Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Appliance Wars

By Annette Dashofy

My house has a serious case of “bah humbug.” Just in time for Black Friday and the season of joy and shopping, when we are all beckoned to rush to the stores and spend money we don’t have on gifts for everyone we know and love, everything in my house is conspiring to empty my bank accounts before the first gift has been purchased.

My TV is trying to die. Basically, it’s on life support. I turn it on, it shuts off. I turn it back on, it shuts off. This goes on sometimes six or seven times. Sometimes I decide I didn’t really want to watch TV anyway. Hubby is more inclined to play this game than am I.

This is all because I spent the money a couple of months ago to buy a digital converter box. I should have put that money toward a new television. But at the time, there was nothing wrong with it.

A week ago, my vacuum cleaner’s carpet attachment went POOF, accompanied with an acrid odor. The machine is at least twenty years old and has been rebuilt twice, so there is no shame in its death. However, Handy Hubby tinkered with it and fixed it. For now. I may squeeze a few more weeks or months out of it or maybe even longer. Okay, that one didn’t cost me any money. Yet.

Neither did my car. Two lights on my dashboard have been teasing me for more than a month. On one moment, off the next. But I decided winter is not the time of year to tempt fate. I took it to the dealer before the car quit. And before my warranty ran out. The problem was diagnosed and repaired at no cost. I love my Saturn.

Monday night, I discovered a pool of water in a container under my sink. The drain had pulled apart leaving a mucky mess. Handy Hubby to the rescue again. Some new pieces have been purchased and the white plastic pipes have been slapped together with glue and a little duct tape.

Hubby does not guarantee his work, so the repairs may hold or they may not. Time will tell.

Other small appliances have died recently. Others are limping along. Burnt toast anyone?

All of this has led me to consider the lifespan of electronic and mechanical devices around my house. We’ve been here for almost 26 years and are on the third refrigerator, the fourth or fifth TV (soon to be sixth), second (and third, if you count the laptop) computer, second stand mixer, second furnace, and third hot water heater, and fourth washer and dryer. I can’t count how many toasters and Hot Shot beverage maker thingies we’ve gone through.

What truly amazes me are the two gadgets that are original equipment. My Roper range was a new purchase when we got married (as opposed to the variety of second hand appliances we mooched to save money). That Roper range is one fine piece of equipment. All four burners work and I’ve only had to replace one of the oven’s heating elements in all this time.

And my little Kenmore microwave, a Christmas gift shortly after our wedding, is still heating leftovers and popping popcorn like a champ.

I can hear the jokes now. No, the stove and microwave are not still running because I never use them. I cook. A lot. And I microwave a lot.

So what makes some products last forever and others barely make it ten minutes past the expiration of the 90 day warranty?

And what I really want to know is why they all quit in the same month…the month when I’m trying to use my money for Christmas gifts instead of household stuff?

Maybe it’s a scheme to fuel the economy.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Anonymous said...

I love my Saturn, too, Annette, and it hasn't even broken yet! The rest of my appliances have been going down hill, though. Remember, I got lucky (?) in 1994 when my house fire destroyed the existing appliances (not to mention the plumbing, the wiring, the walls . . .). The insurance company replaced everything then, but now those appliances are either dead or on their last legs. My problem is not paying for replacements -- most of this stuff (aside from computers, tvs, etc) is pretty cheap (i.e., less than $50 for something that is likely to last 10 years or more). My problem is getting it together to actually go out and purchase the replacements. For example, my microwave died last December and I finally bought a new one last week. And, not having a handy hubby, I either fix things myself, pay somebody else to fix things, or leave them broken for long periods -- I didn't really need that second bathroom in the basement, so I simply turned the water supply off when the toilet tank started leaking seven or eight years ago. Someday . . .

Annette said...

Gina, I think I'll take a pass on your '94 method of gadget (and home) replacement.

I'm not sure how I'd manage without a live-in Mr. Fix-It. I'd probably spend a lot of time in those Home Depot Do-It-Yourself classes out of necessity. Either that or I'd be washing my dishes in the bathtub for a while.

Anonymous said...

'Tis the season. My microwave died about a month ago and my VCR met its demise last July. After about 7 trips to Radio Shack (long story!) I have what should be a replacement for the VCR and someone is coming a week from Saturday to install the new microwave (one of those "over the range" ones.)

I don't have Mr. Fix-It, I have "Mike's list." Mike was my ex-subcontractor and still a friend of mine. When I have a problem in my home, I call Mike, and he says, "Talk to so-and-so." They return my call promptly, show up when they say they will, and actually fix the broken object. Usually they say, "Oh, you're a friend of Mike's, I'll give you a deal!"

