Monthly Archives: August 2016

Why Appliances Need Repairs So Often


New models break down more quickly than ever. Here’s how to decide whether to repair or replace a clunker.

For better and for worse, I’ve successfully navigated four kitchen remodels in the past 30 years. What’s better is the way each remodeled kitchen looks and functions. What’s worse are the appliances.

The newer appliances just don’t work as well, or hold up as long, as the old ones. My husband I have repeatedly replaced relatively new appliances, both large and small. (At least ours haven’t been deemed a safety hazard like the 1.3 million GE dishwashers just recalled because of potential fire risks.)

So I’ve been wondering: Despite all the latest whizz-bang features on today’s appliances — from noise reduction to energy savers to extra cycles — is it possible that they just don’t make ’em the way they used to?

(MORE: Home Repair: When Not To Do It Yourself)

Our Sad Appliance Tales

Get out your tissues. Here’s the history of my household appliance woes:

The scary mixer. Two years ago, I gave my daughter our 30-year-old stand mixer and purchased a new one by KitchenAid. The motor soon made scary grinding noises. A KitchenAid customer-service rep listened to it over the phone, agreed with me, and the company quickly replaced the mixer. The new model isn’t making weird noises, but it doesn’t seem as powerful or sturdy as the one I used for three decades.

The dishwasher that wouldn’t wash. This summer, we finally gave up and replaced our five-year-old dishwasher that — from Day One — never fully cleaned the dishes, despite repeated service visits from the manufacturer’s repair team.

The grills that made us go grrr. We’ve purchased at least four gas barbecue grills in 20 years after parts rusted out or just quit working. Each new model seems to have the half-life of the preceding one.

I concede that today’s appliances are far more energy-efficient than in the past. Bob Markovich, home & yard editor for Consumer Reports, told me that today’s dishwashers use about one-sixth the amount of water than models made seven years ago, and a new refrigerator uses half the energy of a 15-year-old fridge.

Still, according to the 2011 Consumer Reports Repair or Replace customer survey, more than one in five new major appliances need fixing pretty quickly. Consider the statistics:

Percentage of Appliances Breaking Within Three to Four Years

Side-by-side refrigerator/freezers with icemakers: 36 percent

Refrigerators with top or bottom freezers with icemakers: 28 percent

Front-loading washing machines: 25 percent

Dishwashers: 20 percent

And when appliances do go wrong these days, the problems may be “more catastrophic,” Markovich notes. “Things will just stop,” he says, because the appliances are now laden with electronics.

Bob Matthews, owner of R.S. Myers Service Co, the northern Virginia repair company I often call when one of our appliances breaks, says today’s appliances usually have more cycles and choices than in the past, all of which add up to more potential trouble. “They generally require more service calls than older appliances,” he says.

Why Appliances Don’t Last

I asked Daniel Braunstein, a senior lecturer at MIT’s mechanical engineering department, whether newer appliances have lost their steam. His reply: “That is a very meaty topic.”

Braunstein says appliance quality relates to the state of manufacturing, the global economy and corporate profits, among other things. “The overly simplistic view,” he notes, “is there has been a real push for bottom-line performance” by appliance makers and their stockholders. That has affected product performance.

As Braunstein tells it, many consumer-product companies have moved their manufacturing offshore, delegating design and engineering to contractors, which can create a conflict of interest.

A contractor, Braunstein says, might try to lure corporate customers by keeping the cost of its design and engineering services low. “The result becomes focused on the factory’s bottom line instead of the interests of the consumer,” he explains. Trimming costs can mean taking shortcuts that negatively impact the appliance’s quality.

Then there’s the growing competitive pressure.

“Consumer-product companies must always be releasing new products,” says Braunstein. “That means rapid product launches and short product life cycles. Design, engineering, manufacturing and especially testing get short shrift.”

Consumers Share Some Blame

Time-crunched consumers looking for bargain-basement prices also share some of the blame, when they choose inexpensive products that aren’t built to last.

Braunstein admits he’s guilty of having bought a $30 printer to suit his immediate need. “I have every expectation that it will fail within a year,” he says.

One more reason consumers replace their appliances so often: the high cost of repair bills and replacement parts.

“We charge a minimum of $92 just to go and diagnose a product, plus parts and labor, so it’s easy for a consumer to pay $150 to $250 for a minimum repair,” says Matthews. “A lot of people would rather go buy something new.”

Repair or Replace?

How do you know when it’s time to buy a replacement appliance?

A good starting point is Consumer Reports’ Repair or Replace timeline.

The magazine’s rule of thumb: When the cost of fixing an appliance will be higher than half the price of a comparable new model, don’t repair — replace.

