January 16, 2018

Archives for September 2006

Shhh ! We’re hunting for a quiet washing machine

Many people will find this hard to believe, but my last washing machine lasted almost twenty years. When it finally needed a new transmission, (who knew washers had transmissions?) I shopped around for the quietest washing machine I could get.

The two features that mattered most to me were capacity and quietness. The Kenmore that we were retiring had served us well, so after some comparison shopping, we bought a top loader from Sears that we were told would be quiet. Boy were they wrong! The machine could be heard throughout my house. Sears was very nice about exchanging it for another model. We chose the newest design Sears has called the Oasis. I thought it sounded like a nice compromise between a top and a front loader. Theses are a few of the facts I learned about washers while I waited for the second machine to arrive.

The agitator (that large corkscrew in the center of the tub) is the source of the noise.

Every manufacturer has it’s own definition of noise insulation. There is one manufacturer, Bosch, that measures the noise of it’s machines (and not just it’s washers) in decibelsbosch nexxt washing machine

There is really no way of knowing how loud the machine will be until you use it at home. Some stores will plug in a machine and run it for you, but without laundry and your home environment, anything you hear will still be an approximation..

The Oasis technology was only six months old when I ordered my new washer and there was very little information about how well these new agitatorless toploaders worked. There was certainly nothing about their durability. Maytag had tried a toploading agitatorless machine with dismal results. I started getting nervous about my decision; we were about to spend close to $1000 on an appliance we knew nothing about. I spent more time researching quiet washers.

I had heard that Miele made some quiet machines but that they had smaller capacities, were costly and I could not be assured of a low noise level. My Aunt has a newer Fisher-Paykel, which she likes but both local salespeople and the company customer service representative agreed that the spin cycle sounds like a jet airplane taking off. I learned that Bosch makes what is likely the quietest washer on the market. As I noted earlier, they measure the sound level in decibels and all of the Nexxt models ranged from 54dB to 58dB. Some quick research revealed that 30 decibels is equivalent to a soft whisper, 50 to rainfall and 60 to normal conversation. I was convinced.

Sears was wonderful about everything. I had no problem canceling the Oasis order and they even let me postpone the pick up of the noisy Kenmore until the delivery of my new Bosch.

The Bosch washing machine is QUIET! We can stand directly in front of it and barely hear the swoosh and flop of the clothes. Often we don’t even realize it is running until we notice the movement through the window. (Watching the laundry through the window entertained us all for the first few days.) One of my concerns with a front loading machine was that I wouldn’t be able to add an item once the cycle had started. (There always seems to be a stray sock that tries to escape.) This is not a problem at all. There is a pause button that unlocks the door and the cycle continues. (Sometimes it adds a few minutes to the total cycle time.) The washer uses so little water that my visions of flooding were instantly disproved. Not only that but the capacity is unbelievable and the clothes come out very clean.

As with the first machine I purchased, some things only become apparent once the appliance is set up in the laundry room. This Bosch (and I have since learned this is true in other Bosch owning households) is loud during the spin cycle and rocks itself out of place if the machine is very full. The Bosch repairman changed the feet to ones that are meant for soft floors (I have a laminate floor) and that has helped a bit. I was amazed to find that Bosch plans for the differences in floors and will make this change without charge. The other factor that adds to the noise, which I cannot change, is that my laundry room is not on the ground floor. Most problems with noise seem to come from the instability and reverberation of a second floor location.

So far the Bosch is cleaning beautifully and has fit our needs quite well. It was easy to understand all the cycles and how to use them (Although it chooses the water level and that was different.) It uses only about two tablespoons of high efficiency detergent so the cost per bottle of HE detergent and regular detergent is about equal. The cycles run longer than my old machine, but the extremely fast spin cycle removes so much water that drying time is literally cut in half. (I can dry a load of jeans in about 35 minutes.) Overall, I am very pleased with my new Bosch Nexxt washer and plan to purchase the matching dryer when my twenty year old Kenmore wears out.

USB Batteries

Gizmodo blogs about USB batteries, an idea whose time has come, but isn’t quite ready for prime-time.

Moixa USBCELL batteries can be charged using a regular charging station as well as the USB port in your PC, laptop, Xbox 360, or USB car charger.

Power and longetivity still need work, but I still remember brick-sized cellphones and have faith that we’ll get there.

transformer tangle
I’m dreaming of a day when the tangle of transformers and cords and poorly-configured power strips are replaced by a USB bank and all power jacks for cellphones, PDAs and other electronics are replaced with USB inputs.

When USB outlets are ubiquitous in airplanes, cars, hotels, schools and businesses, we’ll pretty much always be juiced or within easy juicing distance.

In the meantime, we’ll have to make do…

Targus PAPWR200U Universal Car/Airplane Notebook Power Adapter Sony Power Charger with 4 Ni-MH AA Batteries

Hat tip: IFOC

Kitchen Improvements Pay

From a UK website called NewsShopper. I’ve substituted American English for British English:

It’s often said the kitchen is the room most likely to persuade you to buy a property – or put you off. If you’re thinking of selling, it pays to ensure your kitchen is up to scratch.

