How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Refrigerator?

With good maintenance and care, your refrigerator can have an average lifespan of 14-17 years. That’s not too shabby! But, all good things must come to an end —even our trusty refrigerators.

When it comes time to replace your refrigerator, there are a number of things to consider and some important must-have features to look for. Remember, it’s going to be with you for a while, so it only makes sense to do your research, choose wisely and take great care to prolong its life.

With that said, here’s how much it costs to replace a refrigerator and some of those must-have features you should watch out for. Plus, we’ve included a little advice on knowing when to replace your fridge so you’re not left hanging with a bunch of melted ice cream on a hot summer day.

Is Your Refrigerator Dying?

Knowing that your fridge can last between 14 and 17 years is a great way to start planning ahead and budgeting for a new one, but you also need to be proactive and watch for the signs so you’re not stuck with a fridge full of spoiled food.

Some of the symptoms of a dying fridge include:

  • Excessive condensation — If you notice that your fridge is “sweating” more than usual, this could be a sign of inaccurate temperature control.
  • A hot motor — It’s normal to feel a bit of heat coming from behind your fridge, but if it’s getting really hot it might mean the coils are going bad.
  • You can hear it running — If you’re hearing your fridge running during the day, it’s likely that it’s having to work too hard to keep cool.
  • Frost buildup — If you notice a lot of frost buildup in the freezer, this can also be a sign that the coils are going bad. Defrost the fridge and wait to see if it happens again.

If your refrigerator exhibits any of these signs, it might be time to have a technician come out to do an inspection. Sometimes things like coils can be replaced for a fraction of the cost of replacing the entire refrigerator. On average, the cost to repair a refrigerator ranges from $292 to $413  —depending on model, repair and supplies.

Things to Look for When Replacing a Refrigerator

The best refrigerator for your home is the one that suits your family’s needs, offers enough space, and works with your current kitchen setup. In addition, consider these following tips when replacing your refrigerator:

Style #1: Top Freezer (Priced from $500+)

This is the traditional style of refrigerator that we all grew up with. The freezer compartment is at the top, with the refrigerated section below.

Why you’ll love it:

  • This no-frills refrigerator often offers more usable space than those with features like in-door water/ice, which takes up space.
  • If you have a slim space, these are often the best bet. Typical widths are 30-33 inches.
  • They use 10% to 25% less energy than bottom-freezer and side-by-side door models.
  • They’re usually the least expensive.

Style #2: Bottom Freezer (Priced from $700+)

Flipping the traditional style, refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom are popular for their convenience —putting the refrigerated compartment at eye-level where things are easy to see and reach. They can also accommodate wider trays of food.

Why you’ll love it:

  • Everything is easily reachable with little bending to get things in and out.
  • Those with double doors (french) are more energy efficient, as only one door is being opened and it minimizes the amount of cold air that escapes.
  • French door models don’t require as much room for the doors to swing open as other models.

Style #3: Side-by-Side (Priced from $900+)

Side-by-side models offer an equal balance between freezer and refrigerator space, which is popular with families who eat a great mix of frozen and fresh foods.

Why you’ll love it:

  • These allow for easy access and viewing of food in both compartments.
  • Perfect for family members with disabilities who need to access food without bending or a stepstool.
  • Typical widths are 32 to 26 inches, but keep in mind the divider between fridge and freezer means there’s some unusable space.

Style #4: Cabinet- and Counter-Depth (Priced from $2000+)

These models provide a custom look if overlayed with cabinet faces and are offered in shorter depths so they don’t stick out past cabinets and counters.

Why you’ll love it:

  • These models create a clean, custom look that can be the finishing touch in a luxury kitchen.
  • They often come in various sizes and configurations, such as under-the-counter beverage refrigerators or under-the-counter produce drawers.
  • Various depths and widths are available to create a truly custom kitchen.

Other Costs and Features to Consider

There have been a lot of advances in refrigerator technology over the past decade. If you haven’t purchased a fridge in the last few years, some of these options and features might surprise you. Keep these in mind as you shop:

Smudge-Free Stainless — Stainless appliances are all the rage, but the fingerprints left behind aren’t! Some manufacturers have developed smudge-free stainless options. Just remember that finishes vary from brand to brand and might not be a perfect match to your other appliances.

Smart Refrigerators — Believe it or not, your refrigerator can tell you what groceries you’re running low on. For $5,000, you can buy (Spring ‘17) the Samsung Family Hub refrigerator, which you’ll be able to digitally access from your phone while in the grocery store to see what you’re missing.

Water and Ice — In-door water and ice has been a must-have feature for a number of years, particularly with families that use water/ice often. Just keep in mind that this option takes up a lot of interior space, is susceptible to problems and can be messy. It also increases the cost of the fridge.

Installation and Removal — As with any new appliance, also factor in the cost of installation and the removal of your old refrigerator. Installation and removal charges vary by vendor and location, so always ask ahead of time. If your fridge is still in good working order, you should consider donating it to a local charity, which might pick it up for free.  

More on Replacing Appliances …

If you’re looking for more information regarding how much it costs to replace other household appliances, please don’t hesitate to consult our blog. Our team offers an ongoing series on this topic, so you have all the tools you need to maintain your home.

5 Must-Know Tips for Buying Home Appliances

While they may not do much for the charm or ambiance in your home, major appliances have a critical effect on your comfort and convenience. A new refrigerator is not nearly as exciting as a new car, but it is arguably more important in terms of making your daily life more convenient and healthy.