To find out whether your balky appliance has been recalled by the U.S. government, visit the website.

What’s been your experience with appliances? Post a comment here or write to me at

Caroline Mayer is a consumer reporter who spent 25 years working for The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter @consumermayer


From Filter to Fridge, GE Can Recycle it All

LOUISVILLE, Ky.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–(NYSE:GE) GE Appliances & Lighting is once again leading the way

with the announcement of its new refrigeration water filter recycling

program, the first of its kind among appliance manufacturers.

If you drink water that comes from your refrigerator’s dispensing system

instead of plastic bottles, you’re already helping keep plastic out of

our landfills. Now GE can help you take that one step further by

recycling your old GE water filters and you won’t have to spend an extra

dime, or haul anything to a recycling center.

The program is designed to recycle 100 percent of the refrigerator water

filter. The plastic part of the product is “pelletized” and re-used. And

the charcoal filter is re-used in landfill liners that help prevent

substances from leaching into local water supplies.

“Given the hundreds of thousands of GE refrigerator water filters

currently in service, GE feels a responsibility to help consumers in

minimizing their environmental impact by providing a simple method to

responsibly recycle their used GE water filters,” says Laura Edwards, GE

parts sales and marketing operations manager.

When you order a replacement water filter from GE,1 you’ll

receive a free recycling kit for your used GE water filter. The kit

includes a pre-paid mailing label and envelope to make replacing your

water filter even easier. Changing the filter every six months helps

maintain clean drinking water from your refrigerator’s water and ice

dispensing system. Applicable filters include models MWF, MSWF, MXRC and


Other Recycling Firsts

GE is the first appliance manufacturer to partner with the

Environmental Protection Agency on its Responsible Appliance Disposal

(RAD) program with a focus on refrigeration recycling best practices.

GE’s new recycling initiative will reduce landfill waste by 85 percent.2

GE is the only full-line appliance manufacturer in the U.S. to adopt a

foam-blowing agent known as cyclopentane that will be used as part of

the insulating process in the manufacturing of its top-freezer

refrigerators in Decatur, Ala., which will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG)

emissions from the foam-blowing process by 99 percent compared to the

foam-blowing agent it replaces.3

GE is expanding its ecomaginationSM commitment and will

dramatically reduce the GHG emissions it produces by converting other

U.S. refrigerator manufacturing facilities to cyclopentane within the

next few years. GE plans to convert the refrigeration insulation

manufacturing process at its side-by-side refrigerator Center of

Excellence in Bloomington, Ind., and its bottom-freezer refrigerator

Center of Excellence in Louisville, Ky., to cyclopentane by 2014.

“GE Appliances & Lighting is looking at every aspect of environmental

stewardship for our appliances — from manufacturing processes to more

responsible product end-of-life management,” said Paul Surowiec,

general manager, refrigeration, GE Appliances & Lighting. “We also

offer hundreds of ENERGY STAR®-qualified models to ensure our

appliances deliver efficiency and cost savings to consumers throughout

the appliance’s life.”

Additionally, GE was recently awarded the ENERGY STAR “Sustained

Excellence” Award for the sixth straight year, recognizing GE’s

commitment to delivering high-efficiency products to consumers.

Friend GE

Appliances on Facebook to view how-to videos, learn about new GE

appliances, and join in the discussion with other GE appliance owners.

Join today and follow @GE_Appliances

on Twitter, or just locate detailed information about our products at

About GE Appliances & Lighting

GE Appliances & Lighting spans the globe as an industry leader in major

appliances, lighting, systems and services for commercial, industrial

and residential use. Technology innovation and the company’s

ecomagination (SM) initiative enable GE Appliances & Lighting to

aggressively bring to market products and solutions that help customers

meet pressing environmental challenges. General Electric (NYSE: GE),

imagination at work, sells products under the Monogram®, Profile(TM),

Café(TM), GE®, Hotpoint®, Reveal® and Energy Smart® consumer brands, and

Tetra®, Vio(TM) and Immersion® commercial brands. For more information,

consumers may visit

1 To order your GE replacement water filter and receive your

free recycling kit, visit

or call (877) 690-7115. And, to ensure clean, clear filtered water

year-round, sign up for our SmartOrder subscription program and have

your water filter delivered automatically every six months with free


2 Appliance Recycling Centers of America, Inc. Advanced

Processing 2010 Landfill Data, based on the component listing found in

the American Plastics Council 1994 Composition, Properties and Economic

Study of Recycled Refrigerators Report.