Kitchens matter, and even if you’re not selling, an attractive and functional kitchen adds value to your home and makes it easier to live in.

Gutting the room and starting from scratch is a great but only if you have the cash, time and patience, because it is disruptive and expensive.

If you want a quick fix, however, there things you can do without it costing the earth.

The layout of your kitchen is key because it’s such a functional room. If the layout isn’t right, your options for changing it without gutting it are limited, but there are some.

The most ergonomic layout is to have the refrigerator, sink, and the oven and stove in a triangle in relation to each other. It should be a triangle because these are the three things you keep returning to in a kitchen, especially when preparing a meal.

If you don’t have this triangle configuration, can you move something so that you do? Maybe you can swap appliances over, or put an under-counter fridge where you once had a unit.

Do-it-Yourself Rolling Shelf Kit - (Natural)
If lack of worktop space is a problem, think of how you can make what you’ve got go further. For example, microwave brackets get this appliance off the worktop, creating a surprising amount of room.

If your home is on the market, something as simple as removing the dishrack before viewings makes the draining board seem part of the worktop and thus creates the illusion of more space.

Remember people viewing your home will open your cupboards and drawers, so it’s important to keep these tidy and uncluttered.

Cabinet Organizer - 2 Shelf - (White)

Another solution to lack of workspace is to install an island unit – if you’ve got the room.

If you haven’t, maybe a slimline table or breakfast bar will give you more workspace and still allow you to move round the room with ease.

Any kitchen you can bill as a kitchen/diner when selling your home is a bonus because these are much in demand, so even if you can only squeeze in a small breakfast bar or table, do so. Hinged tables which fold flat against the wall when not in use are a good idea if space is tight, and installing one is a relatively simple DIY job.

30/411C Cookware Lid Rack 22x6
If clutter from your cupboards tends to spill out onto the worktop, you have to force yourself to be tidy and stay tidy until your home’s sold. Try putting utensils in drawers or jars/pots and store pastas, cereals and the like in ceramic, glass or chrome airtight jars, preferably stackable ones.

If you’ve got nice glasses, crockery pots and pans, get out your drill and put up some shelves – floating shelves are very fashionable – which gets them out of the cupboards, freeing up space.

Under Sink Pull-Out Organizer
Baskets or boxes can also be stacked on top of wall units if your kitchen has high ceilings and you need to make the most of the space – looking in need of storage is a big no-no when selling your home – though don’t store anything needed too often, or too heavy, up there.

When you’re replacing a kitchen, it’s easy to incorporate manufacturer’s clever design ideas for awkward and small spaces, but if you’re making the best of what you’ve already got, it pays to think laterally, especially when selling your home.

Portable Generators – Consumer Product Safety Commission Warning

August 21, 2006
Release #06-239
CPSC Media Contact: Scott Wolfson
(301) 504-7051
* Statements from the Commission attached

CPSC Approves NPR Proposing New Warning Label for Portable Generators

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to reduce the rising death toll from carbon monoxide poisoning associated with consumer use of portable generators, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted unanimously (2-0) to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR).

The proposed standard would require manufacturers to place a new warning label on portable generators.

The label includes pictograms and statements warning consumers that a generator’s exhaust contains poisonous carbon monoxide and that a generator should NEVER be used inside the home or in partially enclosed areas such as garages.

Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Complete Guide to Home Storage and Physical SurvivalCPSC has reports of 64 people who died last year from carbon monoxide poisoning associated with portable generators. Many of the deaths occurred after hurricanes and major storms.

Later this year, CPSC staff will be providing the Commission with information on other potential regulatory and non-regulatory options to reduce deaths and injuries caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.

The public has 75 days to comment to the Commission about the NPR. Comments can be submitted to CPSC’s Office of the Secretary at tstevenson@cpsc.gov


August 15, 2006

Today I am voting to publish for comment a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) that would require all portable generators sold to consumers in the United States bear a specific warning label. The purpose of the proposed rule is to better warn consumers about the very real danger of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning posed by the use of a portable generator in or near a home.

Grundig FR200 Emergency Radio (Red)The demand by consumers for portable generators has increased in recent years. Portable generators can be extremely useful machines, particularly after the loss of electricity in the wake of a storm or for some other reason. However, as the number of portable generators in use has increased, so too have the number of people who have been killed or sickened by CO poisoning from those generators. The amount of CO emitted >from a portable generator can be up to several hundred times that released by a modern car’s exhaust and can kill consumers in a very short period of time, especially while they sleep, as several recent, tragic incidents have demonstrated.

In addition to the proposed warning label requirement, I anticipate that the Commission will soon receive a staff package outlining other regulatory options the Commission might consider regarding portable generators. I look forward to receiving that package as well as the public’s comments on this NPR, and to continuing to work with all of our stakeholders on this important issue.


