October 24, 2014

Bright Lights, Bad Headaches?

This may stretch the appliance theme a bit, but since so many of us are switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs to save energy, I think it is worth sharing. According to Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld at Parade Magazine, new research suggests some dangers:

Flickering bulbs have been reported to precipitate migraines or even seizures, though manufacturers say the new models have been improved. Fluorescent light can also aggravate skin rashes in people with lupus, eczema, dermatitis or porphyria.

Perhaps most important, the bulbs contain mercury.  If one breaks, don’t vacuum the debris- that can release toxic dust into the air.  Leave the room for 15 minutes.  Then, wearing gloves, place the fragments into a plastic bag, seal it and take it to a recycling center.

Repairing a Toaster or Toaster Oven

If you haven’t read our article on How Toasters and Toaster Ovens Work, you might want to do that before you start any repairs. If you feel ready to tackle a smallish job like this, then read on…

How to Repair a Toaster

In many homes, toasters malfunction more than any other small appliance. There are two reasons for this. First, toasters are typically built economically to be a throw-away appliance. Replacement models start at $10.

Second, malfunctions are frequently not the fault of the toaster itself but of food particles that interfere with its operation. Excess pieces of bread broken off by carriage movement fall into the base of the toaster and accumulate, obstructing carriage movement, shorting out heating elements, plugging the latch release, and interfering with solenoid operation.

That’s why most pop-up toasters have a large crumb tray and door at the bottom of the toaster. By sliding or unlatching this crumb door you can release food particles trapped in the bottom of the toaster.

For a toaster that is used daily, this should be done once a week. Simply unplug the toaster, hold it over a trash container, and unlatch the door. Once the primary food particles have fallen out, move the toaster around to release other particles that may be trapped at the edges. Periodically clean out the toaster using a can of compressed air, making sure you don’t damage sensitive heating elements or switches.

How to Repair a Toaster Oven

Toaster ovens operate much like toasters. However, a toaster oven is more complex and is typically more expensive to purchase. The higher cost means that repairs are easier to justify. You will probably think twice before tossing a $75 toaster oven into the recycle bin. And because toaster ovens are less compact, they are often easier to work on than pop-up toasters.

Some toaster ovens simply toast bread and related food products horizontally rather than vertically as with pop-up toasters. Other toaster ovens are actually miniature ovens. The differences are identified by the wattage used — broilers require more watts of electrical power to operate — and by the controls. Some toaster ovens allow you to bake and broil foods, offering precise temperature and function control.

Typical toaster oven repairs include servicing the main switch, the thermal fuse, the heating element, and the solenoid.Servicing the Main Switch: The toaster oven’s main switch is an important operating part, one that gets extensive use and is a frequent culprit when things go wrong. In many cases, all that’s required is cleaning the switch. In others, the switch must be replaced. To access and replace the main switch:

Step 1: Remove the side panel and, if necessary, the power cord.

Step 2:Check the contact points for pitting or discoloration. If they are not making good contact, carefully rub them with very fine sandpaper, then clean them with an electrical contact cleaner spray or isopropyl alcohol on the end of a cotton swab. Be careful not to bend the contact leaves out of alignment.

Step 3: If the contacts are fused or the leaves broken, remove and replace the main switch. Main switches are fastened to the chassis with clips, screws, or rivets.Servicing the Thermal Fuse: A thermal fuse protects the toaster oven’s main switch from damage caused by an electrical overload. If the main switch doesn’t work, check the thermal fuse using a continuity tester or multitester. The thermal fuse should show continuity rather than an open circuit. If defective, remove and replace the thermal fuse with one of identical rating. In most models, this means cutting the fuse leads or wires and replacing the fuse unit.Some toaster ovens use a bimetallic thermostat or thermal cutout to protect the adjacent main switch from damage. Inspect the thermal cutout for debris, distortion, or discoloration. Clean debris away with a can of compressed air. As needed, clean the contact points with emery paper.Servicing Heating Elements: A heating element is vital to your toaster oven. It may only be on for a few minutes to toast bread, or, in the case of a baking/broiling unit, it may be on for an hour or more at a time. A heating element is simply a high resistance wire that glows as electricity flows through it. Heating elements, then, are easy to test. Here’s how:Step 1:Determine whether or not there is a clear path for electric current by touching a continuity tester or multitester probe to each end of the element.Step 2: If there is no clear path, remove the heating element. Removing an element may be as easy as unscrewing both ends and any support brackets; however, it may also require that rivets be removed and replaced. Your decision to replace a defective element will then depend on how easy it is to remove as well as the value of the toaster oven.

The two dark rods along the base of this toaster are the heating elements.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
The two dark rods along the base of this toaster are the heating elements.

Step 3: Once the heating element has been removed, replace it with one of identical rating and structure. Be very careful not to distort the shape of the new element as it is installed. Element wires are fragile and can be damaged easily. Higher-wattage elements are of thicker wire, much like the element in your conventional oven.

