This leads to the odour being masked rather than it being found and removed. The only things you should use to clean the refrigerator interior is a combination of light detergent and warm water. Anything stronger can result in the refrigerator being left with a distinctively chemical smell that will be much more difficult to remove than any food odour.

We once had a customer wash the whole inside of refrigerator with vanilla extract in an attempt to mask a food odour. The vanilla quickly impregnated the plastic interior and became overpowering. The smell even got into the food. As a result of this error they had to buy a new refrigerator the following week.

See also Refrigerator Odours…How to Avoid

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Refrigerator Odours…How to Avoid

Refrigerator Odours…How to Avoid

Since the best defense is an offence, try to avoid any reason for odours to get a foothold in the refrigerator. The following are a few simple tactics used in preventing odours from getting started:

Keep all foods covered

It’s a simple idea that really does work. Any food placed into a refrigerator’s cool, humid environment will immediately begin to oxidize. If a steel bar were placed into your refrigerator it would oxidize (rust) – well, your food will undergo the same process. But, as foods age they also give off odours. Keeping food covered slows oxidation, which in turn will slow the creation of odours.

Avoid spills

This may seem like a silly suggestion – except if you have children. One trick is to keep a separate kids container on a lower shelf. In it provide them with foods they are constantly craving. Apples, oranges, precut vegetables, and juice boxes can all be kept here. This keeps the kids spills to a minimum – adults are on their own.

Separate fruits and vegetables

The acidity of one can affect the other. Once home from the grocery store separate them and store in their own bags. Zip top bags work well for this purpose. If bagged they can be placed into the same crisper drawer. If simply dumped together into the crisper they can interact, causing some rather unusual smells.

Watch out for fruits

They in particular are different than most other foods. Many of them will deteriorate faster when inside a cool environment. Apples are a good example. When removed from the sealed bag and put into the refrigerator, they leave their dormant state and begin to literally “breathe”. Taking on more air leads to accelerated decay.

Beware the preserves

Odours can occur when an old container (Aunt Martha’s Christmas jam?) is pushed to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten. Being semi-sealed they can produce slow, almost imperceptible spills and gasses. If you have a really obnoxious smell that comes and goes, look for preserved pickles or fruits. Preserved jams on the other hand will tend to bubble out, producing sticky spills.

Throw away leaking containers

Milk bags in particular are renowned for leaking. Simply pouring contents into a sealed container before placing into refrigerator will eliminate this problem. If leak occurs clean the entire shelf immediately. Even a few drops of milk or cream can cause horrible odours if left long enough to go sour.

Beware the stinky cheese

Store within a sealed container rather than open on the dairy shelf. It’s a living food that continues to age because of bacterial content. As it ages its characteristics can change. While processed cheeses harden with age, natural cheeses can start to weep. Weeping will produce ever-increasing amounts of gas. Some cheeses can really start to stink. Anyone who has ever had cheese go bad will never forget the smell.

Beware packaging

Pre-packaged foods can become odour absorbers. Cardboard containers can easily pick up and hold any odours that are circulating inside the refrigerator. Also the cartons can break down with age, slowly spilling their contents. Ever found an old cardboard carton of molasses at the rear of the refrigerator. Bet it’s been there since you made baked beans – ten years ago?

Keeping your refrigerator interior clean and smelling fresh requires constant vigilance. The major advice we offer our clients about preventing odours is – don’t let them get started. Although a simplistic answer, it’s truthful. A bad smell is much easier to prevent than to treat.

See also Refrigerator Odours…Why,What,How?

By Donald Grummett

Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Lower Refrigerator Electricity Usage in 15 Minutes

I recently had a customer ask for my advice about cleaning “the black coil thing” on the rear of the refrigerator. So, in response to this common question I offer the following step-by-step directions.

Firstly, the ’black coil thing’ at the rear of your refrigerator is called a condenser. Without too much technical jargon, its job is to dissipate heat into the kitchen. It does this by the condensation of the refrigerant gas. It’s produced in a serpentine form with additional fins running down it for added heat dissipation. Its job is to transfer heat from inside the refrigerator cabinet to the outside. While doing this it removes heat from your food resulting in the food staying cold.

Without the condenser your refrigerator would not operate. Therefore, we are going to learn how to do basic maintenance of this part and keep our refrigerator in tip-top shape. This simple job will lower the electricity consumed by a refrigerator.

Tools required:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Brush or vacuum brush attachment
  • Cotton rag
  • Light strength household cleaner
  • Garbage bag

1. Pull your refrigerator away from the wall and unplug it.
2. The condenser will be the radiator-looking part on the rear of the refrigerator.
3. Use a brush or vacuum cleaner to remove any dust buildup on the condenser. Remember, the condenser is made of thin tubing and is full of a high-pressure (130 psig) gas. So be gentle. If you injure the tubing a simple cleaning could turn into an expensive repair. I tell customers to be as gentle as you would if vacuuming expensive furniture.
4. If you have a pet expect to see an accumulation of animal fur on the condenser. If a lot of dust or fur is present then clean off with a dry rag and dispose into the garbage bag. We suggest using the dry rag method first to avoid clogging up the vacuum hose.
5. Use your vacuum cleaner to finish the basic cleaning of the condenser. The brush attachment of the vacuum cleaner works particularly well at this point. The brush will allow you to get in between all the fins and remove the dust hiding there.
6. Finish cleaning the condenser with a rag dampened with water. Avoid using any cleaner. Since the condensers job is to transfer heat any residue left by a cleaner could impede this process. Under no circumstances use something like furniture polish or a dust removal spray. It will leave a waxy residue that will end up attracting more dust. Something that works extremely well is a static duster (not the dusting clothes). It’s the cleaning device that looks like a cats tail attached to a long handle. They are great because they pick up dust without using any chemicals.
7. Use the vacuum to remove dust from the cardboard cover (not on all refrigerators) that is near the bottom rear of your refrigerator. It’s covering the area where the compressor and electrical components reside. It will usually have holes in it where dust can accumulate. If there is no cardboard cover the compressor (the black motor thingy) will be exposed. Gently use the vacuum brush again to remove dust from on and around the compressor. Do not go near any wiring. You may also see a drain pan – DO NOT CLEAN THIS PAN. The pan will contain a lot of bacteria that can be harmful.
8. Vacuum any dust from the floor and the wall cavity. Vacuum the sides of the refrigerator. If there is a kick plate (floor level grille) at the front of the refrigerator vacuum it also. Do not remove the kick plate to clean. Some are very difficult to re-install.
9. Plug in the refrigerator and push back into place.

That’s it … that’s all. The whole process should have taken approximately 15 minutes.

In the space of a few minutes you have accomplished a number of objectives: (a) You have removed a major source of dust from your home, (b) made the refrigerator operate more efficiently, (c) and lowered your electrical consumption.

Even though an easy job, it’s one that usually gets forgotten. So don’t wait until the serviceman arrives once every few years to do this. It’s a very important cleaning project for the reasons already stated. Therefore, this is a job that should be placed right near the top of your next spring-cleaning list

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Summer and the Death of Your Refrigerator

More refrigerators fail during the summer than any other time of the year. It’s a fact – but why? Just like humans, your household refrigerator can suffer a premature death due to the heat and humidity. In hot humid conditions the refrigerator has to run longer and can begin to struggle trying to keep its interior cool.

Refrigerators and Heat
A domestic refrigerator is designed to operate in a maximum ambient temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Exceed this temperature and the refrigerator begins struggling. Even below this limit strange things can happen inside the refrigeration system that leads to its demise.

It may begin having trouble removing the heat generated inside the refrigeration system itself. If the cooling components start failing the operating pressures become erratic. Consequently, the food compartment temperature also becomes erratic, leaving the food warmer than usual. Or the compressor may overheat because it can’t dissipate its own heat fast enough. When too hot the compressor shuts itself off in the hope of avoiding destruction. This off period, which can last minutes or hours, causes the machine to operate very strangely. Early stages of a refrigerators failure can result in the food defrosting, or overcompensate by running too long and allowing the refrigerator section to become so cold that foods such as vegetables begin to freeze. If not serviced the refrigerator may become so hot that the refrigerant gas passing through the compressor starts to decompose. This produces acids that are carried throughout the refrigeration system, eventually leading to a condition known as, compressor burnout.

Your Refrigerator Has Heart Valves
The valves within your refrigerators compressor act much like your heart valves. They open and close rapidly to pump the refrigerant around the system. If the valves overheat they will warp and not close properly. When this happens your refrigerator appears cold, but not cold enough to maintain the frozen foods. Your food can alternately defrost and then refreeze again. Overall your refrigerator will act lazy. One of the most common symptoms is that your milk goes sour within a few days of purchase. These are the symptoms of an inefficient refrigerator.

I use the analogy that since a refrigeration compressor works like a heart, then an inefficient compressor is like a person with heart disease. It has a heart that pumps, but is not efficiently enough to do heavy work. They can walk along level ground (refrigerator on a cool day), but ask them to walk up a flight of stairs (refrigerator on a hot day) and they’ll collapse. So if an inefficient refrigerator is left without service it can result in your refrigerator having the equivalent to a heart attack.

The Human Factor

Compounding the overworked refrigerator syndrome is the human factor. That is, the hotter the temperature the more frequently people will open the refrigerator. Every time the refrigerator is opened the cold air from inside falls out onto the floor and is replaced by hot air from the room. The invading hot air makes it run more, resulting in additional work for the compressor. Even the automatic defrost system becomes fatigued in hot weather. The extra moisture invading the refrigerator cabinet can overload the defrost system and stress the defrosting components to their limit.

Lastly, age is a major factor in how much summer heat will affect your refrigerators operation. As refrigerators become worn with age the gaskets don’t seal as well, compressor valves get weak, insulation sags, and the electric motors that circulate air begin to slow down. Any refrigerator more than 10 years old is at risk. Those approaching 20 years are in imminent danger during a heat wave.

Be Aware

Your first line of defense against premature refrigerator death is being aware of any changes in operation, an erratic behavior or unusual noises. If caught early enough your appliance may only be inefficient because of a component failure, rather than a compressor burnt out. An inefficient refrigerator is something that can give erratic refrigeration for many days before it finally dies. That’s time enough to call the service company and seek their help or advice. Getting your refrigerator help in time has saved many of them from a trip to the scrap yard.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Why Your Refrigerator Makes Weird Noises

Are the sounds from your new refrigerator driving you crazy? Does it sound loud, noisy, weird, strange, unusual, funny, or about to break? If so, then read on.

Firstly, if you hear an unusual sound originating from your new refrigerator try to isolate the source. This simple act will quite often lead you to the culprit. It may also lead you to the realization that it’s simply an idiosyncrasy of modern refrigeration systems. Today’s refrigerators can make a wide variety of unusual sounds. This is a result of both the new ozone friendly refrigerants, and the complexity of the refrigerators now being manufactured. To help you in your quest to find the source of the noise we offer the following list of some of the weird sounds your refrigerator may be producing:

1. Ice Cracking
Probably ice being ejected from the icemaker into the ice storage bucket. Because most icemakers produce ice at the same time every day suspect this source if the sounds always occur at the same time of day.

Or the heating elements in the defrost system may be removing the ice buildup off the cooling coils. This sound is usually accompanied by a hissing sound as the electric heater in the freezer section begins to defrost the cooling coils.

2. Ice Cracking 2
If you have an ice storage bucket you may be hearing the ice cracking or snapping as it expands. Primarily heard during the summer, and shortly after the freezer door has been opened. Warm air invaded the ice bucket and caused some of the ice cubes to crack due to expansion.

3. Water Running
You are probably hearing the icemaker filling. It is usually heard every four to six hours and should only have a duration of about 30 seconds.

4. Water Bubbling
It is sometimes described as the sound of a fountain. It is primarily heard on refrigerators with a water dispenser and may be the water storage bladder inside the refrigerator section which is usually hidden behind a crisper or shelf. The bladder pre-cools a small amount (one or two glasses) of water so the water dispensed is not too warm. It can be caused by an air bubble within the bladder, or the sudden warming of the bladder itself. Sudden warming can cause the water to bubble. Sometimes it is heard when standing with the refrigerator section door open.

5. Water Dripping
The defrost system may be operating. If accompanied by hissing, you’re hearing water hitting the defrosting elements. Water dripping sound often heard as the result of water flowing off the cooling coils during defrost, and down the drain tubing. Sometimes accompanied by a gurgling noise, these sounds are normal.

6. Gurgling
Primarily the sound of refrigerant evaporating (boiling) as it enters the cooling coils. Usually heard just after the refrigerator starts or stops, this is a normal sound for modern refrigerators. In extreme cases may require the addition of sound-adsorbing materials.

7. Whistling
An interior fan has turned on. The air moves around the interior of many refrigerators even when the refrigeration system is not operating. The air is being moved from a cold area to a warmer area. It’s an energy saving method that eliminates the need to start the compressor simply because one area needs more cooling.

8. Whirring
Associated with the redistribution of cold air within the refrigerator, it is probably the door to an air chute damper being opened to allow air to pass through. Often described as a whirring or ticking noise, it’s the sound produced by a small electrical motor used to open the damper.

9. Air Blowing

As described above a fan has turned on and is often heard within the freezer section. Air noises are also more irritating because fan motors are now quieter than in the past. Consumers are used to the sound of air moving when it’s accompanied by a fan motor sound. When they only hear the air moving they find it an unusual sound.

Once you have isolated the source of the sound you can then decide whether you require service. Generally, the answer is, no. Most consumers simply want to be assured that the noise is normal. Or that it’s not a symptom of a future problem. But in the end you are the person who will be living with this refrigerator for the next ten years. It’s your decision.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2006 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

9 Ways to Help Your Refrigerator Live Longer

Every summer there are countless refrigerators that die. It’s often due to the increase in temperature and humidity. Both can put a huge strain upon any refrigerator that is beginning to age. The following are a few suggestions to help your appliance make it through the next summer heat wave.

1. Don’t use as an air conditioner
You may laugh, but this is particularly common with the elderly. They often leave the refrigerator door open in the hope of cooling the room. Or they may stand in front of the refrigerator trying to get cool themselves. A chair left sitting in front of the refrigerator is a sure sign.

2. Don’t overload your defrost system
Keep containers of water or juice sealed. Open containers of liquid will increase the amount of moisture deposited onto the cooling coil. All liquids inside the refrigerator should be covered. Milk, water, lemonade, and kids’ drinks like cool-aid are often left exposed. This will cause the compressor to run longer. Run times of 16 hours per day are normal for refrigerators. With the addition of extra moisture this could easily be increased to 20 hours per day.

