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Dave's Repair Service
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Dave's Dictionary of Appliance Terms
The 'F' page

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Fabric softener - Any one of several chemicals used to essentially 'dry lubricate' fabric fibers, making them feel soft, and reducing static charge. Perfumes are also added to most laundry fabric softener formulations. Liquids are one common form of softener, and the chemical is also embedded in sheets of paper-like fabric, for use in clothes dryers. Liquid in the washer, and dryer sheets should never be used together, but only one or the other per load, to prevent excess buildup and problems like lint filter clogs, etc.

Fabric softener dispenser – automatically introduces fabric softening chemical into a wash load at the proper time, usually in the rinse cycle’s clear water. This  prevents its mixing with and chemically reacting with, detergent, which makes a waxy ‘gunk’ that we definitely don’t want.

Fill hose – hose, usually rubber, sometimes stainless steel mesh-covered plastic, that connects a washer to the fresh water supply. There are commonly two used, connected to both the hot and cold water lines.

Fill level -  height, or depth, of the water when a washer or icemaker fills. Adjustable to match the laundry load (or water pressure, in the case of icemakers).

Fill valve – turns the water on/off to washers and icemakers. Electrically controlled, this valve uses a solenoid that opens a small internal port, allowing house water pressure to operate the actual valve and turn water on or off. Washers use a dual version with two solenoids, icemakers only a single valve.  Interestingly, severely low water pressure in a home's supply (less than 20 psi) can allow these valves to open, causing overflow in appliances that use them.

Filter, foam – Washable filter material commonly used in room air conditioners. An economical and fairly efficient filter medium, this foam can easily be cut to the desired size with an ordinary scissors. Most of this filter material is  ¼” thick.

Flame sensor – Gas dryer component, mounted to the side of the burner ‘can’, that senses radiant heat from the igniter and/or gas flame. Very simple and reliable, this is made from a strip of bimetal painted black on one side, and operating a set of switch contacts. Switch is normally closed, opened when heated.

Float – A dishwasher component that prevents overflow by switching off the fill valve or ‘telling’ the electronic control there’s an overfill condition and that it should take corrective steps. Basically just a small float attached to a microswitch in series with the fill valve.

Float switch (see above) – The small switch attached to the bottom of the float, responsible for breaking the circuit to the fill valve if water level’s too high inside the dishwasher.

Freon – Trade name for many of the Fluorocarbon refrigerants commonly used in refrigeration systems. In common usage, this has come to refer to all modern refrigerants. Odorless, tasteless, nontoxic, and very efficient, there are several types in common use. R134a is used primarily in refrigerators and freezers, and R22 is still in use in smaller systems like room air conditioners and dehumidifiers. Older units used R12, still unsurpassed in its advantages, but fears that it may be affecting earth's ozone layer (we're still not completely sure of that) have caused its replacement with other refrigerant formulations.

Front loader – Clothes washer that is, well, loaded from the front rather than the more common top-loader that loads from, well you get the picture! An efficient design, but nearly all share the same design flaw – overloaded rear bearings that fail within 5-7 years. More accurately called ‘horizontal axis’ machines. (which see)

Frost free (or 'Frost Proof') – This is what we’ve called self-defrosting refrigerators since they were invented in the late 1950’s. Actually not free of frost, a frost free system’s  evaporator coil still accumulates frost, but there’s a timer and heater system employed to defrost it, saving us the hassle.

Frost pattern – A refrigerator’s built-in diagnostic tool! By observing the pattern of frost on a refrigeration system’s evaporator coil, you can check the internal condition of a system. If the coil’s evenly coated with frost, you know the system has no leaks or restrictions, and the coil is properly ‘flooded’ with refrigerant.

NOTE: Never allow a technician to poke a hole in a system to attach a valve and gauges to diagnose it! This is unnecessary, and just introduces another potential future leak. 

Fuse – A link made of ‘meltable’ metal, calibrated to melt open within a specific current range to protect an electrical circuit. Commonly used for many years in house wiring supplies, they’ve pretty much been replaced by resettable circuit breakers today.

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