Appliance Maintenance Tips to Beat the Heat

How to keep your appliances going strong through the summer

Summer’s just around the corner and we know you’re wondering how heat will affect your appliances. If you’re asking yourself questions like:

  • Does hot weather affect freezer?
  • Does hot weather affect refrigerator?
  • Does humidity affect refrigerator?
  • Does room temperature affect refrigerator?

The answers to your questions are a resounding YES!

Before the heat sets in, now’s the time to make sure your appliances won’t wilt in the heat. To help you out, we’ve compiled an effective list of timely appliance maintenance tips.

So, let’s take a look at the 5 appliances most vulnerable to heat and humidity and find out what you can do to give each a fighting chance.

1. Refrigerator

When temperatures rise, so does the use of the refrigerator. Every time the door is opened, precious cool air is lost and extra humidity flows in. 

Here are some helpful tips for taking care of your fridge:

  • Don’t put the refrigerator where temps are above 85° (or 95°, according to some sources) or where there is high humidity
  • Let it breathe—have several inches around the sides and top so heat can easily dissipate
  • Clean the condenser coil—check your manual to see where it is—could be in the back or behind the kickplate—and do it once a month
  • If you have to manually defrost, do it NOW—then don’t let it build up more than 1/4 in. before defrosting again
  • If you have a water filter, change it at least twice a year
  • Make sure the outer seals/gaskets are in good shape. Place a piece of paper at the edge of the door and shut it. If you can easily remove it, the seals need to be replaced.
  • Turn off the power-saver feature for summer—this enables the heater to turn on and dry up moisture to eliminate condensation
  • Get 2 appliance thermometers and put one in each compartment—make sure the refrigerator is between 35° to 38° and the freezer is between 0° to 5°; adjust your settings if you need to
  • If you have bins with humidity and temperature controls, choose higher humidity for veggies and lower for fruits, and warmer temps for veggies and colder for meats
  • Don’t overfill or underfill—about three-quarters full is just about right; add filled water jugs to take up space if the fridge is too empty as this helps maintain a more constant temperature when the door is opened
  • Cover or seal food—covering ensures excess moisture doesn’t evaporate into the fridge or freezer
  • Don’t put too many room-temperature items in at once
  • Don’t put in hot food—cut into smaller portions and cool in ice first
  • Don’t place perishables in the door—temps fluctuate more wildly there
  • Don’t let the door stay open long—get in and out quickly

Also, if you lose power, as long as you keep the doors shut, food in the fridge should be fine for 2 hours; the freezer 24 hours. And, trust me, you’ll be glad you put a thermometer in each compartment!

Here are two more tips, learned from personal experience:

  • Consider getting a smaller fridge just for drinks—that way your more expensive food items aren’t subject to constant temperature changes
  • In the freezer, keep some bags of ice and/or freezer packs—that way, if power is lost, you can raid them if you need to offload refrigerator or freezer items into travel coolers or ice chests

2. Air Conditioner

Summertime heat and humidity force your air conditioner to work extra hard. Window units and older central A/C units in particular struggle in high temperatures and/or high humidity.

Here are some tips to help keep your air conditioner working more efficiently:

  • Clean or replace the air filter
  • Keep at least one foot of clear space around the outside condenser unit
  • Make sure the outside condenser coil is clean—after turning off the power, clean with your garden hose on medium setting and don’t turn the power back on till the coil is dry
  • Turn it off a few hours each day—this lets any ice buildup melt plus it allows the motor to cool down
  • If you see ice on the outside or inside coils of a window unit, turn it off and spray gently with your water hose—this will help accelerate the defrosting
  • If you see ice on a central unit, turn it off and call a tech
  • When leaving the house, set the thermostat to 78°—any higher will lengthen the time it takes to cool down the house when you return; a programmable thermostat makes it easy to preset temps throughout the day (if you participate in an off-hour energy-saving program, 78° may need to be adjusted upward so your unit doesn’t kick on during the more expensive peak hours)

There are other ways to take the stress off of your air conditioner too.

  • If your region has high humidity, get a dehumidifier—by removing excess moisture, you’ll make it much easier for the AC unit to work more efficiently, otherwise you can end up with a cooled house with tropical humidity
  • Ceiling fans are a great help in stirring air and can make a room feel cooler than it actually is—same with box or floor fans
  • If it’s just one part of the house or apartment that’s struggling, add either a dehumidifier, a window unit, a ceiling fan—or all three!

3. Water Heater

Depending on the part of the country you live in, sometimes the water flowing into your home is a LOT warmer in the summer months. And whatever the incoming water temperature, you’re not going to be tempted to take long, steamy, super-hot showers. As long as there are no sanitizing issues in play, this means you may be able to dial back the hot water temperature during the summer.

  • Try turning down the water heater’s temperature by 10° and see if that works for your family
  • Check your other dishwasher and washer to see if there’s a setting to use an internal heater—if so, you may want to let those appliances boost the water temps rather than have your main hot water tank hold higher temps 24 hours a day
  • If it’s time to replace the water heater, consider going tankless—check with your plumber to see if your water needs pretreatment first (water with high lime content can create problems)

4. Washer & Dryer

Prepping these two appliances for summer use is pretty easy!

  • You can really cut down on heat and energy costs by choosing to wash in cold water
  • Make sure the dryer’s lint trap is cleaned before each load
  • Make sure the entire vent pipe duct system is cleaned once a year—you can buy DIY kits or hire a specialist
  • Adding a dryer ball or two in the dryer drum helps separate clothes and speeds the drying process
  • Air dry smaller, thinner items that tend to dry more quickly anyway
  • Drying clothes outside may be an option, if dust and pollen aren’t issues

5. Dehumidifier

Some parts of the country have high humidity almost year-round. Or perhaps the temps aren’t warm enough to turn on the A/C, yet the inside air feels clammy. Or worse, the air conditioning has cooled to the right temperature, but it’s still in too humid inside.

A good way to combat these issues is a dehumidifier. 

  • Place it at least 6 inches away from wall and use when temps are at least 65° (unless it is specially designed for use in lower temperatures)
  • Water collection tank should be emptied and cleaned on a regular basis—clean with soap and warm water or a disinfectant to kill any bacteria or mold
  • Air intake and exhaust grilles should be vacuumed with a brush attachment to eliminate blockages by dust and dirt
  • Clean or replace the air filter per the instruction manual’s suggested schedule
  • Adjust humidistat to between 40% to 50%
  • If there’s frost buildup on the coils, the room is probably too cold for it to work properly—turn off and unplug, then relocate to a higher spot in the room that may be a bit warmer; also there are dehumidifiers designed to work in cooler temperatures so you could look for one of those
Please note that if your A/C unit is too powerful for your air volume, it will cool the air before getting rid of the excess humidity. Of course, that can happen with a matched system too. Just don’t go thinking a stronger unit will automatically fix the problem! It needs to match your house or room size.

    Breezing through the hot summer months

    Don’t sweat the summer months worrying whether your major appliances will beat the heat. Following our suggested appliance maintenance tips will give them a big head start

    However, you should always be prepared for the worst case scenario. Appliances do eventually fail.

    Check out this blog for the expected lifespans of typical home appliances. If you’re worried that an appliance isn’t up to the battle, then consider replacing it now before the heat sets in.

    It pays to be proactive, not reactive.