July 27, 2014

Tips for Working with an Appliance Repair Technician

Appliance repair is something people generally like to avoid. Break downs never occur at a convenient time. Appliances fail when they are being used or are needed. In addition to not being able to use the appliance, people now have to find an appliance repair service and schedule an appointment. Continental Appliance, a San Francisco appliance repair and sales store, offers advice for working with an appliance repair service.

Below are some guidelines for working with an appliance repair service:

1. Gather necessary information before calling the appliance repair service, including availability, warranty information, brand name, model, and serial number of the appliance.

2. Be home when the appliance repairman shows up. Though it can be frustrating to be given a two to four hour time window, this is often the best they can do. The appliance repairman cannot always be expected to know exactly how long each job is going to take.

3. Don’t put off appliance repair when something is going wrong. If the appliance is making a grinding noise but still seems to work ok, chances are the repair will be relatively inexpensive if addressed right away. Ignoring the problem could lead to a more expensive problem.

4. Owners often like to watch the technician at work, but be considerate. Keep pets and children out of the way. The repairman doesn’t need a dog licking his face or children playing with his tools.

5. Payment is expected at the time of service. Do not wait until the job is complete then tell the appliance repairman to send a bill.

As expensive as it seems, appliance repair fees are generally reasonable when considering the time and money it takes to travel around fixing appliances, to keep up with advancing technologies and new products, and the convenience afforded. Imagine if the appliance has to be taken to the shop.

Paying for Your Next New Appliance

Household appliances are generally so reliable, having one break down takes us by surprise. The hassle of shopping for a new appliance is trouble enough without worrying about paying for it too. Plan ahead, because the dryer is not going to sound out announcements before it conks-out.

Repair or Replace?

The first decision to be made is if you really need a new appliance, or if repairs are in order. If the repair costs half the price of a new appliance, seriously consider buying new, says Mark Kotkin at Consumer Reports. According to the magazine’s research, any major household appliance more than eight years old should be considered for replacement rather than repair. The magazine also suggest you skip the repair and buy new if your appliance costs less than $150.

Budgeting

“I’ve seen a lot of people’s budgets over the years, and it seems like household maintenance is one category that people miss,” says Matt Bell of MattAboutMoney.com. People who know the age of their appliances and their expected life spans can budget better for replacements. Or they could maintain a more general emergency fund for when bad things happen. Either cash stash will help you avoid finance charges on a credit card you can’t pay off right away, said Bell.

Home Warranty

A home warranty is a service contract for an existing home that covers major operating systems, such as a furnace or a dishwasher. The homeowner buys a repair contract, often for $300 to $500 a year, and pays a service charge for each call. If many of your major appliances are near the ends of their useful lives, a home warranty might be worthwhile. But warranties are complicated, covering some types of breakdowns and not others. Pre-existing conditions and malfunctions that stem from poor maintenance or installation can be excluded. Some companies will cover all or part of an appliance’s replacement cost. Choose this option carefully.

Appliance Repair Saga

We all have to deal with this on occasion- here’s a lighthearted look at one woman’s recent experience with an appliance failure.

Most of us are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of dealing with death, but I think they work equally well with appliance repair.

Not long ago, the electronic control panel on our stove went south, mid-meat loaf. Where moments before had been a glittery display panel reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise was now the Black Screen of Death. An ominous notation appeared: “Error F5.”

Instantly, I went into Denial. As in, this can’t be happening to me! This range is practically new! It had great ratings! I even went so far as to search online as to what Error F5 was. It was possible, I thought (see Denial, above) that it could be something innocuous. But basically Error F5 is code for “This is SO going to cost you.”

Finding out that the first available repair appointment from the Authorized Dealer was going to be nine days away made an easy segue into Stage 2: Anger. Loads of anger.

One teensy weensy component goes bad and the entire control board has to be replaced? This is felony design abuse! What was so wrong (caution: Luddite alert) with the old two-knob ranges, bake knob on the right, temp knob on the left? It is immoral! It’s un-American! It’s – no, no, I’m not turning down the appointment. But – and here we glide seamlessly into Stage 3: Bargaining – are you sure you can’t get me in any sooner? The kids and grandchild are going to be visiting next weekend and having no way to cook except a microwave is going to be really, really hard. Maybe you have a cancellation list I could put my name on? (Please?)

Like dying, it only gets worse from there, because eventually the Authorized Dealer actually shows up. The kids had been very nice about it all when they came. It wouldn’t be their last visit, they said, consolingly. And it never hurts to remind oneself from time to time how wonderful warm food tastes on a cold rainy evening especially since they didn’t get any.

