Repair Topics

A dishwasher is something one uses on a daily basis. It is easy to just assume that since it cleans dishes, it will not get dirty. The opposite is true. You must check if your dishwasher is clean, and more so frequently, to make sure that you are not using dishes that are not suitable for your health.

Cleaning Your Dishwasher

Here’s how to clean a dishwasher. First of all, make sure that you have the proper cleaning agents. The most common one is baking soda and vinegar. Most people prefer this because it is cheap and readily available at any home marts. Mix an amount of baking soda with water and clean the sides of the dishwasher using a sponge. You can add a little vinegar to the baking soda to make it easier to remove the grease from the dishwasher.

Clean the Inside of the Dishwasher

The next step will be cleaning the inside of the dishwasher. To do this, you will need to remove the dish racks and clean them in the sink. Use vinegar and baking soda in this process too. Some little bits of food may be stuck in the racks. You can use a toothpick to get rid of those.
Since you have removed the dish racks, the spinning holes are left open. Clean this using water. Run the water through the holes so that you can flush out the food particles in the holes. If there are any remaining food particles, use a wooden stick to remove them. It is important to avoid using metallic objects to remove the particles because you can damage the holes.
The edges are usually left out when the dishes are being washed. As such, they may be covered in grease and feel sticky. Take a sponge or a damp cloth and dip it in a new mixture of vinegar and baking soda and clean the edges. Make sure that you rub the sponge or cloth repetitively until all the stickiness is gone.

Cleaning The Filter

After this is done, check the filter for any dirt. Clean this with running water to make sure that all the dirt gets out. You can also scrub it a little with a toothbrush to remove the stubborn dirt particles. Always remember to check the dishwasher for rust stains. There are specialized rust removers that you can buy for this purpose. Sometimes the rust may be on the dish racks. If the rust remover does not work, then it is important to replace the racks with new ones.

Cleaning the Base of the Dishwasher


The next step on how to clean a dishwasher is to clean the floor of the dishwasher. Food particles often accumulate around this area and may even begin to smell. Ensure that you check the filter for any particles left and clean them out. After you’ve done this, take a small brush and clean the base of the dishwasher.
When this is done you can put all the parts back and run hot water to finalize the cleaning process. You can wash all the parts of the dishwasher with hot water that has lemon in it to give it a good scent.

how-a-toilet-works-pic1How a toilet works is some helpful information that you might want to know. Fixing a toilet is a little easier when you know about the basic operation.

Not what you wanted? See 'How to Fix a Toilet' for all the toilet repair articles or 'Plumbing Repair' for all of the plumbing topics.

Toilets use water and pressure to flush. The pressure is created by gravity and pipe sizing. The water is stored in a tank until needed. When these two ingredients are properly balanced, the waste disappears and all is good.

Of course it is not quite that simple. The water needs to get into the toilet somehow. The tank needs to fill to a certain level. When the toilet is flushed the water needs to be released into the bowl. After all that, the tank needs to refill and be ready for the next time it is needed. All of these are related operations to the workings of a toilet.

Competition and government regulations have contributed to advancements in toilet technology. As time goes on, the functioning of toilets may change. For now, the basic operation is essentially the same as it was a few centuries ago. Does history interest you? See the article 'The History of the Toilet', for the exciting story of the development of the toilet.

How a Toilet Operates

how-a-toilet-works-pic2A toilet operates by allowing a large amount of water into the bowl quickly. This creates a siphon action that literally sucks the water and waste out of the bowl.

For toilet repair topics, see 'How to Fix a Toilet' or 'Home Plumbing Repair'.

To say that a lot of engineering goes into making that work, would be an understatement. Not only do you want the waste to go away, but well designed toilets also rinse the bowl out when it flushes.

Toilet Plumbing

A toilet is connected to a household plumbing line that connects to the sewer at the street or a septic system. To keep from getting fumes back into your house, a toilet has a trap built into it. The pipe that goes through the base of the toilet is sort of 'S' shaped.

The shape of the trap insures that there is always water in the bowl. The water blocks the foul smelling air that would otherwise escape from the sewer line. Worse than 'foul smelling' sewer gas can be dangerous, that is why all plumbing devices in your home have a trap.

The Toilet Tank

The toilet tank stores a supply of water that is released quickly into the bowl when the toilet is flushed. When the water level in the tank is lowered the toilet fill valve engages refilling the tank. The fill valve has a float on it that shuts the valve off when the tank is at the proper level.

Toilets use a lot less water than they used to. This is driven by an effort to cut down on fresh water usage. See the article 'Toilet Water Usage' for more information. The government has imposed restrictions on how much water a toilet is allowed to use for each flush.

Toilet Flappers

The toilet flapper along with the flush valve is the part that releases the water into the bowl. The flapper lifts up when you engage the handle and allows all of the water in the tank to escape in a few seconds.