3. Too many ice cube containers
Refrigerators are designed to handle two ice cube trays, not ten. Large numbers of open ice cube containers can overload the refrigerator the same as any other exposed liquid. As above this can overload both the cooling system and the defrost components or drastically lengthen the run time. Once ice cubes are frozen put into a sealed container or bag. Otherwise they will all add to the overloading of the the refrigerator.

4. Turn off icemaker
Icemakers will produce a harvest about every six hours. This is more ice than most families can consume. All these exposed ice cubes can stress the refrigerator in hot weather. Therefore turn off the icemaker until the ice bucket level is low. By doing this you will probably only need to turn it on every few days. Or as discussed previously, consider putting new ice cubes into a sealed container rather than leaving exposed in the ice bucket.

5. Doors not sealing properly
Gaskets full of holes or cracks allow warm air to enter. Gaskets that are not clean may also not seal properly. Clean surfaces with light detergent and warm water. To test the gaskets use a dollar bill. Place a dollar bill between the gasket and metal cabinet, close the door, and try pulling out the dollar bill. It should have a slight resistance to being pulled out from under gasket. If it pulls out with no resistance your gasket may be worn or dirty. The resistance felt should be consistent around full perimeter of gasket.

6. Don’t overload
A standard refrigerator can accept about 50 pounds of new food per day. If you are overloading, the food may not cool properly. For example: Why add a whole case of warm soda to a refrigerator on a hot day. Add only what is required for that day. Then add the next days beverages just before bedtime. This way the refrigerator will have all night to cool them down.

7. Teach children refrigerator etiquette
Children are notorious for standing in front of the freezer door trying to decide which treat to take. Even a few minutes with the door open can cause the refrigerator stress. Every time it is open the cold air will roll out. As it rolls out the warmer room air will enter the refrigerator interior. This warm air invasion can cause the appliance to have a greatly increased run time trying to cool itself down again. Consider moving their treats to a single container at the front of the refrigerator, on a lower shelf. This way they can access them quickly.

8. Don’t block air circulation
Remove bags, brooms, trays, etc., from the space between outside of refrigerator and surrounding walls. A refrigerator must be allowed to circulate air around itself otherwise the compressor can overheat. Blocking the airflow will allow the compressor to overheat. An overheated compressor can quickly burn out. If refrigerator temperature becomes erratic suspect the compressor.

9. Clean dust from condenser
Every refrigerator has a condenser coil. Its job is to radiate the heat being removed from the refrigerators contents out into the kitchen area. Some appear as a radiator-like device on the rear wall of the refrigerator while others are in a serpentine shape component next to the compressor. The serpentine ones usually have a blower fan associated with them. Both should be cleaned every year. See your owners’ manual for the proper method. Also see our article, ‘Lower Refrigerator Electricity usage in 15 Minutes’.

If all the above are okay then the last suggestion is to simply keep your fingers crossed. Because, if Mother Nature decides to send us the full strength of her heat wave that is all that will save your refrigerator from joining the others in the great landfill in the sky.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Food Taste and Flavour in the Modern Refrigerator

Have you ever wondered why food dries out inside the refrigerator? Or, why some foods seem to lose their taste after only a few days? Many consumers blame it on poor food quality or the grocery store. The culprit is not food quality but the changing moisture level of the food caused by our modern frost-free refrigerators.

The frost-free refrigerator was a great boon to homeowners since it eliminated the need to manually defrost. Central to any modern refrigerators operation is a constant flow of air that is circulated by a fan. The job of this circulating air is to pick up moisture and return it to the cooling coil where it can be removed by the automatic defrosting system. Therefore your food has an almost constant flow of air passing over it. Unfortunately, the air flow is also picking up moisture from your food that’s resulting in the food taste problems.

Most of the foods we consume contain a high level of moisture. For example: Vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, fish, oils, fats, and liquids. Your refrigerator can dehydrate all of these, whenever the circulating air comes into contact with them. The answer to this problem is easy: Stop the air from contacting the food directly. In other words, by simply covering the food the problem becomes minimal. Also, don’t leave any exposed foods on the shelves. Vegetables should go into the crisper; liquids must be covered; meats-poultry-fish should be placed in sealed containers, or left wrapped. Don’t forget about leftovers. They too must be covered or containerized. If not you will probably end up throwing them out as they begin to dry out.

Ever wonder why leftovers often taste so dull? Ever wonder why something that you cooked on Monday seems to have lost its entire flavour when you reheat it on Wednesday? It’s because a lot of the minerals and vitamins inside the food resides within the moisture. As the moisture is being removed, the food becomes progressively dull or flat tasting. To eliminate this problem you don’t have to use expensive containers. Some plastic wrap, a bread wrapper, or even a plate can be used to stop the air from contacting the food. When the bowl is left uncovered a lot of the flavour will be lost to the effects of air dehydration. To eliminate the moisture being sucked out of it, simply place an oversized plate on top of the bowl. It will act as a lid and the Jell-O will have added taste when you serve it to your family.

Therefore try this method with all your refrigerated food – you may be pleasantly surprised how well it works. Additionally your family will eat better because your food will retain a lot more of its natural value including more vitamins, minerals, and moisture. Plus the food you serve them will taste as good as it looks.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2007 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Buying a Refrigerator with Confidence

The biggest misconception about buying a new refrigerator is that it will be simple. Once in the appliance store your choices may be so varied that you either make a bad Delivering refrigerator selection, or rely too much upon the salespersons advice. You can easily end up choosing a refrigerator that’s too large, too complex, or too costly. Therefore, before even going to the store take thirty minutes to look at the latest newspaper advertisements or make a couple of telephone calls to compare prices.

Use a notepad to itemize your basic preferences including: price, size, type, and style. Then measure the size of the opening available (don’t measure the old refrigerator) for a new one. Lastly, while standing and facing your old refrigerator, note whether the door hinges are on the right or left side of the cabinet. The hinges, not the handle, determines whether your refrigerator is right handed or left handed. With your notebook in hand proceed to the appliance store. You will find that the refrigerator purchase can be separated into the four segments:

  • Appearance and style
  • Price range
  • Options
  • Name brand appeal

Appearance and style will include whether you want a white, black, stainless steel, freezer on top, freezer on bottom, side-by-side, smooth finish, or pebbled finish. All of these choices are personal. They should match your preferences and the style of your kitchen.

White is the still the most common choice of color. Stainless is popular because it matches other appliance colors or decors. For example, a stainless steel refrigerator next to a black range will not look out of place. While a white refrigerator can be cleaned with standard household cleaners, stainless steel requires a special cleaner that must be applied regularly to maintain its appearance. On the other hand while a black refrigerator only requires basic cleaning it’s prone to appear streaked when seen under bright lighting.

In regard to style most consumers still choose a freezer-on-top model. For a freezer-on-bottom refrigerators expect to pay an additional $200. The freezer-on-bottom type allows easier access to the refrigerator section but to get into the freezer requires some dexterity. Removing a heavy item from the bottom freezer may require you to get down onto the floor. This can be a definite negative for a senior. The side-by-side refrigerator is popular primarily because of its large size and options. These include: ice and water dispenser, adjustable shelves, humidity control crispers, or meat keeper containers. But, with these come a drastic increase in price.

Price range is important to most consumers. While a basic single-family, freezer-on-top refrigerator can be as low as $600, a side-by-side model with options would be closer to $2500. Always go to the store with an idea of how much you want to spend and try not to exceed your price limit by more than 10%. If you are attracted to something more expensive ask yourself, “is it really required”, or “will it make my kitchen more efficient”. Never allow a salesperson to force you into a hasty decision. Don’t believe the, “If you don’t buy today the price may go up tomorrow”, or, “I can’t guarantee this appliance will still be here tomorrow”.

Ask if delivery is included in the price. Stores usually say it is an extra cost until informed that their competition is offering, free delivery. Sales people know it’s a point that can make or break a sale, and will offer it if they think they may lose the sale.

Options available on a modern refrigerator can be confusing. With all the choices it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Any option is a good one if you know you will use it. Plus, having already decided upon appearance and price range your options choice will be lessened.

For example digital temperature control readouts are very modern looking, but no more accurate than a simple numbered dial. Icemakers or water dispensers are useful if you do a lot of entertaining, or drink a lot of water. With this option look for a model where the dispenser is simple to operate, even for children. Avoid models that include a digital display as part of the dispenser assembly because they add unnecessary complexity. Don’t forget they will require a new water filter every four to six months that will cost between $50 and $100.

See-through shelves and drawers have become popular. They make it easier to see what is inside the refrigerator. Their only disadvantage is they collect more spills and food debris. Humidity controls in vegetable drawers can be advantageous. Their purpose is to keep the vegetables crisper, longer. Their presence should only add a few dollars to the price and is an option worth considering. Although most come with nonadjustable door shelves some models offer removable door bins instead of the more common metal bottle rails. The bins are much easier to clean but can add $100 to the cost and are usually not worth the investment.

Energy saving features are becoming common, including refrigerators that go into a sleep mode if the door hasn’t been opened recently. Although they may save you money they can add greatly to the refrigerators complexity. They require computer boards to keep track of operation, which will add to the cost of any future repairs. If you live in an area where electrical power outages are common, avoid digital appliances. Power fluctuations can seriously affect the electronics.

Name brand appeal can be important. It may be the final deciding factor as to which refrigerator you end up buying. If the company has been around for some time obviously they are doing something right. If the refrigerator name is new to you perhaps further research is required. Also, a manufacturer with a proven name will have a service network in case anything fails during your warranty period.

In conclusion, take a few extra minutes to envision what you want before rushing off to the appliance store. A few minutes preparing yourself will be worth the effort. It’s easier to envision different styles in your kitchen while seated there with the latest advertisements in front of you. Trying to do this while standing in a store, in front of a line of fifty refrigerators is almost impossible. Plus when you do make the trip to the appliance store with a list of preferences (price, size, type, and style) you will find the experience much less stressful. And your decision will be one you can happily live with for the next ten to fifteen years.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2007 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

9 Things to Do When Your Refrigerator Isn’t Cooling

When your refrigerator stops cooling it can be frightening. As consumers we are usually unaware of what to do, or where to look for help.

If you have a regular appliance repairperson you need to contact them and get some advice. They will know your products and usually offer some suggestions. If you don’t use a regular service company then the following are some suggestions you may wish to try.

Firstly, don’t forget to check the obvious. Some of these suggestions are so crazy that people naturally overlook them in the rush to get the refrigerator repaired.

When your refrigerator stops cooling it can be frightening. As consumers we are usually unaware of what to do, or where to look for help.

If you have a regular appliance repairperson you need to contact them and get some advice. They will know your products and usually offer some suggestions. If you don’t use a regular service company then the following are some suggestions you may wish to try.

Firstly, don’t forget to check the obvious. Some of these suggestions are so crazy that people naturally overlook them in the rush to get the refrigerator repaired.

1. Is the refrigerator still plugged into the electricity? Open the door and if the light is on then that suggestion can be eliminated.
2. Has anyone moved it recently while housekeeping? Ask your family members if anyone has moved the refrigerator. You wouldn’t be the first person to find the kids had moved it out without telling you, to retrieve a lost toy, and accidentally knocked the power line from the outlet.
3. Are the cooling controls turned on? The cold control may have been accidentally knocked while removing or replacing food.
4. Are the cooling controls set to normal? If unsure what the normal settings are, then set both refrigerator and freezer section controls to mid-range on their dials.
5. Has the electricity in the house or neighborhood been erratic due to local construction or weather? Has your power been going off and on, or have the lights in your house been dimming? If yes, this is a problem best resolved by an electrician or your local power company.
6. Use a thermometer to test the refrigerators temperature. Normal is between 36 degrees Fahrenheit and 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Quickly place it on a middle shelf of refrigerator (not freezer) section and close the door. Place it such that a reading can be obtained within a few seconds of opening the door. Otherwise your reading will be inaccurate. Take three temperature readings, over a period of at least 30 to 60 minutes. Both refrigerator doors must remain closed between readings. If the operating temperature is between 40F and 45F you should be concerned enough to retest the temperature reading in a few hours. If over 45F your refrigerator is starting to fail. If over 50F the cooling system has already failed and you should be contacting your service company and contacting friends about temporarily storing some of your food.
7. Is the fan in the freezer section operating? You should hear the sound of air moving when freezer door is opened. Also check the fan switch operation. The freezer section may have a switch that stops the fan if the door is opened. To test, open the door and over-ride the switch by pushing it in with your finger. If no sounds heard then a service person will be required. Also, check the operation of all light switches. Open door and push light switch to check that the light is actually turning off when the door is closed. A broken light switch that leaves it operating even though the door is closed will generate a lot of internal heat making the refrigerator erratic.
8. If the refrigerator has been erratic for more than a few days you will probably require a service person. Make the call now because it may take them a few days to get to you. Start making telephone calls to friends and neighbors to ask if they can take your food before it defrosts. Worry about the expensive foods first. Using old plastic grocery bags (everyone has a drawer full of them) place one or two items in each, fold the bag at top, staple the fold, and write your name on outside of bag using a marker. Be organized. Just don’t arrive at someone’s house with an arm full of food. Remember, only one or two items per plastic bag. Many small bags will be easier to store in someone else’s refrigerator.
9. Lastly, check your operating manual for further suggestions. In new refrigerators (particularly those with electronic controls) your manual may suggest you check things such as, vacation mode, sleep mode, rebooting the internal computer, or even self-diagnostics. Many manufacturers will suggest things that are particular to your model. They may also provide a telephone number or website to allow you to contact them for advise.

See also:
Helping your Refrigerator Live Longer
Lower Refrigerator electricity usage in 15 Minutes

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2007 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

7 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Icemakers

An icemaker is a great convenience for many consumers, especially for those who drink a lot of water or beverages. Even though it is a fairly simple device it can be misunderstood by consumers – particularly when it doesn’t seem to be working as expected. The following are some answers to the seven most commonly asked questions about the domestic refrigerator icemaker.

1. Why is my icemaker not producing any ice?
Most common reason is that it was accidentally turned off. Look on the body of icemaker for an on/off switch. Or look for a metal arm (bale arm) that hangs down from the side of the icemaker. The bale arm may control an on-off switch inside the icemaker. In the raised position the icemaker will be turned off. Lowering the arm will often restart ice production. Once restarted it should start making ice in about four hours.

Check that electrical plug on side of icemaker is firmly attached. Check that hand valve feeding the water to refrigerator is open. Check that water supply line to refrigerator is not kinked. Check your refrigerator manual for other suggestions.

If the water for your icemaker goes through a filter (most don’t) then your filter may need to be changed. This problem may be accompanied by a slowing of the water dispenser flow.

