Storm doors and screened doors are frequently not fitted with springs or door-closers, which means that they are not at all effective. You can buy coil-springs, with a hook for each end, for ten cents; and they will do quite as good a job as a ten-dollar automatic door-closer. You can go further, and buy for twenty-five cents, a door-catch, which will take up the slam of the door, and hold it tight in place as well. You can buy and install spring-hinges, which will do or are supposed to do, the work of both coil-spring and catch; but our own experience with spring-hinges is that they are not too effective and seem to lose strength rapidly.
There is nothing more annoying than half-open doors in the insect season, or doors that will not remain tightly-closed during the heating season. You can take care of all of this with ease and economy.
The above fairly well covers the heavy outside auxiliary equipment of a house, so we will get along to the numerous gadgets and smaller items which make up the bulk of the home mechanical labor-savers.
All the small items of mechanical equipment used in the house should be kept in decent repair. Neglect will mean replacement.
Probably the first item on the list will be the electric iron. Electric irons only have one defect, and that is occasionally they fail to heat up. Once in awhile you may find that this is caused by a bad cord or plug, but it is quite simple to determine this, by using another cord which you know is in good shape. If a new cord, or one which operates perfectly with your toaster or chafing-dish, fails to make the iron work, you must look further; and you do not have to look very far. All electric irons work on the same principle - namely that they contain a wire coil, which resists the passage of the electric current, and so becomes red-hot. This heat is transferred by contact to the bottom of the iron, and as a result you have a hot surface to iron with. As a rule, when an electric iron fails to heat, it is due to the fact that this fine-wire coil has been burned out (if the coil were heavier, it would not burn out, but at the same time it could carry the current and would not get red hot). The average standard electric iron has a handle which is attached to the iron itself by means of two bolts or screws. When you loosen these and remove the handle, you will find that the top of the iron has also been loosened and will lift off. You will then see a clay or tile-like plate the same shape as the bottom of the iron, and you will see that it has grooves in it which hold the fine wire coil we have mentioned. A close inspection will show you where this coil has burned out and broken. Your job consists entirely of pulling the coil or ribbon out, until you can twist the separated ends together, or better yet, to buy a new coil and connect it to the terminals. Here is an elementary job. The passage of electrical current has been interrupted, and your job is to restore the passage of current by re-connecting two fine wires. The one caution is to be sure that your twisting operation is neat, and that no loose ends contact any other part of the coil. In some of the newer types of iron, we find a receptacle which contains water which is heated into steam by the coil, and which spouts steam and thus dampens the cloth the iron is about to pass over. The repair of this type of iron is exactly the same as for the plain electric iron.
Electric fans are usually good for a life-time, because they consist entirely of a small motor with a shaft, on the end of which are the revolving blades of the fan. The attention they require is confined to a drop of oil every few months (to be put into the very evident oil-cap), and to keeping the cord from becoming so twisted that it will eventually break. Occasionally an electric fan will be dropped from a shelf, or will "creep" off a table and fall to the floor. This will result in bending the wire cage which protects the blades, or in throwing the blades out of alignment. There is nothing easier than to bend the wire cage back into position so that it does not interfere with the revolving of the blades, or to bend the blades back into position so that they throw a current of air properly. The caution here, is to see that nothing whatever interferes with the blades while the fan is in operation, because if you jam the blades while the fan is turned on, you will burn out the motor or blow a fuse. Always turn the fan by hand, before you connect it up, and be sure that it is free to revolve.
Vacuum-cleaners are a standard piece of equipment in almost all homes, and they suffer chiefly from the fact that they are used from one end of the year to the other, without any thought of cleaning them, oiling them or adjusting them. The wonder is that they last as well as they do. Basically the average vacuum-cleaner consists of a good, small, rugged motor with a shaft, to which is attached a fan or impeller. In exact reverse to the electric fan, the vacuum-cleaner motor-fan sucks in air instead of throwing it out. As a result, you can well imagine the amount of fine dust, lint, hairpins, small stones, and other odds-and-ends too small for the human eye to detect, that find their way into the cleaner through the fan, and into the bag. If you use an ordinary carpet-sweeper on the floor of the average well-kept house, and open the receptacle, you are astonished at what you picked off the floor. When you operate a vacuum cleaner which is about twenty times as efficient, you really begin to pick things up. There is only one story about vacuum cleaners, and that is to keep them oiled, cleaned, and generally attended to.
All vacuum cleaners have a casing which covers the motor, brushes, and commutator. This casing is tight, but not tight enough. It can usually be removed by taking out two set-screws, and the motor will be exposed. Every week the casing should be taken off, and the motor, brushes and commutator, wiped with a rag on which you have a few drops of light oil. You should put one drop of oil in the oil-caps or oil-holes every two weeks (one drop, no more).