The flush valve has a short sectin of pipe with seals on it that provides a passageway from the tank to the bowl. In one piece toilets this may be part of the casting.

The Flushing Action

Gravity and the design of the inlet into the bowl create water pressure that is directed toward the outlet side of the trap. The rushing water creates a siphon effect that sucks the balance of the water and any waste out through the trap.

How a toilet works is controlled by the siphonic action of the water rushing through the trap. Gravity and water pressure are the two main factors. This is, of course, a simple explanation. Engineers that are working on toilets will say it is much more complex. The truth is that toilets have been in use for the last few centuries and a lot of improvements have been made over time. Yet, the basic functioning of a toilet has not changed that much.

Toilet Water Usage

how-a-toilet-works-pic3Toilets use water, so there is an expense for every flush. Obviously, toilets that use less water are desirable.

For toilet repair topics, see 'How to Fix a Toilet' or 'Home Plumbing Repair'.

Laws Concerning Toilets

In the past several years, the main focus has been on how much water a toilet uses. Since 1992 it has been a requirement that toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. This posed a problem for manufacturers, requiring major design changes.

Prior to that time toilets typically used 3.5 gallons. That was considered a 'water saver' style. Down from 5 and 7 gallons in decades gone by. In the beginning of this overhaul, they did little more than change the water level in the tanks.

Water Usage Developments

The first 1.6 gallon flush toilets did not work well at all. When the laws were first implemented, manufacturers did little more than lowering the level in the tank. With less water in a bowl designed for more, the toilets flushed poorly.

Many times the toilet would have to be flushed more than once. Flushing the 1.6 gallon toilet two or three times effectively defeated the purpose of lowering the water level.

In addition, the toilets clogged often. Clearing away a clog and then cleaning up afterward was not what people wanted.

Homeowners complained about the aggravation and mess. Steps were taken to make improvements. Engineers had to evaluate how a toilet works with the new standards in mind.

Improvements Over Time

Over time, engineers came up with better designs that flushed properly and did not clog using the 1.6 gallon requirement. The newer designs do a pretty good job on both flushing and water usage. Engineers were inspired by this and have now come up with toilets that use even less water.

There are toilets available that have a water usage of 1.2 gallons and only .8 gallons for liquids. This style of toilet makes use of pressure assist technology and tend to cost more than conventional toilets.

You will need to be the judge of whether these toilets are worth the extra money. Check out the reviews before you purchase this style to make sure the performance will be acceptable.

Common Toilet Repairs

With the new toilet designs, you might think that toilets are now problem free. They do have fewer problems than they used to, but they are not problem free.

For toilet repair issues, see the article 'How To Fix a Toilet'. For all plumbing problems you can review 'Home Plumbing Repair'.

Maintenance and repairs are still required from time to time. A clogged toilet is still a possibility. Foreign objects and too much volume can account for this. Toilet clogs are a dreaded occurrence, however, they can be taken care of quickly.

Toilets use water to operate. This means that leaks are a possibility. A toilet actually has several places that it can leak from. That is a little discouraging. Fortunately, when properly installed, leaks on a toilet are not that common.

Internal components like the 'toilet fill valve' and the 'toilet flush valve' can cause problems. Both of the devices control the water in the toilet. They are inexpensive parts and can be replaced.

Furnace filter ratings are intended to provide a way to determine which filters are the best value. The problem is that you may need to know how well the furnace filter does with certain types of particles. This is especially true for people that have allergies or respiratory problems.

There is a simple concept with furnace filters that is directly related to the filter's performance. The tighter or denser media means smaller particles that are captured. Therefore, for people that need better air quality, you need a filter that will capture small particles.

Need to change your furnace filter? See the article 'Replacing a Furnace Filter', for more information.

Understanding Dust and Bacteria Particle Size

How big is big? Or better yet, how small is small? Particles are sized in microns. Furnace filter rating systems will be based on the size of particle (in microns) that can be captured.

A micron is 1/25,000th of an inch. So capturing a particle that is "1" micron in size is a pretty big deal. In fact, your best residential filters are designed to stop that size particle (see the rating information below).

Is one micron the smallest particle that you need to worry about. In a sense yes. There are smaller particles, but if you put a filter in that would stop them, your furnace would not run. It would not have the power required to pull the air through the filter. So the compromise is going after all the particles up to one micron in size.

If you get the one micron dust, you will also get all the dust and bacteria that are larger than that.

There are some rating systems for furnace filters. Not all rating systems are completely unbiased. In most cases they give you relative performance criteria.

Furnace Filter MERV Ratings

The MERV rating, (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) has a numbering range from 1 to 20. This rating system is sponsored by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and is intended for comparison use. This rating system has been in use since 1987. The generally accepted range for residential use would be between 5 and 12.