2. Why do my ice cubes look cloudy?
Ice produced by a domestic refrigerator is formed very slowly inside the icemaker mold. Each layer of ice is formed on top of the one below it. During production, air inside both the water and mold become trapped within the ice cubes. This gives the cubes their cloudy appearance. Cloudy ice cubes are not an indication of poor water quality.

3. Can I add an icemaker to my existing refrigerator?
Check your owner’s manual. It should indicate whether your refrigerator would accept an after-market icemaker. During manufacturing, many water and electrical connections are pre-formed inside the interior walls of the refrigerator. Adding an icemaker system to an existing refrigerator requires a great deal of labour and expense. Therefore, even though some manufacturers offer add-on icemaker kits it is not something we normally suggest.

4. Can I take the icemaker from my old refrigerator and add it to my new refrigerator?
Even if both refrigerators are icemaker capable this is not suggested. Adding an old icemaker into a new refrigerator means your icemaker is already partially worn out. Each new generation of icemaker is different from the previous and may not operate within the new refrigerator. Just because they are the same manufacturer of icemaker or refrigerator doesn’t mean the parts are compatible. It is a better idea to simply ensure that when purchasing the new refrigerator it comes complete with a built-in icemaker.

5. Can I change the shape of the ice cubes?

The shape produced by the icemaker is dependent upon the mold inside the icemaker. Therefore the shape of the cubes cannot be changed. Most domestic icemakers produce semi-circular ice cubes. This allows the mold to eject the cubes with the least effort. Round or square ice cubes are usually only available from commercial ice making machines costing thousands of dollars.

6. Why do my ice cubes have a funny taste?
If the icemaker is new this is possible. The plastic water lines or icemaker parts may have residue from production. Always throw away the first 24 hours of ice production.

It may be the result of minerals within your water supply being concentrated within the ice. If your household water has a slight smell or taste this may be accentuated during ice production.

It could also be because ice cubes have been sitting in the freezer section too long. During a prolonged period of time they can pick up odors from the surrounding food. If ice cubes have an unusual taste throw them away and allow icemaker to produce a fresh harvest of cubes.

7. Why are ice cubes not dispensing?
Poorly formed ice cubes may be jamming ice-dispensing mechanism. Remove ice bucket and throw away all ice cubes. Allow ice bucket to warm to room temperature. Wipe off any moisture from inside and outside of the ice bucket, and any associated mechanism. Reinstall ice bucket and allow uninterrupted ice production of 24 hours. If problem continues, call for service.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2007 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

7 Internet Refrigerator – Hype or Helpful?

Generally the products offered by appliance producers are conservative in design but every now and then something unusual appears on the market. At this time it’s the internet refrigerator. They have recently introduced a refrigerator with a television in the door. It allows you to watch your favorite programs while getting supper ready. Also, messages can be left on the screen for family members to see later.

Other manufacturers have been contemplating different types of internet refrigerators. How about one with a bar code scanner built into the door that could record every package added or removed from inside. The simple touch of a button would indicate what is inside the refrigerator. The refrigerator would never lie. I can see the scenario now: “Mommy where did you hide the Popsicles? The refrigerator says there are two left”. Perhaps, the question should be, “do you really care what is inside your refrigerator?” Personally I would say no. But, I can think of situations where it could be useful.

Perhaps you are disabled and cannot access the refrigerator interior. It might be advantageous to know you only have one quart of milk left? You would access this information via a computer screen on the outside of the door. What if the same person is able to push a touch pad on the computer screen and get a read out (or a printout) of all the contents? It would certainly make their shopping easier. How about if the refrigerator were hooked into a service that delivers food to the home? If the refrigerator can keep track of the contents it will also know when you have run out of something. Every week it could total your contents, connects itself to the Internet, and place an order with the grocery store. Later that day the delivery truck arrives, restocks your shelves and you are ready for another week. All you have to do is pay the bill. No grocery store parking, no lineups, no trying to remember what you did with your grocery list. Ah, the joys of the modern age.

Well we’re not there quite yet. The Internet refrigerators we have today can be connected to the web, but only for service. Perhaps it starts making funny noises and you want to know why. Connect it to the telephone outlet, dial a service center number and the refrigerator will self-diagnose, offering you suggestions as to the cause of the problem. So the question we all have to ask ourselves is, “is it worth the extra cost”. Would an Internet refrigerator be helpful – or is it only marketing hype. As usual the consumer will make the final decision regarding that query.

Customers I have mentioned this refrigerator to are generally intrigued by the idea – at first. Then they usually tell me they think the world is already too fast-paced. A lot of people work with computers all day and just want to get away from them at home. They already think computers are ruling their office and they don’t want them ruling their kitchen. To my customers this type of product is only one more thing that would add to their stress level. So unless you have a specific need for an Internet refrigerator I think it is something that the general public is not yet ready to embrace.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2004 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved


9 Simple Steps to Tune-up a Dishwasher

Have you ever had your dishwasher fail during a holiday season? It isn’t fun. Trying to get a service company during a holiday is almost impossible. If you do, the price of the repair can exceed the cost of a new appliance. To avoid this happening here are a few simple suggestions to keep your dishwasher working at peak efficiency.

1. Filter
Any major debris such as toothpicks, pieces of plastic, or straws should first be removed by hand. Don’t allow them to escape – they could end up in the pump where further damage would result. If filter is removable (check your manual) clean it in the kitchen sink using a light detergent and a soft brush. Many are not removable and will have to be cleaned while in the machine.

2. Spray arms
The spray arms are the propeller-like part below each of the racks. Remove any debris from the holes in the spray arm. Debris here can cause the arms to slow down and give a poor wash. If arms appear cracked or worn replace them or call for service. Also spin the spray arms by hand. They should not be noisy, vibrating, or wobble excessively.

3. Spray nozzle
The bottom spray arm may have a nozzle sticking out of its centre that has holes at its tip. Treat the same as the spray arms in step 2 and remove debris from the holes. If nozzle parts appear cracked or worn call for service.

4. Heating element
Gently run your hand along the length of the element. If it feels gritty the element is probably covered with a calcium buildup. Clean it using a light detergent and a clean damp cloth. Do this carefully to avoid the element becoming bent or dislodged from its supports.

5. Detergent dispenser
Open the dispenser door and clean out using a clean damp cloth. Also remove any detergent buildup in or around the dispenser body.

6. Door gasket

Gently clean the gasket surface using a clean damp cloth. Gasket should be soft and pliable. At same time close dishwasher door a couple of times to ensure door latch is closing smoothly. It should be snug yet easy to close. If door latch is difficult to close the latch or gasket may need servicing.

7. Rack wheels
They should roll smoothly. If loose, wobbling, or binding the wheels are probably coated with detergent or a mineral buildup from the water. Remove rack to kitchen sink and clean wheels and shafts using a soft brush. Gently move wheels back and forth until they turn freely. Do not lubricate.

8. Water temperature

Many problems with dishwashers are due to low water temperature. Allow the dishwasher to fill with water and begin to wash. Open the door. The water should produce a significant steaming effect. If not your water temperature is probably too low. Most dishwashers require 125 to 140 Degrees Fahrenheit to clean the dishes.

9. Your detergent
Many dishwasher problems are due to stale detergent. Dishwasher detergent is one of the few detergents with a shelf life. If the box appears swollen, hard, or the detergent is clumping, replace with a fresh box. Stale detergent can lead to many problems including poor washing, leaking, or flooding.

Conclude by doing a test run with some dirty plates in the lower rack and a few glasses in the top rack. Operate the dishwasher through a full cycle using the normal amount of detergent, the rinse additive container filled, and the heat-dry setting activated. If everything appears to be functioning properly give yourself a pat on the back.

Lastly, these simple steps should be done well before any holiday period. Allow at least a couple of weeks prior to its need to test out these suggestions. In this way if you need help from a service company they will have enough time to respond. But if you find yourself with a non-functioning dishwasher the same day you have 20 guests arriving for dinner try the following – take a deep breath, smile a lot, and keep repeating , “At least there will be lots of people to help wash and dry the dishes”.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Secrets to Make Your Dishwasher Clean Perfectly

As a service company we are frequently asked, “Why doesn’t my dishwasher clean better”. To this query we offer the following insights and suggestions into the four basic things to make it work properly.

Water Temperature
Most manufacturers suggest a minimum 120 Fahrenheit for the dishwasher to begin the cleaning process, 140 to remove food soiling, and 155 to sanitize and remove bacteria. Consider the fact that restaurants boost the dishwasher temperature to 180 degrees Fahrenheit to clean the dishes while satisfying health requirements. Consumers misunderstanding these requirements have led to problems for the household dishwasher.

In a dishwasher the temperature of the wash water is paramount. Unfortunately, it is now common to find household water temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or less. Many people have lowered their household water temperature in an effort to lower electrical consumption. Unfortunately it has negative consequences for the dishwasher.

Manufacturers state low water temperatures don’t provide enough heat to clean dishes properly. Supporters of lower water temperatures claim it is environmentally friendly and results in less possibility of scalding. This debate over hot water tank temperatures has resulted in a catch 22 type scenario. Lower the water tank temperature to lower consumption and be more child safe, but then end up leaving large amounts of bacteria on the plates we use to eat.

Low water temperature can also affect the cycle length. When too low the dishwasher keeps stopping to try and heat the water. A normal cycle of 40 minutes may be extended to 2 hours with all the heating delays. This longer cycle certainly negates any savings of electricity. Some dishwashers may stall completely due to low water temperatures.

Proper Detergent
Using a quality type of detergent is very important. Whichever brand you choose, never overfill the detergent dispenser. Most have a maximum level line of which you must be aware. Plus don’t allow old detergent to remain ln the dispenser: if any is present, clean dispenser with a wet cloth.

Be aware that dishwasher detergent is one of the few detergents with a shelf life. If too old it can go stale and lose its effectiveness. Many poor cleaning problems are resolved with a fresh box of a quality detergent.

Gel or crystal, the choice is yours. Both seem to work equally well. If your water temperature is low (as described above) gel may be a better choice because it breaks down at a lower temperature. Crystal is physically easier to control for many people, because it spills less. This becomes important if children are helping load the machine. If using crystal detergent be aware that it can pick up moisture from the air and become lumpy. These lumps will be difficult to fully dissolve. If at cycle’s end you see detergent left inside it may be evidence of hardened crystals. Additional evidence of moisture buildup can be seen if the box itself appears to be swollen. If seen, replace immediately with a fresh box.

A box of detergent should be consumed within 2-3 months. If not throw it away and buy a new one. Match the box size to your needs. Do not buy a large box just because it is on sale. If you have to throw most of it away, it wasn’t much of a bargain.

Some detergent manufacturers now offer a product that combines the detergent with the rinse additive. Others offer a detergent that includes a special grease-dissolving agent. Still others are in a tab form, or inside a dissolvable plastic pouch. Whichever form you prefer the one thing we always stress is, “when you find one that works for you stick with it … even if it costs more than others”.

Rinse Additives
This is something that gets forgotten once the free sample bottle that came with the dishwasher has been used. Its job is to make the water run off the dishes faster so they can dry quicker. Without it there would be little beads of water on everything at the end of the cycle. Glasses especially would appear to be water stained or be left with a gritty residue. So if poor cleaning is a problem, check the rinse additive level. But remember, only one or two drops are added per load. A few ounces of rinse additive lasts a very long time. So long, in fact, that customers often think it is not being added, and blame the additive for problems it has nothing to do with.

To refill the additive dispenser look on the dishwasher door for a cap or plug that is removable. It’s often overlooked because the time between fill ups can be months. Also, the appliance manufacturers could help solve this problem if more of them added some sort of “Hey, I’m empty” indicator.

Proper Loading
Lastly, don’t forget that how you load the dishes can drastically affect how well they are cleaned. Proper loading will allow the water to penetrate all the nooks and crannies. Try the following suggestions:

Cups and glasses on the top rack with bottoms up Plates on the bottom rack all facing the same direction Bowls either rack, but all facing the same direction Utensils in the utensil holder in a mixed fashion (some knives, forks, spoons together in each compartment) to allow gaps between them Large items, such as a spatula, laying down on top rack Pots bottom up wherever space allows (on their side okay if positioned so that water will drain out)

Placing the dishes and utensils in an orderly manner really does make for a better wash. It allows the water sprays to penetrate the dishes thoroughly. Try it, it works.

You now know what is needed to make the dishes come out of the dishwasher sparkling clean. Hot water, good detergent, rinse additive, and proper loading practices. That’s it – that’s all. Provide all four of these things to the dishwasher and your cleaning success is guaranteed. So load up the machine, go get yourself a liquid refreshment, put your feet up and let the dishwasher do all the work.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved


How to Properly Clean Your Glass-top Range

The glass top range has become an extremely popular addition to many consumers’ homes. There is no other appliance that can maintain all the functionality of a basic cooking device while at the same time adding a modern, clean look to your kitchen. That is, if they are properly maintained. But to maintain its appearance a glass top range must be cleaned after every second or third use using a special cleaner. If not cleaned regularly your beautiful glass top range can quickly become an ugly mass of stains and burnt-on debris.

If food or liquids spill onto the top during cooking it is advisable to wipe up spill as quickly as possible using a clean cloth. If not, spills can become bonded to the glass top making future cleaning much more difficult

Regular Cleaning
It must be understood that the cleaner is simply that – a cleaner. Its job is to help remove the basic food and debris that will accumulate on a glass top during regular cooking. While the cleaner’s job is to capture the debris the consumer themselves must provide the necessary amount of elbow grease and patience.

To properly clean the glass top try the following method after every few cooking sessions:

1. Confirm that the glass top has fully cooled down before trying to clean. Most glass top ranges have a hot surface indicator light. It should have been off for a minimum of thirty minutes before cleaning.
2. Add a small amount of liquid cleaner to glass top. An amount about the size of a dollar coin should be sufficient.
3. Using your fingers quickly spread a thin layer of liquid cleaner over entire surface of glass top.
4. Allow cleaner to set for approximately a minute. It should change from a liquid to a milky, dry consistency. If you rush the job, and start cleaning while the cleaner is still wet, poor cleaning will result.
5. Using a clean dry cotton cloth clean the top thoroughly. A circular motion (such as when cleaning windows) seems to work best. Give extra attention to any areas that feel rough to your touch.
6. Once all the cleaner has been removed fold the cloth to expose a dry area. Clean whole top again using dry cloth. Clean any crevices along the edges of top. Do this by wrapping a section of cloth around a finger. Don’t be tempted to use a sharp object such as a knife because even though the top is very durable it can be scratched.
7. Using your fingers feel the clean top. It should feel smooth. If any roughness is felt repeat cleaning process. If roughness persists proceed to ‘burnt-on stains’ section.

