appliance repair

Compact standard microwave on a shelf.

DIY Appliance Repair: Microwaves

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open tabletop microwave oven on a white backgroundWe find microwaves in just about every home we enter for service. To most people, however, they’re a mystery. We put our coffee inside, press one or two buttons, and a few minutes later we have hot coffee! Gotta love this technology!

From a DIY appliance repair perspective, when a novice attempts to repair a “not-heating” problem, half-way into the unit they back off because many components inside stand ready to punish them for trying. But, if they have the right knowledge before starting, chances are they might get the thing running again.

For now, I’ll leave the repair talk out of this and review how microwaves work and why never attempt to repair them on your own without expert help.

That said, welcome to Tin Lizzee’s latest article in our Getting Started Series! Today’s article reaches further into microwave technology. How it heats, when it doesn’t, who invented it and when. Great stuff to know!

What Makes a Microwave Work?

Each time you press “start” on the control panel of your microwave, several events take place to heat your food. The main control receives input from pressing the start button and a safety check of the door switches determines if the microwave can proceed.

After initial checks, house power (120 Vac) feeds to the main control where 120 Vac is fed directly to the high-voltage transformer where it’s doubled by the high voltage diode and capacitor circuit before reaching the magnetron. The magnetron produces microwave energy and cooking begins.

This is a simplified description of the microwave process, but overall it should give you an idea of what happens after you press start on the keypad. Many components come together and operate to produce heat. While failure of any one component would shut off high voltage, most times lights and display work, but food doesn’t cook.

Because of the extremely high working voltage of a microwave (approx. 2200 volts), it’s recommended having a working knowledge of safety and follow every step when disabling high voltage.

Inverter Technology in Microwaves

Standard microwave operation lacks a consistent, even heat in the cavity. To circumvent this, Panasonic and GE use inverter technology in some of their models. An advantage of using an inverter in place of a standard high-voltage transformer is when adjusting a cooking cycle power output to 50% for example, it outputs power at exactly 50% of its full, rated power.

A standard microwave achieves 50% power by turning its magnetron on full for approximately half of the set time in the cycle. Due to heat losses within the unit, the microwave averages 50% output, meaning power fluctuates above and below 50% power.

Inverter technology holds the advantage in cooking food with steady heating, and it can defrost food without burning the edges. However, the cost of microwaves using inverter technology is much higher than standard ones, and repair parts cost more, too.

Convection Microwaves

Tabletop convection microwave with door open showing inside.Sometimes I wonder why convection microwaves haven’t caught on yet. They’ve been around a long time, but few are sold. Perhaps the price scares people away. If I had to guess, I would say it’s because microwave cooking never got people excited enough to try it.

Convection cooking in a microwave is nearly the same as in a standard range with convection. They both use fans to circulate hot air around the cavity and bake food evenly. Wait! Bake in a microwave? Yes, that’s what convection microwaves do! Maybe now we know the reason they’re not popular. Your existing range with convection outperforms the microwave in every way, including cooking space.

One last topic about repair. I couldn’t resist.

Typical Causes of No Heat

A non-heating microwave is a huge disappointment and if you don’t have a clue of the reason, you’re more upset. I know how you feel because I’ve been there, too. Most times, the cause is a simple one, but not as easy to fix. Let me explain.

Standard microwave magnetron.By far, the most common cause of no-heat in a microwave is a failed magnetron pictured here. A simple reason, but a challenge for a novice to fix. Tin Lizzee can guide you through diagnosing this and any other symptom and find out exactly what is causing the issue.

Another common cause of several issues is the door switches. If one or more fail, lights staying on, no heat, not starting, and starting unattended are some of the symptoms you’ll see. As I said earlier, simple reason, but a challenge to fix.

If you go ahead with a repair, we help you through every step, and if needed, our camera sharing app, Virtually There™ shows us in real time exactly what you see. It’s just like being there with you!

Wooden Blocks Spell Final ThoughtsWho Invented the Microwave?

The story about how microwaves got their start is funny! In 1945, a man named Percy Spencer working at Raytheon was working on a radar system and microwaves produced from it started melting a Hershey’s chocolate bar in his pocket!