The MERV rating is based on tests that determine the filters ability to stop particles from .3 to 10 microns in size. This covers a wide range of mold, bacteria, pollen and dust. As a rule, the higher the number on the MERV rating, the better. You need to keep in mind that a filter that stops particles, also stops air flow. Filters with MERV ratings above 12 are generally for commercial environments where the hvac equipment can handle the resistance.

For a residence, the types of furnace filters you choose should have a MERV rating between 5 and 12. The likely case would be between 7 - 9, a filter in this range provides decent protection without unduly restricting air flow.

For a graphical chart of what types of particles are stopped by a particular MERV rated filter, you can see this 'Particle Size Chart'.

MPR Rating System

Another system that you may run across is the MPR Rating System (Micro Particle Performance Rating). This system is sponsored by 3M for their Filtrete filters. It is a similar system to the MERV rating. It focuses on smaller particles. The MPR system uses numbers up to 1500, with the higher numbers being better.

The range for the MPR system that most homeowners would want to be in would be 800 to 1,250. The filters that it applies to are pleated disposable filters.

Other Filter Terms

Cheaper types of furnace filters may try to deceive you with numbers that have little meaning, but sound good. 'Arrestance' is a term that has to with a filter's ability to remove larger dust particles. Even a cheap filter may claim an 'Arrestance' rating of 80 - 90%. This may sound good, but it tells you nothing of how well it removes other contaminants. It is possible for a filter to have an Arrestance rating of 80% and have a MERV rating below 4.

Another term you may run across is 'Dust Spot Efficiency'. This measures the filter's ability to remove particles that can stain. Although it will not be an exact alignment, a filter with a higher MERV rating will also have a higher 'Dust Spot Efficiency' rating.

weatherstripping-for-doors-pic1Why do you even need weatherstripping for doors? Why don't they make the doors so they fit tight and the air doesn't leak? Sounds great on paper, but you would never be able to open or close the door if it was that tight. Doors have a gap around the perimeter. Guess what? Air comes in around those gaps. In the middle of winter it can be very cold air.

For related information, see the articles 'Troubleshooting Exterior Door Problems' and 'Adjusting Exterior Doors'. Is is possible for your door to be out of adjustment, causing the weatherstrip to not work correctly.

Weatherstripping is used to provide a flexible seal between the door and the frame. It keeps out the cold air. There are many types and sizes of weatherstripping. Some work better than others. They all work on the same principle, they are intended to stop the air leaks.

Over time the seals can go bad or get loose. When this happens the air leaks in again and you need to do something about it. At this point, you are wishing your air conditioner would blow this much cold air in the summer time.

Weatherstripping for Doors - Information

What Can You Save?

A carpenter or a handyman service will need to charge you for coming out. Then you will need to pay for the new weatherstripping and the time it takes to put it in. This will run you between $50 and $100.

How Hard Could It Be?

Dealing with weatherstripping is pretty easy.

These repairs will have a Difficulty Level of: Simple
These repairs require a Skill Level of: Job Jar Specialist

Check the Simple Things!

Weatherstripping is fairly simple. Some types are fastened with slotted screws. You may be able to loosen the screws and adjust the weatherstripping.

What Can Go Wrong?

Taking off the old weatherstripping without replacing it with new can leave you with a door that really leaks air. In a real pinch, put some masking tape over the cracks at night.

Weatherstripping for Doors - The Steps Involved

There are three types of weatherstripping that are commonly used on doors. In older homes, you may find metal weatherstripping that had two parts that fit together to form a seal. A common retrofit type is made of foam or rubber. Although this type is easy to install, it also does not last very long.

Newer doors, usually metal or fiberglass may have weatherstrip that fits into the frame of the door. The door pushes up against this type for a nice seal. This type only works on a door the specially mortised to recieve it.

Metal Weahterstripping

weatherstripping-for-doors-pic2Adjusting metal weatherstripping is not difficult and can save a lot on heating and cooling. There are several styles of metal weatherstripping, most of them are adjustable. One type that is sold commonly today consists of an extruded aluminum track with a rubber seal that fits into it.

This type usually has slotted screws that allow for some adjustment. First check to make sure that the rubber seal is in good condition. It should still be pliable, not dried out or cracked. It should not be missing portions along the door.

Are you satisfied that the rubber seal is still working? Remember it is the rubber seal that is doing the work. Close the door and stand on the outside. Do you see any gaps between the rubber seal and the door. Loosen the screws and snug the rubber seal up to the door, slightly compressing the rubber. Tighten the screws. Check the entire perimeter of the door in this manner. The weatherstripping should be snug on all three sides of the door. That's all it took, loosening a few screws? Wow, another weatherstripping for doors success story.

