If you've lived in your home for quite a while, but you're not the one who typically handles appliance repair - it can be very intimidating, especially when there are electrical components involved. But if you're confident enough to take on the task of diagnosing and repairing a problem, and think you're also pretty good at following directions, these guidelines will go a long way in helping you troubleshoot. And the best part is - they apply to virtually all types of home appliances.

1) First of all, you need to be dressed properly. Wear closed-toed shoes, put on some gloves, and wear something you won't mind getting dirty. Cover your eyes with eye goggles.

2) Before you do anything else, disconnect the appliance from the electrical supply. This applies to your washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, microwave oven, stovetop oven, refrigerator - you name it. NEVER attempt to diagnose or troubleshoot an electrical problem without unplugging the power supply and turning off the power.

3) Now before you open your tool box and start taking things apart, stand back and look at the appliance. Turn on the power. Yes, turn on the power. Ask yourself, 'how is this particular model supposed to work? What is it doing versus what is it SUPPOSED to be doing?' It's amazing how many homeowners never fully identify what is wrong with the appliance in the first place. Sometimes the problem could be as simple as failing to have the device fully plugged in or turned on.

4) Check all settings to see that everything is where it is supposed to be and that someone didn't adjust the refrigerator temperature or adjust the microwave's levels of power.

5) Now disconnect the power and turn off the appliance (we mean it this time). Hopefully you have a good idea of what the problem is and can work to find a solution.

6) Confirm that there is power going to the appliance itself. You can check the electricity by using a voltmeter, which as the name indicates, checks for voltage. A lot of technicians will use alligator leads of their voltmeters to check for voltage. Plug the appliance in and slide the plug out just a bit to see if there is appropriate voltage. If there's a significant drop off in the voltage, then you've identified the problem - it's an issue with your power supply and not your appliance.

7) Now go to the specific component that is supposed to work and verify that is has voltage going to it. An example would be the heating element in a microwave or a dryer.

8) Once you've identified the problem by isolating all components, stop. Don't attempt to get all DIY-happy and perform surgery on your entire washing machine. Rarely is there a problem with more than one component of a malfunctioning appliance.

9) Confirm what is and isn't defective, or where the problem really is. Pinpoint the problem and test your hypothesis. Then record evidence to confirm that defective parts are, indeed, defective. The last thing you want to do is go out and purchase a replacement part that you do not need, which could be revealed if your hypothesis is incorrect. This will also save you time and energy going back and forth to purchase and then return replacement parts. Most replacement parts are non-returnable anyway.

10) Safety first! We can't stress this enough, but if you're uncomfortable dealing with electrical stuff, or feel like you're in over your head, call someone to help you. Convenience or some extra cash really doesn't compare to becoming seriously injured or even losing your life while attempting to troubleshoot electrical problems.