Maintaining and replacing appliances is a part of home ownership, so educating yourself on those topics is a smart move that will save you money in the long run.  For most homeowners, it’s good practice to learn some basics about kitchen, laundry, and HVAC equipment before the day comes when they must be replaced.

#1. Budget

You can always get a better deal if you have little time to look around. Give yourself that luxury by checking out appliance deals before you need them. Check the owner’s manual for your equipment to be aware of the expected lifespan for each appliance, and then plan to replace most of them at or before that time.

Keep in mind that there is usually some wiggle-room in appliance pricing, so don’t hesitate to haggle a bit. Base your bargaining on an understanding of the average price ranges, and you could save yourself $100 or so.

#2. Timing

Finding the best deal on the appliance you want can be a matter of timing.

The best time to buy most major appliances is during the months of September and October. During these two months, manufacturers unveil their latest models, so the previous models are discounted.

Refrigerators are the exception. Those new models are rolled out in May, so spring is the best time to shop for a refrigerator.  Another special consideration is air conditioning systems, which can be found at a discount in the winter months.

When inventory lingers into January, discounts can be even deeper, although you won’t have as many models to choose from.

Holiday weekends and the end of the month can also be good times to check appliance prices. Black Friday can be a great day to pick up a new appliance, and many merchants have sales on holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day.

#3. Options to Consider

The number of features and options available in appliances keeps growing, and sorting them out can be a little overwhelming. Count on perennial experts, like  HGTV, Bob Vila, or CNET for unbiased reviews and important details. Consumer Reports is also a fantastic resource, with lots of free information online. A subscription will get you access to a wealth of additional informative reports on topics like appliance brands most prone to need repairs.

Refrigerator

The fridge often seems like the center of the home, and there are a wide range of styles and options from which to select. Styles include top freezer, bottom freezer, French door, side-by-side, built-in, and mini.  Other important factors to consider are capacity and energy efficiency. 

Some desirable features to consider:

  • In-door ice and water
  • Door-in-door storage
  • Air purifiers/evaporators
  • Zoned temperature controls
  • Flexible shelf and drawer design

Range

A major consideration here is whether you’ll buy gas or electric. If you’re replacing your old range, you’ll save money by sticking with your existing power source. Freestanding units also tend to be more cost-effective than built-ins.

Features:

  • Control lock-out
  • Double ovens
  • Expandable stovetop elements
  • Convection option
  • Time/Delayed start

Dishwasher

Using a dishwasher can actually be more energy efficient and use less water than washing by hand. According to Energy Star, newer models use less than half the energy of hand washing, and can save up to 5000 gallons of water per year.

Dishwashers with an Energy Star designation are, on average, 12 percent more energy efficient and 30 percent more water efficient than standard models, so they can potentially save you hundreds of dollars over the life of the appliance.

Features:

  • Adjustable or extra racks
  • Soil sensors
  • Rinse and hold
  • Self-cleaning filter
  • Stainless steel tub
  • Hidden touchpad controls
  • Quiet operation

Washer       

Clothes washers are available as top or front-loading. Click the link to read what Consumer Reports says about the advantages of the different types.

Features:

  • Automatic detergent dispenser
  • Automatic temperature control
  • Extra rinse cycle
  • Stainless steel tub

Dryer

Here again, you face the choice between gas or electric models.

Features:

  • Moisture sensor
  • Auto-dry cycles
  • Extended tumble
  • End of cycle signal

Furnace

For home heating, gas is generally the most economical power source, while electric systems can be lower in initial cost.

Home heating units have seen tremendous improvement in recent years, both in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. According to Consumer Reports: “… today’s more-efficient gas furnaces can save you up to $40 for every $100 you spend on fuel compared with older models. They are also, on average, less likely to need repairs, according to our survey of subscribers, who told us about 21,132 furnaces they bought between 2008 and early 2014.”

Features:

  • Zoned heating
  • Dual air exchangers
  • Variable speed blower
  • Air filtration

Air Conditioning Units

90 percent of new homes in the U.S. are equipped with central air conditioning. Whether you’re looking at a new installation or replacing an aging unit, similar factors should be considered.

Maintenance is critical for keeping your AC running efficiently, and many installation companies offer the option to include some regular maintenance in the installation cost.

#4. Installation costs

For the average homeowner, installing major appliances is best left up to a pro, so the cost of installation, to include removing and disposing of the old unit, must be factored into cost.

A good way to save on installation costs is to use existing utility connections and locations. Stick with the current power source (usually electric or gas) to avoid expensive reconfiguration.

#5. Measure your space

When you’re replacing an existing appliance, double-check the space to ensure that the new model will fit your existing site. Remember that they have to fit in the door. Here are the most common sizes for home appliances:

  • Refrigerator –This measurement can vary depending on capacity, but the most common width is 36 inches. Be sure to allow room for the refrigerator’s doors to swing open, and for a one-inch clearance around sides and back for adequate airflow.
  • Range – Most electric and gas ranges are 30 inches wide, while some pro-style units measure 36 inches.
  • Dishwasher -Most conventional dishwashers are intended for a cavity measuring 24 by 24 inches.
  • Washer/Dryer– Most laundry appliances measure 27 inches wide, but some models with bigger capacities measure two or three inches wider.

what-does-home-maintenance-cost1

Does It Cost More to Maintain Your Home or Your Car?

While you’ve most likely spent considerably more to buy your home than your car, you may be surprised at how much less expensive –proportionally- it is to maintain your home.