You can buy a replacement set for this type of weatherstripping for about fifteen dollars. You need a hack saw to cut it to length. Use the screws that are provided to screw it in place. With the door closed snug the rubber gasket to the door. Run the screws into the slots in the metal track.

Foam Weatherstripping

weatherstripping-for-doors-pic4Replacing rubber weatherstripping is not that difficult. This is the kind that is either rubber or foam and has an adhesive strip on the back. There are several configurations of self stick weatherstripping available. Check to see if the original material was thick enough to seal the door. You may need to obtain thicker material if there were gaps. Remove with a scraper weatherstripping that is dried out, missing or cracked.

Packages of this type of weatherstrip come with enough material to do one door (17 lineal feet). Don't mess around, replace it all when you do it. Take a piece with you to obtain a similar product. The important feature is the thickness. It has to be thick enough to fill the gap and be compressed when the door is closed. Material that is too thick will interfere with the operation of the door.

Peel the backing paper off the new weatherstripping and press it into place, starting at one end and working to the other end of each side of the door. This stuff can be a little frustrating, take your time. Working with a wet noodle comes to mind. Use a utility knife to trim the excess. Close the door and check to see if you have a good seal all the way around the door. Everything looks good? Then you have mastered all the skills needed for dealing with weatherstripping for doors issues.

Integral Weatherstripping

weatherstripping-for-doors-pic5Replacing integral weatherstripping occurs when it has worn out. Integral weatherstripping is the type that seems like it is built right into the door frame. Actually, it is very easy to change.

Newer homes (say the last twenty years or so) may have exterior doors that have the stop rabbited into the door jamb. The door jambs are 5/4” material on the stop side of the frame and 3/4” on the door side. At the step there is a slot cut into the frame that provides a place for a specially made weatherstrip to be inserted. This is great stuff.

To remove it, you just firmly pull it out of the slot. No glue or screws. It is sold in 7' lengths at most lumber and home stores. You can replace one side or all sides as needed. White and black are the two available colors. Cut the length about a half of an inch long and install it. Use a utility knife to trim it as needed (sharp blade, be careful).


For related information, see the articles 'Troubleshooting Exterior Door Problems' and 'Adjusting Exterior Doors'. Is is possible for your door to be out of adjustment, causing the weatherstrip to not work correctly.

Repairing or replacing weatherstripping for doors is not too hard of a job. By now your door should be sealed up and you should be warm or cool, depending on the season, with no drafts from your door. Well done.

Your furnace plays an important part and should always be kept clean to avoid wasting fuel. A dirty furnace results to more use of fuel which in turn lowers its effectiveness. It is essential that the furnace be well-maintained and this means regular cleaning of the furnace.

It is also possible for some parts and controls to be damaged by a dirt and dust. A clean furnace will reduce wear and tear on all of the parts. A professional furnace company will reccommend that you have the furnace checked and cleaned twice a year. You can do the cleaning yourself and save some money.

Cleaning a Furnace Filter

To know how to clean your furnace, you need to be aware of the parts that need to be cleaned in order for the furnace to function efficiently. The first part one should clean is the filter. To access the filter, you will need to unscrew the access panel so that you will be able to reach the filter. After removing the filter, check for dirt and use tap water to clean it. If the dirt is not removable by water only, you can use a clean rag to clean the filter. You can also use a toothbrush to scrub out the dirt. Some filters have replacements. If this is the case, then replace the old filter with the new one. If you don’t have one, you can acquire it from a hardware store. Ensure that it is the same make and size as the previous one.

Cleaning the Blower Fan

The next part of your cleaning is the blower. The first thing you should make sure you have done is shut off all the power that runs the blower to avoid getting hurt. After this is done, remove the fan. This will require you to cut off the wires that connect the fan to the power source. It is essential that you remember which wires go to which places because you will need this information when returning the fan after cleaning it. You can use a toothbrush to clean the edges of the fan. If you have any clean rags, make them slightly damp and use them to clean off the remaining dirt. The blower usually has a belt, which you will need to check to ensure that it is not worn out. If it is worn out, replace it with a new one.

Cleaning the Heat Exchanger

Next step will be to clean the heat exchanger. This is made up of chambers, so you will need to clean each chamber separately. The dirt comes off by vacuuming, but since it is a small space and cannot fit a vacuum cleaner, you can put a vacuum hose and reduce the power. This will ensure any dirt has come off. If your furnace uses gas, remember to turn off the gas before you start cleaning the heat exchanger.


General Furnace Clean Up

After cleaning these parts, take a towel and make it a little bit damp, then use it to clean the rest of the parts. After all this is done, return all the parts accordingly. The furnace also contains a blower motor which should be kept lubricated at all times. Before lubricating, you should clean the motor using a damp rag.
While cleaning, make sure that you have the manual to see how to clean your furnace without damaging any of the parts. If you feel that you cannot be able to do it by yourself, you can always call a handy man.

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