Have you ever watched a space alien movie where you suddenly see a blinding white light shooting out from around the door or window where the alien is “hiding”? I just had that experience with my stoves’ electric oven. No there is not an alien in there. But as I was cooking, I suddenly saw a very bright light shooting out from the oven door window. It was very disconcerting because I was not even using the oven at the time. A quick look at the oven and I could see that the heating element was emitting the light from just one small spot. My mind quickly surmises that this is not normal and if the oven is not on then the only way to stop it is to pull the plug on the stove. I quickly pulled the stove away from the wall and unplugged it from that big old 220 Volt socket.
Then my son wanders into the room and asks me what I am doing to the stove and is the oven ready for his chicken nuggets. Aha, so the oven had been turned on by someone and was not just burning up spontaneously. At least this is good news as it is probably a problem with the element itself and not a bigger problem in the control circuitry. I open the oven door and poke at the heating element with a fork and quickly discover that the element has burned itself into two separate pieces.
My wife soon arrives on the scene after son tells her the news. She is all excited that she might be getting a new stove. No, I say, I think it is a just the heating element that has burned out and I can probably get us a new one when the parts store opens on Monday. As her smile fades she says “I was afraid of that”. She loves the fact that I am a guy that fixes things and nothing stays broken in our home for very long. Still, it is a double-edged sword. We wind up using our old appliances that are still working long after most of our neighbors have replaced their broken ones with the shiny new modern versions. I tell her I will have it working in a few days at the cost of about $20 in parts. She appreciates that we are saving hundreds of dollars by fixing the old oven but still has hopes of a getting a replacement oven before someone invents a “StarTrek like” food replicator that makes cooking the old fashion way totally obsolete.
This leads me to the easy life philosophy of fixing and making do with what you have. Now, this does not always work. About the same time as the oven was giving us problems the doorknob to the garage was giving me fits. I would walk out into the garage and find that I could not get back in without fighting with the doorknob. I usually won the fight but finally, enough was enough. After taking the doorknob apart I realized that the thing was just worn out. My first clue was that bits of metal came falling out of the mechanism and yes that is usually a bad sign. So off I went to Home Depot and bought a new one. I got one that matched the old door know pretty closely. Now did you know that Home Depot will rekey your new doorknob for free? Yep, I just gave it to their lock guy along with my house key and he had it rekeyed to match all of our other house locks in about 5 minutes. Anyway, getting back to the “making do” topic, many times a little effort can save you from having to slave away for a work promotion just so that you can pay to replace your broken stuff. As a bonus fixing stuff is its own reward. Many times I find myself just looking at something I was able to fix and feeling that wonderful sense of accomplishment from a job well done.
You do have to stay on top of things. Right after the oven issue, the furnace blower went out. Now where I live right now it is winter and cold and everything that heats up seemed to be breaking at the same time. So first think on Monday morning I went to the parts store and was able to get a new heating element for the stove and a new blower motor for the furnace (more on that in a later post). I do love a good parts store. If I can afford to wait, buying parts online at a better price is even better.
Now maybe you think all this is too hard. Maybe you think you will make things worse, but often as was the case with the oven, the fix is simple enough and hey if it is broken anyway how much worse can you make it? To fix the oven it was just a matter of taking out 2 screws and unplugging the old element and plugging in the new one. Now how much do you suppose a repair guy would charge you to do that? While I did have to drive to the store for the part and spend a few minutes putting the heating element in, I was happy to only be shelling out about $30.
So the bottom line is that fixing stuff can help your bottom line and your quality of life. Say the repairman charges $300. Think how long you have to work to earn that money. Don’t forget that you also have to put in some extra work time to pay for the deductions on that earned money. To get $300 net pay that you can spend on repairs, you may need to earn $400 or so depending on your personal tax and deduction situation. Also if you had to take that money out of your regular pay, this is now money that you don’t have to pay your regular bills or for family fun. If you look at it this way, fixing the stove yourself is like earning an extra $400 that you don’t have to pay taxes on. I like that a lot. I like not having to do extra work away from home just so I can pay the repairman. I like having more money in my pocket while I hang out with my family fixing stuff around the house. To me, fixing my own stuff is all about living an easier life.
See a video of the stove fix HERE.