Initial tests were popcorn and yes, an egg. We all know what happened to the egg, right? It exploded!

From there, Spencer fabricated a sealed metal box and tested his discovery with food inside. He verified temperatures in food rose rapidly but didn’t burn the outside. Raytheon filed for a U.S. patent on October 8, 1945. The rest as they say, is history!

If you have any comments to add from your experience with microwaves, please feel free to add them below. Or, if you liked what you read here today, please let us know. As always, we love to hear from our readers!

Why Your New Dishwasher Doesn’t Clean Your Dishes

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By Kevin Derry

 

Have you noticed that your brand new dishwasher doesn’t really get your dishes clean? That your glasses still have fingerprints and lip marks, that your pots are steadily turning gray, and dishes have bits and specks on them? Have you found that the only way you can get the dishes reasonably clean is to wash them before putting them in the dishwasher, or running the machine two or three times? Well don’t call a repair person just yet!

Some years ago, detergent makers took a key ingredient out of dishwasher detergent. That ingredient would be phosphate, and it was a wonder. Phosphates are truly what made dishwashing detergent work, they remove grease, crud, and even prevent dirt from re-attaching to your dishes. So why would they remove it? In 2010 seventeen states* banned phosphate use in household products. Detergent makers decided it was just too expensive to make one type of detergent for some states and another for the rest, so they stopped using phosphates in all of them.

Why the ban? Some studies have shown that when phosphates enter lakes and streams they cause excessive growth of algae, which in turn kill off plant life and fish. Not everyone agreed with the causality, but all the big detergent companies, such as Proctor and Gamble, immediately, and without telling the public, removed phosphates. Consumer advocates and environmentalists sugges that over time non-phosphate cleaners will improve. That has been true for laundry detergent, but not noticeably so with dishwashers.

What can you do? If you have a high end dishwasher with dirt sensors, you may find your dishwasher is taking 3-4 hours to complete a load. Washing them first seems like double the work, water, and time, why have the dishwasher to begin with?  As a dish dryer? Running the machine twice does not sound any better for the environment than green lakes and ponds.

There are alternatives to washing and rewashing. Don’t throw that machine out just yet!  Consumer Reports has determined that a product called Finish Quantum far outperforms all other non-phosphate dishwasher detergents.  Finish Quantum was closely followed by CR Best Buy and Finish Powerball Tabs, which scored excellent for dishes and pots, and bested some detergents that cost more. You can read the Consumer Report article here.

Another option, if you don’t live in one of the states where it is banned*, is to add phosphates in yourself.  Tri-Sodium Phosphate, or TSP, can be bought at many local stores and online.  According to an article in Mommy Perfect the correct mixture for TSP to detergent is

Dishwasher: ¼ teaspoon, along with normal dish detergent
Front-load washing machine: 1 tablespoon to ¼ cup, along with normal laundry soap
Top-load washing machine: ¼ cup to ½ cup, along with normal laundry soap

As an appliance technician for many years, I have seen a lot of changes. Usually these are with the machines themselves, but in the case of dishwashers and washing machines, the change has come in the detergents now for sale. Check back with Tin Lizzee often for more helpful articles like this one, and remember, if you your appliance does let you down, Tin Lizzee can help you Repair Easy!

*The banned states are MA, OH, MI, WI, MN, NH, MA, MD, DC, VT, PA, NY, IN, IL, VA, UT, WA and OR.

Pic of table with the word WARRANTY spelled with wrinkled pieces of paper across it

The Real Cost of Appliance Protection Plans

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Folding money made into a houseWhen was the last time you were glad you covered your appliance by an appliance protection plan? My guess is the last time it broke! But, what about the months you paid and paid, and never had to use it? For this reason, more people opt out of their contracts. Yes, they understand it’s an investment but at the end of each year, it’s surprising to learn the cost for protection compared to the cost of repairs.

I’ve dealt with customers with contracts from all the major companies. American Home Shield, Choice Home Warranty, NEW, Lowe’s, Superior, and the list goes on. I can tell you each one has restrictions–the ones you learn about at the worst time. Sometimes, a protection plan comes in handy, but that’s the exception. The real cost of these plans might surprise you. I’ll go into detail about the “small print” here.

