The Tao of appliances: Min and max load

August 11, 2015

Knowing the limitations of a major appliance and keeping to its rated mins and maxes is the first line of defensive maintenance. Giving a unit the minimum needed material to work with can be just as important as not exceeding the max.

For a device like a clothes washer, the motor spins the drum and agitates it at a certain level based upon the selection knob. If you do not have a “smart” washer, with a sensor that tells it how much laundry is loaded, the motor is going to turn the tub at the highest speed, whether or not you have enough clothes in there.

An exceeded max load puts undue strain on any appliance, reducing its efficiency, the quality of its current work, and the quality throughout its working life.

Liquids are another form of input. It is not a good idea to pour different types of cleaners into the wrong inputs. A washer has set times that it releases soap, softener, bleach, etc. Swapping inputs may cause a chemical to be used inefficiently or not at all.

Also, it could damage the functionality of the input—for example, the bleach opening becomes gummed up with several loads’ worth of fabric softener until the bleach is no longer pouring cleanly into your whites.

You should use a washing machine cleaner about once every month, or at least every two. If you had to pick up animal waste with your bare hands, you would wash well, with soap, hot water, and antibacterial lotion. Yet the average washer is exposed to everything that gets on your clothing every day, for years and years, and you expect it to come out springtime fresh.

Follow the instructions on the type and amount of liquid detergent, softener, and other chemicals based upon the washer’s design and the clothing’s care instructions.

If you have a smaller load, you should not be filling up the soap dispenser with the maximum amount of detergent. Not only is it wasteful, but a sticky residue may build up, making it harder to get your clothes clean.

The hazard of not performing regular cleaning and routine maintenance could be even more costly than an electrical repair. The clothes dryer, for example, relies on a constant flow of heated air through the drum to evaporate and cycle out moisture. Lint and other blockages of the vent, tube, and exhaust port are common.

In most conventional dryers, the heat is created by a coil through which an electrical current is passed, a thermos-resistor to prevent overheating, and a thermostat to control the temperature.

A blower pushes the air across the heating element and into the drum. As the water evaporates, particles of clothing and whatever else go through the vent screen. After this, air moves through the tube and out the exhaust port, along with heated air and water vapor.

The removable vent screen is not self-cleaning. Check the vent every single time you use your dryer, even if there is so little lint that there seems no need to clean it. That film can build up over time and block the airflow.

Also, if left uncleaned for a while, the lint can accumulate and get past the vent, then cake up inside the unit and contaminate its working parts. That includes the heating element and blower, which means a potential fire hazard or at the very least an early burn out.

Even dryers with computer components are easy to manage if you know how to open the chassis to clean out the vital areas. If you lose heat in the drum, you may be able to replace the entire heating assembly for a few bucks. For issues with the blower or drum not spinning, you may have much worse problems like a burned out motor or broken fan parts. In this case, it may be time to take the dryer into the shop or replace it.

You can find your machine’s technical manual online, or call the manufacturer to get a hard copy.

The Tao of Do-It-Yourself is intended to de-mystify simple home and auto maintenance projects. It is not a substitute for professional repair services. If you cannot identify the problem you are trying to fix, refer to the proper specialist right away.

A.T. Miller is an electrician’s apprentice who builds and wires control panels for power systems. He is also a cartoonist, writer, and web/graphic designer. At home, he is an amateur repairman, plumber, electrician, carpenter, and auto mechanic. His most important job is that of husband and father.

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