frequently asked questions

REPAIR OR REPLACE?

Whether to repair or replace a particular appliance is the most common question we are asked. So common in fact, we have the discussion daily. Sometime the question is whether to even spend the cost of a service call, or replace the appliance without even knowing the exact amount a repair would cost. We see both extremes, customers who discard units, which have much useful life remaining to those who insist on repairing very questionable machines. Although to some extent every situation needs to be considered individually, we will attempt to address some general guidelines here.

1. Should I spend the cost for a professional estimate?

To decide ask yourself a few questions:

Is the appliance over 25 years old? ________

Is the appliance an imported or unusual brand? _________

Have you spent more than the present value on repairs during the past 2 years? ________

Is the physical condition of the appliance poor? _______

If you answer yes to any of these, you should probably go ahead and replace it, if you answer yes to more than one, DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY! BUY A NEW ONE! But if the answer to all of these is no, then it is likely worth repairing, and at this point we suggest scheduling an appointment for a complete estimate. Most customers next want to ask what it will cost to receive an accurate estimate, and we believe that is a very good idea! We have tried to set fair rates that will encourage the initial evaluation. This is because it is the only accurate way to decide and because we believe we can repair the large majority of items at a price that will very reasonably extend the useful life of the appliance. But here we caution you to ask questions! We are very glad to quote specific rates for an initial call, but unfortunately that is not the case for every firm. Some of the national service firms have very high up-front charges, and that is if you can even get them to quote specific rates. Most customers want to discuss specific symptoms and sometimes it is helpful. However we would like to repeat, a specific “hands on” evaluation in the only accurate way to make an estimate, and we continually refer back to the general questions above.

2.How much should I spend on my older appliance?

Many times we have heard 50% of the cost of a replacement suggested as a rule of thumb to answer this question. We believe that is a fairly reasonable figure. We will suggest a few other things to consider. First of all that assumes you have answered no to the questions in the section above. For example we would suggest a much lower % on a 25-year-old washer. That percentage also should vary a little depending on the type of appliance. We suggest a little lower percentage on water appliances, such as washers and dishwashers and a little higher on dryers and refrigerators. Be sure to calculate the add-on costs for replacement. Our estimates are usually all-inclusive and should be compared to the total replacement cost, including things like delivery, installation, and taxes. It is also fair to add the cost of the service to provide the estimate to the replacement cost, because if you do not repair the unit that will add to your total cost. You may also want to consider the time and effort required to select a new unit, plus the date installation can be accomplished.

3. The Biggest Factor

We admit to being biased, but we must suggest that probably the biggest factor in this decision is trust in your service company. Is your company pre-disposed to a recommendation? Do they only want the easy jobs? Do they want to collect their (high) diagnostic fee and sell a new unit? Can you depend on their estimate? We do not understand why anyone would call a company they do not trust. If that were the case with us we would not want you to call us. We believe this is what makes this decision so difficult. At Bowers we are committed to honestly evaluating each job. We will take into account all of the information cited here and give you our best recommendation. We have been in business for a long time and plan to remain. We don’t want the headache of keeping a unit past it’s useful life patched up any more than you do. On the other hand we will stick to our estimates and will do our best to make your investment pay off when we recommend a repair. Our business is built on our customers trust!

4. Our Replacement recommendations.

After we are asked whether to replace an appliance, the next most asked question is what brand we recommend as a replacement. We do not have one answer. We would suggest considering our opinions expressed here, and then buy the model that you feel best meets your needs. Primarily we recommend brands that we do warranty service for. We feel that in our area those brands offer the best likelihood of long term satisfaction and a good value, based on cost per year to own. You will find these brands listed under the link on our home page. In the past we have been partial to American brand names and in general still find that they offer the best service support as the appliance ages. However the differences continue to lessen as the majority of American branded appliances are being sold by large conglomerate corporations less sensitive to the individual consumer. We tend to be partial to the basic models, ones with simple, mechanical controls, when you can find them. There are a LOT of premium featured appliances being marked today, but from a service point of view these high-end models often create unrealistic customer expectations about the overall quality of the unit. Often the added features provide few significant benefits. We suggest looking at features carefully and evaluating what real benefit they will offer you. Digital controls in refrigerators and range products are pretty standard now. They are generally pretty dependable, but tend to be more expensive to replace and sometimes not available as the appliance gets older.