The reality is paying for a protection plan year after year doesn’t afford you better coverage. You’re still treated as if you started the plan yesterday. From the perspective of the warranty company, you’re under contract, and the contract rules the day, so to speak. Most times, common sense does not apply! Read from on another of our Blog articles here.

Appliance Replacement Isn’t What You Think

Imagine your washer requires an overhaul to bring it back to manufacturer specs. The cost is prohibitive and makes sense to kick ole’ faithful to the curb. You remember your maintenance contract and you’re thinking it covers the cost except for your deductible.

Your contract says if the unit is too costly to repair or deemed unrepairable, you’re entitled to a replacement. I can tell you there was a time around 10 years ago when a few companies arranged delivery of a comparable machine for no charge after deductibles.

Today, however, replacements don’t exist to my knowledge. The latest technique used is offering you a “buyout” of your contract. It’s a formula for prorating your contract and you end up with a fraction of the money paid to the warranty company. If you paid $600 for a year of coverage, in month 11 you receive $50 toward a new machine.

Some contracts are much more expensive than $600 annually. Some are $200 per month, or $2400 for the year. It’s a hefty sum, for sure. In the above scenario, your month 11 buyout is a paltry $200. These numbers represent the harsh reality of maintenance contracts.

Protection plans evolve and changes come and go. However, their business model makes the company money with little regard to your particular situation. Harsh, but true. I wouldn’t say these things if I didn’t have firsthand knowledge.

Three Service Calls before Escalation

A common phrase I hear about appliance replacement is what I call the “Three Call Rule”. Many warranty companies tell customers after three service calls, the appliance is eligible for replacement. They forget to mention three different and unrelated service calls qualify an appliance repair situation for escalation, not three calls for the same problem.

Escalation takes time, and your case gets reviewed by people with the company’s interests in mind. A decision to repair, replace, or buyout comes down. The decision is final with no chance for reversal. The decision benefits the company, not you. Here’s an example:

Imagine your three-year-old $1200 front-load washer won’t run. Three different service companies attempted the repair, and nothing seems to work. It’s the same problem, so the three-call rule doesn’t apply. You’re told your washer needs a “tub job” which is the most expensive repair for a washer of this type.

They choose not to repair the washer due to cost, and a replacement washer is out of the question because your case doesn’t meet the three-call rule. The last option available is the buyout. A buyout always favors the company. You’re left with a broken washer and a pittance for the repair. The hardest pill to swallow is they consider your contract paid in full and is no longer valid.

When to Purchase an Appliance Protection Plan (if ever)

If you plan to keep your appliance longer than five years, a protection plan could be a wise decision, but you’re risking your money. If you must,  purchase the plan at the three-year mark. It’s around the third year many appliances demand big repairs such as gearcases, compressors, control boards, etc.

If your appliance experiences a major repair, and it’s paid by the warranty company, expect higher rates at renewal time. The reason you’ll hear is the age of your machine. The real reason is rates increase as use of the service increases and base your rates on risk. Remember, the business model makes the warranty company money.

Best Advice: Ditch the Warranty Company

Service contract agreement document with blue pen to sign your name on the signature line and buy the service arrangement or extended warranty.Learn to self-insure for future repairs and save money you would’ve paid to a warranty company. Put the money into a savings account, but don’t use it for anything except appliance repair. When the day comes (and it will) to decide about a repair or replacement, the extra money helps make the decision easier, and it’s done on your terms.

I think service contracts are a waste of money for my customers because I know they’re expensive. The warranty companies make their money by selling the convenience of paying a deductible (or not) and placing a phone call for service. Simple? Yes. Expensive? YES.

Person continuity testing heating element from a washing machineA better and less expensive approach is DIY appliance repair. Appliance repair isn’t as difficult as many people believe. Or, should I say, it is if you don’t know how. Tin Lizzee specializes in showing and teaching people interested in repairing their appliances how it’s done.

We bring the experience, know-how, advice, tips, and enthusiasm. You bring your willingness to allow us to show you how to repair your appliance, quickly and easily. In the rare instance your appliance needs too much work and isn’t cost effective, we’ll tell you before you invest money unnecessarily.