This is great news, considering that your home is likely your biggest investment, and one that you could very well be looking to sell at some point in the future. A key difference to remember when we’re looking at cost of ownership is the fact that cars depreciate over time, while home values appreciate. Let’s compare.

Cars

The Kelley Blue Book tells us that the average price of a car in the U.S. is now $33,000. The Wall Street Journal tells us that Americans bought a record-breaking 17.5 million cars and light trucks last year. Cars are considered essential, and worth the cost of ownership.

But beyond the cost of financing and fuel, how expensive is it to maintain a car? There are several contributing factors, as you well know:

  • Tires
  • Maintenance and repairs
  • Taxes, license and registration fees
  • Insurance premiums
  • Depreciation

The American Automobile Association (AAA) published a study last year that laid out the costs associated with each of these. They note that costs do vary depending upon the type of vehicle, with SUVs costing more than 50 percent more to maintain than small sedans.

Our purpose here is to compare the cost of caring for your car to that of maintaining a house. To get an idea of what maintenance will cost for a car, we can look at the average costs related to these areas:

  • Taxes and Fees $665
  • Maintenance and Repairs $767
  • Tires $147

These considerations will cost an average of $1579 annually. This cost does not take into account the average annual cost for fuel ($1682), and is in addition to any loan or insurance payments you may or may not have. It doesn’t factor in depreciation, with its messy calculations (although AAA estimates around $2500 annually!).  It’s the cost of taking care of your car.

Home Appreciation

Your home, on the other hand is all but certain to increase in value over time. That’s what makes real estate such a great investment. Bay Area home prices have come back strong from the crisis of 2008, at a rate far ahead of national numbers.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency home price indexes for the Pacific region have increased by more than 54 points over the last 5 years, well ahead of the national average of just over 29 points for the same time period.

Specifically in San Francisco, home prices rose by over 11 percent in the year between October 2014 and October 2015. In dollars and cents, that means that a home valued at $200,000 at 2014 would have gained over $22,000 in value in just one year.

The cost of maintaining your home varies, naturally. It depends on these variables, according to The Balance:

  •      Age – the maintenance costs tend to rise as the home ages
  •      Weather – extreme climates boost maintenance costs
  •      Condition – a home that’s been neglected will cost more to maintain
  •      Location – this can make a home more vulnerable to water damage and other factors
  •      Single-Family vs. Attached – the single-family home will cost more to maintain

Do the Math…

So let’s see: if the average car costs $33,000, and we can expect to spend just over $1500 to care for the car, that means we will be putting right at 4.5 percent of the car’s value back into it each year for maintenance. This line of thinking ignores the fact that the value of your car actually drops over time.

For your home, which as we’ve seen, gains value over time, experts generally recommend that you budget about 1 – 3% percent of your home’s purchase price for maintenance and repairs. So for a home priced at $700,000: budget $7000 annually for maintenance and repairs.

These numbers make one thing very clear: home maintenance is a bargain compared with caring for a car. We all expect to pay a price for using our car all year, but there’s a tendency to avoid spending money on home maintenance until something goes wrong.

That’s a key phrase, because good preventative maintenance can greatly reduce your overall costs by keeping the need for repair and replacement to a minimum. Keeping your systems in top working order increases their lifespan and helps you avoid costly breakdowns.

Want some help with that? Glasshouse Service Providers will oversee the care of your home at an annual premium of just $396.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Washer?

If you’re reading this article your washer is probably operating for now, but you’re wondering if it might be time to replace it. This can be a tough call, especially if your existing appliance is clicking along okay or may be in need of a minor repair.  The question comes into play: Would I be better off to just replace the machine now?

Experts recommend this rule of thumb: If fixing the appliance costs 50 percent or more of the original purchase price then you should replace it. This is a helpful starting point, but there are other things to consider.

Warranty?

In weighing your decision, consider whether the machine is out of warranty. If you’re not sure about this, examine manuals, receipts and other documents that came with the washer; look through them to find warranty terms. If you can’t find the paperwork, go to manufacturer’s site or contact them directly.

If an appliance is still relatively new yet no longer covered under warranty and has broken down a lot, you may be better off getting rid of it.

Keep in mind that some credit cards offer an extended warranty on purchases. If you used your card to buy the washer, it might be worth looking into that possibility.

Age?

A new washer’s average life expectancy is 11 years. Consumer Reports recommends replacing any appliance that’s more than eight years old. This is because newer models are more efficient, so these washers save water and energy and clean your clothes better. The savings you’ll see from increased efficiency will help cover the cost of the new machine.

When repair makes sense

Of course there are times when you should repair a good machine rather than buy a new one. Many of the parts for washers –things like the, seals, pump, and the belts and pulleys can be fairly inexpensive to replace. You could potentially install those parts yourself. The trouble has to be diagnosed first, of course, and for most of us that means calling a repair service.

Another point to consider when there’s a breakdown is whether your washer has been involved in a manufacturer recall. Write down the model and serial number of your appliance, then check at www.recalls.gov for information on current recalls that might help determine what the problem is.

If you’ve decided it’s necessary to replace your washer, expect to spend around $1000, depending on the features you choose. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re choosing the one that suits you best.

Energy savings

Some models of washer are designed to use less water and energy. Energy Star certified washers will use 10 to 50 percent less; this can represent considerable savings over time.

Top- or Front-Loading?

