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When Should I Replace My Washing Machine Hoses, and Why?
People often equate water damage in the home to floods and other weather-related events, but leaking appliances can be just as destructive.
According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), leaking home appliances constitute one of the five largest categories of homeowner insurance claims.
When the leaking appliance in an insurance claim is a washing machine, 55% of the time the leak comes from a broken water supply hose.
Washing machine failures in general cost an average of $5,308 beyond the paid deductible, and claims related to supply hoses averaged over $6,167.
Logically, claims involving supply hoses should be higher. The inlet side is driven by water pressure, which can easily turn a small leak or crack into either a high-pressure stream or a large volume in case of a complete break.
Catastrophic failure of a water supply line can send water into your home at around 650 gallons per hour. It doesn't take long to cause tremendous damage.
Fortunately, there are simple preventative measures you can take to avoid being an insurance claim statistic.
- Inspect Hoses and Connections Regularly – Start by looking over the area for any signs of small leaks or drips of water running along a surface where it doesn’t belong. That's the first sign that something is beginning to break down. Do you see rust anywhere? Rust is always a bad sign.
Check for loose connections and tighten any that you find. Next, look over the surface of the hoses for any signs of wear, blistering, stress cracks, kinks, bubbles, discolorations, or other non-uniformities. If in doubt, replace the hose.
For replacements, IBHS recommends reinforced steel braided hoses—flexible plastic hose encased in a flexible stainless steel wire mesh. They are generally more durable and less susceptible to failure than simple rubber hoses and have a comparable cost.
- Replace Hoses Every Five Years – An IBHS study showed that failed hoses were 8.7 years old on average, and more than half of failures struck before the eight-year mark. Given those odds, it just makes sense to pre-emptively replace hoses well before the average breakdown date. IBHS recommends five years.
- Take Care with Moving or Cleaning – Usually, a washing machine should be professionally moved and rebalanced any time it has to be moved. If you choose to move the washing machine for any reason and replace and rebalance it yourself, make sure you leave at least four inches between the washing machine and the wall to prevent kinking.
You may also want to periodically clean the saber-toothed dust bunnies that collect behind the washer, but be careful not to dislodge or kink hose connections while doing so. Check the area very carefully for the first few loads after moving the washing machine and/or cleaning behind it.
- Turn Off Supply – The simplest preventative measure that's almost never done is to turn the hot and cold water supply valves off when the machine isn't in use. If you're going on an extended vacation, this is crucial—but even when you are home it's a good idea to take this simple precaution.
Shutoff valves can be a source of leaks, especially the inexpensive screw type. A dual ball valve lever operated valve is sturdier and easier to use because both hot and cold supply lines are controlled by one lever.
- Don’t Run the Washer Unattended – Make sure somebody is home while the washing machine is being used. According to IBHS, claims for washing machine failures while homes were unoccupied averaged almost 2.5 times larger than claims for occupied homes. The risk of a catastrophic failure is small, but given the tremendous damage that a broken supply line can cause if it's not shut off quickly, why take the chance?
- Consider Extra Precautions – Leak sensors and water flow sensors can alert you that a problem needs to be addressed, and more sophisticated models can cut off the flow straightaway. A catch pan with a drain provides a secondary protection against small to intermediate leaks and gives you a quick visual sign of trouble. If water is in the pan, start inspecting until you find the source.
If you're getting ready to install a washer, IBHS recommends placing it in the upper floor or the basement, avoiding the first floor because it usually contains electronics and more valuable possessions. (Obviously a second floor installation should not be placed above said electronics and valuables—gravity wins in the end.)
Of course, no amount of preventative work on the hoses will stop leaks caused by improper use of the machine. Read your manual thoroughly and make sure you follow the operating procedures.
Use common sense as well—don’t overload the machine with clothes or detergent, use the right type of detergent, and clean any filters per the manufacturer's recommended schedule.
For other facts and statistics about washing machine failures and the damage they can cause, visit the IIBHS website.
Regular inspection and replacement of washing machine hoses can prevent a potential flooding disaster that can not only ruin your valuable things but also cost thousands of dollars in damage to the structure of your home. Keep the washing machine from delivering an unwanted washing of your floors, walls, and possessions. Make it stick to the job it does best—washing your clothes.