Tag Archives: Appliantology newsletter

Appliantology Newsletter, August 2011: Appliances and Disasters

Appliantology Newsletter, August 2011: Appliances and Disasters

0. Introduction
1. Can I use my appliances during a disaster?
2. Does it hurt my appliances to run them or have them plugged in while the power is blinking on and off?
3. Can running my appliances off a generator damage them?
4. What about water?
5. How do I store food safely while the power is out?
6. Epilogue

### ### ### ###

0. Introduction

With Hurricane Irene rampaging up the East Coast and record-breaking earthquakes off the coast of Virginia (or a nuclear detonation in a sea bed bunker, depending on who you’re listening to), disaster prep seemed like the obvious topic du jour for this Special Irene Edition of *Appliantology*.

### ### ### ###

1. Can I use my appliances during a disaster?

Using appliances during a storm or other disaster can be risky to the appliance because of the power going on and off, voltage spikes (more on that below), trees falling on power lines, etc.

Even most gas appliances need electricity. For example, the spark module for your gas stove burners won’t work though the burners are still usable by manually lighting the gas, which is perfectly fine; it’s safe and doesn’t hurt the appliance. Just don’t use the gas stove to heat your house!

Most modern gas ovens with hot surface ignition require 120vac to heat up the ignitor and there’s no manual bypass for that so, without a power source, you won’t have an oven.

### ### ### ###

2. Does it hurt my appliances to run them or have them plugged in while the power is blinking on and off?

Absolutely! Every time that power blinks off and goes back on, it slams your appliances with transient voltage spikes. Depending on the severity of the spikes, these can fry control boards right away or slowly degrade them over time through a process called electronic rust. After getting slammed with a finite number of such spikes, the electronic control board(s) will eventually fail (at great expense and inconvenience to you).

To prevent this unhappy and completely avoidable scenario, any appliance with an electronic control board in it– which is most of ’em today– should be plugged into a surge suppressor, not directly into the wall. Surge suppressors for common household 120vac outlets are inexpensive and you can get ’em at your local hardware store. This will provide reasonable protection for all your 120vac appliances. Read more about surge protection for your appliances here… http://fixitnow.com/?p=1523

To protect your 240vac appliances with fancy control boards during a storm, such as an electric range with a digital display, you should switch off the circuit breaker to that appliance until the coast is clear.

### ### ### ###

3. Can running my appliances off a generator damage them?

If you haven’t purchased a generator by now, it’s probably too late for the Irene event. But in case you can (or already have a generator you’re planning to use), here are some fun facts to know and tell about using generators with appliances.

For appliances with electronic control boards– which is most appliances today– you should only use generators that produce a pure sine wave output.

Most generators produce a modified sine wave output, which is not a pure sine wave but more of a stylized square wave. This is fine for motors but not good for the AC-to-DC rectifiers in appliances. The modified sine wave messes with the rectifier, making it overheat and crank out off-spec voltages for the control board. The result is often burned out rectifiers and fried control boards.

Producing a pure sine wave output requires much more sophisticated circuitry in the inverter and usually only comes with more expensive, higher-end generators. It’s a big selling point, too, so if a generator doesn’t specifically say it’s a pure sine wave generator, then it’s safest to assume that it only puts out a modified sine wave.

So, if you do not have a generator that produces a pure sine wave output, be careful to only run appliances that do not have the electronic control boards.

Oh, and one point of safety: don’t run your generator inside the house. I know, it sounds crazy to even say it but there are knuckleheads out there who do that kind of thing. Like this guy… http://fixitnow.com/?p=693

### ### ### ###

4. What about water?

Flood waters in urban areas are a lethal cocktail of sewage, petroleum products, and just about every kind of chemical you can imagine. Simple disinfection (e.g., boiling, chlorine drops, iodine drops, etc.) is woefully inadequate for this water. You can treat the water so it’s safe from pathogens and it can still be lethal because of the gasoline, mercury, or any one of thousands of other contaminants commonly found in urban Ameedika.

The other problem is that coastal flood waters will also be either salty or brackish which, in itself, renders the water undrinkable.

The best treatment for making flood waters potable is distillation. Reverse osmosis is the next best thing. If you can’t treat flood waters using either of these two methods, don’t drink it at all!

Bottled water is the best bet but there are logistical limitations on how much you can store.

### ### ### ###

5. How do I store food safely while the power is out?

I posted some information on food preservation and safety during disasters. You can read it here: http://fixitnow.com/?p=6515.