Burnt-on stains cleaning
At times the stains or debris may become burnt onto the glass top. This usually happens when pots are allowed to boil over, or a pot with a dirty bottom is used during cooking. If this happens the following method is suggested:

1. Confirm that the glass top has fully cooled down before trying to clean.
2. Add a liberal amount of liquid cleaner to the area affected and immediately use a razor blade knife to scrape away burnt-on debris. Use a slow, but firm, forward and backward motion with the cutting edge of the knife. The cutting edges should be held as flat against the glass top as possible while still maintaining contact between cutting edge and top. Do not use the corner of the razor blade; it can scratch the glass top.
3. If the liquid cleaner becomes milky or dry remove it with a clean dry cotton cloth. Repeat step 2 of the process, remembering to add addition liquid cleaner to the stain area every time this step is repeated. (Note …The cleaner must not be allowed to dry. For burnt-on stains the liquid cleaner is not used as a cleaner, but instead as a lubricant for the cutting edge.)
4. Repeat process until all burnt-on debris is removed.
5. Finish by again cleaning the complete top as per the ‘regular cleaning’ method as described previously.

Is a Glass Top Range for You?
If this method seems a lot of work then a glass top range may not be something for you. Do they require more work to maintain than a regular range? Not really. What they do require though, is small amounts of consistent cleaning to maintain their sparkling appearance. If this is something you won’t mind doing then this type of electric range is one you may want to consider when shopping for a new addition to your kitchen.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2006 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

How to Replace an Oven Element

The oven element in your electric range can burn out at any time. But it always seems to happen at the most inopportune times, such as the week before Christmas or Thanksgiving. Fortunately, most elements do give warnings. Most often they will have a bright spot that will be noticed by the homeowner. If your element gives this warning sign replace it as soon as possible. Waiting for the element to burn out is inadvisable because the oven thermostat or other electric components can be affected.

In all aspects of this job safety must come first. Use only the manufacturers’ original parts, not a cheaper substitute. Only attempt this repair when you have enough time and patience to do it properly. You will be dealing with 240 volts – that’s twice as much power as flows through your regular household circuits. Therefore only attempt this repair with another adult present.

If you feel confident in your ability to safely replace an oven element then try the following method:

1. Disconnect range from electrical power, either by unplugging or turning off breakers. Pull range out of counter top so that the sides and rear can be accessed.
2. Remove rear panel of range making note if any screws are different types or lengths. Removing the rear panel will expose the element wiring and allow you to identify which element you suspect being burnt out.
3. Carefully remove the element wiring. They are usually screwed on connections. Avoid breaking the connections or stripping the screw head with your screwdriver. If the connections are the push-on type they can be removed by gently pulling on the clips while using a slight wiggling motion.
4. Go to the front of the range, open the oven door, and locate the screws securing the element within the oven cavity. This may require a flashlight because they are often covered in debris. The screws may be very tight and may require patience to remove them without harming the screw heads or chipping the oven interior.
5. Remove the oven element. If it’s broken avoid touching the pieces with your bare hands because they can be very sharp. Plus, the white powdered insulation contains harmful chemicals. If the part is going to be transported place it inside a large plastic or paper bag.
6. Proceed to an appliance parts store to obtain a replacement oven element. Whenever possible only buy the element produced by the manufacturer. Avoid elements from other sources (such as hardware store) because the quality is often inferior. Before going to the parts store make certain you have your make, model, and serial number. Manufacturers use many different types and styles of oven elements. The model, oven size, shape, and wattage were all factors that made the manufacturer choose which element was installed in your range.
7. Install the new element within the oven cavity and secure it using the mounting screws removed in step 4. If the holes in the mounting plate don’t align with the ones in the oven you will have to drill holes in the cabinet interior. This can be accomplished by using the holes in the element mounting plate as a guide. Carefully drill holes into the cabinet using a 1/8 inch high-speed drill. Use caution not to let drill slip to avoid damaging or chipping the interior liner.
8. From the rear of the range reconnect the element wiring. Don’t bend the electrical connections or allow the screws to strip the threads. If the wiring is burnt the insulation must be cut back to expose undamaged wire. Cut the insulation back using a knife or wire-stripping tool.
9. With the new element installed plug the range back into the electricity. Start the oven and allow to run for five minutes. Disconnect the electricity again and then quickly feel the wiring insulation at the element connections. They should feel slightly warm, but not hot. A hot connection indicates a poor connection, or the possible failure of other components associated with the oven. If hot, it will be necessary to remove it again and redo. When satisfied with element connections replace the rear panel and reinstall the range into counter.
10. Test the oven operation. All elements should go off and on as per normal. If the element doesn’t go off within a reasonable length of time one of the other components in the oven circuit has probably failed. At this point you will need to do further troubleshooting to try to determine which other part is defective.
11. Last step is to test the oven temperature. Place an oven thermometer on the middle rack and set the oven temperature at a regular baking temperature of 350 Degrees Fahrenheit. While keeping the oven door closed allow the oven to cycle off three or four times before verifying the temperature. To verify temperature wait until the oven indicator light goes out immediately open the oven door to see the temperature indicated. It should be very close to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit. As a final confirmation that the oven is operating properly do a test run by baking something such as muffins or cookies.

As the preceding has shown, replacing a burnt element is not a difficult repair. But it’s certainly one that should only be attempted by someone who is confident around electricity. If you are uncertain about your ability telephone an appliance repairperson for help. They will come prepared with all the necessary parts and equipment and will have your element replaced, tested, and operating in less than an hour.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved


How to Choose a Freezer for Your Home

The average household freezer is a silent slave. It operates year in and year out, requiring nothing more than a constant supply of electricity. But, eventually even the most faithful appliance may need to be replaced. For this reason the following are a few considerations that will allow you to make an informed decision about its purchase.

After the price, most consumers have only a few concerns when purchasing a freezer. They are size, electricity consumption and options needed.

Size of course depends upon your needs. Generally though, most people purchase too large a freezer. They base their judgment upon perceived usages rather than real usage. Their reasoning is: We “might” need a larger one in case there “may be” a special at the grocery store on something. In reality though, most freezers end up being operated only half full. Also, remember that all frozen foods should be consumed within six weeks. Foods stored longer than that can become dehydrated no matter how well wrapped. Dehydration of the food will lower both its taste and nutritional value resulting in the vast majority of it being thrown away. As an example, how much ice cream have you thrown away because ice crystals started to form inside the package? That ice forming is dehydration at work. Therefore, when trying to decide how big a freezer to purchase we suggest using what we call the “six week rule”. To use this rule you first approximate how much “frozen” food your family consumes in a six-week period. Remember it’s ‘frozen foods only’, fresh foods don’t count. Then envision how much space those items would require if stacked on your kitchen counter. That will give you an idea of the physical size of freezer you require.

Electrical consumption will definitely increase if a freezer is added to your home even though some types are efficient consumers of electricity. An upright type of freezer is less efficient than a chest freezer. This is because every time it’s opened the cold air spills out onto the floor. Consequently, it must operate more frequently to keep itself cold. Also, uprights are often frost free, which by their nature consume much more electricity. Alternately chest freezers are more efficient consumers of electricity. The cold air will remain trapped inside the cabinet even though the lid is lifted to access the contents. This results in the chest freezer being able to maintain its temperature with a minimum of electrical consumption. But, chest types are manual and will need to be shut down once a year so it can be defrosted to remove any accumulated ice.

To lower electrical consumption some people only use their freezer seasonally. Turning them off during summer and fall, when fresh, locally grow food is more abundant and restarting them again during winter and spring. This practice is common with gardeners who use a freezer primarily to store their fall vegetables. Seniors also do this because getting to the grocery store in the winter is more difficult. They use a freezer to reduce the number of trips outside when it’s cold and icy.

Options required can be small because most freezers are simply regarded as large storage boxes where frozen foods are kept for later usage. Since most freezers are relegated to the basement they are an appliance that doesn’t need to look pretty. Nor do most consumers feel a necessity for them to have many options. Recently though, manufacturers have been offering more options such as frost free, door alarms, digital temperature displays and quick freeze. All options on a freezer can serve a purpose but must be offset by the corresponding increase in cost. Also, the more complex a freezer is, the more possibility of it breaking down.


  • Lower purchase price
  • Self-defrost available
  • Long-term storage
  • Less convenient food access
  • Uses less electricity
  • Limited options


  • Higher purchase price
  • Self-defrost available
  • Medium-term storage
  • More convenient food access
  • Uses more electricity
  • More options

Food preferences have changed significantly in the last decade. We are eating much less beef and pork than in the past. Concerns over certain foods have resulted in people now eating more fish, poultry, pasta, vegetables, and whole grains. Consequently, the average consumer now stores less than 50 pounds of meats at any time. Twenty years ago freezers sold would average fifteen to twenty cubic feet because storing 200 pounds of meat was not unusual. Therefore, even though household freezers are available in more variations than ever before the most popular size sold today remains the basic 5 cubic feet to 12 cubic ft chest style.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved


Front Load Washers – Some Facts Before Purchase

Consumers in North America have discovered the front load clothes washing machine. They continue to buy them in ever-increasing numbers. While initially produced as an alternative to previous generations of highly inefficient laundry equipment they have since become a symbol of efficiency, low operating costs, and the environmental responsibility of the modern family.

Front loading washers use 60% to 75% less water than top loading washers. In areas where water is at a premium this can be a significant factor for a potential purchaser. For anyone on a septic system lower water and detergent usage can both be an important advantage. The small water usage also means much less detergent and fabric softener is required. The detergent required is about 25% of a top loader. The fabric softener required is so little that it should be diluted rather than used full strength. A dilution ratio of 7 to 1 is common.

Another major advantage of a front loader is its high spin speed. While a top loader spins at about 600 RPM, the horizontal axis washers spin at 1000 to 1200 RPM. Increased spin speeds means more water removed from the clothing, resulting in less time in the dryer and a saving in electrical consumption. In fact, many items can bypass the dryer entirely and simply be hung up to air dry.

A front loader will handle loads 50% larger than a top loader. This means items like comforters, or loads of five or six pairs of jeans at one time are common. Increased load size produces savings of time since the total number of loads required is less.

Many front loaders are physically smaller than a top loader. This can be important if space is restricted such as in an apartment.

The first thing that discourages consumers is prices that range from $850 to $1700.

Secondly, these machines can be expensive to repair. Plus, not every service company has the expertise required to repair them. Therefore before purchase one should confirm there is a local (within 20Km) factory authorized service agent. One that has experience at repairing this new generation of machines.

Thirdly, because of their high spinning speed a front loading washer requires a firm, level floor. A weak or un-level floor can allow the washer to bounce, resulting in premature shutdown as the machine senses an out-of-balance load. Installation on a concrete floor is best, but if located on an upper floor it should be one that you have confirmed as very firm.

Finally, mature consumers should be aware that these washers are lower to the floor and require more bending over to retrieve the clothes. This could be a consideration for anyone with back or knee problems. Manufacturers have responded by offering pedestals that raise the washer, but at an additional cost.

So if a washer replacement is in your future consider the front loader as one of your choices. Like all major purchases it should not be an impulsive decision. Do your homework, ask lots of questions, and be prepared to hear varied answers and opinions. Base your choice upon what is best for your budget, your circumstances, space, and particular needs. Only then decide whether spending the extra money on a front load washer will be to your advantage.

The first thing to understand about front loaders is that they require a special detergent. It’s a low suds detergent, often referred to as “he” detergent. It means high efficiency. Regular detergent will produce too much suds that simply lay on top of the water, creating a cushion or barrier between water and clothing. While this is okay in a top loader, a front loader works quite differently by picking up the clothes and then dropping then into the water. Therefore, any excess suds will stop the clothes from reaching the water. A poor wash will result.

Front loading clothes washers seem to work better using a hot or warm wash temperature. A cold rinse is fine, but for the wash temperature warm or hot is best. Since we depend upon ground water temperature for cold water washing its temperature can vary drastically depending upon the season. If the water temperature is too cold the detergent will not dissolve, resulting in a buildup of detergent inside the working surfaces of the machine.

If you need to wash delicates or bright colours in cold water go right ahead. But, for everyday washing (bedding, whites, permanent press) a hot or warm wash, followed by a cold rinse will give the best overall results.

In addition to detergent related concerns other poor washing practices can lead to odours from these machines: For example:

  • Don’t leave wet clothes in a front loading washing machine overnight to avoid odours.
  • Don’t allow dirt or grim to build up around the door or door gasket as this can eventually lead to a buildup of mildew.
  • Every few washes check the vanes inside the wash drum for any build-up of lint that can be a depository of bacteria and future odours.
  • After washing leave the door open slightly to allow the interior to dry, or alternatively wipe drum dry before closing door.

So if a front load washing machine is in your future, be prepared to re-learn a few laundry practices. A small effort and an open mind will result in many years of trouble-free washing. And welcome to the 21st century.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

4 Rules to Make Your Front Load Washer Work Better

Your front load clothes washing machine only uses about 25% of the water that would be used by a top-loading machine. This is a significant saving and probably one of the reasons you switched to a front loader. Unfortunately, it has also led to misunderstanding and confusion by consumers because manufacturers are not explaining the idiosyncrasies of these machines. Additionally, consumers are not educating themselves about their new style washer and the methods necessary to obtain a good quality wash. Most people are simply assuming that the methods used in their previous washer will apply. Therefore we offer the following article to explain the four most common misunderstandings.

1. Detergent Type
Due to the machines tumbling action a front load washing machine needs special detergent called high efficiency (HE) detergent. It’s a low suds detergent that is necessary to allow a front loading washer to operate properly. When buying detergent look for the letters ‘h’ and ‘e’ inside a circle, it’s the universal logo for this type of detergent. Don’t be tempted to use standard laundry detergent because it’s less expensive. Using the wrong detergent can result not only in a poor quality wash but also, detergent left in clothing fibers, water leakage, bad odors, mildew, and unnecessary strain upon the machine. Using standard laundry detergent in a front loader will be a decision that can come back to haunt you.

2. Detergent Quantity
How much detergent is required by a front loading washer? A good place to start is how much you used in your previous top-loader and then half or quarter that amount. If after a couple of loads of washing you’re satisfied the clothes were cleaned then lower the quantity of detergent used still further. Try a quarter of a cup or less for the next few loads. Many of our customers who use liquid detergent report that they only use a tablespoon of detergent per wash.