Tin Lizzee loves to see you do your best work! We promise not to tell your friends and neighbors we helped you! You get all the bragging rights and we will know we helped another self-motivated DIYer save money and learn!

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! Service contracts or protection plans have one thing in common. Expense. We urge you to think twice about committing to a contract. If you can change a lightbulb or tighten a bolt the right way, you have what it takes to fix your own stuff!

The best part is, you won’t be alone. We’ll guide you every step of the way as if we’re by your side helping you from start to finish.

We staff Tin Lizzee with screened and certified techs from all over the country, and online appliance repair help is all we do. Our customer service department treats you like family (you are part of our family–the Tin Lizzee family!) and we love our customers. Try us and find out for yourself!

As usual, you’re welcome to leave any comments below. We always appreciate your input! Do you have a specific question you would like answered here in a future post? Please, let us know. We’ll be glad to help!

Why HE Soap Matters for Great Wash Results

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The transition from traditional washers to high-efficiency (HE) meant soap had to change, too. Fortunately, millions of people got the message and used HE detergent instead of conventional detergent in their new washers. Before I explain why HE soap matters, I’ll point out the differences between HE and conventional washers.

Traditional vs HE

Traditional Top Load Washer with SudsMany of us grew up with traditional washers without worry about load size, soap, or water. More seemed better because, well, it was. Standard machines easily washed large loads, and they did a good job for years. However, with the introduction of HE washers, much changed.

The old workhorse washers made way for new, cheaper, and energy efficient washers. Here, less is better, according to the manufacturers. HE washers use modern technology designed to reduce water consumption and lower energy costs.

The goal is a reduction of up to 80% less water and less energy consumption than traditional washers. Further, manufacturers touted more capacity and faster wash times. The reality is while the capacity is greater, the wash results haven’t met their goals. This is partly due to misinformation about amount and quality of soaps.

Overloading HE washers is common and contributes to complaints clothes aren’t getting clean. Too much weight and wrong type and amount of soap leads to a majority of washability complaints I hear often. The solution is smaller loads and correct type and amount of soap.

HE soap is a different soap and must be used correctly. Often, it is isn’t, which leads to over soaping and clothes not getting clean or rinsed well. In my experience, those who follow recommendations experience great wash results and softer clothes.

Less soap usage and lower water levels requires soap to work harder to clean. That said, a quality HE soap becomes important to produce great wash results. HE soap is a non-sudsing soap and helps prevent suds alarms many front-load HE washers show if it detects excessive suds.

The result is longer wash cycles due to increased rinsing. A suds alarm indicates over soaping or a mechanical problem with the washer. The easy solution is use less soap to eliminate it as a cause. Sometimes, the problem is internal to the washer. Tin Lizzee stands ready to help you whenever situations like this arise and you need a quick answer or do-it-yourself appliance repair solution.

The True Effect of Too Many Suds

Top Load HE Washer

Instead of grinding clothes around an agitator as in conventional washers, the HE process gently moves clothes around and against each other to assist the cleaning process. Much of the wash cycle is soaking and gently rubbing which gets your clothes their cleanest.

HE soap is non-sudsing and prevents the effects of too many suds. If suds appear in the wash water, it’s an indication of too much soap (yes, HE soap will produce some suds if too much is used). Suds cradle the clothes and prevent them from contacting each other, reducing cleaning.

Whenever excessive suds are present, your washer likely extends the rinse, or adds another full rinse cycle to cancel the suds affect. If suds remain due to excessive soap, the spin cycle can’t remove all the soap from the clothes and end up not getting clean and might smell, too.

What Can You Do About Suds?

Front Load Washer with Too Many SudsAlways use less than the recommended amount printed on the label. After trial and error, I found approximately a tablespoon of quality HE soap is sufficient for most normal loads. The exception is an extra half-tablespoon for extremely soiled clothes.

I know it doesn’t seem enough for an average load, but remember you’re using HE soap which is different from traditional detergent. If you use the right amount, suds won’t be a problem and you’ll experience clean and soft clothes.