LAUNDRY

FRONT LOAD WASHERS are excellent for energy efficiency and cleaning results. Reliability and customer satisfaction has seemed to improve over the past 10 years. We have seen some prices come down significantly over that time period as sales volumes have increased. They are still much more expensive than the basic $300 top loader that we have seen in the past few years.

One misconception we see is that customers expect them to be more reliable than a standard top loader, because they are 2 times more expensive. Although they do offer much better energy efficiencies, better washing results than new top loads, and have some other features not available on top loaders do not expect them to last any longer. Although we do a lot of repairs on front loads under $100 we do see many more repairs that are in the $200-$400 than we ever have in the past with top loads because of the price of the parts.

Also front-loaders installed on pedestals are popular, but unless you have a concrete floor, we would not recommend that. We see a LOT of stability issues from front loaders installed on pedestals in homes with wood floors.

TOP LOADS As of early 2011 most manufacturers have quit making washers that fill the tubs with water. Please see our separate article devoted completely to these.

For over 20 years prior to 2011 our most common recommendation for washers and dryers have been what is known in the industry as Whirlpool’s direct drive washers and matching dryers. They were sold under Whirlpool, Estate, Roper, Maytag, Kenmore, and other brand names. They are easy to service and have a good service record. There were thousands of these sold.

In the past we have never suggested that a used appliance was a good choice for anyone planning to buy a new one. However, for now for anyone looking for a simple dependable top loadf washer we ARE GOING TO RECOMMEND that they consider looking for a used late model direct drive washer.

OTHER BRANDS

PREMIUM BRANDS. There are some other higher quality brands available, brands like Sub Zero, Wolf, Five Star, etc that we do not strongly recommend because service support from the companies are poor or limited in our area. Fisher-Paykel is a brand some consider pretty good quality that we do not recommend at all because of this.

GENERAL ELECTRIC is the one major brand we do not do warranty service for. The quality of their mid-priced models are very similar to Whirlpool and Frigidaire, however the quality of their low-end leader models are notoriously poor. We do a lot of out of warranty service on GE, however availability of warranty service in our area is limited.

KENMORE is the Sears in-house brand. When you consider Kenmore appliances remember that Kenmore is not a manufacturer and that the unit may be made by any one of a number of manufacturers. They are generally good quality products, however the primary negative is that you are tied into their service department for the warranty period, regardless of your satisfaction. We service more Kenmore appliances than any other company in our area after they are out of warranty, however we sometimes do not have good access to service literature for some specific models. Sears usually sells units that match every Kenmore model under the original manufacturer’s brand name. We recommend these because they give you more service options.

