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Friday, August 17, 2012

Stop using your oven's self-cleaning feature

From Lifehacker:

It does more harm than good.

Read the rest of the article here.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bye-bye Samsung Dishwasher

The saga with our Samsung DMR77 dishwasher is about to come to an end. About a week after the last service call to replace (yet again) the basket height adjusters, a door spring broke (actually it was a piece of rope that rubs against a tensioner pulley).

When the tech came, I asked him to file a report to have Sears buy back the machine and replace it with a new one. We did so as repairs seem to be required on a monthly basis, and no matter how much we clean the machine, we cannot seem to restore cleaning performance for more than a couple of loads.

As an aside, I must say that Sears in Canada has provided exemplary service. Without balking, it took a matter of hours before I was called to be informed that a buyback for $690 was approved, with the details sent to my local Sears Decor store. I could go anytime to choose a new machine.

The tech seemed to have a preference for Kitchen Aid, and while they look good and are now the silent champion, they are now quite pricey. I have been leaning towards Bosch, and fortunately for us, there was a great sale on the Bosch Evolution 301 at $450 off this weekend. While at $1249 this machine is overpriced (even for Canada) at $799 it is close to the best price I could find on-line in the U.S. and the cheapest in Canada.

This dishwasher is garnering excellent reviews for its reliability and cleaning performance. It is quieter (48 dbA vs 51 dbA for the Samsung), more energy efficient (259 kWh per year vs 310) and uses less water per cycle (11 litres vs 20). A few nice features include a light that shines on the floor to let you know it is running, and a fingerprint-resistant front surface that unfortunately does not really look like stainless steel. My only real gripe is the smaller capacity and apparently no quick rinse cycle (which I used all the time on the Samsung).

While Samsung makes amazingly good washing machines and refrigerators, I can't understand how they can continue to foist sub-par dishwashers on the market. Even the newer models seem to break with alarming frequency, and now Samsung is lowering prices to make them attractive to buyers.

Stay tuned for a full review of the Bosch Evolution in the coming weeks.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2nd redesign: Samsung DMR-77/78 rack adjuster clips

Barely 6 months after the last replacement of the so-called 'new and improved' rack adjuster clips, the tabs started breaking off again. I had the Sears tech in to fix the faulty float that causes the 9E error code and asked him to order me a new set.

Well they never arrived, and last week the circulation pump jammed with what I had suspected were the broken tabs. I am quite fortunate to have quick service from Sears (the service depot is just a few kilometres away), but when he showed up he didn`t have the right parts.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Samsung DMR77 Update - Rack Adjuster Clips redesigned!!!

Well well, a new problem with our DMR77 dishwasher surfaced, requiring a call to Sears Service.

Started a load one morning and heard what sounded like something broken rattling around inside the machine. I stopped and restarted but nothing happened. Didn't sound healthy.

After an emergency drain I tried to start the machine again. The pump would fill, but no motor starting. The machine would cycle, drain and fill, but nothing else in between. No error codes.

Called Sears service. I made the mistake of pressing "1 for English" whereby a CSR who sounded like he had marbles in his mouth tried to sell me Affresh, dishwasher soap, laundry soap, and a Sears Mastercard. Next time I press "2 for French" and get the local call centre (lucky us in Quebec... real people!)

It only took 3 days to schedule the appointment, and the tech arrived bright and early at 8 AM. Really nice guy who knew the machine quite well. First he checked if there was power to the motor (yes) which meant he had to take apart the machine. Basically the direct drive motor was jammed with something. I showed him the rack adjuster clips and suggested it was likely a tab that fell off (he agreed).

After he put the machine back together, we started a cycle, and heard the offending piece rattling around and then it went out the drain. Fortunately no damage done.

At the same time I had him order two rack adjuster clips, which arrived by UPS today (3 days only). And lo and behold! They redesigned the clips with reinforced tabs!

Note the vertical ribs that have been added to each tab. This should definitely solve the issue of the tabs breaking off.

For those that are interested, here are the part numbers from the Sears National Parts Service:

22 592DD97-00119A   Basket Adjuster
22 592DD97-00120A   Basket Adjuster

I'm not sure these part numbers are good in the U.S. but it should be fairly easy to get a cross-reference.

Since the tech was familiar with the machine, I asked him if he had heard of other complaints, like poor wash performance. He told me that all high end "energy efficient" washers had mediocre wash/drying performance, in fact some of the newer Bosch dishwashers use so little water that the upper and lower baskets have separate wash cycles and an entire load can take up to 5 hours (!).

He said that if you want a machine that washes and dries well,  buy a "cheap" dishwasher that still uses old technology. You will get a noisier and less energy and water efficient machine that has a smaller capacity, but it will clean and dry using a much shorter cycle.

At the same time, I am pleased that Samsung finally modified the parts. Anyone with the old broken rack (basket) adjusters have a case to call Samsung customer service and ask for some free replacements. Design defects can always be legally exempted from limited warranties so it would be worth it to try and get them for free.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Life expectancy of appliances

Here is a great article from about the life expectancy of new appliances. I remember that Consumer Reports used to produce a similar list.

While appliances such as refrigerators have become much more energy efficient, they often do so at the expense of wear items like compressors (much much smaller).

