I have a large freezer; this lets me stock up when perishables are on sale or overflowing in the garden. The freezer is full of fruit, vegetables, butter, nuts, shredded cheese, and meat.
Having a freezer means extra expense to run it; to cut operating costs I have a manual-defrost freezer, which takes about 2/3 as much electricity to run.
The reason a freezer needs defrosted? Each of the shelves in the freezer has cooling coils running through it. Whenever you open the door, new air gets inside, and this air always has some moisture in it. This moisture condenses on whatever is coldest- the coils- and freezes. It gets thicker with time, and that layer of ice traps the cold. This makes the freezer work harder and harder to cool. Ice blanket= bad.
Defrosting every 6 months is usually about right. It's a little hassle, but pulling everything out reminds me of what all is in there. Seeing it all again= good.
At any rate, you're trying to melt all the ice out of the freezer while NOT letting all that food thaw. There are some tricks I've learned along the way to help with that. Watch the slide show above to learn them.
Clean, tidy, with no crumbs or sticky spots...
This will be a no-brainer for some people, but it took me until about five years ago to figure this out.
To keep your kitchen (or any other area) clean, you don't have to take a whole day, or week, to do it. That's hard to schedule anyway, and usually overwhelming. Yet there are some deeper cleaning things that need done- like cleaning out kitchen (or bathroom) drawers, wiping the tops of the cabinet doors, or cleaning the nooks and crannies in them. Here's what I do now:
Every now and then, when I open a drawer, I notice there are crumbs in the corner. Or in one of the organizing baskets. Or maybe there's some sticky line where a child spilled their juice down the front of the cabinet. If it's a two-minute job or less, I clean it right then. Most of these things are. If it's done then, it doesn't have to be added to my already-huge "To Do" list in the back of my head. That takes a load off me. Dumping out the whole drawer, wiping it out, and putting everything back will take only a couple minutes more. If I happen to have extra time, I may go on to the next drawer. If I'm wiping a cabinet, I usually finish wiping all the cabinets on that side of the kitchen.
It doesn't all have to be done at once. Just clean little bits as you notice them. 2-5 minutes a day gets the job done in a hurry, without leaving you frazzled!
I have a natural tendency to whack something until it works.
When I was growing up, my mom told me all the time, "Don't force it; there's a reason it's not working. Find out what it is."
Funny enough, when I would stop whacking, slow down, analyze, and think it through, I could often solve the problem, whether it was a gate that wouldn't close, or a vacuum that wasn't working. This soon helped me be more brave, and I started taking on slightly more complicated problems. When I was ten and my digital alarm clock wouldn't work, I opened it up and solved the issue. (It turned out that dust was short-circuiting the board. I blew it off.)
Yeah, that was lucky. Still, my philosophy now is "Well, it's already broken... I can either try it myself and maybe save some money, or definitely have to pay to replace or fix it."
One thing I've learned is... if you can figure out how something works, you can more easily figure what's wrong, and therefore how to fix it. I have a couple books - my favorite is the children's book, The Way Things Work (I figured how to fix a leaky faucet handle with this book!)- but the Internet an amazing fix-it tool.
The two most-common problems I've seen with toilets, the ones I've personally had to fix a few times, have to do with the flapper, and the handle or chain.
What? You don't know what a toilet flapper is? Yeah, neither did I, until someone told me...
Not only is it helpful to know how the toilet works, but also to know what the parts are called. Then you don't end up at Lowe's, wandering aimlessly down the plumbing aisle. Or trying to tell the employee that what you're looking for is that red-rubber-round-thingy-at-the-bottom-of-where-the-water-goes. (That's the flapper , which is in the bottom of the tank.)
For great diagrams on how a toilet works, and what the parts are, see toilet-repairs.com
So- those two most common problems? First, If your handle goes up and down but the toilet won't flush, check the chain inside the tank. Sometimes it comes off, and sometimes the connection will have simply rusted away. Buy a new chain; it's about $2. If you need a whole new handle, it's still under $5.
