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It's me doing a little posing while taking a break at the Ouray, Colorado Jeep Jamboree in 1995.

Monday, June 18, 2012

For Want of a Nail a Kingdom Was Lost or How a $3 Turkey Baster Could Have Saved Me $75

Ah, the joys of home ownership. If it's not one thing, it's something else -- usually a lot of something elses.

The heating element in my GE side-by-side took a major dump a few months ago. I didn't even know refrigerators had heating elements. Seems sort of counter intuitive, but something must generate the heat to make automatic defrosting possible. That had never occurred to me until mine started to go.

I am old enough to remember my mother manually defrosting the freezer in our refrigerators years ago. Left too long between defrostings and opening the freezer door was something akin to peering into the maw of the snow cave in Star Wars. When defrosted, the freezer would hold about as much frozen food as the trunk of a Mazda Miata; after five of six months without defrosting, you'd be lucky to be able to jam a box of fudgecicles within the walls of ice.

I noticed stuff in the fridge side just wasn't as cold as it should be. The frozen stuff was still frozen, but the fridge just wasn't cooling down things.

About this same time, I was finding water puddling on the floor in front of the freezer. My major-appliance acumen is pretty low, but I knew this wasn't right. After getting online and doing a little detective work, I discovered the cooling issue was probably due to a dying heating element. I ordered a replacement, and following instructions posted online, I replaced the unit.

Much to my dismay, the puddling didn't stop. I figured it was a drain issue, but I just couldn't solve it. I tried running a snake through the drain, but couldn't get it to go far enough to break the logjam. I decided to kick the can down the road, so I folded an old hand towel and put it under the freezer door. During most cycles, this was sufficient to stem the tide and prevent the leaking water from getting to the floor.

I lived with that for the next few months. The different out-of-town company that passed through my house over the past few weeks were polite enough not to mention the bright-yellow towel on the floor. They simply stepped over it.

Last week even the towel wasn't damming the flow. I sprang into action and called an appliance repairman. I found Banks Appliance on the Internet. They sounded friendly and reasonable enough; I called around last Thursday. I was assured they would get there that day and would phone about 30 minutes before heading my way.

I ran up to Home Depot to buy some attic decking (see the previous blog: "The Great Attic Caper of 2012.") and while I was there, the appliance repairman called. Elapsed time between my call and his call to say he was on his way: 45 minutes.

He arrived at my house a couple of minutes after I returned home. I had just enough time to clear off the bottom shelves of the freezer.

I explained the problem. He dug around in the bag he carried in with him and pulled out a gizmo that looked like a large syringe with a rubber tube on the end. In fact, he told me it was some manner of veterinary equipment for treating horses. He asked for a glass of hot water. He sucked some of the water into the syringe, inserted the tube into the drain hole and depressed the plunger.

He repeated the process a couple of times before telling me the problem was fixed.

I mentioned that I was going to be a little miffed if I could have performed the same process with a turkey baster. He just smiled, shrugged his shoulders and put his syringe away before handing me my bill.

Banks charges $75 for a service call, which is counted toward whatever parts and labor charges might be involved.

My tab was $75.

That's how a $3 turkey baster could have saved me 75 bucks!

Live and learn, I guess.    

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