There are top-loading machines with or without an agitator. Agitator models cost less and are faster than top-loading washing machines without an agitator, known as high-efficiency (HE) washing machines. Most HE washers are better at cleaning, gentler on fabrics, use less water, and have larger capacities.

While they cost more, the best front-loaders clean better and are gentler than the best HE top-loading washing machines, and they also use less water. Front-loaders take longer to complete a cycle than HE top-loaders, but they spin faster, extracting more water and trimming dryer time.

Space

Before you choose a new washer, measure your available space. The typical washer is 27 inches wide, but some with bigger capacities can be two or three inches. Measure the space you have to work with and allow at least 6 inches behind the washing machine for water hookups, and about an inch between the washer and dryer. And, if you have overhanging cabinets, be sure to measure the space between the cabinet and the washer.

It’s a good idea to measure the doors to your home to make sure a new washing machine can fit through them, too.

Capacity

The size of the load that your washer will need to handle depends on your household size. It’s a personal decision. The largest home washers have a capacity of 6.2 cubic feet, and will hold 28 full-size bath towels. The smallest are  3.3 cubic feet and will hold 14 to 17 bath towels.

Popular Features

  • Stainless steel tubs – these can handle faster spin cycles, which pull out more water and cut drying time.
  • Automatic dispensers – These are designed to dispense detergent, bleach, and fabric softener at the right time in the wash cycle. Some washing machines can even hold up to several months’ worth of detergent.
  • Extra rinse cycle – a handy feature for finishing heavy loads and clearing everything from pet hair to detergent residue.
  • End of cycle signal – a tone or beep alerts you when clothes are ready to move on to the dryer or clothesline.
  • Automatic temperature control – adjusts the water to the optimal temperature for the setting selected, rather than just mixing hot and cold water together.

Learn more about “How much it costs” to replace various items around your house on our blog. Some of our most popular articles are linked below for you convenience.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Dryer?

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Dishwasher?

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Water Heater?

How Much Do Utilities Really Cost?

Your monthly utility bills make up a significant portion of your housing costs. In fact, they can represent nearly half of a household’s monthly bills, according to a recent study by Trulia and partners Utility Score. They call utilities “the hidden cost of housing,” and they point out that costs can vary pretty widely depending on where in the country your home is located.

So a location with bargain home prices may not turn out to be such a bargain in the long term. Here are some of the significant findings:

  • Nationally, people in single-family homes spend $2,715 annually on utilities. ($1.68 per square foot, or 1.4% of the median single-family home value).
  • Of the largest 100 metro areas, Atlanta has the most expensive median annual utilities by dollar amount at $4,353.
  • The least expensive utilities are found in El Paso, Texas, where you can expect to pay $1,818 annually on average.

Based on the Atlanta figures, it’s tempting to conclude that a warm climate equals high utility costs, but the low costs in El Paso blow that theory out of the water. Apparently, climate is not a good predictor for how much median utilities are, at the zip-code or metro level, and nor is the value of local homes.

Markets like Detroit and Pittsburgh, which have relatively low home values, can be paying just as much for utilities on average as they do for their mortgage or rent payments. For residents in the most expensive metros like San Francisco or Honolulu on the other hand, utilities are just as high in dollar amounts, but look trivial after getting past monthly housing costs.

A good example of a city where home prices are high but utilities are fairly reasonable is Oakland. There, energy costs are a bit higher than the national average, but depending on the neighborhood, can stay under $300 per month.  Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has much more affordable home prices, but similar utility costs to Oakland’s, so energy consumption takes a bigger bite out of the budget.

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3 Ways to Lower Your Utility Bills

No matter where your home’s located, there are plenty of ways that you can minimize your cost for utilities. Some major changes might be adding solar panels –this carries some upfront expense, but will produce major savings down the road, or replacing old windows with a more energy-efficient product.  There are also small changes that you can make to have a big impact.

#1. Select efficient appliances

If your appliances are starting to show their age, you can likely save a good deal of energy by replacing them. The government awards an Energy Star to appliances that meet high standards for efficiency, so it’s a great idea to shop with that in mind.

#2. Add insulation

One relatively easy and inexpensive way to lower energy bills is to add insulation to your home. Keeping warm air inside in winter and outside in summer lets your HVAC system take it easy, resulting in lower monthly costs.

There are other benefits to increased insulation as well, like reduced noise from outside, better humidity control, and less pollen and dust from outdoors getting in. So you save as much as 10% on energy costs and have a more comfortable home. Win win.

#3. Practice preventative maintenance

A sure way to make sure your systems are running at top efficiency is to keep up with regular maintenance. This is an inexpensive way to buy some peace of mind, and it also keeps your utility bills under control.

Here are some important maintenance tasks to keep on top of:

Maintaining Your HVAC

  • Heating and cooling systems account for more than half of the energy costs in a typical U.S. home, so keeping yours properly maintained can yield big savings. Here are some general tips for HVAC care:
  • Check the system twice a year, as the seasons are changing. Replace the air filters at least that often.
  • The outdoor unit should be checked for adequate refrigerant levels, and any wear or damage. Accumulated leaves, dirt, and debris should be removed, and the drains checked for any obstructions.
  • Inside, the unit should be carefully inspected for gas leaks, loose connections, and clogged drain lines. The blower, burner assembly, and evaporator coils should be checked and cleaned.

For a more extensive look at how to maintain your HVAC, check out our recent blog.

Maintaining Your Laundry

Your laundry contributes greatly to a smooth-running household, so take some time to make sure that it’s running efficiently. This can be a simple matter of adjusting your habits.