In our last house we had a Maytag dishwasher that was 12 years old and still going strong, it stayed with the house. We also gave a way a Hotpoint range and refrigerator that was 20 years old (still going strong) and a Maytag washer that was 14 years old and still good.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances

A lot of people seem to be searching for the best way to clean their stainless steel appliances. One thing I learned about having three different Samsung stainless steel appliances (the DMR77LHS dishwasher, the FTQ386LHS range and the RF265ABRS French Door Refrigerator) is that not all stainless steel cladding is created equally. For example, the refrigerator is by far the easiest to clean, followed by the range, and then the dishwasher which is a royal pain to keep polished.

I always recommend starting with a basic mineral oil based polish like the 3M Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish.
This is a very gentle cleaner that you spray on, wipe off, then polish. I only use this product on the refrigerator and as long as there are no spots or "stains" it works well enough on the range. However the range can accumulate grime that oxidizes the finish, which cannot be cleaned by the 3M product and requires another strategy. For the tougher jobs I will use Cameo cleaner, which is also terrific for stainless steel pots and pans, and for stainless steel finish toasters that tend to discolor over time. For the really tough jobs I will use  Scotchbrite Stainless pads . However I recommend the Scotchbrite product with caution: This product is only good for thick stainless for cooking appliances like stoves and barbeques as it tends to scratch thinner cladding (like what you find on toasters).

My Samsung dishwasher represents the biggest cleaning/polishing dilemma. No matter what product I used (I tried 'em all) I could not get a streak or water stain free finish. There is something weird about the finishing panel, it is like a highly polished film that is bonded to a flexible polymer panel, and it is extremely difficult to maintain. However I did find the solution that worked: Peracetic acid!

Now you are thinking I'm using some sort of weird or potentially dangerous chemical and I must be off my chump. But for those who don't know, peracetic acid is just acetic acid (vinegar) treated with hydrogen peroxyde (whatever you do, DON'T TRY MIX THESE TWO LIQUIDS AT HOME!!!). Like Hydrogen Peroxide, this is a highly unstable compound that has an extra oxygen molecule, which very quickly detaches and binds to organic compounds, which makes it a very effective sanitizer. (Hydrogen Peroxide is just a water molecule with an extra oxygen attached, e.g. H2O2). It smells like vinegar, and a weak solution will absolutely clean and deoxidize any highly polished metal surface.

Once my diswasher was cleaned, I found out that simply wiping with a damp rag and then polishing with paper towel was all that was needed to keep things spot free. I can usually go several months between "deep" cleaning.

A few caveats: since it is an acid, you don't want to use it too frequently as it will be gently eating away at any metal surface.  You also want a solution of 5% (for sanitizing) or 3% (for cleaning), which means that you will be diluting from concentrate. (There are some great instructions on Ehow for diluting the concentrate.) Also keep in mind that the solution loses its activity and reverts back to plain old vinegar very quickly when exposed to air. Just mix enough to do your cleaning/sanitizing chores (I use it to sanitize my countertops and cutting boards, then throw away the rest when I'm done).

Where do you get peracetic acid you ask? If you have access to a craft beer and wine store, you can usually buy it there. Also most pharmacies should be able to order it for you.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Waring Pro WT400 Professional Toaster

Readers of this blog know of my ongoing frustration with finding the perfect toaster. Well quite by accident we came across the Waring Pro WT400 on sale at Zellers (of all places) for less than $50 Canadian.

Usually the first thing I do when I find an interesting model is to check the wattage, and I was quite surprised to see the Waring rated at a full 1800W (at 120 volts)! Normally 4 slice toasters are underpowered especially when compared to more powerful 2 slice models that can go as high as 1100W. So when you are in need of power and don't have a 220V service for your $1200 Hobart generally 2 slice is the way to go. Just the same we really liked the look, so we decided to pick one up and try it out. So far we are quite pleased.

First this toaster is a beaut, but it is big! Compared to our outgoing Cuisinart 4 slice it is a bit wider but a lot taller. It is as big or a bit bigger than the Gordon Ramsay, a toaster we liked but despite its size did not toast the tops of the bread slices. The slots are almost ridiculously wide, and can practically accommodate an unsliced bagel. And no problem with oversize sourdough slices are completely swallowed up. The stainless steel finish is top quality and the large embossed WARING logo on the front makes it look like it belongs in a commercial kitchen.

Controls are simple. There are the ubiquitous toast levers, a defrost and bagel button, and a rheostatic toast control that oddly enough combines a switch to cancel the toast. It feels like an old time radio volume control that doubled as the power switch...turn it all the way counterclockwise and it clicks to cancel. I can't say I am very fond of this feature as you have to remember your previous toast setting when you turn the toaster back on. Crumb trays are removable from the front, which is quite handy.

Performance is quite good. As expected, moister unsweetened breads like English muffins and of course my sourdough loaves are barely done even at the maximum setting. However regular breads toast perfectly at the medium setting with a slight bias towards one side (the side that works with reduced power for the bagel setting). The toaster doesn't need to be preheated, and repeated cycling produces consistent results.

Obviously Waring has learned a thing or two about toasters, having 3 lines of commercial food service models. Can't say if this consumer model will be durable, and only time will tell. So far we are very happy that we finally found a decent toaster, and at a more than reasonable price. We won't be too upset if it doesn't last, and we might even go for a Waring commercial down the line.