### ### ### ###

6. Epilogue

As we say in Fukushima, “Rots of ruck, GI!”

Samurai Appliance Repair Man
http://fixitnow.com

The Samurai School of Appliantology
http://appliantology.org

Find and Buy Appliance Parts
http://parts.fixitnow.com

Appliantology Newsletter, June 2011: Samurai’s Appliance Brand Recommendations

Appliantology Newsletter, June 2011: Samurai’s Appliance Brand Recommendations

0. Introduction
1. Disclaimer of Affiliation
2. The Second Law of the Prophecy and the Golden Rule
3. The “Authorized Servicer” Racket
4. What about Kenmore?
5. The Four Prime Criteria™ and General Brand Recommendations
6. Notes and Observations on Specific Manufacturers
7. Recommendations by Type of Appliance
8. Epilogue

### ### ### ###

0. Introduction

One of the questions I get asked a lot on service calls and on the web is, “Which appliance brands do you recommend?” Or some variation on that theme such as, “Who makes the best dishwasher?” or “What’s the best brand of scrotum scrubber?”

So I thought to myself, I said, “Self, that’s a ding-dang doggone good idear for the June issue of Appliantology!” And the Lord did grin and the people did feast on fruit bats and orangutans and breakfast cereals…

Skip a bit, brothah.

### ### ### ###

1. Disclaimer of Affiliation

Right. So, since I’ll be talking about appliance brands and offering my opinion as a professional appliantologist on the good, the bad, and the butt-ugly, a disclaimer is in order. Hear ye:

In offering my professional opinions on appliance brands, I accepted no amount of money of any kind, neither shekel nor shilling, yen nor yuan, nor any Federal Reserve Note debt instruments masquerading as dollar units of value in consideration for my favorable opinion. My opinions are based upon my vast and considerable experience as an appliance samurai engaging in hand-to-machine combat in the field with machines that are no longer operating within their specified parameters or fulfilling their design function.

### ### ### ###

2. The Second Law of the Prophecy and the Golden Rule

Okay, with that bit of legal unpleasantness out of the way, let us proceed straightaway to the Second Law of the Prophecy ( http://fixitnow.com/?p=872 ): All machines break. Always keep this in mind when contemplating a new appliance purchase. Failure to consider repairability at the time of purchase is to guarantee heartbreak in the two to four years (industry average) when the appliance has its first malfunction and requires a repair.

And, brothers and sisters, let us always be mindful of the Golden Rule for buying appliances: Don’t pay so much for an appliance that you’re married to it. If the appliance suddenly requires an outrageously expensive part or has been a troublesome box of bolts requiring frequent repairs, you want the freedom to Deep Six that pig-dog and git you a new one. Well, how free will you feel to jettison said pig-dog if you’ve paid $4,000 for it? Marry a human, not an appliance.

### ### ### ###

3. The “Authorized Servicer” Racket

You also need to understand the “Authorized Servicer” racket. All this means is that an independent servicer, such as Joe Bob’s Appliance Repair Service, has signed a contract with a manufacturer agreeing to do their warranty work (i.e., fix their factory flub-ups) for a bargain-basement price, and in some cases, slave’s wages. Sometimes they get a half day or a day’s worth of training and some technical service info. The quid pro quo is that some manufacturer’s will only allow their authorized beeotches access to their tech sites and service bulletins.

In my opinion, this is tantamount to a form of blackmail and it does a great diservice to the customer. An all too common example is that someone has an appliance from a manufacturer who plays dirty like this (and I name names below) and they need a repair. The “Authorized” guy says he can’t get there for three weeks. And while the person’s regular repair guy can get there tomorrow, he declines the job because he doesn’t have access to the service info needed to fix the damn thing.

So, I ax you, mah bruvahs and sistahs, in whose best interest is it to restrict access to technical service information? You, the customer and end user, or the manufacturer with this medieval policy? Think on these things.

### ### ### ###

4. What about Kenmore?

Most people understand that there is no Kenmore factory in Malaysia or some place. The Kenmore “factory” is several floors on the Sears Tower where corporate bureaucrats beat up other corporate bureaucrats at manufacturing companies, like Whirlpool or Electrolux, to make their stuff for them and slap a Kenmore label on it.

Kenmore is nothing more than that– a label slapped on an appliance that someone else made. The real manufacturer is coded into the three digit model number prefix.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. But it creates problems crossing over a Kenmore model number to the real manufacturer model number, which is needed to look up tech info like service manuals and bulletins. So it affects repairability.