Most front loaders come with a detergent dispensing drawer where your laundry detergent, fabric softener, or bleach is inserted prior to starting the cycle. Look inside the dispenser cups for a mark or line indicating a suggested amount to use. But even with these guidelines many consumers continue to grossly overfill the detergent dispenser. This is usually because consumers simply can’t believe how little detergent a front load washing machine uses. The detergent level markings seem so low many people think they are incorrect, or not to be taken seriously. They unwisely assume that such a small amount of detergent will result in a poor wash – this is untrue.

Additional confusion can result when comparing the amount indicated in the detergent dispenser with the recommendations on the detergent box. What many people don’t understand is that the box recommendations are general suggestions only. Suggestions that must encompass all makes and types of washing machine, all load types, all load sizes, fabric type, water temperatures, and the waters mineral content. The suggestions on the detergent box are in no way specific to front-loading washers, nor your particular needs. Even your water hardness affects the amount of detergent required. While harder water requires more detergent per load, softer water needs less detergent per load. Additionally, detergent type affects the quantity needed per load. For example, since liquid detergents are more concentrated they require less per load than a powder type.

3. Fabric Softener
Again, because of the small amount of water used by a front loader the amount of fabric softener required per load must be lowered significantly. In fact, it should never be used full strength in a front-loading washer. Don’t be tempted to pour it directly from its container into the fabric softener dispenser cup. Instead, the fabric softener must to be diluted with water before being added to the machine. A dilution ratio of 7 to 1 is suggested. That is: Seven parts of water to every one part of fabric softener. The easiest way to do this is to mix it in an alternate storage container. Something such as an old (clean) wide-mouthed juice container with a screw cap works well. Add one cup of fabric softener to the container followed by seven cups of water, secure the lid, and shake the bottle to mix. This will provide you with enough of the proper mixture for about fifty loads of washing.

4. Water Temperature
Lastly, we suggest avoiding cold-water wash unless you are washing lingerie or delicate items. This is because the combination of low water volume and cold water during the wash section of the cycle may not wash away all the detergent from the clothing fibers. This can result in your clothes taking on a prematurely dull or worn appearance. Cold-water washing can also result in a deposit of detergent, fabric softener, and debris between the tubs that can result in the production of very bad odours. Odours may get so strong that they will even impregnate the clothes. Note, we said cold water ‘wash’ – not cold water rinse. Therefore, a hot wash followed by a cold rinse cycle is acceptable. Or a warm wash followed by a cold rinse is also okay. It’s only the cold wash and cold rinse combination that should be avoided. A worst-case scenario is when consumers combine a lot of cold water washing with excessive use of detergent, followed by full strength fabric softener. This can result in the machine starting to produce a mildew odour that will be almost impossible to eliminate.

Therefore as has been shown above even though the front loading clothes washer is an amazingly efficient piece of machinery it’s one that requires a slight adjustment in your way of washing. But in my opinion they are definitely worth the rethink. Putting into action the above methods will allow you to use this machine to its maximum, resulting not only in clean and sparkling clothes but at a substantial cost saving to you and your family.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2009 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Understanding Your Laundry Detergent

Soap has been around for 5000 years. Both the Egyptians and Babylonians used soap for personal cleaning. Soap then was a mixture of rendered animals fats and ashes. Although its basic principles remain the same, it is now made using a sophisticated chemical and manufacturing process.

Did you know that during the middle ages the use of soap was considered unnatural? Some historians suggest the rejection of soap, and the associated lack of hygiene, may have contributed to the Black Death that ravaged Europe. Even intolerance has been linked to soap. Some Europeans rejected soap at this time because it was considered a devilish product. Therefore it has been suggested that cultures who continued using this amazing substance may have been persecuted.

Even today people think it is a mystery product that they imagine full of numerous secret ingredients boiled up in a caldron. While not a magical product it’s definitely a substance that has helped to transform society. Something we use every day to make our busy lives both easier and safer.

Detergent Is Not Soap
Prior to World War II laundry was cleaned with soap or soap flakes. After the war detergent became the predominant laundry cleaning choice. It was less expensive, more convenient, and worked better with the new-fangled washing machines. Unlike soap, detergent lent itself to the high speed processes, allowing it to be mass produced in huge quantities for an ever-expanding market. Over time consumers also demanded variations of detergents that would not have been possible with soap based products. Today these include: low suds, high suds, high efficiency, phosphate free, cold water, environmentally friendly, fruit scented, non-scented, baby special, liquid form, and crystal form.

How Clothes Are Cleaned
People do not realize that the detergent is only a minor part of the cleaning process. The proper cleaning of clothes involves many complex interactions.

Did you know it’s the water that does most of the cleaning, not the detergent? In fact, it is the water mixing with the dirt on the clothes that lifts off the soiling matter and holds it in suspension. Then as the washing machine is draining the water completes the job by carrying the dirt away. The job of detergent is to make this action happen more efficiently.

Water appears to be one large body of fluid. Actually it’s made up of miniscule balls of water because of a phenomenon called surface tension. The natural state of water is these tight little balls. Surface tension does not want these little balls of water to mix. Therefore, we introduce detergent. The detergents job is to break down the surface tension and allow the water molecules to mix. This allows all the water balls to flow into one homogeneous mass that can be put to work. Eliminating surface tension also makes the water penetrate the clothing fabric rather than slide off. Some people describe it as making the water “slippery”, while others refer to it as making the water “wetter”. Whatever the description, the result is that the water can attack the dirt more aggressively. The water gets into the clothing fibers, loosens the dirt, and then holds it until it can be washed away.

Additionally, the detergent helps keep the dirt suspended within the water. This prevents dirt particles from reattaching to the clothes. Without the detergent this reattachment could happen every time the water-dirt mixture came into contact with the clothing.

The last thing we need to do to get a clean wash is impart some energy into the water. That is a fancy way of saying we need to make it move. That is the job of the agitator inside the washing machine. By making the water roll it is tumbling the water against the clothes. This drives the water-detergent mixture into the clothes and makes them clean faster. Think of it as the same principle used by our ancestors when they wet the clothes in the river and then banged them against a rock to loosen the dirt.

Detergent and Hard Water
One of the things that affect the cleaning process is water hardness. When detergent is used in hard water it produces soap scum, the same stuff that makes that ring inside your bathtub. The harder the water, the more soap scum.

Water hardness is a measure of its mineral content. So, the more minerals, the more soap scum. The more scum, the less concentrated the detergent. Therefore, if your water is hard you need to compensate by using more detergent per load of laundry. Conversely, the softer the water the less detergent is required to clean the clothes. If you read the detergent box it will usually indicate how much detergent is needed for different water hardness.

Unsure of your water hardness? Telephone your municipality or water provider and ask for the water hardness level. It is quoted in grains. That is, 2-4 grains is soft, 4-6 grains is medium, and above 6-8 grains is hard water. If you don’t know your water hardness, then experiment. Cut back on your detergent. If the clothes still come out clean, cut back further.

Detergent Quantity per Load
Don’t assume that the amount of detergent suggested on the box is correct for you. The manufacturer is offering general guidelines based upon many variable factors. Load size, dirt content, detergent type, machine type, water hardness, or water temperature all effect the amount required. Some experimentation is required to find how much detergent you should use per load. Also, use a measuring cup to dispense your detergent. The plastic measuring cup that comes in the detergent box is there for a reason.

Once the perfect amount of detergent has been determined continue to use this same amount for every load. Use a marker to draw a line on the measuring cup so your amount per load will be consistent.

New Products
In recent years the front-loading washer has become common. They have attracted much attention because they use about 40% less water than a conventional top loading washing machine. The clothes are not suspended in a large tub of water. Instead they roll inside a horizontal drum and only pass through water when at the bottom. The clothes are constantly being picked up and dropped into the water. This tumbling action takes the place of the agitator used in a top load machine.

Along with the introduction of the front-loader has come a new generation of laundry detergent. It is called high-energy or high-efficiency detergent. Generally referred to as “he” detergent, this type of detergent produces very little suds. If suds were present they would form a cushion at the bottom of the drum, between the clothes and the water. This would drastically reduce the cleaning action of the water.

The front-loader machines generally require much less detergent per load of laundry. Some sources indicate this is because less water needs less detergent to obtain the same water to detergent ratio. Others suggest it is because the “he” detergent is more concentrated, and so less is needed to produce the same cleaning action.

The Future
What will the future bring to the field of laundry detergent and clothes cleaning? Manufacturers have been hinting at a type of spaceship washing machine that requires no detergent. Some think it will take the form of a microwave washer. The dirt is radiated to the point where it is virtually vaporized. Sounds like something out of Star Trek. Others suggest washers may use electrically charged particles to do the cleaning. The dirt would be given an electrical charge different from the clothing. In this way the dirt can then be drawn away from the fabric and then disposed of into a filter.

At this point in time these things seem rather far-fetched and theoretical. Of course the same is always said about fanciful ideas. That is until someone learns how to turn a crazy theory into a practical device.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2004 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Why Front Load Washers Need HE Detergent

Since the introduction of the front-loading washing machine into the North American market their sales have literally exploded. Like most people, you probably bought one because of the suggested savings. When operated properly you can save energy, water, and money. Plus they do a fabulous job of washing your clothes. But, using the wrong laundry detergent can quickly destroy any hopes of savings.

Your front load washing machine requires a type of detergent called HE (High Efficiency) detergent. Made specifically for front-loading clothes washers, it’s a type of detergent that washes your clothes while producing very small amounts of suds. These non-suds properties are necessary for your front load washer to clean properly. Unfortunately, we have become so used to seeing suds in our older types of washing machines that we mistakenly relate their presence to proper operation. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

While we are all familiar with the old top loader method of immersing clothes into a large tub of water, a front-loading washer uses a very unique method of operation. Rather than immerse them a front loader simply passes the clothes through the wash water. Inside the drum the clothes are picked up by the vanes, lifted to the top, and then dropped into the water lying at the bottom. This process continues during every revolution. It’s the continuous impacting of clothes and water that dislodges any dirt from the clothing fibers. To further help with the cleaning action the wash water is replaced numerous times during each cycle. All these actions allow a method of cleaning that is both simple and dependable. But this highly efficient wash method will stop working if the wrong laundry detergent is used by the homeowner. Hence, we come to the basic idea of this article.

Using regular laundry detergent (crystal or liquid) in your front-loading washer will have one major consequence – it will produce excess suds. Even a small amount of regular laundry detergent will result in a big fluffy cushion of suds being produced at the bottom of the wash drum. A cushion of suds will be on top of the water and impede the clothes from reaching the wash water. Even though the clothes continue to tumble they hit the suds cushion, rather than the water, resulting in a very poor wash. So, if you have been using regular laundry detergent in your front-loading washer then stop using it immediately. Even owners of front loaders who are using HE detergent can misunderstand how to use it properly. Again they incorrectly assume that they should see lots of suds to get a proper cleaning action. Not seeing any they continue to add increasingly excessive amounts of detergent until suds finally appear. The result is a poor wash.

Too much suds, whether from using the wrong detergent or too much of the correct type, can even result in serious damage to your front loading washer. This is something you certainly want to avoid because front loaders are complex pieces of machinery that can be expensive to repair. Symptoms of this problem often appear as:

  • Door window covered in suds
  • Water leaking around the door
  • Vibration
  • Noisy operation
  • Poor spinning
  • Clothes coming out wet
  • Clothes not cleaned

If you have been using the wrong detergent or seen any of the symptoms described above you need to begin returning your front-loading washer to normal. Running the machine empty through a number of cycles using a hot water wash should help expel the old detergent. It usually takes 3 or 4 full cycles of the machine to start breaking down the accumulated detergent. If you have used the wrong detergent for more than a few weeks, or the problem persists, you may require a product called AFFRESH. It’s added to an empty front load washer to help drive out accumulated detergent or grime. Additionally, a small amount of it should be added to the detergent dispenser drawer to remove any residue that has built up in this area.

So if you think your front loader is not working as well as anticipated, look to your laundry detergent. If it does not say HE on the label – stop using it immediately. Then go out and get yourself a box of the proper HE type laundry detergent. You may be pleasantly surprised how a simple thing like the correct detergent can turn your washing chores into a much more gratifying experience.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved


Fire – Is Your Dryer Ready to Ignite

Every year there are an average of 14,500 dryer fires *.

Was the problem the dryer? Rarely. After investigating it’s usually determined to have been the lint within the homes venting system that caught on fire, and not the dryer.

The Drying Process
When clothes are being dried inside your family dryer there are two processes happening. Firstly, heat is applied to the air inside the dryer drum as it turns. This raises its internal temperature to approximately 155 degrees Fahrenheit, causing moisture to be driven out of the clothes by evaporation. Secondly, a constant flow of air is passed through the clothes. Surprisingly, the real trick to efficiently dry clothes is not the heat, but rather this vast volume of air.

Most people think the purpose of venting is to push the heat and lint outside. Actually, its primary purpose is to dump the moisture outside the home. This job is accomplished easily when the dryer is near an outside wall.

The Venting Pipe
In many new houses the laundry room is located in the centre of the home to allow easier access. But the distance from the dryer to an outside wall is substantially longer. So, we have come to the crux of our problem, ‘The venting is too darned long’.

It is more difficult to push air down a long venting pipe than a short one. This results in the moisture and lint collecting in the venting until lint can block the venting closed. When this happens it can cause the dryer to overheat. The normal drum temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit can quickly shoot up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. It may even get hot enough to allow lint in the venting to ignite.

For this reason manufacturers now suggest a maximum venting length of 15 feet, excluding the first two elbows.

The True Length of Your Venting

If you want to know the true equivalent length of dryer venting, calculate the following:

1. Measure all the straight lengths and add them together
2. Count the number of turns or elbows, and multiply this number by 4
3. Add together the totals from steps 1 and 2

Example: 20 feet of venting with 4 turns would actually be:
20 feet + 4X4 feet = 36 feet

Don’t be surprised by the true equivalent length of your venting. In modern homes it can be substantially longer than the manufacturer’s suggested maximum.

Watch for These Signs
If the blockage becomes critical the dryer will stop doing its job properly. Signs that the venting may be starting to block include:

  • Clothes coming out wet even though lots of heat
  • Excess lint on clothes
  • Moisture inside dryer
  • Too long to dry
  • Clothes unusually hot at end of cycle
  • Drastic increase in electrical consumption

Since you can’t move the laundry room the best thing you can do is be aware that the problem exists. Consider taking down the venting and cleaning out the lint buildup during your annual spring-cleaning. Also, regularly check the vent cap where it exits your house. Remove any lint buildup and make sure the flap moves freely.

If you suspect a venting problem turn off the dryer, unplug it, and call your appliance service company. Tell them your concerns, and ask for their help. As the old saying states, “better safe than sorry”.

