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Dave's Dictionary of Appliance Terms
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Bail – I suppose you would do this when your washer overflowed and flooded the house, or when one of your kids got in really big trouble, but here I have in mind the ice control wire on a refrigerator’s icemaker. This bail is raised during the harvest cycle, and brought back down to the top of the ice storage bin. If it contacts the top of a pile of ice, it doesn’t allow another harvest cycle until the ice level lowers. Simple and effective.

Bake element – the resistance element that supplies the heat in an electric oven. Usually operates on 240 volts, and glows red hot when cycled on in normal use. The oven controls cycle the element on and off to maintain proper oven temperature.

Basket – this is the same as the ‘tub’ in a washer; the container that holds the laundry, as opposed to the tank, or outer tub.

Belt – Still in use, this ever-popular drive system runs washers, dryers, a few older dishwashers by connecting two or more pulleys, using friction to transfer power. Can be flat, ‘vee’, ‘multi-vee’, or round in cross-section.  

Bimetal – A very handy invention; uses two dissimilar metals, bonded together, that, when heated, expand at different rates, causing the bimetal strip to bend. Widely used in thermostats of all types, dishwasher detergent dispensers, and other low-torque applications where response to temperature change is needed.

Bleach - an agent, usually a liquid, that makes laundry white or colorless, removing stains and disinfecting.

Bleach dispenser – OK, this one might be self-explanatory, but there are different styles that accomplish pretty much the same thing: dispensing bleach into a washer’s load, properly diluting it into the water and laundry load.

Blower wheel – basically a fan blade, but this term usually refers to the ‘squirrel cage’, or radial designs commonly used in clothes dryers, the evaporator (indoor) side of room air conditioners, and older refrigerators. Quieter than axial fan blades, and very efficient.


Boot – I’d define this as a rubber seal that fits around an opening and is highly flexible, reminiscent of an accordion's bellows, allowing movement of the device to which it’s attached. Front-load washers typically have a boot around their door opening (shown). This allows the tub to move freely on its mounts, while preventing water leaks.
Many flexible rubber seals are commonly called boots, from the large, older GE top-load washer tank boot (shown) down to the tiny bellows-style boot seal in newer Maytag branded dishwasher detergent dispensers, barely ½ inch square.

Bottom freezer – also called ‘bottom mount’, this is the style of refrigerator with the freezer located under the fresh food section, down near the floor. As opposed to the ‘top freezer’ (which see). Slightly less efficient than the latter, because the fresh food air supply must be ‘pumped’ up into its compartment. But the added convenience of easy fresh food access makes up for this, in most owners’ opinions.

Brake – Similar to a car or truck brake in function, brakes are used primarily in clothes washers, to bring the tub to a stop quickly and safely, before hands can be injured.

Broil element – The ‘other’ element located in electric ovens, this one serves two purposes. Mounted to the oven’s ceiling, it provides top browning during bake, and a handy means of broiling meat and other foods by direct radiant heating.

BTU – British Thermal Unit – a standard unit of measurement of heat transfer; the amount of heat required to raise 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit.

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