Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The game of appliance roulette

Well, it's January, which means that we're a few weeks past the Christmas expenditures and a couple of months away from Uncle Sam's tax refund check. Or, in other words, it's time to play every home owner's favorite game: the game of appliance roulette!

The game goes like this: try and guess which of your aging appliances will decide to die sometime between December 20 and January 31. Will it be the microwave? The dishwasher? The stove? The refrigerator? The washer or dryer? The TV or computer? The--oh, let's hope not--heating or air conditioning unit?

The most dramatic Appliance Roulette loss we ever had happened the year our oven caught fire on Dec. 22. Yes, three days before Christmas when the girls were quite young, Thad and I were wrapping presents while the girls watched a Christmas-themed cartoon, and in between I popped out to the kitchen to put some chicken in the oven. A few minutes later we heard panicked pounding on the door, and Kitten yelling something about something burning in the oven. "Oh, darn," I theoretically said (it may have been worse), and I ran out into the kitchen expecting that some particle of the dinner had fallen out of the pan and made contact with the heating element. Instead, I saw the element itself on fire, burning up like a demented and very lost July 4th sparkler. The next few minutes involved Thad, a fire extinguisher, and total chaos.

Amazingly enough, the nice man at that big box hardware store told us an hour or so later that we could indeed have that inexpensive replacement model delivered on Christmas Eve. We cheered. The credit card may have shrieked, but we cheered. :)

And I saw earlier today by the receipts we've saved that it was almost exactly a year later that the washing machine gave up the ghost--right after Christmas. At least, the receipt for the replacement one was dated December 30 of that year; I honestly don't remember it being right after Christmas, but receipts don't lie.

The dryer was good to us--it decided to die apart from the Christmas schedule. Of course, it caught fire as Thad tried to repair it on a September afternoon about five years ago, and I could have done without the "catch fire and then die" motif started by the stupid oven; but I appreciated the dryer's thoughtfulness in not choosing to quit right in the middle of the Christmas season. This was especially nice because we ended up having three separate dryers delivered to our house before one of them actually, you know, got hot and dried clothing, instead of producing as much lukewarm inefficient air as a typical politician.

Alas, the replacement dryer is more of a "team player" with the rest of the appliances: it died Monday, about five years after we originally bought it. Okay, so technically it's not dead; technically we could order about $150 worth of parts and fix it ourselves, provided we don't have a repeat of that whole "catch fire while trying to fix it" thing; or we could spend the money on the parts plus who knows how much more on a repairman's services. Here's the thing, though: the dryer cost just under three hundred dollars when we bought it five years ago, and it still costs just under three hundred dollars. And a new one will be under warranty again (not that they ever break during that time period, however long the warranty, but still). And a couple of appliance repair sites said that even when you replace the particular parts we'd have to replace, you're probably not going to get lots of years of service out of the thing, because the fact that those parts went bad in the first place probably means that your home has an airflow/venting issue. Which ours probably does (who thinks it's a good idea to vent a dryer into an unfinished attic in Texas, anyway)?

The point is that even a really good, expensive dryer only lasts about a decade nowadays, and this wasn't a good, expensive dryer. So, we're probably going to go ahead and replace it, rather than spend half the original price (or more) of the machine trying to repair it.

I'm actually really surprised that I'm going to be purchasing a new clothes dryer. In this year's game of appliance roulette, I'd have put money down on the dishwasher. Which I probably shouldn't even write--I don't want the computer giving the dishwasher ideas, now, do I?


Anonymous said...

We're renting, so fortunately most of our major appliances are on someone else's books, but still - I'm laying odds that the washer, which is ours, and which has ceased to spin with any enthusiasm meaning the clothes are sopping wet at the end of the cycle, will fall in short order. I'm sure it will be right after I pay bills next week, with a nice two week stretch between paydays - 16 days, actually, since this is a "long" month. Why can't this sort of thing ever happen in February?

Anonymous said...

We've taken to buying refurbished washing machines. They last as long but cost about half a brand new one.


LarryD said...

I refuse to play, in the event I jinx myself...

Deirdre Mundy said...

Ugh. Don't remind me! Last time our dishwasher broke, we decided to do without. The heater went last year.

I'm praying that this year will be the first we DON'T have to replace something!

KC said...

My washer is acting all funky and it's not even two years old. It's hard when the first set we had lasted 14 years. I'm having the repair guy check both out. I hope it won't cost too much. :)

Barbara C. said...

We moved into our house in the summer of 2006. Since then we've had to replace the oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, heating coil, air conditioner condenser, and garage door coil. My bet is on the hot water heater...or the van.

Anonymous said...

Do you all have an appliance "insurance" deal through your utility companies? We pay a big extra per month to the gas company (electric also offers one) and in return we get free repairs on all covered appliances. They kept a 30-year old stove going for a few extra years, and recently totally rebuilt (and replaced parts) the dryer.

Anonymous said...

That was supposed to say "a bit" extra, not "a big" extra!

scotch meg said...

Poor Erin!

Although I think my 2010 beats all tales of woe. It began with the furnace, which was actually fairly considerate, having worked for something like ... 70 years. It broke in mid-March. March was still cold here in Boston, but we all shivered our way through the end of the winter, using the stove (don't lecture me! it was COLD!) and the one room with electric heat. Then in June or July, the washer broke. It was 10. And best of all, in September we were told that our chimney needed replacing (not re-pointing, replacing), our roof needed replacing, and... there was a large squirrel-made hole in the side of the house, and extensive water damage in the walls due to all three.

But God is good. My husband's second job needed him for extra time last year. We had hoped to save some college money, or reduce our own outstanding (medical) educational debt, but instead, we had just enough to cover... all of the above.

Two years ago, it would have been a complete disaster. As it was, we are where we were, dependent on God and with a few new features to our house.

I hope your dryer lasts a decade!

JMB said...

I'm betting on my 10 yr old washer & dryer.

Chris-2-4 said...

Don't forget the most finicky of appliances to promise unexpected trouble. The family car.

c matt said...

Wow. Just found out we are playing that game today - $250 to fix the washer. To fix, or replace?