DRYER TAKES TO LONG TO DRY

Long Drying times is probably our number one service call. Ironically, most of the time it is not caused by any fault in your dryer. Let’s go over a few basics. We often tell customers that in your dryer it takes 2 things to get your clothes dry, heat and air flow. Of these 2 things AIR FLOW is the most important. Another subject that should be addressed is what is normal? In the 1960’s we often heard people talk about ½ hour as a normal load. We still hear from customers that swear their loads routinely get dry in 30-40 minutes. We would consider these exceptions today. It is very hard to say what is normal. There are a lot of variables, more than possible to cover here, but we’ll mention a few. Design of dryer, size of load, type of fabric, temperature setting of dryer, washer spin settings and your venting system are a few. Since 1985 manufacturers are relying more on air flow and less on heat to accomplish the drying in order to meet federal energy requirements. This is adding drying time. It is also why your old dryer almost always dried faster than your new one will. The newer the dryer it seems the worse this is. Here is a real general guideline – for what it’s worth- If you have an “automatic” cycle (as opposed to a timed cycle) of some sort on your dryer and you set the temps to match your fabric, a normal load (for instance 5 pairs of jeans and 5 shirts) should be dry when the dryer stops. However, as we discussed above, this could take some time. Drying times of 60-90 minutes would not be unusual today. Many people jump to the conclusion that long drying times has something to do with the heating element. The heating element in your dryer is a filament- like a light bulb. It is either good or bad. Just turn your dryer onto the middle of a normal cycle and let it run 10 minutes, open the door and feel inside the drum, if it is warm your element is ok. This discussion is assuming that there is heat present in the drum—- in these cases long drying cycles is almost always caused by an air flow problem. There are a few things inside your dryer that affect the air flow. First, and the one you control, is the lint screen. Clean it after every load. The most common air flow problems are caused by your vent system. We will cover those first and then come back to the less common issues with the dryer. All modern dryers use 4” venting. NO 3” pipe or fittings are acceptable. The ideal vent would be short rigid pipe, with no turns. In most homes this is usually not possible. For practical reasons we need to add length, turns and flexible venting. ALL of these slow down the air flow and make the drying times longer. The goal is to make the venting system as efficient as possible to keep your drying times to a minimum. If your drying times have never been good with your present installation you probably need to examine all your venting. If you can keep the total length under 15 feet with only 1 or 2 solid elbows you should hardly notice any additional dry times. As you add any of the things mentioned above your times will go up. If you have to have a long vent it is important what it is made out of. Flexible venting usually comes in white plastic and aluminum foil. You should discard any plastic venting you might have. It collects lint, tends to collapse easy when it is hot and is no longer UL approved for safety. We use flexible aluminum venting for transition from the dryer to the wall. We find it is most practical for servicing and cleaning, but care must be taken to be sure it is not mashed or restricted. In some situations you might be able to get away with some additional flexible venting, but we would never go more than 10 ft total. For best results, all vent pipe should be rigid. Rigid dryer vent is available in aluminum, galvanized, or plastic (PVC). Aluminum is the best. It has lowest air resistance, is light, easy to work with and will never corrode. Galvanized works good too, is usually available in longer lengths, and sometimes is a little cheaper than aluminum. It is a little thicker, so a little harder to work with, will corrode after 15-20 years and when it gets old tends to build up with lint worse than aluminum. PVC is ok, is durable, and can be blown or “roto’d” out to clean. It has some tendency for moisture to collect inside it and then lint will stick to it and build up. You should always drill small drain holes at any low points for moisture to drain out if you use PVC. If you previously had good drying times and it has recently changed the first step is to usually look for a restriction. Look over the top of the dryer with a flashlight and examine the venting behind before you move the cabinet any. Many times you may find the vent mashed or otherwise collapsed- sometimes that is hard to tell after you move the dryer out. If that looks ok pull out the dryer and begin inspecting it for other restrictions. Lint build up or birds nests are 2 of the most common things. If you find a restriction in your venting and get your drying times back to what they have been, maybe it would also be a good time to review some of the suggestions above and improve your vent system overall for even better drying times!

If you feel like your venting is as efficient as it can be there are some things inside the dryer to check and it is probably time to call for service. Lint buildup within the dryer itself, felt drum seals, missing door gaskets, and malfunctioning temperature controls are all possibilities. If you can’t get what you consider an average load dry in one cycle on your dryer and you’ve went as far as you can yourself with the venting system it is probably time to call us! We will be glad to come out and evaluate the overall system and make recommendations to get that time down. Remember- you never get those minutes back that you spent waiting for the towels to dry!

LOW WATER USAGE WASHERS

ENERGY SAVINGS IS THE HOT TOPIC! –A DISCUSSION ABOUT LOW WATER LEVEL WASHERS–

All appliance manufacturers have been under pressure for some time by the Federal Government to reduce energy and water usage in all products. They are working hard to make washers that use less water. Low water use top loaders such as the Whirlpool Cabrio and Maytag Neptune have been on the market for several years. Up until now customers have had a wide choice of other washer designs. Those are becoming more and more limited in top load models. We are hearing fancy rhetoric from all these companies about how great new technologies are allowing these machines to wash and rinse with greatly reduced amounts of water. We are suspicious that all this is just their best efforts to make the most of the regulations, and remain unconvinced of the machines effectiveness to get heavily soiled clothes clean and also do a good job of rinsing. We are seeing increased complaints from customers along these same lines. If you are in the market for a new washer our advice is to ask questions and do your research. If you are looking at a new top loader it will probably not fill the tub up with water. This might be good for the way you use your washer, or it might not, it’s always better to know what you’re buying ahead of time. In the future we expect it to be very hard, if not impossible, to buy a machine that uses a full tub of water. If you normally have very soiled clothes, such as someone in automobile repair or farming, you probably will be forced to consider a front load washer for best cleaning results.