3 Cyclopentane replaces HFC 134a.

Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available:

Make Homemade Ice Cream – Ice Cream Freezer

Summertime and old fashioned homemade ice cream is a fading American tradition.

Those of us old enough can still remember the family reunions or community picnics where we as kids all took turns cranking the ice cream freezer, and then enjoyed a large scoop of ice cream right out of the bucket.

You can still purchase ice cream freezers at local hardware stores or online. Many are cheap imports that work fine for once or twice per year small family summer events.

Just like everything else you get what you pay for. The more you plan on using something like an ice cream freezer the better off you are to move up into a more quality built product.

These are not the small kitchen counter top ice cream makers now being sold for a small batch of ice cream.

The old time freezers use an outer wooden tub to hold rock salt and a stainless tub in the center equipped with a paddle to turn the ice cream mix, much like a butter churn.

The paddle was either hand cranked or on the newer models used an electric motor. The rock salt speeds up the freezing process and as the ice cream mix is churned it mixes and freezes in the stainless center tub.

It was not uncommon in the day to go to the county fair and some group would have a much larger version hooked to a small steam engine and be making homemade ice cream.

There are two remaining companies in the USA still making the old time wooden tub ice cream freezers, one is White Mountain Freezers and the other is Country Freezers.

White Mountain by far has been one of the most popular and sought after ice cream freezers sold in America, and will be the first name or recognition because of their long history and marketing.

Just like many American companies who have a long standing stellar reputation of quality American made products but then moved manufacturing out of the USA or went to cheaper imported parts, White Mountain is having their share of consumer quality complaints.

They are still assembled in the USA but have out sourced parts to other countries. They still make a good product for those who use them occasionally to make large batches of ice cream.

Country Freezers are manufactured and made in the USA by the Amish, when the Amish build things they build them to last. They are not concerned about market share or keeping the prices down to beat out a competitor going after a large discount chain store contract.

The Amish also don’t subscribe to the theory of planned obsolesces in order to sell more replacement products.

Country Freezers are not widely recognized because they have been basically made and sold within the Amish communities and not really marketed to the outside.

Country Freezers utilize a heavy duty manganese bronze gear frame, heavy duty gear assembly and an extra heavy stainless steel can.

The larger models even have a grease zerk fitting to lubricate the gears. The wooden tub is made of oak and feature Stainless Steel adjustable bans to keep the tub leak proof.

The down side up until this point is that Country Amish freezers have been only hand crank. They now have a 6 and 8 qt electric model. The larger models can be equipped with a pulley to run off an electric motor or other small engine.

White Mountain also touts their triple action to better mix the ice cream, the fact is Country Freezers are also triple action but because they are not in the marketing hype they just don’t make it a big deal.

If you’re really into bring back the homemade ice cream tradition and plan on making lots of old fashioned homemade ice cream for large and frequent groups, the Country Freezer defiantly should be on your list.

These handcrafted Amish made ice cream freezers are sure to bring back memories and draw a crowd during the hot summer months.

Having the kids take turns on the hand crank may actually be a good thing, as many don’t appreciate the efforts it took before the entire modern tech world we now know and live in.

These mixers make a great activity event for nursing home residents or those who can benefit from the range of motion exercises.

The 1qt Ice Cream Freezer is just the right size for a couple who still wants a taste of homemade ice cream, the 20qt the largest Freezer.

You can purchase both the White Mountain and the Country Freezers at Cottage Craft Works .com

Cottage Craft Works is a unique general store that helps the Amish and other small cottage based businesses to have a market place for their quality American made products.

Many people only relate to the Amish as being wonderful craftsmen, building fine furniture, making beautiful quilts and or making wonderful noodles, jams and baked goods.

The fact is this self-sustaining group of people makes virtually all of their common household and farming tools and equipment.

Cottage Craft Works goes deep into the back roads of the Amish communities and brings the back-to-basic products such as the Country Freezer to the Internet market place.

You will discover products that you may never heard of or haven’t seen since the 50s and 60s. These products are as functional and long lasting today as they were centuries ago.

Basics Of Microwave Ovens

Microwave ovens or microwaves are kitchen appliances that using the technique of dielectric heating for cooking or heating food. Most microwaves of today have features like grill and convection system, toaster slots, defrosting facility, steam-cleaning features, child safety lock, power-saving features and the like.