  • Dryer: remove lint after each load; regularly inspect the vent. This will also prevent your dryer from suffering an early death. Here’s how much it costs to replace a dryer.
  • Washer: ensure that the machine is level; inspect the hose for loose fittings, bulges or cracks, don’t leave wet clothes inside to develop mold.

Maintaining Your Weatherproofing  

Another way to save on heating and cooling is to ensure that your home is as weatherproof as possible. As we noted above, insulation —particularly in the attic—  is a critical piece of this, but there are other things to keep in mind as well.

At least annually, check windows and doors to ensure that weather stripping s in place and in good condition. Inspect caulk around doors and windows. Depending on the severity of your climate, it might be wise to consider applying plastic over some windows as well.

Making it Easier: Home Maintenance with Glasshouse

This maintenance list can seem a bit overwhelming, and it’s true that most of us need professional help for many of these tasks. At Glasshouse, we specialize in carefully scheduled maintenance by proven, reliable professionals. Our clients save on their energy costs and gain peace of mind, knowing that we’ve got them covered.

It’s modern home care for today’s busy homeowners. Learn more about Glasshouse here.

The Smart Home Gift Guide 2016

As home improvement experts, our house managers spend a lot of time updating our clients’ homes with the latest and greatest gadgets, and we’ve learned a thing two in the process. So we pulled together a list of our favorite smart home products to help you find a present that is both unique and useful. These powerful gifts will help make your loved one’s home run more efficiently, improve security, and more.

nest

#1. The Nest Family of Products: Thermostat ($249), Nest Protect Smoke + CO Alarm ($99), Indoor Nest Cam ($199), and Outdoor Nest Cam ($199)

We can’t say enough about Nest products, so we decided to recommend all of them. We even use the thermostat in our office. It learns your heating and cooling preferences to optimize the temperature in your home (or office) based on your behavior and location.

Second in line, the Nest Protect alarm actually tells you when and where there is smoke or CO in your home through an in-unit speaker and phone alerts. Rounding out the suite of products, the Nest Indoor and Outdoor Cams provide 24/7 video security with some added perks.

You can use the Nest Cams to have a two-way conversation with people at your home through the Nest app. You can also go back and pull video or still photos from parties when you were too busy having fun to grab your phone to capture the action. Using the Indoor Nest Cam can be especially helpful in capturing special moments with young children or checking in to make sure older kids made it home safely from school, when you aren’t there to greet them.

Plus, all of these devices communicate with the IoT (Internet of Things). For starters, they connect to your mobile phone so you can manage them remotely and receive timely updates. But they can also connect with a long list of other devices, some of which are included in our Smart Home Gift Guide such as: Alexa, Rachio, and WeMo.

 

rachio

#2. Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller ($199.99)

Say goodbye to hard-to-program watering systems and over/under-watering your plants. The Rachio Smart Sprinkler is here to help you control your sprinklers and your water bill from your smart phone. Rachio makes your home smarter and saves you money on your water bill by reading local weather forecasts, sunlight levels, soil and plant types to create a custom watering schedule for your home. It will even send you alerts, when the schedule changes due to rain or freezing temps. Don’t forget to sync it with your Nest and Alexa for even greater control of your home’s systems.

 

amazon-echo

#3. Amazon Echo with Alexa Voice Service ($179.99)

We’ve brought up Alexa twice in this post and we aren’t stopping here. Once again, this product can be found at Glasshouse headquarters, and we love it. The Amazon Echo with Alexa Voice Service helps you play music, answer questions, read books, check traffic and weather reports, access sports scores, and control smart home devices like Nest, Rachio, WeMo and more through voice commands. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish just by asking.

 

ring-video-doorbell

#4. Ring Video Doorbell ($199)

Worried about stolen packages or unwelcome guests? Ring will help you step up your security system with HD video. Similar to the Outdoor Nest Cam, the Ring Video Doorbell enables you to see and speak to visitors at your door, regardless of your physical location. The footage can be stored in their cloud service for a monthly fee or reviewed instantly on your phone or computer.

 

wemo-switch-smart-plug

#5. WeMo Switch Smart Plug ($39.66)

The WeMo Switch Smart Plug doubles as both added security and an energy saver. It plugs into lights and appliances, so you can control them remotely from – you guessed it – your smart phone. No need to walk into a dark house or worry if you left the toaster oven on. You can use the WeMo Switch to set on and off times or sync your lights to the sunrise and sunset, improving energy efficiency. Pairing with Alexa and Nest, gives you added voice control and informs your lights and appliances when you’re not home, so it can activate “Away Mode”.

The “Away Mode” will make you toss out all of your mechanical timers the next time you travel. It randomly turns your lights on and off – making it look like someone is home to confuse intruders. Talk about a smart device.

 

samsung-family-hub-refrigerator

#6. Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator ($3,799.99)

While this gift is a definite splurge item, for those who can afford one, the Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator is a game changer. First of all you can order groceries from the touch screen on the refrigerator door. Or if you want to pick out your own veggies at the store, it will help you make a grocery list without opening the door using built-in cameras. Then, you can access these cameras on the go in case you forgot to make a list in the first place.

Once the food has arrived, you can use the touch-screen to pull up recipes and stream music while you cook. You can mirror your Smart TV and share photos on the touch-screen as well. As an added bonus, there is a “Flex Zone” in the bottom-right door that functions as a fridge or freezer depending on your needs.