But by this time, Olof and I are ready for some serious bakables. So it was with total shock when the Authorized Dealer mentions that control panels are a special order, usually 30 days. Stage 4: complete and total Depression, slams you right between the taste buds.

But during that long month, a funny thing happens – Stage 5: Acceptance. You develop an inner peace, not to mention an intimate relationship with the pizza guy. Cooking is over-rated. Vast technological improvements have been made in microwavables. You can now often recognize the animal they were made from.

So when the Authorized Dealer calls to install the new panel, you’re almost not sure you want him to come out. Especially when he tells you that the control board is $590 and labor to install $150. More, of course, than a whole stove used to cost.

But then you think about your mother’s wonderful cassoulet and about the grandkids coming to refer to you as Grammy Nuke. So you fork over the money and fix the range, assuming this was just a fluke and you’ll have many more years of life out of this appliance.

Talk about Denial.

Use Appliance Cash For Clunkers or Repair

So many people have been looking forward to replacing their appliances with new ones using the government’s appliance rebate program, but a new appliance may not be your wisest choice according to Angie Hicks of angieslist.com.

Under the new program, consumers will receive a rebate – expected to be between $50-$200 per appliance – in return for getting rid of old energy-consuming appliances and purchasing new appliances certified as energy efficient by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

“A good rule of thumb to determine if you should repair or replace an appliance is to look at the age factor and the cost of repair,” Hicks said. “The average price of a service call is between $60-100 before parts and labor. Many companies will deduct their call charge from the total bill if you hire them to make the needed repairs. However, if a repair will cost more than half the cost of the new appliance and the unit is more than six or seven years old, you’re probably better off replacing it.”

That’s when the Cash for Appliances program could really benefit those in need of an upgrade. In addition to the Cash for Appliances rebate, some states and local utility districts already offer rebates for purchases of energy efficient appliance, leading to even more savings.

States have the flexibility to select which appliances to include in their programs and the individual rebate amount for each appliance, however, the Department of Energy recommends that states and territories focus on heating and cooling equipment, appliances, and water heaters, which offer the greatest energy savings potential. States had until Oct. 15 to present the DOE with a plan for how they want to implement their respective programs. The rebates were to go into effect in late November.

The distribution formula for the $300 million program is about $1 for every resident in a given state. California, for example, would receive about $35 million to allocate to the program, while Wyoming would receive about $500,000. Unlike the popular “Cash for Clunkers” vehicle rebate program, consumers will not be required to trade in their old appliances. The DOE, however, is encouraging states to develop recycling plans in their proposals.

“This program is designed to help spur economic growth, create jobs, make homes more energy efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Hicks said. “Part of being environmentally friendly is to use products as long as possible, so we’re not filling up landfills with unnecessary waste. So, if your appliance is worth fixing and you can get several more years out of it, repair might be the way to go.”

Angie’s 10 questions to ask to determine whether to replace or repair an appliance:

    Is it really broken? The trouble may be a short in the plug, a tripped circuit breaker, or a bad surge-protector outlet. Check the troubleshooting section of the unit’s instruction manual for the most common problems and solutions.

    How old is the appliance?

    Have you had trouble with the unit before?
    If it’s performed well, it might be worth fixing instead of replacing with something unproven.

    How much will it cost to repair the unit?

    What would a similar appliance cost?

    Are there any hidden costs to purchase (removal, installation, disposal, tax, etc.)?

    How difficult is it to replace the appliance (Is it a built-in)?

    What additional features will I get with the new appliance?

    What energy savings will I get with the new appliance?
    Will they offset the cost of a new appliance vs. repair?

    What tax credits are available for purchasing an energy efficient unit? Will they offset the cost of a new appliance vs. repair?

Angie’s List went to the experts for their estimates on the average life of major appliances:

10-15 years for refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers.

10-20 years for ovens, ranges, and water heaters.

15-20 years for central air-conditioning unit

Getting Dry Dishes

One of the simplest ways to save a little money and energy is to let your dishes air dry after they are washed in the dishwasher. Simply use the wash only cycle and open the dishwasher door as soon as the cycle finishes. The dishes will be very hot and will dry quickly.

If you are still using the dry setting on your dishwasher and find that the dishes are wet when the cycle is complete, first check that you really programmed the washer for the heat dry setting, then check to see if the rinse aid dispenser needs filling, evaluate how well the dishes are loaded, and make sure a large item doesn’t block smaller items.

Here are some additional problems to check:

Did you use the proper amount of detergent? Too little or too much detergent can have an affect on how well dishes dry.

