Last night, I saved Sweetie and me about $200 with a fairly minimal amount of effort. Sweetie has a fancy fridge-- not a super-expensive SubZero or anything like that, but a not-cheap fridge with a few extra bells and whistles. So it's been very annoying that it has "broken" a few times over the years, and Sweetie has had to call an appliance repair guy at a cost of about a couple hundred dollars each time.
The last time he visited, the doorman who let him in said the guy had spent a lot of time defrosting the freezer with a hair dryer. So this time, when the fridge started losing its cool, I looked up that model online and found various websites with people discussing the problem. It seemed very likely that the auto defrosting wasn't working and that a build-up of ice was the culprit. With an old-fashioned cheapo fridge like I used to have, this is an easy problem to spot-- you look in the freezer and you see a hardened snowbank where the coils would be. You then attack it with a hairdryer and an icepick until it melts. But with these new-fangled fridges, all that stuff is hidden away, so you have to figure out how to open up whatever's covering them. This is where diagrams and manuals on the internet really help! Within a few minutes, we had figured out how to remove a back panel in Sweetie's fridge to reveal the iced-up coils in all their glory and started blasting them with a hairdryer. A few hours after that, the freezer was nice and cold again, all cleaned out and ready for us to buy new ice cream to replace the ones that leaked out all over everything.
This is just one example. I've fixed washing machines, lighting, toilets, faucets, clogged drains and more and saved hundreds of dollars in the process. And probably bragged about it in many other posts on this blog, because I'm always so psyched when it works!
So here's my simple tips:
- Watch and learn! If you have a home repair that you don't know how to tackle, and you do call a repairman/plumber, etc., pay attention to what they do when they get there. I've learned so much by watching what they do-- some problems tend to repeat themselves, and it's great to know that next time, I can just emulate something simple that I saw a professional do. I also grew up with people in my family who liked to do their own repairs. I took an interest in such things at an early age, and learned a lot of tips I still remember. If you have kids, teach them these skills-- it's not just a money-saving lesson, it teaches responsibility and self-reliance. Not to mention that it can be helpful to have an extra set of smaller, more agile hands, and it can be a fun bonding experience.
- Use the internet! It's amazing how many questions you can answer with a simple online search. "Why isn't my freezer cold?" "How can I stop my toilet from running?" "How do I rewire a lamp?" These and so many more questions are discussed at length in online forums. If you know the brand of model number of your appliance, add that to your query and you may be able to find specific diagrams and videos showing you exactly what to do. Not everyone who contributes to these discussions is always right, so check a couple of sources rather than just relying on the first answer you see.
- Be careful! If you really aren't sure what you are doing, proceed with caution. You don't want to flood your house or get electrocuted. Turn off the appliance, unplug it, turn off the circuit breaker, make sure you are prepared with the tools you'll need like pliers, or a bucket and some towels. Have a friend there to help in case anything goes wrong. Go slowly, and take notes if necessary to remember how to put things back the way you found them.
For so many minor household repairs, significant expense can be avoided with just a little common sense and a willingness to figure things out. And aside from the financial benefits, there's such a feeling of satisfaction when you can say "I fixed it myself!"