* There is an average of 14,500 dryer fires every year.
(National Fire Prevention Association)

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Save Energy – Recycle the Dryer Heat

As the cost of electricity continues to skyrocket consumers are looking for new ideas to help get the most value out of their appliances. This includes the electric clothes dryer. Although your electrical consumption can rarely be lowered by the addition of any special devices there is one that will take advantage of the heat an electrical clothes dryer produces. It is called a dryer heat recycler *. It has proven to be a winner in the fight to be more energy efficient.

As its name indicates it allows the warm air from the household electric clothes dryer to be redirected back into the laundry room. This is an added bonus if the laundry room is in a cold basement. For an investment of about $15 the hot air your dryer normally dumps outside can be directed back into the house. We have been successfully suggesting these to clients for years. The feedback has been very positive.

The Theory
The theory behind the recycler is simple. The element in an electric dryer is approximately 5000 watts. This is equivalent to a couple of baseboard heaters. The air temperature leaving an electric dryer is about 130 degrees Fahrenheit. So why waste it – instead, put it to work for you. Note that along with the heat the dyers outlet air will also contain moisture. In most homes the moisture is welcomed because during the winter your homes relative humidity can drop well below the minimum 35% required. Low relative humidity is usually indicated by an increase of static electricity discharge.

The recycler uses a plastic flapper to direct the air either inside or outside your home. In winter months the flapper is adjusted to direct the hot air into the house. In summer its adjusted so the air and heat are redirected back outside. The recycler includes a built-in filter screen. We prefer the type that has a mesh screen filter as opposed to the one with a sock-like filter. It is a couple of dollars more but the metal filter is more durable and a lot easier to clean than the cotton type.

The heat recycler is easy to install. It’s usually mounted to a wall or beam behind, and slightly above, the console area of the electric dryer. Once mounted the dryer venting can be quickly cut and reattached to it. Follow the instructions to maintain proper airflow direction. The recycler does have an “in” and an “out”. Always mount the recycler for easy access by all family members. If mounted in an awkward place no one will clean the filter.

TECHNICIANS HINT: Experience has taught us not to mount the recycler directly above the start switch of the dryer. This avoids the recycler giving you a blast of hot air in the face every time the dryer is started.

Before purchase make sure the model you buy comes complete with two venting clamps. Some less expensive version of heat recyclers don’t include them. Clamps are vital for a proper installation. Don’t be tempted to attach the venting sections to the recycler with duct tape. It will dry out and allow the venting to fall off. If required, invest in a couple of four-inch metal vent clamps. They will cost about three dollars.

Once the recycler is mounted and secured give it a test run. Set the temperature selector to hot and start dryer. Allow electric dryer to run a few minutes then test that the air comes inside when the handle is in the winter position. Next, move the flapper handle to summer position. Air should then be seen to go outdoors. Go outside and confirm air freely escapes outdoors. If not the screen in the outdoor vent cap may be blocked with lint, or the vent cap flapper valve may be sticking. Go back indoors and test all joints for air leakage. Tape any leaking joints with aluminum duct tape.

From then on all that is required is to clean the heat recycler filter every few laundry loads. Plus, twice a year turn the flapper handle to redirect the airflow. Not much work to get all that nice free hot air for your home.

Note that throughout this article we have been using the term ‘electric clothes dryer’. The heat recycler cannot be used with a gas clothes dryer. The venting pipe of a gas dryer must not be opened or redirected. Small amounts of gas vapor and carbon monoxide may be present in the outlet air of a gas clothes dryer. Therefore, for safety reasons, the heat recycler cannot be used with a gas dryer.

*Recyclers can be purchased under different names and manufacturers. The one we use is called the “Heat Keeper”. Its part number is CHK100.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

8 Energy Saving Tips for Your Electric Clothes Dryer

Some of the largest consumers of electricity in the modern home are your household appliances. With the ever increasing cost of electricity everyone likes suggestions that result in lowered use of electricity. Not only is it good for the environment, but also has the added bonus of being good for your pocket book. The following is a collection of some quick and easy tips to help you save electrical energy.

1. Clean filter
Cleaning the dryer lint filter after every load is probably the simplest way to save energy. Even a small amount of lint on the filter can restrict the airflow, which causes the dryer to compensate by running longer.

2. Auto Heat
If your dryer timer has an Auto Cycle section learn how to use it properly. The auto cycle compensates for the size and type of fabric that is being dried and can save you significant amounts of electricity. Rather than setting the timer for number of minutes to dry it has an indicator that shows a maximum or minimum setting with multiple levels in between. Be aware that the maximum-minimum dial indicates the type of materials being dried, not the size of load. For instance a load primarily of jeans would be set closer to maximum, while a delicate load would be set more toward minimum. Energy is saved because the drying time will be automatically increased or decreased to insure the clothes come out dry in the least amount of time. Even for everyday mixed loads of clothing the automatic cycle can be put to use by a little experimenting to find the correct setting for your average load. See your owner’s manual for further details about the proper usage of the automatic cycle.

3. Clean venting
The dryer venting should be cleaned every year. Lower the venting and clean out any lint buildup. Also clean the venting cap that direct the airflow outside. Lint will collect in the cap, plus the outside louvers that open and close whenever the dryer operates. Removal of lint build-up allows the dryer to pass air with less effort, resulting in a shorter run time and less electricity consumed.

4. Anti-static sheets
If too many are used in the dryer at one time they can block the lint filter. This restricts airflow and causes the dryer to overwork and run too long. Remove the old ones from the dryer before adding any new ones.

5. Switch to front load washer
When it’s time to replace the washer consider a front loader. They spin at a high speed, which removes a lot more moisture than the top load style. This means less time required to dry the clothes. The standard drying time of 60 minutes drops to 30 minutes or less when a front load washer is used.

6. Door seal
If large amounts of lint are present at the door deal after every load then consider a new door seal. Air and heat may be leaking past the door seal.

7. Lint filter housing
The housing that holds the lint filter can become coated with old lint. This restricts airflow and wastes energy. To clean the housing first disconnect dryer from electricity, or turn off breakers. Then remove filter and use a vacuum cleaner or narrow brush to remove any lint buildup at this location.

8. Variable electrical rates
If your electricity provider charges less at certain times during the day consider changing your drying time to the less expensive periods. Most companies charge lower rates after 8:00 pm. By simply doing your household drying after this time of night the savings can be substantial. But, for safety, never be tempted to operate the dryer while you are out of the house or asleep. You wouldn’t turn on you range and go to bed, therefore don’t do it with your electrical clothes dryer.

Of course the mother of all suggestions is to stop using the electric clothes dryer whenever possible. Install an old fashioned clothes line in your back yard. The straight ones will hold more clothes, but may be restricted in some neighbourhoods. Check your local building codes before installing. Although it holds less clothes, and is difficult to hang sheets, a circular clothes line is a less intrusive alternative. Both are inexpensive to purchase and will pay back the investment within weeks.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2007 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

8 Reasons Why Your Clothes Are Not Dry

Modern electric clothes dryers can be complex machines. You depend upon them to work every time they are needed to dry your family’s clothes. When they don’t work properly it causes needless stress. Add to this our fast paced life style and you have a recipe for frustration when the clothes keep coming out damp.

The following is a list of eight common reasons why this may be happening to you.

1. Lint filter partially blocked
Even if it appears to be okay do a “water test”. Place in sink, holding filter about six inches below faucet. Turn faucet on fully, and allow water to pour through filter. Water should flow through effortlessly. If your filter retains even a small amount of water during this test then replace it with a new one. The reason may be the result of using anti-static clothes. They contain a resin that can cling to the wire mesh of your filter, resulting in the air holes becoming restricted.

2. Lint filter ripped or damaged
If your filter is damaged (ripped, broken, or warped) in any way it can allow lint to get past the wire mesh. This can cause lint to accumulate inside your dryer or venting. The airflow will become restricted and lower efficiency. This can lead to long run times, or allow moisture to build up inside dryer drum.

3. Door not closing properly
A dryer door that isn’t sealing can cause airflow can be redirected or interrupted. The dryer uses a closed system to direct the airflow through the element, and then into the clothes. Also, a door that doesn’t close properly can affect the door switch circuit. It may interrupt or stop the heating circuit if the door moves, even for a few seconds. An intermittent switch can even stop the dryer before the drying cycle is complete. Damp clothes will result.

4. Shortening drying time
As the price of electricity increases, people are trying to save money by cutting back on the length of their drying time, but doing this can be counter-productive. That’s because too short a drying time will cause the dryer cycle to end prematurely. Most electric clothes dryers require approximately 55 minutes to dry a standard load of clothes. Go back to a proper cycle length to see if that corrects the damp clothes problem. Alternately, if your dryer is taking longer than 65 minutes for a regular load you probably have dryer problems that will require servicing. NOTE: The 55 minutes quoted is if your washer is the top loading type. If you have a front loading washer your drying time may be as low as 25 minutes for a standard load.

5. Not using Automatic cycle
Proper setting of the automatic cycle will provide more efficient drying. Unfortunately many people misunderstand auto dry. Most people think the MINIMUM means a small load, and MAXIMUM means a large sized load. Actually the min-max setting actually indicates the type of material making up the load, not the size of load. For instance minimum would be for a load of delicates, or any type of clothing that doesn’t retain much water. Alternately, a maximum load would be cottons, jeans, or bath towels. This confusion between load size and load type will result in you setting the timer to an incorrect position. This will not allow it enough drying time, and your clothes will come out damp.

6. Timer knob loose
This a common problem often overlooked – even by service people. The timer knob can have up to five cycles on it. Because of this each separate cycle may only occupy a small portion of the timer knob. If the knob is too loose it can move on the timer shaft. This can drastically throw off the cycle settings. What you think is 55 minutes of drying time may only be 45 minutes – a vast difference when you realize you are losing almost 20% of your drying time. No wonder your clothes are coming out damp.

7. Timer not advancing
Dryer timers can be erratic. To test your timer set it to timed dry (say 55 minutes for a normal load). Set the timer buzzer for loud. Look at the exact time on your watch and then start the dryer. When you hear the buzzer indicate the cycle has ended, note the time. The cycle length should be within one or two minutes of the time you set. If out by more than two minutes, suspect an erratic timer. An erratic timer can cause erratic heating and the associated problem of clothes not dry at end of cycle.

8. Washer problem
Before blaming the dryer for your damp clothes check your washers operation. If your washer is not spinning fast enough to remove the proper amount of water from your clothes during the final spin they will contain excess moisture. The dryer may not be able to compensate. To test if your washer can, try the “cheek test”. Immediately after your washer has completed its cycle remove the clothes and hold a towel against your cheek. The towel should feel slightly damp, but not wet. If it feels wet the problem is originating in your washer, not the dryer. Clothes that are too wet will not allow your dryer enough time to remove all the moisture. Damp clothes will result.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2006 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Air Conditioner

How to Clean Your Air Conditioner like a Pro

Very little is required to properly clean a window air conditioner, except lots of patience. If patience is something you lack then it’s a job you should turn over to the local appliance serviceman.

  • Tools
  • Tin can or container (old muffin tin works well also)
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Long handled brush (an old toilet brush works well)
  • Oil can
  • Rags
  • De-greaser or spray detergent
  • Selection of screwdrivers
  • Fin tool (optional)

Let’s get started
1. With the air conditioner disconnected from the electricity, start by removing the filter from the front grille. If it is hidden behind the grille proceed to step 2. If it’s a disposable filter simply replace it with a new one. Other types are made in a plastic frame and can be cleaned and reused. To clean a filter lay it flat in the sink and sprinkle surface with powder laundry detergent. Then cover with about one inch of hot water. Just enough so the filter is submerged. Soak for 15 minutes. Remove from water and rinse with warm water. Hang up to dry and proceed to next step.

2. Next, remove the front grille from the main body of the air conditioner. They usually pivot on two spring clips at the bottom. It’s usually removed by pulling the grille gently forward while pushing it down at the same time. If there is resistance then look for hidden screws. Look near the top edge of the grille or behind the control knob door. Once removed, place the grille aside until later.

3. Carefully remove metal cover of air conditioner to expose inner workings. Once all the screws are removed lift the cover straight up. Do not let it hit the other parts as it can have sharp edges. This is where the old can comes in handy (ice cube container works well). Use it to keep track of all the screws you will be removing. An air conditioner will often use a number of different types and sizes of screws. Segregate them from each other or confusion will result when we start reassembly.

4. Check the fan motor for any oil holes or oil plugs. If the motor has oil plugs they are usually rubber. Use caution when removing because the rubber may have become brittle. Often they will break off in the oil holes resulting in a blockage. If this occurs try to remove the broken plug by using a pin or the tip of a small screwdriver. Once the fan motor oil holes are exposed add a few drops of oil to each end of the motor body. Use general purpose (3 in 1) oil or clean motor oil (#30 oil is sufficient). The natural tendency is to over-oil. Too much lubrication is as bad as not enough. Therefore only 3 or 4 drops on each end of the motor body is sufficient. Add the oil slowly, pausing a few seconds between each drop. If you add it too quickly over-lubrication will result.

5. Use the brush to remove surface dust and dirt from the evaporator (front fins). Use an up and down motion. Do not go side to side or allow the fins to be bent. The fins are very soft aluminum and can be damaged easily. Once surface dirt is removed, spray with de-greaser or cleaner. There is a good product on the market called HVAC cleaner. As the name implies it’s meant for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioner coil cleaning. If this is not available the Fantastic Spray cleaner used in kitchens and bathrooms works quite well. Let stand about 15 minutes or as per instructions on de-greaser can. This will allow cleaner to loosen any hidden dirt. Remove dirt and excess cleaner by slowly pouring warm water into fins. Do not allow the water to enter any electrical connections or components that may be near the coil. As an added precaution cover the motor with one of the cloth rags to protect it from the water. Do not use any form of high pressure air or water because this can drive dirt farther into fins. Also, use extreme caution as these coils are filled with high pressure refrigerant.

6. Straighten any bent fins. Use a fin comb if available. If no fin comb then use something soft such as a Popsicle stick. Straightening the fins will increase the efficiency of the air flow through the coils. This adds to the overall cooling effect produced by the air conditioner.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the condenser (rear fins) coil. A plastic cowling usually surrounds the condenser fins. If so, check the top edge to see if it will lift or open (if it opens this will allow easier access to the condenser fins). Again use caution because the condenser coil is also filled with high pressure refrigerant.

8. Wipe any dirt buildup from both fan blades using a soft rag. Do not bend blades. This would cause a vibration that would harm the motor.