The other common problem is when the toilet flushes and won't stop. That's a problem with your flapper- basically a flexible cover for the hole at the the bottom of your tank. If it doesn't close, the water keeps running through. Sometimes the chain is too long, and gets caught between the flapper and the hole. Sometimes the chain is too short, and the flapper can't close. And sometimes the flapper is being old and stubborn and needs replaced. It's about $3. Isn't it worth trying? A plumber's a LOT more expensive!
That said, sometimes hiring someone is worth it. We had a different type of problem with our toilet- it wobbled. It's a toilet in the basement, and the floor was not flat, there were no bolts for it to connect to, and the sewer hole for it was in the wrong place. By my husband's best reckoning, it would take a jackhammer to move the pipe to the right place in the cement. After four years of asking him to PLEASE replace that toilet, I hired a handyman. It's now installed properly, the basement bathroom is now fully functional, and we will have no further arguments about when the project will be completed. Merry Christmas to me! and to him!
(If you live anywhere from Ogden to Provo, and are looking for a handyman, I hired Russ from Repairs-R-Russ, using a local half-price coupon, available until midnight Dec. 28.)
What is this?
My fridge is having issues. It's about 6 years old, which is considered late middle age for a refrigerator. There was water and ice on the top right fridge shelf, and food was frozen on the right side, but not the left side, of the fridge. Clearly something was not going as designed. And I really want it working well for all that Thanksgiving food! (To be honest, though, when DON'T I want it working perfectly?)
Also, the front half of the outside
of the appliance was warm/hot to the touch; the back half was cold. That means the motor is working harder than it should. What to do? I am not fond of paying $100 for a service call, so I tried a couple simple things.
The external hot/cold problem was solved very, very easily. I should have done this earlier; it is supposed to be done regularly anyway. I had forgotten; it's probably been two years. The condenser coils collect dust and lint- they should be vacuumed or brushed off every six months.
Mine were covered in a 1/2" thick 'blanket' of fuzz and dust. They can't do their job of cooling with all that on there!
I vacuumed the coils and everything else down there, then pulled the fridge out, unplugged it (don't skip this step!), and removed the back access panel to see how bad it was back there. It was as coated as the front. I cleaned that area out, using both a long-handled dishwashing brush and the vacuum. That was last night. This morning, the outside of the fridge is all the same temperature. That probably means my electric bill should drop a little bit now, and the motor should last longer. So how hard is it to clean your condenser coils? Very, very, easy. In some cases, you won't even need a screwdriver. My refrigerator is a Whirlpool; to get instructions for other brands, and other repairs or maintenance, one good site is repairclinic.com
Once you understand some of the basic inner workings of your fridge, not only will you have a new respect for it (and its inventors!), but you'll be able to problem-solve better, saving you money!
This is the refrigerator grill, at the front bottom. It's easiest to access with the door open.
Some grills need to have a couple screws removed to pull it off/ mine just clips into place. All I have to do is pull it straight out. Normally I do this with two hands, one close to each end of the grill, but I had to have one hand free for the camera!
These are the condenser coils behind the grill. These have already been cleaned, or you would see nothing but lint!
Sitting next to the fridge grill, this is a specialty brush you can buy to clean with. It's bendable and close to two feet long. Other things that work to clean this narrow space include: some vacuum attachments, a pipe cleaner (those fuzzy things you use in craft projects), a flyswatter, a handled scrub brush.
The back service panel. The fridge has to be pulled away from the wall to access it. Before removing the screws here, cut off the electric current: unplug the fridge or turn it off at the circuit breaker. Turning the control off inside the fridge will not do it. These screws had a six-sided head; use a rachet if you have a head to fit, or a wrench. Or maybe yours are regular screws.
What it looks like inside, after cleaning. The long greyish-white thing on the left is the evaporation tray, right behind the post in the center is the condenser fan and motor, and the black thing is the compressor. Behind the compressor are more condenser coils to clean off.
This back area does not get dirty as quickly as the front, so a cleaning every year or two should be plenty.