October 30, 2016

Tips to Prevent Equipment Breakdown

Is your refrigerator running? No, seriously, is it? Folks rarely think about the health of their appliances, that is, until one fails. But there are steps that you can take to avoid equipment breakdown. Here are some tips to help you keep your home running like a well-oiled machine.

1. Washer/Dryer

Between family, work, and social obligations, most Americans find themselves doing laundry at least twice a week. With all this washing up, it’s a good idea to service your washing and dryer every five years, to make sure your clothes come out as fresh as they did after the first use. After repeated use, your hose could build up unwanted filth causing it to work harder than it was built to.

Removing the old hoses on your washer and replacing them with new ones will help water move more easily into the machine, meaning it will work less, cost less, and last longer. Cleaning the dryer exhaust every three to six months can help your clothes dry faster, using less energy. It will also reduce the risk of fire.

You can also add a drip pan under your washer/dryer combo. This will not only protect your floor and other mechanical items surrounding the machines, but will also allow you to easily see if your machine is leaking sooner rather than later.

2. Riding Lawn Mower

Your riding lawn mower works hard during the spring and summer seasons, as your lawn transforms into a lush, green carpet for cartwheels and other forms of family fun. You can think of your riding lawn mower as a miniature car – you should change its oil every 50 hours, check its tire inflation regularly, and clean the undercarriage every few weeks to prevent it from clogging.

Although regular maintenance is certainly important, the best way to help your mower live longer is to prep it before storing it during the colder seasons. Some key ways to prep your machine for winter include changing the oil, draining the gasoline, lubing the front axles, and cleaning under the hood. Become familiar with your riding mower’s maintenance schedule to improve the longevity of your mowing machine.

3. Refrigerator

Arguably the most used machine in any household, your refrigerator has to be dependable because your food needs to be kept at a certain temperature in order to remain safe for consumption. Maintaining a refrigerator isn’t difficult, and can potentially save you hundreds of dollars in professional repairs or a replacement.

First and foremost, temperature control settings should be set to middle temperatures to increase efficiency by using less energy, and therefore extend the life of your fridge. It is important to clean the condenser coils to avoid retaining heat which will cause your compressor to work harder. You can do this yourself with a stiff brush, but be sure to unplug your fridge and power it off at the breaker before you start to avoid injury.

4. Oven

From weekday casseroles to Saturday-afternoon pies, your oven works hard to keep you fed. To keep it in good order, be sure to clean your oven at least twice a year, but avoid removing the cooktop knobs to clean beneath them. If something spills in your oven, apple pie filling, for example, be sure to wipe that up right away. And be sure not to cool your pies on the open door! This can cause wear and tear to the door hinges.

5. Boiler

By preparing your boiler before winter, you could save yourself the stress and the expense of having to replace the entire machine. Each fall, have your boiler serviced by a licensed professional who will inspect and clean it.

In addition to calling in a professional, there are steps you can take all year round to keep things running smoothly. For instance, be sure to keep items far away from the boiler’s vents, as blocked vents can prevent the boiler from working properly. You should also inspect your boiler for lime-scale. Too much build-up can compromise the heating efficiency of your boiler, so de-scale it as necessary.

What If Your Appliance Still Breaks Down?

Despite your best efforts, your appliances can still break down, whether from normal wear-and-tear or an electrical or mechanical issue. The good news is that there are several ways to protect yourself from incurring a large out-of-pocket expense.

Purchasing a Warranty

Many Americans choose to buy product-specific warranties when they purchase an appliance. Sometimes, these warranties will be included in the price of your purchase, and you can buy an additional “extended” warranty as well.

However, US News explains that “most expensive consumer products—refrigerators, washing machines, big-screen TVs and stereos, for example—are reliable and don’t break down often” and suggests that extended warranty is not worth the additional cost.

Others prefer to purchase home warranties to cover appliances, such as those listed above, for up to a year. These warranties can provide coverage for a broad range of breakdowns due to normal wear and tear, mechanical or electrical problems.

Although such warranties can act as a financial buffer for those with expensive tastes, they may not cover all types of damage, such as damage caused by an act of nature. Furthermore, you likely will not be able to select your repair person, or decide whether the appliance should be repaired or replaced. The annual cost of a home warranty can range from about $250 to $1,700, and averages nearly $1,000.

Purchasing an Insurance Endorsement

An alternative to warranties is equipment breakdown coverage, which is an endorsement that can be added to your homeowner’s insurance policy. For example, The Hartford offers an endorsement that covers the possessions in your home from electrical and mechanical issues for only $30 a year. It also helps cover your plumbing, heating and electrical systems, burglar and fire alarms, ceiling fans, stovetop, dishwasher, washer, dryer, television, lawn mower, swimming pool, well pump and more.

Although covered losses are limited to electrical and mechanical breakdowns, this endorsement does cost significantly less than a warranty. However, unlike store-bought warranties, this coverage never expires—it covers your household systems or items regardless of their age.

The endorsement covers repairs, replacements, additional living expenses if your home is unsuitable for occupancy, pollutant cleanup and removal, as well as up to $3,000 for spoiled food (if the electrical or mechanical breakdown involves your refrigerator). In addition, if you find yourself in need of a replacement, this endorsement also provides coverage for “green” upgrades, should you wish to purchase a more environmentally friendly option for your home.

Disclaimer: This material is for informational use only. The coverage details described above are specific to The Hartford. Other carriers’ offerings may vary. Speak with your agent or insurer for more detail on your specific policy.

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