 

red-grilbot-on-grill

#7. Grillbot Grill Cleaning Robot ($129.95)

You may have heard about the Grillbot Grill Cleaning Robot after CES this year. It got a ton of buzz for being the Roomba for grills. Simply place it on your grill, set the timer, close the lid, and walk away. The brushes go in the in the dishwasher when you’re done. No more scrubbing in the dark after dinner. The Grillbot handles the dirty work for you.

 

instacart

#8. BONUS: Instacart Express ($149/year)

While Instacart Express isn’t a smart device, we wanted to include it on our list because it’s a smart service for anyone short on time (i.e. all of us). The express membership gives you unlimited free grocery deliveries from local stores. Included on their list of recommended stores is Costco. So your recipient can ditch their Costco membership while stocking up on bulk goods.

For those who have it all, we’ve got one more suggestion. Give the gift of a healthier and safer home. Glasshouse subscription home maintenance plans and technology offer a unique way to help family, friends, and neighbors take better care of their homes. Learn more at glasshouse.com.

Lesser Known Home Maintenance Tasks with Big Price Tags

Home maintenance is something that’s always with us. It’s important to plan for the associated costs and to understand how they will morph over time.

Experts recommend that you set aside 1 percent of your home’s purchase price annually for maintenance and repairs, but that’s an average cost. There will thankfully be years when you don’t spend nearly that much on maintenance. Unfortunately, there will also be years in which you spend much more.

What you pay for home maintenance and repairs is influenced by several factors. The age of your home is probably the most significant. New homes need very little maintenance (but they do need it!), while a home that’s over 20 years old will likely be ready for some major updates. That is the time when the roof or major appliances may need replacing. Older homes also need to have weatherproofing restored, in many cases, to hold down energy costs.

Weather itself can have a big impact on the cost of maintaining a home. Climate extremes are hard on houses and their systems. Whether the issue is frigid winters, with their heavy demands on heating systems, frozen pipes, and snow-covered roofs or hot, humid summers, bringing moisture problems and struggles with insect damage, homes are vulnerable to extreme weather.

An informative piece on The Balance blog recommends adding 10 percent to your maintenance budget for each of these factors that fit your house, along with whether it’s located in a floodplain or is a single-family home (condos and duplexes cost less to maintain).

Being aware of this consideration can help considerably in budgeting for home maintenance. Another thing to know about is some of the potential big-ticket repairs that you may encounter on your journey.

Replacing rotting flooring and joists

This job can run into the tens of thousands, and is also a major disruption in the home. Undetected leaks are often left to do their worst for years, and it’s only a matter of time until major repairs are needed.

Avoiding this expense entirely is surprisingly easy. One important, but often overlooked practice is regular inspection of the caulk in the kitchen and bath. The caulking in kitchens and bathrooms keeps water from seeping into the crevices and crannies around sinks and tubs. Once the water gets in, mold proliferates (especially in damp areas around showers and tubs). Worse, infiltrating water could lead to wood rot in the structural framing beneath. Recaulking old or mildewed caulking is a basic home repair, requiring only a few tools and inexpensive materials.

Another way to avoid water damage is to promptly repair plumbing leaks. Fixing leaky faucets and other common household plumbing leaks can save the average homeowner about 10 percent on water bills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Repairing or replacing damaged decking

Particularly if you’re living in one of the extreme climates mentioned above, a neglected deck might need to be extensively repaired or even replaced. A few gallons of sealant will cost $50 or less and applying it can be the work of one afternoon.

Repairing termite damage

It costs $3000 on average to repair termite damage to the home, according to Termite.com, and fumigating the house would cost even more. This cost can be avoided with regular inspections, which are very inexpensive: usually under $100. When trouble is identified, the problem can be eliminated with an inexpensive spot treatment.

Roof repairs and replacement

Okay, this probably doesn’t qualify as a lesser-known maintenance expense, but did you know that a lot of roof problems are caused by clogged or damaged gutters?

It’s true. Getting water off and away from the house as quickly as possible is the best way to keep it from doing any damage. When gutters backup and overflow, water seeps under the shingles and begins its insidious work on vulnerable materials. Keeping your gutters clear can save you some serious change.

Repairing foundation cracks, bulges, and settling

The foundation’s integrity affects all the parts of your home, so when problems develop you may be forced to pay thousands for repairs. The Foundation Repair Network reports that major foundation repairs can cost $10,000 to $14,000, while repairing a single crack may cost $800 to $1500.

These costs can often be completely avoided through regular inspection. Preventative steps can include ensuring that downspouts empty at least 2 feet from the foundation, and that the ground slopes away from the house to keep water from pooling at the foundation.

Download a free copy of our whitepaper: What does Home Maintenance Really Cost?

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Dryer?

A major component of home maintenance costs is keeping your appliances running their best and replacing them when their useful life ends. Knowing what to expect in terms of lifespan, features, and cost can simplify planning and budgeting. Today we’ll look at the costs and considerations of replacing a household workhorse, the dryer.

When is it time?

Deciding when to replace your existing dryer should be based on whether it’s operating efficiently. Dryers generally last between 15 and 20 years, and running a dryer should cost well below $1 per hour. Estimates for electric models run between 25 and 70 cents, while economical gas models cost around 12 cents per hour to run.