9. Vacuum all surfaces including front and back of grille assembly. Do not forget to vacuum underside of metal air conditioner cover. If the cover contains air holes clean them thoroughly. If necessary use a damp rag.

10. Drain any water left in the base and allow it to dry for few hours.

11. When completely dry plug in air conditioner and test operation. If everything appears okay unplug and begin reassembly.

Reassemble and Test
12. Once reassembly is complete, retest operation to ensure replacing the cover has not affected anything. Adding the cover will often twist the frame and can cause interior parts to move out of alignment. This may cause the fan to become noisy. To correct for this problem remove the cover and realign to the main body of the air conditioner. Reinstall the cover and test for noises every time 2 or 3 additional screws are added to the cover. Spinning the front blade by hand will let you know if anything is rubbing against the fan blades.

13. Install the front grille and filter.

14. Lastly, cover air conditioner with plastic wrap or an old blanket. Store it in a warm, dry area. Raise it from floor slightly by placing onto a couple of pieces of wood. This will protect the floor from the metal edges of the air conditioner, and also protect the air conditioner from moisture.

Repeat this simple procedure every year. If you do, the machine will be ready for many more years of dependable service.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

What Size Window Air Conditioner Do You Need

Every window air conditioner should be properly sized to match the room area it will be cooling. If not the air conditioner will not be successful removing moisture from the air. Since it’s the moisture removal that actually produces the feeling of cooling the result will be a disappointed consumer.

Unfortunately in their rush to purchase a window air conditioner many people buy too large a model. For instance if you require a 5000 BTU unit , purchasing a 10,000 BTU unit may not give you twice the cooling. In fact, too large a unit can actually provide less cooling than a smaller, properly sized unit. This is because with an oversized air conditioner cools the air in front of itself so quickly that it shuts off prematurely. Therefore, its run time is too short and it doesn’t remove enough moisture from the room to produce a feeling of comfort. This is called, ‘short cycling’. So if your new window air conditioner seems to cycle off and then back on every few minutes, and does a poor job of cooling, it may be oversized for the room.

Air conditioners are rated in BTU’s. British Thermal Units are a standardized measurement that indicates exactly how much heat is being transferred. The larger the BTU rating of the air conditioner, the faster it can remove moisture from the room, and the larger the cooling effect it can produce. A window air conditioner used in the average household bedroom can be as low as 4000 BTU. While 5000, 6000, and 8000 are the most common sizes purchased for home use. Large open areas such as an open concept family room or rooms that contain a lot of people or equipment may require a slightly larger air conditioner.

How You Determine What Size You Need
Following is a basic sizing chart for calculating the window air conditioner needed for a room. Calculate the size of the room by multiplying the width of the room by the length of the room. Use your room size to determine what BTU’s are required to cool that room size.

Room in Sq. Feet





Room in Sq. Metres





A/C size in BTU’s *





Before purchasing your window air conditioner take the time to do this simple measurement. Go to the store prepared with the knowledge of what basic size you require. The sales person may have a different opinion. They often suggest a larger air conditioner, ‘for-just-a-few-dollars-more’.

If still unsure, check the outside of the air conditioner box. Most manufacturers put a small sizing chart right on the box. Use it to confirm the size you know you need, and what size that particular manufacturer suggests.

*Based on a room occupied by two adults, having an average insulation, number of windows, and sun exposure.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Why Window Air Conditioners Ice Up

One of the most frustrating problems with a window air conditioner is if it starts to ice up. For the owner of the air conditioner is can be perplexing. When this problem occurs most people immediately think it is the fault of the refrigerant gas. More often the cause is the result of other difficulties.

It is most often the result of poor airflow. Any time the airflow through an air conditioner is restricted the cooling system becomes affected. If taken to extremes the critical pressure-temperature balance of the cooling coil can be changed. When this happens the cooling coil will begin to operate as a refrigerator rather than an air conditioner. Rather than simply cooling the air it will collect and hold moisture, freezing onto the cooling coil where it will appear as ice.

It must be understood that the primary job of an air conditioner is to de-humidify, not refrigerate, the room air. Removing moisture from the room air gives us a feeling of comfort. This is at the central principle in the operation of the air conditioner. To do this though the temperature of the cooling coil must always be higher than the room’s dew point. If allowed to drop too low the cooling coil will begin to refrigerate and produce the icing-up affect so many people encounter.

With this aforementioned airflow problem in mind the following are a few problems that can result in your air conditioner icing up:

1. Dirty filter
To avoid this problem replace or clean your filter every couple of weeks of the cooling season. If a smoker do it every week. To clean filter remove from air conditioner, wet thoroughly, and lay in bottom of a sink. Sprinkle detergent (laundry detergent works well) onto filter surface. Allow to sit for a few minutes. Next, add warm water to sink until filter is completely covered. Soak for 15 minutes. Remove from water and rinse. Allow to air dry.

2. Dirty or blocked cooling coil
An air conditioner requires regular maintenance. Every two or three years is typical. Every year would be best, but can be costly unless you do it yourself. During cleaning the cooling coil should be degreased and washed to remove accumulated dirt and debris. Degreasing is important to remove any coatings on the coil that might trap or hold air borne particles. Dirt particles on the coil will lower heat transfer. Eventually excess dirt results in the cooling coil becoming partially blocked which reduces airflow.

3. Dirty or blocked condenser coil
The condenser coil is the one at the rear of the air conditioner. Its job is to dissipate the heat that is being removed from the room. Just like the cooling coil it too must be cleaned regularly. Since the condenser is on the outside of the home it becomes exposed to a lot of dirt, pollen, and smog. To clean it the air conditioner must be completely disassembled. If not cleaned an airflow blockage here can even burn out the compressor. Before this happens though the lowering of airflow will affect the overall operation. This can result in the compressor efficiency dropping, the internal pressure-temperature relationships being affected, and the resultant production of ice on the cooling coil.

4. Inefficient compressor
As describe above an inefficient compressor can cause icing up. If it is unable to pump the refrigerant properly the cooing coil may not get cold enough to shut off the cold control. It can hover just above the cut off point. When this happens the cooling coil will begin to refrigerate. Ice on the cooling coil will result. If the compressor is at fault the cost of replacing it is prohibitive. But note that many icing problems are misdiagnosed as bad compressors when they were actually one of the other faults discussed in this article.

5. Not enough refrigerant or too much refrigerant
Both scenarios can result in an icing condition. If your air conditioner was repaired recently suspect too much refrigerant. Mixed with an airflow problem this can be difficult to diagnose. If not repaired recently, then suspect airflow problems before considering a refrigerant imbalance.

6. Outdoor temperature too low

Icing can occur if the outdoor temperature falls below 60 Degrees Fahrenheit. If the outdoor temperature is too low the air conditioner pressure-temperatures can be affected. When the outside temperature falls so will the the cooling coil temperature. So much that the coil will refrigerate the room air resulting in the cooling coil producing ice. This problem is prevalent in the fall. Therefore, if it’s a hot day followed by a cold night suspect this as the cause of icing. To alleviate the problem run the air conditioner in the ‘fan only’ position at night while leaving the re-circulating vent open. This will circulate the room air without cooling it, while bringing in a small amount of cool outdoor air during the night.

7. Oversized air conditioner
If the air conditioner is too large for the room size icing up can result. If oversized the air conditioner can short-cycle. This condition results in the air conditioner starting and stopping every few minutes. Even though it runs almost constantly the air conditioner will give poor cooling. Use a sizing chart to determine the proper air conditioner size for that particular room.

8. Cold control not shutting off

If the cold control does not shut off the cooling coil surface temperature will drop below the room’s dew point and begin to refrigerate. This will allow ice to build up onto the cooling coil.

9. Cold control bulb broken or loose
As in the previous paragraph this will result in the cold control not shutting off and ice to build up on the cooling coil. If this is suspected remove the front grille and inspect the bulb. If broken replace cold control. If bent, kinked, or not securely fastened suspect a problem here.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2006 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Best Placement for Window Air Conditioners

Which is the best room or location for the placement of a window air conditioner? Wherever it will give you and your family the most comfort.

If you only have one air conditioner then we usually suggest the bedroom. This is because most people find that if they can sleep comfortably during a hot summer night then their next day’s work will be a lot easier. Even getting through your regular work day routine becomes a lot easier knowing there is an air conditioner at home. You know you will be able to go home after work, relax and unwind in the comfort of a cool air environment. It certainly becomes something to look forward to, all day long.

Not everyone will want to install the air conditioner in the bedroom. Some people do not like a cool sleeping environment. For these people we suggest placement in a living room or family room. The elderly or handicapped may prefer the air conditioner in the living room because they spend most of their time there either entertaining friends or watching television. During the hottest days of summer they may not leave their homes for days. Therefore being able to enjoy the day in a cool environment during the day becomes more important to them than being cool at night.

For others the best placement of the window air conditioner will be the family room. It’s often the center of most family activity, for both children and adults. Plus, being one of the larger rooms in the home the whole family can sleep here, if high summer heat dictates. Most other rooms would be too confining. It certainly is better than installing it in the master bedroom and then waking up in the morning to find a dog, cat, and four kids in the bed with you.

Another placement consideration is noise level. A window air conditioner can be noisy, which may disturb your sleep. If you are a light sleeper the bedroom might not be the best place to install it. Alternately, other people find the drone of the fan actually promotes sleep. In fact, once most people become used to the sound of the air conditioner they begin to find it soothing. This is because all the neighbourhood noises are drowned out. Some people say the air conditioner works as well as a sleeping pill.

Whichever room you eventually pick don’t expect the impossible from you’re air conditioner. The blower in a window air conditioner is not very powerful. It’s meant to cool one room, not a number of interconnected rooms. Therefore a couple of smaller units may be better for your home than one large unit. If more than one air conditioner is to be installed it’s generally most efficient to place them at opposite ends of the home on the same floor while placing one on each floor will only give localized cooling. Also remember that placement on the upper floors generally allows the air conditioners to work harder because warm air rises within the home. Alternately cool air will fall therefore upper floor placement may have the bonus of having some cool air fall to a lower level if located near a stairway.

Wherever the air conditioner is placed it will need direct access (5 or 6 feet) to an electric wall receptacle. Often overlooked by the homeowner, it’s an important factor that will limit where an air conditioner can be placed. Don’t be tempted to resolve this requirement by using a household extension cord, or a power bar. Running an air conditioner on a household extension cord can cause it to overheat, allowing the cord can become a fire hazard. Plus, the voltage drop within an average cord is too high. This will force the air conditioner to start at a reduced voltage. The air conditioner may initially operate on a household cord but it will eventually damage the compressor. If an extension cord is your only option then purchase one made specifically for appliances. Even though an appliance extension cord can be expensive ($20 is typical) they are worth the investment by making the air conditioner operate more efficiently and safely.

Lastly, remember to place and install the air conditioner so that it maintains your homes security. Its placement should include some means of securing the window from being lifted. The simple addition of a piece of wood to stop the window from being lifted up is a good idea. If you have wooden windows the addition of a small metal bracket at the top of the raised window will only take a minute. If not secured an intruder could gain access to your house by simply lifting the window and letting the air conditioner fall out. This could result in the loss of both your valuables and the air conditioner. Something to consider during placement of the air conditioner is that a lower level floor gives less security since an intruder would have easier access than on an upper level. A final consideration affecting placement is if your home has a security system. Contact your security company before installing. You may require a security cable be added to the window to stop the alarm from going off because the window is in a raised position. Or they may attach a special security cable between the air conditioner body and the alarm sensor. In this way if either the air conditioner or window is tampered with the alarm will sound.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Top 6 Reasons Why Air Conditioners Leak Water

An air conditioners primary job is to remove moisture from the room to give you a feeling of comfort. During this process they capture a lot of water. How much, is dependent upon humidity content of the air, size of the air conditioner, its operating efficiency, and whether it was properly installed. The water captured during normal operation flows down the cooling coil and drops into the base, following channels or passages to the rear. Some of the water is lifted up by the fan blade and used to cool the heating coil, while most of it proceeds to the rear where it drops out of the base and onto the ground. That is, if everything is working perfectly. The reality of window air conditioners is that they can leak water.

The source of the leak can be allusive, appearing to come from multiple places, or only happen sporadically. Whatever the cause of the leak is, an air conditioner that leaks can drive you crazy trying to find the cause of the problem. The following are a few suggestions of the most common reasons why water leakage occurs.

1. Improperly installed
A window air conditioner must be installed so that it’s slightly lower at the rear than the front. This allows the water being removed from the room to drain to the back of the machine. A difference of one inch is sufficient. This is always the first thing to check. Many are improperly installed in the haste to get relief from the heat. If installed too low at front the water will flow into the room rather than outside. If installed too low at rear, water can roll out the front edges before it has a chance to exit towards the rear drain.

2. Icing up
Water being de-humidified from the room air can turn to ice if there are problems with the cooling system. There are many reasons for an air conditioner to produce ice. Remove front grille while machine is operating. If ice is present on the cooling coil you will probably need service. For more information about icing up, see our article, “Why window Air Conditioners Ice up”.

3. Air leakage around air conditioner
If warm air from outdoors is able to enter around the air conditioner it will encounter cooler, dryer air. When they meet condensation will occur. If water is leaking from front of air conditioner inspect area to see if dripping from body of machine, or water droplets clinging to front area. To test, operate machine for 30 minutes and then use flashlight to check under front edge of base. Small water droplets here indicate an air leakage problem. Add foam insulation to stop warm air from infiltrating.

4. Drain hole blocked
The rear of air conditioner base has a drain hole or notch to allow water to escape. If it becomes blocked, water can back up. To test, operate machine for 30 minutes and then inspect if draining properly at rear. The base should contain a substantial amount of water, but not to the point where the whole base is completely full of water. If appears blocked use a small piece of wood (a popsicle stick or wooden skewer works well) to open drain hole at rear of metal base. CAUTION: Never be tempted to drill holes into the air conditioner body to relieve water pooling. Severe damage can result.

5. Internal drains blocked
There are small passageways that allow water to drain from front of air conditioner to the rear. If they become blocked, water will pool at front of machine and overflow onto floor. If this happens the air conditioner will require removal from window and servicing. To test, operate machine for 30 minutes and then remove front filter and plastic cowling. If front of base completely full of water, but little dropping from rear of machine onto ground, suspect blocked passageways.

6. Outside temperature too cold
This problem is more common near the end of cooling season. If the outside temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night the cooling coil may ice up. If no leakage at bedtime but water in front of machine in morning, suspect this problem. If this problem suspected turn off machine before bedtime and restart as day warms. Alternately, operate machine at night with selector switch in ‘fan only’ position. This will circulate room air during night, but not allow cooling and the subsequent water leakage.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2006 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Pros and Cons of Choosing a Portable Air Conditioner

Pros and Cons of Choosing a Portable Air Conditioner
In recent years the portable type of window air conditioner has become very popular. While there are many factors involved in this switch to portables the primarily one is because they eliminate most of the difficulties associated with installation.