If you’re using a water softener, you may experience suds in the wash water. Experiment with amounts of soap until the suds subside and your clothes are clean. Always remember to use quality HE soap at all times.  

In Closing…

Today’s HE washers do a fine job washing clothes, and soap and load size determine the results you will see. Quality HE soap in the right amount with an average load size should give the outcome you’re expecting every time. If you’re experiencing difficulty with any of your home appliances, feel free to contact us. We’re here to help you, anytime or anywhere! If you like what you’ve learned here today, please drop us a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

 

It’s Amazing How Easy Most Appliance Problems Are to Repair!

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If you own an appliance, chances are it has failed at some time or other. This never seems to happen at a good time. Along with the appliance failure comes the unpleasant inevitable series of choices, most of which are costly or time consuming. If your appliance is past warranty, there are three ways you can go: buy a new one, call a service technician out, or repair your appliance yourself.

In order of expense, buying a new appliance is usually the most costly option, and is not generally necessary. Calling a service technician for an in-home repair is the second most expensive option in both time and money. Service calls often require two visits, one to diagnose the appliance problem and one to return with the part and then make the repair. The third option, repairing your appliance yourself, is almost always the most cost effective, but could be very time consuming and frustrating. DIY appliance repair can seem pretty daunting, or almost out of the question to many people, even to those folks who feel pretty confident about their handyman skills. It turns out, surprisingly, that most appliance problems are fairly easy to troubleshoot, and the repair can usually be accomplished with common tools found in your home already.

Just as with doing anything new, the difficulty in fixing a broken appliance yourself is knowing what to do and how to do it. Fortunately, there is a new and innovative company called Tinlizzee.com who provides their customers with that knowledge and walks them through the diagnosis and repair. Tinlizzee.com does this by pairing an experienced, certified appliance technician with the homeowner through live chat and camera sharing. The camera sharing is done using a feature called Virtually There™ that allows the homeowner to show the technician, using their smart phone’s camera, exactly what they are seeing.

Your ice maker stopped making ice, or your stop top isn’t working? With Tinlizzee.com, you can figure out what’s wrong with that yourself. The dryer doesn’t dry your clothes, or the refrigerator isn’t cold enough? These are all common problems that are in many cases quite easy to repair. With an experienced Tin Lizzee appliance repair technician at your side, you can save both time and money, and feel pretty proud of yourself.

For an example of appliance repair help, a recent Tin Lizzee customer Elizabeth, had an ice maker that wasn’t making ice. Using live chat through Elizabeth’s phone, the Tin Lizzee technician took her step by step through the diagnosis, and within minutes, he had found the problem. The technician then found Elizabeth the part online and provided her a link to where she could buy it for the best price. Later, after the Elizabeth had purchased and received the part, she launched a new live chat session, using the Virtually There™ camera sharing app. Using just a screwdriver, the technician guided Elizabeth through the process of removing and replacing the failed part with the new one. The repair took less than 45 minutes to accomplish. In total she only spent $75. Elizabeth saved over $250 using this new service compared to calling a repairman to her house, and a potential savings of $4,500 if she considered buying an entirely new fridge out of frustration- something definitely not in her budge! The added bonus was the time that she saved. She did not have to take any time off from work- or from her family- using tinlizzee.com.

Tin Lizzee tells its customers that “it’s amazing how easy most things are to repair”, and they prove that with each customer. Tinlizzee.com is the only online appliance repair company that features the Virtually There™ camera sharing app. They boast experienced appliance repair technicians, and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just like the repairs Tin Lizzee assists their customers with, their website and app are easy to navigate and use.

Priced at just $19.95 for a diagnosis session and $24.95 for a repair, appliance repair help becomes a cost savings as well. Often a significant savings. Add to that the savings on purchasing the part without the service company’s mark up, and the total savings are often significant.

The two major considerations for whether or not to repair your appliance yourself are the cost and the time spent. In most instances, an appliance self-repair is your best course of action for both considerations. With the help of Tinlizzee.com’s experienced technicians and innovative technology, it is much easier than you can imagine. There is much truth in the company’s motto, “Do-it-yourself doesn’t mean do it alone!”