The next things to check are the filters, drain valve, drying fan, heating element, and the thermostat. Sometimes a clogged filter will prevent all the water from being able to exit the unit. Clean or replace clogged filters. A faulty drain valve that leaves too much water in the cabinet can be to blame. Is there too much standing water left in the unit after the dry cycle is complete? Check for blockages at this valve.

Some dishwashers have a fan that circulates the cabinet air to help dry the dishes. If the fan is not working properly, you need to replace it. At the bottom of the dishwasher is a heating element that warms the air in the dishwasher. The increased temperature speeds up the evaporation process and decreases the drying time. Visually inspect the element and look for any burned or broken areas on it, and if it’s burned out or if you can’t measure continuity with it removed, it will need to be replaced.

There is also a thermostat that measures the water temperature and drying temperature. If the thermostat is faulty, the cycles may not complete properly. If it’s faulty, you need to replace it. You may want to unload the dishes in the bottom rack first so that any water left pooled on dishes in the top rack won’t spill onto the bottom rack’s dishes.

Repair or Replace? Be Careful What You Choose

In the not so recent past, if a household appliance was in need of repair, technicians invoked the 50% rule – if a repair cost 50%or more than the cost of a new unit, buy the new one. But these days as the recession deepens, more homeowners and rethinking that advice.

Getting anything repaired, however, can be frustrating. To stay profitable, service companies book multiple appointments on the same day, forcing consumers to sit home and wait for hours. And because it would be impossible for technicians to drive around with every possible replacement part, some repairs require a followup visit that can be subject to the same inconveniences.

Typically manufacturers outsource warranty service to another company, which subcontracts the actual work to a third party. So after contacting the manufacturer, consumers frequently find themselves calling yet another number, and then later, after the service call has been arranged, communicating with a third party — who inevitably seems to have a different idea about when the work will be done and what the warranty covers.

Appliance-repair rage has also driven at least one person, a 42-year-old woman in northern England who says she endured six months of rescheduled appointments and other delays, to hold a repairman hostage until he fixed her washing machine. “I am not proud of what I did,” Tracey Fox told The Daily Telegraph in January, “but it was the only way I was going to get something done.”

After the nightmare comes the bill. Manufacturers intentionally charge a lot for replacement parts as a way of encouraging consumers to buy more products, said Ronald Sawyer, an appliance servicer in Cohoes, N.Y., and a founding member and executive director of the Professional Service Association, an appliance repair industry group. “When manufacturers came up with a machine that retails for $400, that price covers all parts,” he said. “But when it breaks down and you needed a new timer, the timer alone could cost $250. Manufacturers create the technology when they design new machines, they control the manufacturing process, they make the replacement parts, so we’re at the mercy of the manufacturers.”

The complexity of warranties makes matters worse. Years ago, most manufacturers gave warranties of at least two years. Now, however, warranties on most midrange appliances are just one year, say retailers and service providers. Boutique companies like Sub-Zero and Miele typically provide coverage for longer periods.

The best way to avoid the hassle of repair, according to numerous repairmen and Consumer Reports, is to buy the simplest possible appliance. “The more doo-dads, the more stuff you add to an appliance, the more likely it’s going to need a repair,” said Mark Kotkin of Consumer Reports National Research Center. Consumers would also be wise to recognize that the more sophisticated the equipment they purchase, the more complicated — and expensive — the repairs can be.

Still, few products will last as long as those made during the 1960s and 1970s. “The old Maytag washer your grandmother had, she bought that thing and used it for 35, 40 years,” Sawyer said. “It held up like nothing was ever going to go wrong with it. Today, you just don’t get that quality.”

You can read the whole story HERE

Should You Fix the Old Appliance or Buy a New One?

It’s a common question – when your appliance needs repairs is better to fix it or start looking for a new one?  Often fixing the broken appliance can take days or even weeks if the parts are not available.  A new one can often be purchased and installed within hours.  But is buying a new appliance the right choice?

“We surveyed 13-thousand of our subscribers, covering more than 20-thousand broken products, and plenty of them had complaints about the repairs they got,” said Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman from Consumer Reports.

The biggest problems were with electric cooktops and wall ovens.

“The parts were very difficult to find and the repairs often took two weeks or more to get done,” said Kupersmid-Lehrman.

When it comes to dryers, washers, and other larger appliances, the survey showed people have much better luck using an independent shop once the warranty is up, rather than a factory-authorized service center.

But Consumer Reports says sometimes an appliance just isn’t worth fixing.

“You should replace it if the repair is going to cost more than half the price of a new model.” said Kupersmid-Lehrman.

Additionally, Consumer Reports says that it is not necessary to buy an extended warranty, as the cost for repairs, if needed will likely be about the same as the cost of the warranty.