An old-fashioned window type must be lifted into a window, secured, leveled properly, have blocks added to rear for support, secure the overhead window, extend and lock side panels into place, and seal the cabinet exterior against air leakage. Alternately, the installation of a portable air conditioner is a great deal simpler because the only part put through the window is the exhaust hose and mounting plate – everything else is part of the floor unit. Therefore, while a through-the-window air conditioner can require an hour or more for installation the portable type can be up and running in about 5 minutes.

Advantages and Disadvantages
As its name implies the portable air conditioner can be moved with very little effort. This allows you to provide cooling to different areas of the house throughout the day by rolling it between rooms. Whether moved to the kitchen while cooking, the family room during the evening, or the bedroom at night, it pumps out cold air with equal intensity. To facilitate their movement most portable air conditioners come with wheels attached to their base, allowing greater maneuverability. Those without wheels are okay where installation is to be semi-permanent, but any movement of the air conditioner will certainly be restricted. A portable air conditioner tends to be a heavy piece of equipment and without wheels even moving them into a closet for winter storage can be difficult. Therefore before purchasing a portable air conditioner always confirm that it has a set of good quality wheels.

To those living in an apartment building the portable may be a lifesaver. Many apartments no longer allow the installation of through-the-window air conditioners because of the liability associated with them accidentally falling out the window. Or they are prohibited by the building management simply because of aesthetic concerns regarding the building’s exterior appearance. Even the noise levels produced by window air conditioners can result in them being forbidden. A portable eliminates all of these problems because the only thing in the window is an inconspicuous plastic mounting plate and exhaust hose. The rest of the equipment sits inside the apartment.

Another advantage of portable air conditioners is their ease of storage. At the end of the summer they can be rolled into a closet or corner of any room with very little effort. The plastic hoses and window mounting parts can be put into a plastic garbage bag and stored nearby. Any small parts such as screws can be put into a sealed bag and tape to the air conditioner. If your portable came in a box we suggest cutting out one end of the box so it can be slid over the machine to protect it from damage. The top and control area that contains the electronics are particularly delicate. Store your portable air conditioner indoors in a warm dry area away from any sources of dust or moisture.

All window air conditioners produce an abundance of water. While a through-the-window type simply drops the excess water outdoors the portable must do it differently. Some use a storage container to collect the water until it can be removed and dumped into a sink. This can be a disadvantage because the buckets can be both heavy and cumbersome, especially for seniors. Others evaporate the water then blow the moisture outdoors via the exhaust hose. The first method is dependable and less complex, while the latter has the advantage of never having to empty a water storage bucket, thereby relieving you of that chore.

One possible disadvantage of portables is their noise level. Because all the machinery is inside the room they may be slightly noisier than a comparable through-the-window type. Every time the compressor and fan motor start the overall noise level of the room will increase. Therefore, if you are someone who demands an unusually quiet environment, then avoid a portable. But for most people the operating noises associated with this air conditioner will not be an issue.

Portable window air conditioners are a somewhat complicated piece of machinery. This results in maintenance and repair costs being higher than for the old fashioned through-the-window units. Plus due to their complexity portable air conditioners are a type that consumers should not try to repair themselves. Definitely leave these ones to the professional.

Stick with Simple
Although most portables contain electronics and digital displays try to pick one with simple controls. The tendency today is to offer models with lots of unnecessary options. ‘Bells and whistles’ that most people will never use and may in fact confuse them. For these reasons we suggest that if you are shopping for a portable window air conditioner you should look for a basic model. One that meets all your criteria while at the same time uses simple controls, allows easy disposal of the water, and is within your price range.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2010 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved


Dehumidify Immediately for a Safer Home

Many parents are unknowingly putting their children at risk. Because children are noisy, overly energetic creatures they are often relegated to the basement. Many a weary mother thinks of the basement playroom as the next best thing to a nanny. But, by doing this you may be placing them in the part of the home that is the dampest. You wouldn’t work in a damp office, so why expect your children to play where the moisture content is too high.

Symptoms of Excess Humidity
Too much moisture in a room can leave the air feeling uncomfortable and smelly. So if the basement has a slightly odd smell suspect dampness. When objects such as books smell musty, or begin to swell, suspect dampness. In worst cases wooden furniture may swell or crack. Stored clothing, photograph albums, pictures, or books can be permanently damaged. Walls and floors may feel colder than expected. Even metal is affected – primarily by rusting prematurely.

Excess moisture increases the possibility of mold and mildew building up on the rooms surfaces. Both have been linked to the increased incidence of asthma, especially in children. Therefore, anything you do to alleviate this problem in your home may help your children in later years. So if you find the basement has begun to feel damp the simple addition of a dehumidifier may be a quick and inexpensive means of combating this problem.

What to Do
A dehumidifier is somewhat of a crossbreed. It is a mixture of a refrigerator and an air conditioner. It is designed to do only one thing — remove moisture from the air. No other appliance can do this as well. It’s similar to an air conditioner because both will remove moisture from the room air. But while an air conditioner cools the room, a dehumidifier will actually add heat to the room as it works. It is somewhat of a niche product. But, for anyone with a damp room or basement it can be an appliance worth its weight in gold.

What to Look for Before Purchasing

You will have to empty the water collection bucket, and at certain times of the year this may have to be done every few days. Therefore, make sure the one you purchase has a light that indicates when the bucket is full. The indicator light quickly reminds you. Without one most people will simple forget this chore. Also make sure your dehumidifier comes with a threaded drain connection. This allows a drain hose (or an old piece of a lawn hose) to be attached to the rear of the machine. This can eliminate the need to empty the bucket. Once a hose is attached the water drains into the hose, which can be directed into a floor drain or sump.


A dehumidifier is not meant to operate all year long. It’s primarily a machine that does its best work between the heating and cooling seasons. You will find it works mainly in the spring and fall. If yours works all year long, you have more serious moisture problems that will have to be addressed by a company that seals basement walls against water leakage.

It’s important to know that a dehumidifier will not operate efficiently if the room temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Below this temperature the cooling coils begin to frost up and very little moisture will be removed from the air. This often occurs at the same time of year. Usually at about the time of year you will begin to feel the need to turn on the furnace. Some dehumidifiers counteract this problem by the installation of a temperature sensor that turns them off when the room temperature is too low. When purchasing, look for a model that has this feature.

If the amount of water being removed drops off suddenly, suspect the room temperature first. Water output should be fairly regular unless there has been a drastic change in the weather. If the water production seems erratic check the filter at the rear of the machine. Anything that impedes the air flow through the dehumidifier will affect its operation. This also includes other items around or beside it. So don’t be tempted to pile objects such as clothing, toys, or other basement paraphernalia against this appliance. If this slowing of water production seems to occur earlier in the season than last year, then also suspect that the dehumidifier requires maintenance. This can be done by the homeowner as long as you use caution. See also our article, ‘How to Clean your Dehumidifier like a Pro’. If unsure call your appliance service company for help.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2005 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

How to Clean Your Dehumidifier like a Pro

The dehumidifier is a niche product. Its only job is to remove excess moisture from household room air. A dehumidifier can be used to reduce the problems of mould and mildew associated with high humidity. Both of these have been linked to the increased incidence of allergies and asthma in children. It’s similar in operation to a window air conditioner. But, while an air conditioner removes heat from the room, a dehumidifiers primary purpose is to remove moisture.

The dehumidifier is an appliance that requires regular maintenance. If not it can ice up, overflow, cease removing moisture, become noisy, inefficient, or fail completely. The following is a step-by-step method used to return yours to its peak efficiency.

Tools required:

  • Multi section container (ice cube tray or egg carton)
  • Long handled narrow brush
  • Oil can
  • Rags
  • De-greaser or spray detergent
  • Selection of screwdrivers
  • New filter

1. Remove water collection bucket and put aside.

2. Remove the filter from rear of machine. Filter is usually within a frame and simply pops out. If there is no filter proceed to next step. If uses a disposable filter simply replace it with a new one. Other types are made in a plastic frame and can be cleaned and reused. To clean the filter, lay it flat in sink and sprinkle surface with powder laundry detergent. Fill sink with enough hot water to submerge filter. Soak for 15 minutes. Remove from water and rinse. Hang up to dry while proceeding to next step.

3. Remove the rear grille from the main body of de-humidifier. If none, then proceed to next step. If rear grille offers resistance then look for hidden screws. If grille locks into cover proceed to next step. Once removed, place the grille aside until later.

Technicians Hint: Dehumidifier may use different types and sizes of screws. Use multi section container to segregate.

4. Remove metal cover of de-humidifier to access inner workings. Cover screws may be difficult to see because are often painted to match body color. Look for two or three screws along each side of base. Once screws are removed lift the cover straight up. Use extreme caution at this point. Front grille may be secured to cover. Some fronts are put together like a puzzle. Parts often interconnect or screwed in to one another. If front grille lifts off when you remove cover try to separate then from each other before proceeding. Front grille may lock into groove along front edge of cover. Avoid pulling off any wires from humidistat or indicator light.

5. Heating and cooling coils should now be exposed. They may appear as one but are actually two separate coils in very close proximity. Both will need to be cleaned.

Use a narrow brush to remove surface dust and dirt from the front and rear surfaces of coils. Use an up and down motion to avoid bending fins. Area between two coils must also be cleaned. Professionals use a coil cleaning brush, but any narrow brush will work.

Brush should have a diameter of approximately two inches and have very soft bristles.

While cleaning the coils you must use caution. The fins are soft aluminum and can be easily damaged. Once surface dirt is removed, spray with de-greaser or light cleaner. Allow to sit for few minutes. Remove dirt and excess cleaner by slowly pouring warm water into fins. Don’t use any pressurized water such as from a lawn hose. Don’t allow water to enter any electrical connections or components. As an added precaution cover the motor with one of the cloth rags to protect it from the water. Repeat this step until coils appear clean.

Technicians Hint: There is a good cleaner-degreaser on the market called HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) cleaner. If this is not available Fantastic spray cleaner used in kitchens and bathrooms works quite well.

6. Straighten any bent fins on the heating or cooling coils. By doing this you will increase the efficiency of the airflow through the coils. Professionals use a tool called a fin comb to do this job. Something soft and narrow such as a Popsicle stick will work equally well. Under no circumstances use anything sharp, such as the blade of a screwdriver. Use caution — the pipes are filled with refrigerant.

7. Locate the fan motor oil holes. Add a few drops of oil to each end of the motor body. Use a general purpose (3in1) oil or clean motor oil. A #30 oil is sufficient. Three or four drops on both ends of the motor body are sufficient. Add the oil slowly, pausing a few seconds between each drop. If added too quickly over-lubrication will result.

8. Wipe any dirt from fan blade using a soft rag moistened with cleaner. Do not bend or twist blades. This would cause a vibration that will harm the motor.

9. Vacuum all surfaces including front and back of grille assembly. Vacuum the underside of the metal cover. Vacuum dirt buildup from base and any other exposed surfaces.

10. Drain any water left in the base and allow it to dry.

11. When completely dry plug in and test operation. (Note … On some models testing may require you to temporarily override of bucket overflow switch or temporarily insert the water storage bucket). Test to confirm that cooling coil begins to sweat water within few minutes of operation. If everything appears okay unplug and reassemble. Insert water collection bucket slowly to avoid damaging float switch mechanism. A bend float arm can allow water bucket to overflow, or affect compressor start-up.

Repeat this simple step-by-step procedure every year. If you do, the machine will be ready for many more years of dependable service.

By Donald Grummett
Copyright © 2006 Donald Grummett. All rights reserved

Common Household Appliance Energy Use

Listed below are some common appliances, their wattage and an estimate of operating costs. There is also a simple formula for calculating operating costs below.


Air Conditioner (Room) 6,000 BTU

Air Conditioner (Room) 9,000 BTU

Air Conditioner (Central) 2.5 Tons

Can Opener

Ceiling Fan


Clothes Dryer

Clothes Washer, Automatic (With Electric Water Heating)

Clothes Washer, Automatic (With Non-Electric Water Heating)

Coffee Maker


Dishwasher (With Electric Water Heating)

Dishwasher (With Non-Electric Water Heating)

Electric Blanket

Electric Heater (Portable)

Fan (Portable)

Food Blender

Food Freezer (15 cu. ft.)

Frying Pan

Hair Dryer (Portable)

Heating Pad

Humidifier (Portable)

Iron (Hand)

Microwave Oven


Range (Self Cleaning Cycle Only)

Refrigerator Frost Free (17 cu. ft.)

Refrigerator (Non Frost Free – 13 cu. ft.)


Vacuum Cleaner (Portable)

Water Heater Typical Family of 4


































120 – 720

120 – 720

240 – 860

1/12 – 1

15 – 330


6 – 28

7 – 40

7 – 40

4 – 30

120 – 720

8 – 40

8 – 40

30 – 90

30 – 90

18 – 52

3 – 5

180 – 420

10 – 20

1 – 10

15 – 30

80 – 540

1 – 10

5 – 30

10 – 50

1/2 – 1 1/2

150 – 300

190 – 300

1 – 3.5

2 – 6

98 – 138


90 – 540

126 – 756

850 – 3000

.01 – .18

1 – 20


30 – 140

33 – 196

3 – 16

4 – 27

42 – 252

20 – 102

3 – 16

5 – 16

30 – 90

2 – 6

1 – 2

60 – 140

12 – 23

1 – 10

1 – 2

8 – 54

1 – 10

5 – 30

125 – 625

2 – 5

75 – 150

56 – 90

1 – 4

2 – 5

375 – 525

Watts Avg. $/Mo

6.75 – 40.50

9.45 – 56.70

63.75 – 225.00

.00 – .01

.08 – 1.50


2.25 – 10.50

2.48 – 14.70

.23 – 1.20

.30 – 2.03

3.15 – 18.90

1.50 – 7.65

.23 – 1.20

.38 – 1.20

2.25 – 6.75

.15 – .45

.08 – .15

4.50 – 10.50

.90 – 1.73

.08 – .75

.08 – .15

.60 – 4.05

.08 – .75

.38 – 2.25

9.38 – 46.88

.15 – .38

5.63 – 11.25

4.20 – 6.75

.08 – .30

.15 – .38

28.13 – 39.38

MG Services

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(613) 733-4380


2413 Junction Ave, Ottawa, ON K1V 8G8


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