Tips for improving efficiency

The way you use your dryer can impact what you pay to run it. To cut the costs of running a dryer for an hour, group similar fabric types together when drying. Instead of mixing heavy-duty jeans with T-shirts and socks, dry the lighter fabrics in a separate load for a faster load. Don’t put dripping wet clothes into the dryer, as it will take longer than an hour for the dryer to work. Take advantage of the dryer’s retained heat by drying a second load after the first. Double-check the lint trap before drying, and remove any lint to help the dryer operate at peak efficiency.

You can calculate your cost for using the dryer using these steps:

  • Multiply the dryer’s wattage by the length of the load in hours and divide by 1000. This will give you the total number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) used.
  • Then, multiply the kilowatt hours by your cost per kWh (that can be found on your electric bill). This is your cost per load.
  • To calculate your cost per month, multiply your cost per load by the number of loads that you typically do in a month.

Maintenance makes the difference

The level (or lack) of maintenance your dryer receives has a huge impact on the cost of operation. Maintenance for these appliances is generally quite simple and inexpensive.

Be sure to clean the vent after each load, and clean the outside vent and hose a couple of times a year. Clogged exterior vents are one of the leading causes of house fires in the U.S. and a clogged vent increases the amount of time it takes for your machine to dry a load of clothes.

Experts recommend using rigid metal ducts for dryers rather than the flexible foil or plastic kind, which trap lint more easily. Some dryers include sensors to detect when a duct is clogged. These are a great backup, but can’t and shouldn’t be relied on in place of basic maintenance.

When the inevitable time comes to replace your trusty dryer, here are some considerations that will help ensure that you’re delighted with your purchase.

Available space

Measure the available space and buy accordingly.

It’s most cost effective to use existing connections, so replace gas with gas, electric with electric. Keep in mind that electric dryers generally require a dedicated 240-volt electrical outlet. Gas dryers typically use a 120-volt outlet, as well as a gas hookup.

Before you buy a large capacity dryer, make sure your family needs that much. Big dryers cost more, generally use more energy, and may not dry clothes as quickly if your loads are of average size. A 2 cubic-foot dryer holds 8 full size towels, while 5.1 cubic feet will hold 21.

Know your options

Dryers come with many convenient options, so get to know what’s available before you buy. Here are some popular features that you may want to consider.

  • Accurate moisture sensor
  • Drying rack
  • Auto-dry cycles (based on moisture, not time)
  • Extended tumble
  • Steam setting
  • End of cycle signal

Purchase price

A very basic dryer can be purchased for around $500, and prices range upwards to $2000. The performance of gas and electric dryers is very similar, but electric dryers tend to cost more to run than gas. For that reason, expect to pay a bit more for a gas dryer. Installation is relatively uncomplicated, and can usually be included in the purchase price. This will also take care of removal and disposal of the old unit.

When you have been careful about maintaining your dryer, you’re in a position to judge how close it is to needing replacement. This allows you to be strategic about when you shop for the new one. The best time to shop for a new dryer is in September or October. This is when the new models are introduced, so the retailers are looking to clear out existing inventory. A lot of good buys can also be found in the weeks leading up to Black Friday.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Dishwasher?

Our topic today may seem like a very simple question, but as you might guess, there are a lot of things to consider when you’re replacing any major appliances. Price is just the beginning, and even that can be complicated.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, around two-thirds of American homes have a dishwasher.  Perhaps not surprisingly, a woman, Josephine Cochrane, invented this household appliance. She unveiled it at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It wasn’t until the 1920’s, when plumbing was more common, that dishwashers really came into use in the home.

Some people are surprised to learn that using a dishwasher has significant benefits over washing your dishes by hand. In general, hand-washing uses much more water than cleaning dishes by machine. Organic Life tells us that you can save as much as 5000 gallons of water per year using your dishwasher. An efficient dishwasher uses just 4-6 gallons of water to clean a full load of dishes, and Energy Star rated machines are very inexpensive to run.

Optimizing the Efficiency of Your Dishwasher

Of course you can waste water with a dishwasher too, if you’re not careful. Here are some tips for optimizing the efficiency of your dishwasher use:

  • Wait until the dishwasher is completely full before you run it.
  • Don’t pre-rinse. Pre-rinsing can waste up to 20 gallons per load, according to Energy Star, and completely negates any savings you get from a water-efficient dishwasher. Detergents available today are designed to handle lots of gunk.
  • Go phosphate free. Phosphates can be so damaging to waterways that the federal government banned them from laundry detergents in 1994. They’re still legal in dishwashing detergents, although more states are starting to ban that use as well. Look for brands that explicitly state that they’re phosphate free on the label (and, like phosphate-based detergents, are just as good at handling gunk).

Replacing Your Dishwasher

So there are a lot of good reasons to use your dishwasher, but there comes a time in the life of every appliance when it has to be replaced. The average lifespan of a dishwasher is 10 years, and there are a range of models and price points from which to choose when replacing your old one. Features and costs vary considerably, but you can be fairly sure that a new unit will save you money in energy costs, thanks to improvements in efficiency.

Other factors that will have an impact on your overall price for the job are the installation cost, as well as removal of the old dishwasher and any site prep that needs to be done.

Purchasing a New Dishwasher

The cost of a new dishwasher depends on the brand, features, and other considerations. Cost Owl provides this summary of things that will impact price:

#1. Energy Efficiency

Efficient dishwashers use about 10% less energy and 20% less water than standard models. Compare individual models by checking the yellow EnergyGuide label, which provides data on annual consumption and operating costs. For added energy savings, choose a model that lets you run a ½ load or energy-saving wash cycle.