I like being on "Mike's list." Only problem is getting the time off work to be there when the repairman arrives.

Annette said...

Tory, just goes to prove it's not WHAT you know, it's WHO you know.

Joyce Tremel said...

I have pretty good luck with most appliances. Our clothes dryer is 23 years old. We're only on our 2nd refrigerator. I replaced the toaster a couple of weeks ago, but only because the push-down handle thingie broke. The toaster itself still worked, but I figured it was a good excuse to buy a new one.

I do go through hair dryers. I kill one of those at least yearly. Microwaves don't last long around here, but it's usually because the door latch doesn't catch and you have to keep opening and closing the door to get the fan to shut off.

Annette said...

As I mentioned, we started with a lot of used appliances, so that contributes to the number of refrigerators, washers, dryers and TVs we've gone through. But 23 years for a dryer??? Wow.

I should also give our old furnace some credit. It was replaced this summer, not because it wasn't working, but because of efficiency and oil prices.

I forgot our trusty old chest freezer tucked away in the corner of the basement. It's well over 20 years old and still works. The gizmo that is supposed to hold the lid open has been broken for many, MANY years, so the heavy lid tends to come down and bonk you on the head when searching for something. But otherwise it still works.

Anonymous said...

I'll take your TV and vacuum cleaner and raise you a brand new furnace. Out of the blue. Just had it inspected six months ago.

Who wants to shop for Christmas gifts any way?

Another great blog, Annette!


Annette said...

Yeah, Kathy, the possibility of having the furnace go belly up in mid winter contributed to the decision to get the new furnace and heat pump in mid summer.

And it is definitely hard to top a dead furnace in the dead of winter.

Sara said...

I couldn't wait for the yucky range that came with our house to die. Now I have a new one with a sprung door that I hold closed with a kitchen chair.
And I'm watching my washer & dryer like a circling vulture waiting for the day I can replace them with those fancy high efficiency setups. That is probably why they will last for another 30 years.

Joyce Tremel said...

Sara, that must be why my dryer won't die! I practically salivate when I see the new washers and dryers in all those nifty colors.

Until I see the price tags, anyway.

My word verification is duckedu. A college for ducks.

Dana King said...

Appliances are smarter than we give them credit for, but not as smart as they think they are. Take our old dishwasher. We inherited it when we bought the house, and it had obviously been here a while. My beloved Spousal Equivalent complained about it daily, with cause.

Earlier this month we ordered a new one. The old immediately started acting up: drying even less well than before, leaving more streaks. It knew we were talking replacement, which was pretty slick for an inanimate object. It just didn't realize its actions were counterproductive.

Last week the toaster started burning toast. I pointed to the new dishwasher and said, "If I dumped a large appliance like him, don't think I won't run your ass out of here in a heartbeat."

I haven't made toast since then. We'll see how it goes.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Oh, dear, Annette, I have one question for you. What the heck have you been doing in MY house ;) Funny, you should mention appliances. Mine are ancient too, but the older appliances, seem to last longer than the newer ones. If they all go at once, I'm going to have to apply for one of those bailouts. Think there's hope for me? Or my appliances. Happy Thanksgiving.

Annette said...

Every washer and dryer I've had have come from the scratch and dent department to keep the price tag down.

And I'm afraid to wish away my old Roper range, even though I lust after a self-cleaning model. I'm afraid the next one won't hold up as well.

Dana, around here, if we're plotting to replace one appliance, it's usually a DIFFERENT one that goes on the fritz. OR it waits until after we've spent $$$ on one new item, then another one quits. They're all in cahootz.

Annette said...

Donnell, my mom has a water heater that is a certified dinosaur. We go through one every or six years, it seems.

I don't think you stand a chance for a bail-out. Unless you're really CEO for a multi million dollar corporation and have been holding out on me.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Nope, Annette, not a CEO in sight darn it! And I've already sold my corporate jet ;) I had the HVAC guy inspect my furnace, which knocks so much I think I have company, However, he did say he
d bought me five years at his last visit when he repaired it, and thens said, let's hope it holds... They don't make 'em like this anymore. Now what does that tell you. Enjoy your friends and family at Thanksgiving, Working Stiffs.

Anonymous said...

Ah, that brings back memories! A few winters ago, my husband's fairly new pickup truck broke down twice in one day. Some time late that same evening, our furnace died. Luckily, a repairman came out fairly quickly to fix it. But it was a lot of excitement for one day. After that, we traded in the truck for a Subaru...

Becky said...

Food for thought. I sometimes wonder why we hang on to those old appliances. With each new purchase my electric bill goes down.