MY DISHWASHER IS NOT CLEANING

Now What?

Unless you can identify a specific malfunction with you dishwasher , VERY FEW cleaning issues will be corrected by a Service Technician. Environmental laws within the last few years have had a big affect on Dishwasher operation.

These Changes Mandated by government Regulations will affect the way your dishwasher works:

1. Water Temperatures Reduced

2. Amount of Water used Reduced

3. Phosphates removed from All Detergents

These are true if your machine is a few years old or if it is brand new!

In this article we are going to try and suggest the things you should do to improve the situation before calling for service.

Check the Basics before Scheduling Service

Start your empty dishwasher on a Normal wash cycle. Do not add dishes or soap. Position all spray arms in a twelve o’clock position. After the dishwasher has filled and started the wash cycle, let it run for a couple of minutes. Listen for normal pulsing sounds of water circulating. You will then open the door and check the first 3 items.

1. Check the water.

Theoretically, if you are running a clean, empty dishwasher, you should be circulating clean water. There should never be soap suds in your dishwasher. It would be normal to see a few suds bubbles when you open the door that dissipate within a few seconds. If the water is murky or if there are suds on the surface of the water, you probably have a significant soap issue. If this is the case, the system MUST be purged of the soap build-up. One way to do this is to run the dishwasher on the heaviest soil cycle (i.e. pots & pans) until the water is clear. You may also pour a cup of milk or vegetable oil into the water during the main wash to help dissipate the soap. This may resolve itself in as few as 1-2 cycles, or may take many cycles, depending upon the severity of the build-up. Reduce detergent and /or change brands to correct problem. If you have a water softener you may need to buy detergent formulated for soft water. For softer water or very well rinsed dishes you may need as little as 1 teaspoon of detergent for good results. You may need to do this test for a few weeks to be sure it is not reoccurring.

2. Check the amount of water.

Has the water filled the bottom of the tub to within 1 inch of the side walls? If there is not enough water in your dishwasher, it will not clean well, and the spray arms will not spray with enough force. Be sure you are in the middle of a wash when you check this, 2-3 minutes after you hear water circulating. Check this twice. Call for service for this issue.

3. Are the spray arms turning?

Have all of the spray arms moved, or are they in the same position? Some dishwashers don’t use all spray arms simultaneously, so you may have to check again after the cycle has run for more than a couple minutes. If spray arms are not turning, check for obstructions or stopped up nozzles in the arms. Some machines have filter screens in the sump area. If they are removable, take them out and clean them. On Machines where the screens are not removable use of Dishwasher Magic once or twice a year will help keep them clean. If the arms are not turning and these steps do not correct the problem then call for service.

4. What is the temperature of the water?

The water temperature should be a MINIMUM of 120 degrees. An easy way to check this temperature with a meat thermometer. Assuming the dishwasher is next to the sink, run hot water into a cup until at it’s hottest. You may need to raise the temperature of your hot water heater, or make sure you run the faucet in the kitchen to get hot water to the sink before starting your dishwasher. Water that is too hot may cause some issues. Maximum recommended for home situations would be 135 degrees.

5. Draining For best washing results.

be sure the machine is pumping out all the water after each wash and rinse. Sometimes you can tell this by listening, but the simplest test is at the end of the cycle. There should be no water in the bottom of the tub, except the center sump area after the machine finishes the cycle. Some machines leave a small amount of water around the center sump, but no more than a cup or two. If the machine is not pumping out all the water this could be related to your washing issues. This will need to be repaired. Call for a service appointment.

General Guidelines for Some Common Problems

1. White film or cloudiness that can be cleaned off by hand

Sometimes this is a very simple adjustment, but it can also be the most difficult of any problem to improve. First you should check our list of Basics. If you do not see any specific malfunction you may be dealing with issues relating to the hardness of your water, which may be helped by changing detergents, changing amounts of detergent, adjusting your loads, and/or use of additional additives.

Detergents:

It is important to note that ALL Dishwashing Detergents have underwent big changes to their formula in the past few years. Whatever brand you are using is NOT the same stuff it was before January 2012. We recommend powdered detergent. Try 2 or 3 different brands. Adjust amount, start with small amount, (1 teaspoon). Many more problems are caused by too much detergent than too little. If you are rinsing your dishes well, do not put detergent in the pre-wash cup. Be patient. It may take 5-10 loads to test each brand.