Servicing a Solenoid: The solenoid turns the electric current to the heating elements on and off. If the heating elements stay on longer than they should and burn your food, or if opening the appliance door turns them off, the solenoid may be defective. To test and replace a solenoid:Step 1: Look at the unit for visible damage and smell the area around the solenoid for obvious damage to components.Step 2: Use a continuity tester or multitester to verify your findings.Step 3: Replace the solenoid. In some units, this is easy. Simply unscrew the brackets and remove the unit. If replacing the unit requires cutting or desoldering, take the unit to an appliance-repair shop for service.So, now you are prepared next time your toaster goes on the fritz and you want to impress your schoolager with your knowledge of small appliances. If you would like to learn more, you can visit howstuffworks.com

How a TV Works

If you have ever wondered how your television works, HowStuffWorks has just what you are looking for. They cover the basic technology in the back of your TV: the four parts, electron gun, steering coils, phosphorus screen, and steering coil. It’s so much easier to understand if you watch the video.


Finding Your Inner Guide – or at Least a PDF Manual

I recently overhead someone ask a friend: ‘how did we ever find out anything before Google?’. I gave away my internet age when I said “with altavista” and added for good measure – in a gopher guide. But nevertheless, the point stands. Google is just the greatest mindshare search tool, but its just a gateway into the riches of the internet. One of the great killer aps of customer service is the ability of any manufacturer to make all of their manuals available instantly to their customers.

att_logo.jpgMy ATT answering machine phone is acting weird, and my wife asked me to find the manual. After 10 minutes of wasting my time in paper files, I just did a quick search and came up with this page listing dozens of PDF manuals to various AT&T phones.

One of our goals here is to create a single point resource with as many manuals as we can hunt down. So here’s a start.

You Probably Don’t Need That Extended Warranty

Straight from PR Newswire: J.D. Power and Associates Reports: High Reliability of Major Home Appliances May Reduce Need for Extended Warranties

According to J.D. Powers and Associates 2007 Major Home Appliance Study, most major appliances these days are quite reliable, yet many consumers continue to purchase extended warranties.

The study measures customer satisfaction in nine segments of major home appliances: dishwashers; free-standing ranges; built-in cook-tops and wall ovens; freezer-on-top style refrigerators; side-by-side and French door-style refrigerators; clothes washers; clothes dryers; over-the-range microwave ovens; and counter-top microwave ovens. The study, now in its third year, examines customer satisfaction with microwave ovens for the first time. Customer satisfaction is measured based on performance in six factors: operational performance (including how well the appliance functions, noise level and energy efficiency); operational features (such as the number of settings available and appliance capacity); ease of use; styling and feel; price; and warranty.

The study finds that during the first two years of ownership, approximately one in 10 consumers report some kind of problem with their major appliance. However, many of these problems can be resolved by following instructions in the owner’s manual or on the manufacturer’s Web site. Relatively few problems actually require a service visit.

Despite this high degree of reliability, many consumers purchase an extended warranty for their appliances. Among owners of refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers and laundry appliances, approximately 25 percent report purchasing an extended warranty, while approximately 15 percent of microwave oven owners do so.

“Extended warranties certainly provide a degree of peace of mind,” said Dale Haines, senior director of the real estate and construction industries practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “With some appliances — particularly those with complex electronics and potentially high repair costs — purchasing an extended warranty may make sense. However, major appliances tend to be very reliable, and consumers should consider very carefully — depending upon their circumstances — whether an extended warranty is worth the additional cost.”

In satisfying customers with major kitchen and laundry appliances, Bosch, GE Appliances, Kenmore, LG, Maytag, Samsung, Whirlpool and Whirlpool Gold rank highest in various segments.

“Particularly strong performers include Bosch, LG and Samsung, which have achieved consistently high satisfaction levels in consecutive years,” said Dale Haines, senior director of the real estate and construction industries practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “For two consecutive years, Bosch has ranked highest in the dishwashers segment and LG has ranked highest among clothes washers, while Samsung has earned an award in a refrigerator segment for three consecutive years. This is especially impressive considering the high levels of quality and reliability that many appliance manufacturers attain.”

The 2007 Major Home Appliance Study is based on 22,637 responses from consumers who purchased one or more new major home appliances through a retail store, their new-home builder, or received one through other means (such as a gift) during the previous 24 months.

Can KitchenAid Stand up to the Grind?

One of the easiest ways I have found to get calcium and vitamins into my kids is to offer them smoothies as an after school snack.I just throw a variety of frozen fruit, yogurt and some milk into the blender and produce a treat they love. This is a great time of year to pull out the blender and make a cool treat.