#2. Size

Most dishwashers are designed to fit into a standard 24-inch under-counter space. Where space is at a premium, 18-inch built-in models, countertop models, and portable models are also available.

#3. Capacity

Standard-sized dishwashers usually hold about a dozen place settings, although interior configuration should also be considered. Large families—or those who want to wait longer between washes—can benefit from a higher-capacity dishwasher.

#4: Filter Type

Dishwasher filters prevent washed-away food from ending back up on clean dishes. Manual filters must be removed and cleaned occasionally, while self-cleaning filters require no upkeep (auto filters are louder, though).

#5: Convenience

Features such as adjustable racks, ample room for flatware, and fold-down tines make it easy to fit all your dishes into the machine, regardless of their size or shape. They’re usually standard on higher-end dishwashers but can be found on cheaper models as well.

#6: Other

More expensive models typically have stainless steel tubs (which stain less than plastic tubs), interactive controls, quieter operation, a soil sensor (for improved efficiency), better information displays, and hidden touchpad controls, none of which actually make them better at cleaning dishes.

That being said, the average cost of a new dishwasher can range from a minimum of $500 to upwards of $3000. High-end brands include Bosch and Miele. Many retailers include installation in the cost of the machine, but there can be an additional charge. If there are existing connections and a straightforward installation, expect to pay at minimum $250 for delivery and installation.

Considering the energy savings and water conservation you achieve with a dishwasher, it makes sense to use one. And when your existing unit begins to show its age, a replacement can immediately begin to pay for itself in lower energy consumption. This, along with the time savings that a dishwasher represents, make it a great investment for your home.

For more information on the real costs of home maintenance, download this free whitepaper.

When These 4 Things Die in Your Home, You’ll Lose More Than Just Money

 

(This article originally appeared on Home Business Magazine)

Your home is your castle. Your refuge. In many cases it’s also your office. The point is, of all the places where you spend time, your home should be the most comfortable, personalized to make your life easier and more enjoyable.

We spend a lot of time setting things up at home to create our ideal environment, creating spaces for eating, sleeping, working, and relaxing. This is a huge help to us, making it easier and more convenient to do the things we need to do, and most of the time the sailing is relatively smooth.

There are times, though, when chaos comes to call. This is to be expected, and in some cases there’s nothing you can do to avoid a disruption –sick child, injury, mother-in-law visits… But there are some major inconveniences that can be avoided with preventative maintenance around the home.

There are number of items in your home that would cause some major disruptions should they fail and require repair or replacement. These are systems and appliances that we count on every day, and we sort of take them for granted until they’re not there.  When they’re on the fritz, it causes major inconvenience.

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Water Heater

This appliance is the unsung hero of your household. You may have never given it a thought –honestly now, do you even know where it is?  JK, but do you know that depending on the model, your water heater has a lifespan of around 10-15 years?

Simply inspecting, draining, and flushing the unit annually can optimize that lifespan. It also completely circumvents the scenario in which your morning shower becomes an Arctic expedition. Suddenly being without hot water is very disruptive. It not only makes bathing very unpleasant, it can make it impossible to keep up with dishes and laundry as well. Replacing the water heater can cost upwards of $1000, but when the unit fails that is usually your only option.

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HVAC

Climate control is a critical part of a comfortable home. Aside from those few perfect days in the spring and fall, your home’s heating and cooling system works tirelessly year-round. Without attentive maintenance, the HVAC system will inevitably fail, and always, it seems, at the most inopportune time.

The loss of heat or air conditioning brings most activity in the home to a screeching halt. Depending on the season, it can be tough to schedule repairs and the system may be down for several days –or even longer. This is a major disruption, particularly for those who work from home and don’t have the option of spending more time elsewhere.

This can often be avoided entirely through preventative maintenance. One of the easiest ways to avoid costly repairs is to replace HVAC filters regularly. These are easy to find and inexpensive (around $20-$40) and the task takes minutes. In return, your heating and cooling system will run more efficiently, saving energy costs.

Regular maintenance and inspection can uncover potential problems, so small repairs can be made before they become an issue –and the work is done on your schedule; you’re not at the mercy of busy contractors.

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Refrigerator

One of the most important appliances in your home, the refrigerator has one job.  Thanks to its presence we can stock up on fresh foods and have our favorites easily available all of the time. It’s easy to take the refrigerator for granted, but if it fails we are in for some major inconvenience.

Depending on when the fridge dies, you may end up losing all of the food it holds. This includes the contents of your freezer, and can represent a considerable investment. Then there’s the mess. What do you do with all of this food? What can you save? Where will you put it? At least it’s a good excuse to eat out.

If the refrigerator can be repaired there may be a wait for parts and service. Otherwise you’ll need to do some shopping. Staying on top of things through regular maintenance can help you avoid this whole scenario entirely.

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Plumbing

Most of us don’t give a thought to the wonder that is modern plumbing. Where would we be without it? One sure way to find out is to neglect maintenance, particularly in the kitchen, laundry, and bath.  Faucets, toilets, and drains all require some upkeep, and when any of them fail the household suffers. Undetected leaks can also create big problems, including mold and water damage to walls, floors, and ceilings.

As you can imagine, tearing out a wall in the bathroom or dealing with a flooded laundry greatly disrupts the home. This sort of repair never becomes necessary when the plumbing in the home is monitored and kept in top condition.

Unpleasant surprises can be costly in terms of time as well as money. That’s why it makes so much sense to prevent them with proper maintenance that can be timed to fit your schedule. That’s the whole idea behind GlassHouse.


 

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