Repair or replace small appliances?

It seems like everything is disposable these days. You know the deal. Your vacuum loses suction and when you take it in for repair, you're told that the cost of parts a labor will be more than the cost of brand-spanking-new model. 

Lately, it's increasingly difficult to find an appliance that's build to last and not designed for planned obsolescence. But if you have an appliance warranty that's still valid, repair might prove your best bet. You may also want to spend some extra money for an applaince repair if it's an older, sturdy model, like your mother's favorite mixer.

But if your smaller appliances are older and parts are hard to find, a new purchase may make more sense.

Any store, epecially the big box variety, that sells and repairs appliances may be motivated to convince you to buy a new product, so try to find a reputable shop that just does repairs. Ask for an estimate, which you can compare to the price of a new item. To peruse other consumers' experiences with appliance repair shops and how they deal with this issue, check out Angie's List for member reviews and ratings.

Choosing a vacuum cleaner

A vacuum may be a small appliance, as least compared to a fridge or washing machine, but it does a big job in a household. When choosing a vacuum, first consider whether you want a canister or upright model, noting that uprights often feature more adjustability. Then, choose between styles that use bags that must be replaced and bagless vacuums that collect debris in clear, removal containers. Consider your needs for a filter, too. If allergies are a concern, choose a unit with a HEPA filter. (HEPA stands for "high-efficiency particulate air filter.")

Consider, too, how a vacuum's attachments can extend its usability. Here's a guide to attachments:

  • Dusting brush: This rounded attachment is designed for use on delicate objects and uneven surfaces. You could try using it on curtains or small rugs.

  • Crevice tool: Usually a flat attachment with one end cut on the diagonal. It’s designed to get at hard-to-reach places.

  • Turbo brush: These attachments, about six inches wide, are similar to the regular floor brush, and are commonly used to vacuum stairs.

  • Upholstery tool:  A good tool for cleaning furniture.

  • Pet attachment: Available as a comb or bristled brush that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. These attachments separate, lift and remove shedding hair. They allow hair to be sucked into the vacuum cleaner as the pet is combed or brushed.

  • Specialty attachments: Some vacuum cleaners brands can be fitted with independently designed attachments that can be used to clean ceiling fans, blinds, screen doors, dryer vents and beneath refrigerators. Some mini-attachments can be used to clean electronic products

Microwave and microwave ovens

Microwave ovens typically have power levels ranging from 600 watts to 1,200 watts. The most commonly used microwaves have 800 watts. If the microwave will only be used occasionally and to jreheat meals, warm drinks or defrost, a basic model is usually enough.

A built-in microwave is typically more expensive than a portable, countertop model. Built-ins are often combined with a convection oven. Also, microwave convention ovens are an option.

According to the federal Energy Star program, you can reduce cooking energy by as much as 80 percent when using the microwave, instead of a stove or oven, to reheat small portions Using a microwave instead of a stove also helps save on air-conditioning costs in summer, since less heat is generated.

Small kitchen appliances

When choosing smaller kitchen appliances, such as coffee makers, toasters and mixers, price and frequency of expected use are often the deciding factors. But even small appliances can come with big features, if you're willing to pay:

Coffee makers: Coffee makers are available in hundreds of styles, ranging from those that grind the beans and brew the coffee to a simple, basic coffee maker without extra features.

Toasters: Toaster size depends on your family size and budget. A standard model will toast two slices of bread or halves of bagel and is the least expensive of the different styles and models.

Mixers: Mixers are available in handheld or stand-up models. A standard model requires you to remain at the mixer, while a stand-up model comes with different size beaters, and you can adjust settings so the mixer works while you complete other tasks.

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