Additives:

This is a very complex path to start down. There are dozens of additives on the market, and some work well for specific problems. Some are particularly recommended for cleaning the dishwasher and some are for regular use. The most common ones are Glisten, Glass Magic, LemiShine, and Dishwasher Magic. Many of these originally contained phosphates and have formula changes in 2012. Also note that most of these have a basic detergent under the same brand. We are speaking of their additives used for improving poor washing results, NOT their basic detergents. Most additive manufacturers recommend using this type of product in the prewash cycle to help remove residue. We generally recommend following the instructions on the box, but we have been hearing about some good results mixing equal parts LemiShine or Dishwasher Magic with your detergent in every load. Another product we have recently seen advertised which claims to still contain phosphates can be found on line at www.bubblebandit.com. We would be interested in hearing back from you with your results if you try this.

If you want to try an additive here is where we suggest you start———–

1. Try the BubbleBandit detergent.

OR

2. Try additives in the Pre-Wash dispenser and Detergent in Main-Wash dispenser.

OR

3. Mix 1 Teaspoon Lemishine Additive or Dishwasher Magic and 1 Teaspoon of your regular detergent in the Main Wash dispenser. Try this for 5-10 loads.

Loading your machine:

Follow common sense when loading your dishes. All dishes turned down. Load light enough that water can reach all surfaces. Make sure dishes are not blocking spray arms. See the Use and Care manual for your machine for other loading tips.

2. Food not washed off

Some materials may not completely wash off in dishwasher. Food such as burned on grease and dried eggs will have to be manually cleaned off before putting in machine. If you do not run machine every day, but add items until you have a load then you may improve this issue by using the Rinse and Hold cycle. Each time you add items run Rinse and Hold. Other than this, follow the same suggestions as in number 1 above for poor washing.

3. Gritty residue, not on dishes when put in machine, easily cleaned off by hand.

This problem is usually caused by low water fill, restricted filters, or incomplete drain. Be sure you have read the section on Dishwasher Basics. If the information there does not help resolve your problem this is one that can probably be helped by a Service Tech.

4. Water spots dried on dishes

Be sure rinse Aid is present and being dispensed. Most dispensers only put out a few drops per load, so it may take 20-30 washes to actually see a difference in the liquid level. Some machines have an adjustment for the amount dispensed. For hard water turn setting up. Try both Air Dry and Heat Dry to see which gives you best results.

5. White film or cloudiness that cannot be cleaned off by hand.

This may be etching. This can be aggravated by water that is too hot and too much detergent. Check water temps as outlined in Dishwasher Basics. Reduce detergent use to a minimum.

STEAM WASHERS & DRYERS

WHAT’S NEW IN APPLIANCES? STEAM WASHERS AND DRYERS

Yes! All the rage in the appliance industry is about steam washers and dryers. As with anything new there are a lot of questions. Why would I want to use steam in my laundry? How do they work? Do all brands work the same? If I add steam in the dryer won’t it take longer to dry? Is the feature worth the added cost?

Here is what we know so far:

Why would I want to use steam in my laundry?

Steam is well known as a gentle effective tool for cleaning. It is also known as a safe gentle way to remove wrinkles from fabrics. The appliance manufacturers have tried to build these attributes directly into your washer and dryer.

How do they work?

Based on training we have up to now each washer or dryer will have a steam unit installed. Water is connected to these units which is converted to steam. The steam is usually routed through a tube which is injected into the top of the tub through a nozzle. The amount and timing is controlled by the main electronic control of the appliance. Yes, this does require a water hose to be connected to the dryer.

Do all brands work the same?

Most of the steam units use a heat process. One brand has a different pressure method. Of course they all claim to be the best. As with any new technology, it is still being developed. We’re sure all dealers will have their favorites and you can find some information on the internet and other consumer sources, such as Consumer Reports magazine. We are not hearing about any big differences in how they work.

If I add steam in the dryer won’t it take longer to dry?