August 15, 2006

In the six year period from 2000 through 2005, CPSC staff is aware of at least 222 deaths related to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning associated with portable generators. Far too many of the deaths associated with the use of portable generators predictably occur following severe weather events that typically cause power outages. Consumers, unknowingly, expose themselves and others to lethal CO gas while using the portable generator as a substitute power source often during times of high stress and anxiety.

1500W Portable GeneratorAs mentioned above, our staff is conducting a thorough review of the existing portable generator safety measures. While improvements to warnings are important, warning labels, by themselves, may be insufficient as a sole means of addressing the CO poisoning hazard. From our experience, we know that simple awareness of a possible hazard will not in every instance dissuade a consumer from behavior that leads to exposure to the hazard. Therefore, in the very near future, our staff will be providing to the Commission a briefing package that will contain a comprehensive discussion on additional regulatory and non-regulatory alternatives which could be used to further reduce CO related deaths and injuries associated with the use of portable generators.

To see the full release on CPSC’s Web site, including a picture of the proposed warning label, please go to: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml06/06239.html

Home Appliance News Survey – 7 September 2006

It’s a short week and I’m still not convinced the summer is “officially over”, so blogging is going to be light today with some links to useful resources:

  • A site called Kensington Bungalow is writing a diary about renovating their house. Today’s entry is called DIY Appliance Repair.
  • eCoupons is providing appliance coupons good through September 9 for items from Best Buy.
  • A site I’ve just discovered, Apartment Therapy: Los Angeles, has a nice piece about Sears Appliance Outlets. While the article is focused on Southern California, you can find a Sears Appliance Outlet by entering your zip code, unchecking All Sears Stores and checking Sears Appliance Outlet Stores: Discontinued or slightly blemished appliances at reduced prices near the bottom of the page.
  • Savvy Saver has a piece this week entitled You too can be an appliance repair person!. Even better is their dishwasher – specific article Repair or replace?

That’s it for now.

New Maytag Refrigerator Nightmares – They Just Don’t Make Maytag Men Like They Used To

Remember avocado green appliances? I believe they were popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s . Last fall, my mother decided that this was the year that her almost forty- year- old refrigerator had to go. The green didn’t bother her, and it was working just fine, but she thought that at about forty years, she was pushing her luck that it would continue to work well. She felt should replace it now while she had the ability to shop around and make the best choice without being rushed because she was without a fridge.

So after learning that Amana, which was the brand she had and liked very much is now owned by Maytag and that the Amana models did not come in the larger size she preferred, my mother bought the Maytag model #MTB2195AEW on February 3, 2006. It is traditional in style with the freezer on top and has no accessories such as an icemaker or water dispenser. The refrigerator was delivered with a large dent in the front door and had to be returned for another one. The second one seemed fine and was installed. It has not been seven months yet and she has had five service calls and one more is scheduled for next week. Six service calls in six months!

The first call was for help with the installation of the shelves in the freezer. The instruction manual did not make it clear (and it does seem counterintuitive) that small pieces of plastic must be broken in order to make the shelves fit in the freezer. The serviceman helped with the shelves and ordered a new set of clips to hold the kickplate that was loose because of a broken clip. (It seems it was broken at the time of delivery.) We should have seen what was coming…

Call number two was regarding the freezer icing up. There were icicles in the freezer because the door was out of alignment. The hinges were replaced. Soon after this the bottom shelf in the refrigerator and the crisper began freezing. This brought about service call number three. These visits had all been with the local company that works with the store where the purchase was made. The repairman said he was unable to fix it although he thought the problem might be the thermostat. He referred her to Maytag and left an 800 number for her to call.

My mother called Maytag right away and was told that the soonest appointment would be two and a half weeks later. She waited and was rewarded at this, her fourth service call, by having the damper replaced. Within two days everything was freezing again on the bottom shelf and in the crispers. ( For those who don’t know, crispers are the bottom drawers in the fridge used for storing fruits and vegetables.) She called the Maytag folks again who told her she would need to wait another two and half weeks for service. When the repairman arrived for this fifth call, he looked at the fridge, told her that she should not place canned foods on the bottom shelf and that the crisper is supposed to freeze things. She suggested that she should just return it, to which he replied “You do that.” and he left.

avocado paintOne more call has been placed – to the store where she purchased this malfunctioning Maytag. They want another shot at fixing it. She is waiting yet another week for the service call and we all hope that they don’t send the repairman who referred her to Maytag customer service three calls ago because it seems that Maytag has no intention of offering service to this new ( and possibly former) customer.

This all makes me wonder why the old green fridge, which had almost no problems in it’s nearly forty years, lasted so long. Was the old Amana a better made appliance? Is Maytag, which has been known in the past for it’s high quality, losing its edge? Or does avocado green have a special effect on appliances?

It’s tempting to spend a few dollars at Amazon.com for some paint…