I have been doing this for years using a Hamilton Beach blender I purchased on sale at a local drugstore almost twenty years ago. Now we have a problem. kitchenaid-blender.gifAbout five years ago, my husband bought me a Kitchenaid blender that claims to be strong enough to crush ice at all speeds, but after years of occasional use, the coupler started breaking apart.The coupler is that small black gear-like circle that connects the blender jar and blades to the base. It has broken in two stages. The first time, when two pieces broke off, I called Kitchenaid customer service. The representative there was friendly and sympathetic, but as our blender was out of warranty, she offered no advice other than that we could continue to use the blender as it was although, it would add a slight strain to the motor and therefore shorten the lifespan of the appliance somewhat.

kitchenaid-blender-drive-coupling.gif

So, we continued using the blender for the next few months.Yesterday, two more pieces of coupler broke off.I have sent the base to be repaired at an authorized repair shop at a cost of $25. This is not a huge cost, but as a percentage of an $80 blender, it seems high considering how often (or not, really) we used it. I just think a blender that claims to be an ice crushing, high powered appliance, made by a quality manufacturer should be more durable.

Finding Your Inner Guide – or at Least a PDF Manual

I recently overhead someone ask a friend: ‘how did we ever find out anything before Google?’. I gave away my internet age when I said “with altavista” and added for good measure – in a gopher guide. But nevertheless, the point stands. Google is just the greatest mindshare search tool, but its just a gateway into the riches of the internet. One of the great killer aps of customer service is the ability of any manufacturer to make all of their manuals available instantly to their customers.

att_logo.jpgMy ATT answering machine phone is acting weird, and my wife asked me to find the manual. After 10 minutes of wasting my time in paper files, I just did a quick search and came up with this page listing dozens of PDF manuals to various AT&T phones.

One of our goals here is to create a single point resource with as many manuals as we can hunt down. So here’s a start.

Is Your Oven Giving You the Cold Shoulder?

We had an oven repairman in our kitchen today to look over my Bosch double wall oven. We got got an oven thermometer over the holidays and the oven never seems to get within 40-50 degrees of the designated temperature.

Bosch has replaced the oven once, and this second oven is already having problems though its only been in the wall for a month. (but more on that in another post.- their responsiveness is great, their quality is questionable)

Chatting with the repairman, he mentioned that newer electric ovens all run colder than the displayed temperature, and should either be calibrated hotter (360 for a 350 degree setting) or you should just set your dial hotter. He also mentioned that an oven is considered on temperature as long as it is within 25 degrees of the desired temperature.

One of our favorite sites (RepairClinic.com) discusses the same subject in this nice little article on getting your oven to hit the right temperature.

Some Tips for Ensuring Ovens Hit the Right Temperature
Can Ovens Be Blamed for Cooking Disasters?

CANTON, Mich., Jan. 16 /PRNewswire/ — This month RepairClinic.com(R), the online source of home appliance parts and repair advice, is shining its virtual repair flashlight on ovens. Ovens are often easy to service by home DIYers. RepairClinic can supply appliance repair parts and free repair help online, as well as shiny new knobs, racks and drip pans to spruce up older ovens.
“If you’re wondering why your oven-baked culinary masterpieces don’t come out right every time, don’t blame the chef, blame the oven!” says Chris Hall, president of RepairClinic.com. “All too often, home chefs will find out that their oven is not reaching and maintaining the temperature they’ve set, which means their recipes simply won’t turn out right. Our website can help them diagnose and fix problems with ovens — and many other home appliances.”
Home chefs who suspect their oven is not playing by the rules and keeping the right temperature should first verify that the oven’s built-in thermostat is working properly. This is easily accomplished with a separate oven thermometer. Set the oven temperature and then compare the temperature of the thermometer with the set temperature. To get an accurate reading, let the oven cycle on and off at least three times, which takes at least 20 minutes.
“Over the years, we’ve learned that most inexpensive dial thermometers sold in grocery stores as oven thermometers are generally not very accurate. To get a good reading, we recommend a glass-bulb thermometer,” says Hall. “Also, don’t expect perfection. For example, if you’ve set your oven to 350 degrees, it is acceptable for the actual temperature to be 325-375 degrees. Most recipes provide a range of cook times with this in mind. And, don’t forget that altitude and humidity can affect cook time.”
Some other causes of incorrect oven temperatures that RepairClinic.com encounters include:
Door gaskets: he oven door has a gasket to keep heat inside the oven. Over time, these gaskets can become torn or deformed and this will allow heat to escape. Inspect gaskets to ensure they are in good condition and replace them as necessary.
Door hinges: If an oven door does not close properly, heat can escape. Make sure the door closes tightly and evenly. If it doesn’t, check for broken or bent door hinges or door springs, which should be replaced.
Timer settings: There’s a tricky timer issue that has confused even the best of cooks. Many mechanical clocks and timers on ovens (those without digital LED displays) have a setting called “cook and hold.” If the clock is accidentally set to this position, the oven may not work at all until it is set back to normal. Consult the instruction manual to set the clock or timer correctly.

RepairClinic.com provides step-by-step instructions on how to fix all these problems, and can supply the right part for any type of oven.