This is kind of a touchy subject in this era of energy conservation and complaints about long running dryers. The answer is probably yes! The reasoning is that this feature is not expected to be used every day, and often it is to be used to freshen and remove wrinkles from clothes that have already been dried.

Is the feature worth the added cost?

There are only a few of these in our market so far. From what we have heard and from internet research it seems that most feedback is positive. There seems to be agreement that the steam features do as they are advertised, particularly in the washing machines. We have read some comments where customers were very happy with the way the dryer steam cycle removed wrinkles from stored clothing. However those same customers acknowledged ways to get the same results in a much lower priced normal dryer. It seems there might be an argument to be made to purchase only the steam washer.

As usual, the added features will probably add some maintenance issues and costs as the appliance get older, but to date we are not aware of any significant ones. In the end the question about value vs cost will have to be an individual decision. As usual we advise to collect as much information as you can and make the decision based on what is best for you!

ARE ALL WARRANTIES THE SAME?

APPLIANCE WARRANTIES, Is there a difference??

All of us lead very busy lives and when we buy a new appliance most of us do not pay much attention to the warranty. No one expects to need it! In the past that was not a big deal, they were almost all the same- 1 or 2 years – or longer… and they covered most anything. NOT SO TODAY! The problem we face today is that most of you take warranties for granted, and usually expect that they cover a lot more than they actually do.

SO WHAT TO DO? The 2 basic things we suggest is know what the warranty is when you buy an appliance and keep your receipt.

The receipt is the simplest. You have always had to keep a proof of purchase but these days it is more important than ever. We suggest that you simply staple it inside the owners book and put it away in “that drawer”. Knowing the difference in warranties and understanding them is a LOT harder. Ask questions. We suggest you look at the literature on the appliance yourself. Warranties are so varied it is hard for even the most experienced sales people to keep up. The basic appliance warranty is 1 year parts and labor. However, these days you almost HAVE to look at the specific list of what is NOT covered. You will be surprised to see what is on the list. For example Whirlpool will cover almost nothing if a part has not failed. This means that if you are not happy with the way your dishwasher is washing, or how your oven is baking there is in effect no warranty coverage for that.

Another example is refrigerator compressors. For over 50 years compressors have almost always been covered for 5 years. Today that has been changed to 1 year. You can still find some longer coverages. Premium brands like Kitchenaid, Jenn-Air, Electrolux and Sub-Zero sometimes have longer warranties.

Another issue to ask about is who will service the appliance? For some brands it is a lot harder than others to find someone familiar with them who wants to work on them. It is not always the price range that matters here. Some cheaper lines, like GE and Kenmore and some high-end brands, like Viking have very limited choices who will service them, particularly in warranty. Check the list of companies we do warranty for!

Information about warranties naturally brings us to the discussion about extending warranty coverages. We would divide that into 2 areas. First is requesting extended coverage from the manufacturer to repair specific problems and secondly the subject of buying extended warranties. We constantly have customers complaining about some limitation on their warranty. A lot of times the requests are unrealistic, but if you have a repair issue shortly after the warranty expires (less than a month) or if you have problems repeat in the year after the warranty is out and you had the same problem while in warranty these are things we recommend you call the manufacturer about. See our web site for manufacturer contact information.

Watch for our advice in the future about buying extended warranties! You are welcome to call if we can answer any specific questions about warranties.

WHO DOES THE REPAIR?

YOU DO HAVE A CHOICE OF WHO DOES YOUR WARRANTY AND EXTENDED WARRANTY REPAIRS.

When you call a manufacturer or service contract company they will usually try to send out a company they own or one who gives them the cheapest rates. Sometimes they will tell you you have no choice, but that is usually not true. We always appreciate it when you ask for us, and they will almost always dispatch us if you insist. If you have a repair you think might be in warranty we just need some documentation of your purchase date. For regular warranty repairs it isn’t necessary to call your dealer or manufacturer, just check our list of companies and give us a call. If you are more comfortable speaking to the company first, that is also fine, but not necessary

These days almost all EXTENDED WARRANTIES MUST BE PRE-AUTHORIZED. We perform service for a number of extended warranty companies, particularly if your appliance came from Lowes or Best Buy. Check with us about your contract. Almost all of those companies now require service to be pre-approved. Please call the phone number on their contract for service and as we said above, we appreciate it when you ask for us to do the repair.