Advantages Of Microwave Ovens

These days, microwaves are becoming an important part of every kitchen. It has started replacing many other appliances due to its versatility. Microwave has its own merits that make them the most preferred choice. These features are:

o They help to retain the flavor and taste of the food cooked.

o They are quite cost efficient and safe to use.

o Microwave ovens do not require being pre-heated unlike the traditional ovens and can be used for cooking without any delay once switched on.

o Cooking in microwaves avoid the heating up of the surroundings as with gas stoves which makes the kitchen area hot.

o Microwave cooking helps to overcome the odors produced while cooking.

o The stains caused by food spills on the kitchen table and walls are prevented when using microwave ovens for cooking.

o Microwaves do not need to be washed regularly as gas stoves. They can be just wiped with a damp cloth to remove dirt and food particles.

o Cooking food is faster and requires less effort especially if using dual ovens which have the features of a conventional and microwave oven.

Disadvantages Of Microwave Ovens

Like with any other kitchen appliance, microwaves too have some demerits. However, the merits definitely outweigh the demerits.

o There are chances of the food getting over cooked or unevenly cooked.

o All types of utensils cannot be used for cooking in microwave ovens. Microwave-safe containers and vessels should be used for cooking.

o Certain kind of food cannot be used for cooking in a microwave oven.

o Since microwaves heat things quickly, it is not safe to heat liquids as they can be superheated leading to explosions.

o There is a high risk of steam blasts in the microwaves which is caused due to tight covering of containers.

Tips For A Safe Microwave Cooking

Following some tips that ensure safe cooking with the microwave ovens:

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Microwave ovens are durable kitchen appliances that serve as a fast and healthy mode of cooking. There are several microwave oven uses that make it an indispensable proposition for food enthusiasts.

Myths and Facts About Your Microwave

Myths and Facts About Your MicrowaveMyth: Microwaving food is a danger to nutrients

Nope, you shouldn’t be overly concerned about microwaves messing with nutrients. “There is no specific harm of microwaving with regard to nutrient levels,” says David Katz, MD, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. In fact, any type of cooking can chemically change a food and it’s nutrient content: Vitamin C, omega-3 fats, and some bioflavanoid antioxidants are more sensitive to heat in general, Dr. Katz says. Nutrients from veggies can also leach into cooking water. Since you’re apt to use less water when cooking in a microwave, your food might even be better off.

The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

Myths and Facts About Your MicrowaveFact: You should be careful with plastics

Microwaving plastics is definitely a no-no because it can lead to the containers breaking down and allowing more chemicals like BPA and phthalates to leach into your food. Many companies today make BPA-free and “microwave safe” containers. However, in a 2011 study in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers tested 455 plastic products, from baby bottles to food containers, and found nearly all of them still leached estrogenic chemicals, which have been linked to obesity and some forms of cancer. Even plastics marketed as BPA-free were guilty. The ubiquity of plastics makes it hard to avoid them completely. But the best advice is to avoid them when you can, and always transfer food to a glass or ceramic dish before microwaving, Dr. Katz says.

27 Mistakes Healthy People Make

Myths and Facts About Your MicrowaveMyth: Reheating pasta can make it healthier (for now, at least)

A recent experiment on the BBC investigative health program Trust Me, I’m a Doctor sparked buzz after finding that when pasta was cooked, cooled, then reheated in a microwave, it reduced participants’ post-meal rise in blood glucose by 50%. The reason, researchers said, is that pasta that’s cooled and reheated acts like resistant starch, preventing the gut from breaking down carbs and absorbing them as sugar. But don’t get too excited. That was one study including a measly nine volunteers, so Dr. Katz says to take it with a grain of salt for now. His advice: stick with whole-grain pasta instead, which experts know is healthier. (Due to the higher fiber content, blood sugar does not spike as quickly as it does after eating refined pasta.) “For sure, whole-grain pasta has a lower glycemic effect than refined pasta, whether or not it is reheated,” he says.

Myths and Facts About Your MicrowaveMyth: Microwaves cook food all the way through

When it comes to cooking, microwaves penetrate food to a depth of 1 to 1.5 inches, according to the USDA. So heat won’t be able to reach the center of really thick pieces of food, Dr. Katz says. This is especially dangerous for poultry or red meat because you can get food poisoning from undercooked meat. You’re better off using your microwave as an assistant in your kitchen, for re-heating food you already cooked or thawing something you’re about to cook.

Myths and Facts About Your MicrowaveFact: Microwaves are safe

The reason it’s called a “microwave” is because it emits microwaves, a type of electromagnetic radiation, to heat your food. It’s absolutely an old wives’ tale that microwaves are the same as cancer-causing radiation. All they do is cause the molecules in food to move and the molecular motion is what causes the heat, Dr. Katz explains. And you can’t get cancer just by standing next to a microwave oven either: The microwaves are mostly contained within the oven itself when it’s on, and any that leak out are limited to a level far below what could actually hurt you, according to the American Cancer Society.

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