### ### ### ###

5. The Four Prime Criteria™ and General Brand Recommendations

Having laid all that groundwork, you are now ready for me to reveal my Four Prime Criteria™ for selecting an appliance brand:

– Repairability: the appliance should be constructed in such a manner that it is easy to work on
– Reasonable markup on parts compared to the markup on similar parts from other manufacturers.
– Availability of parts meaning it has a widespread and robust parts distribution system as opposed to having to buy exclusively from the manufacturer or one of their “Authorized” dealers (and usually get screwed in the process).
– Access to technical info, the big bugaboo I ranted about above, which also ties into Repairability.

To help summarize this information, I’ve developed recommendations based on how well a manufacturer lives up to the Four Prime Criteria™:

Recommended- Meet all the criteria.
Recommended with reservations- Meet some of the criteria and may be worth considering e.g., get a great bargain price on one.
Not recommended- Meet none of the criteria, not recommended for purchase under any circumstances.

General Brand Recommendations (recommendations by appliance type are at the bottom)

Recommended:
LG, Dacor, Electrolux, Whirlpool / KitchenAid, GE

Recommended with reservations:
Bosch

Not recommended:
Samsung, Viking, Sub-Zero, Fisher-Paykel

### ### ### ###

6. Notes and Observations on Specific Manufacturers

LG: Free access to their tech site for professional appliantologists, an enlightened policy that generates good will among appliantologists and, in turn, good word of mouth to customers– a guerilla marketing tactic. Relatively new to the major appliance scene but their front-load washer is already proving to be one of the best.

Electrolux / Frigidaire: Excessive compressor failures in refrigerators. On their front load washers, they removed front panel access to drain pump to save $.50 per unit in production cost; greatly decreases Repairability. However, they allow free access to their tech site for professional servicers so kudos for that.

Whirlpool / KitchenAid: This manufacturer acquired Maytag and so owns the Maytag, Amana, Jenn-Air, and Magic Chef brands. Excessive tub bearing failure in front load washers. Allow access to their tech site for professional appliantologists but it’s NOT free; $500/year for non-authorized appliantologists; $250/year for authorized.

GE: Big markup on parts prices. All access to technical info like Whirlpool but for a much lower fee ($160/year) and their tech site is a helluva better, too.

Samsung: What were the engineers smoking when they designed the refrigerator ( http://clicky.me/samsung-fridges )? Restrictive access to technical service info, quasi-restrictive parts procurement.

Fisher-Paykel: Poor reliability on all products. Flimsy products all the way around. Restrictive parts procurement. Restrictive access to technical info.

Bosch / Thermador: Restrictive access to technical info. In the case of Thermador, overpriced products with a high failure rate and difficult to work on.

Dacor: Good but pricey products. Robust parts distribution. Open access to technical info. All American-built products.

Sub-Zero: Restrictive access to technical info. Restrictive parts procurement. Excessively high failure rate for the price paid. Sticker price is a marriage license.

Viking: Draconian about access to technical info. Have threatened lawsuits against servicers to keep their tech info off the web. Restrictive parts procurement. Very poor construction quality on all their in-house built stuff. This manufacturer fails all the criteria. People who buy this brand have been beguiled by vanity and marketing hype and have given zero thought to repair.

### ### ### ###

7. Recommendations by Type of Appliance

Here are my bottom line recommendations by type of appliance, listed in order of preference:

Front load washer: LG, GE, Electrolux
Top load washer: Whirlpool direct drive (also sold as the Maytag Centennial washer)
Refrigerator: Any of the Whirlpool-built products, GE, LG
Dryer: Whirlpool with lint filter in the top panel
Dishwasher: KitchenAid
Dishdrawer: KitchenAid by Fulgor
Oven/range/stove: Electrolux, Whirlpool, Dacor

### ### ### ###

8. Epilogue

I’m developing a graphical table to summarize all this info. Obviously, I’ve not included every appliance type or brand out there so there’s also plenty of room for this guide to grow in future updates.

Just a reminder, you can find whatever appliance part you need through the parts search box at my website. No harm in buying and trying with our 365-day, no-hassle return policy, even on electrical parts that were installed!

Samurai Appliance Repair Man
http://fixitnow.com

The Samurai School of Appliantology
http://appliantology.org

Find and Buy Appliance Parts
http://parts.fixitnow.com