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Updated on June 10, 2015


For some reason those “home repairs” happen in the worst moments and usually when we are short of funds for some reason. Not too long ago, and in the middle of a hot summer my air conditioner just stopped! It was 100 degrees outside and I had just paid my mortgage, so I was completely broke. My next paycheck wasn't until the following week, but there was no way me and my kids were going to survive without the AC until then.

My house was nothing but a hot sticky oven, and my kids were about to start riot if I didn't call the AC service, and I finally did! I made an agreement with the technician and I extended him a post date check for 350.00. I guess he probably felt sorry for me, and anyway, he knew where to find me right?

Watching him fix my AC made me feel like a complete moron. He had one of those little air compressors, so he inserted the hose inside a PBC pipe located inside of the indoor unit, and the air just blew! When we went outside to see what came out the pipe, I could not believe what I saw. There were some kind of disgusting looking round, jelly looking, pieces full of garbage. They actually looked like “cocoons” or some kind of alien eggs.

Those were probably the most painful 350 dollars I ever paid. Two months later, the air conditioner broke again! This time another technician had to replace a part that looked like a soda can on the outside unit, called the capacitor. He advised me that this was a part which has to be replaced quite often, especially during summer. This time the repair was 500! Including the part, of course.

I am a single mom, and my ex-husband is a deadbeat dad, who doesn't like to pay child support. My paycheck seems more like a charity donation after they take all the deductions, and have 2 kids, so I decided to start taking care of these repairs myself, since then and on.

My first trip was to Home Depot, to check prices for appliances parts. I started by the same air compressor the technician used. The capacitor which was the part the technician replaced was 20 bucks! The tester he used to determine if the part had to be replaced, was about 20 to 30. Now, the little air compressor the other technician used to clear the pipe was more expensive but no more than 200 dollars, which was almost the total amount he charged me to clear my AC pipe.

Another thing I bought after paying 80 dollars to a plumber to unclog my toilette, was a snake for 7 bucks!

Honestly, I had never been good at repairing anything! My ex-husband always took care of these things, but when he abandoned me and my kids, I never thought I would miss him to make all these repairs around the house. I bought my home brand new, but after 4 or 5 years, everything started crumbling around me. So, it was imperative that I either learned to fix things, or purchase one of those policies where they fix it for you, paying a premium every month. Unfortunately I live in a tide budget, so the answer was just to get smarter, and become “handy”!

I have a full time job and I have to drive about 2 hours (each way) to go to work and back, and I just can't stand the idea of getting home to a clogged toilette, or to have to repair something, so I have been keeping up with all my appliances, because giving maintenance is the smartest way to go, in order to avoid fixing appliances all the time.


-First things first, gather all the manuals for your appliances: washer, dryer, microwave,AC and heater, stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher. Read thoroughly each one of them, so at least, you will become familiar on how they work. Keep them in a place where you will be able to find them every time you need them.

-Before you do any repairs please DISCONECT your appliance.

-If you think you cannot figure it out, just call a technician for a free estimate, and once you know what's wrong with it, do it yourself if it is only a minor repair. Not very fair for the technician, but you might be saving hundreds of dollars.

-Make a list of everything you need, and don't forget to watch the technician closely to see exactly what he did to find the problem, because you will have to follow the same steps to fix the problem yourself, including replacing the part if necessary. Write down the name of the part, and the terms he used to describe the problem. Believe or not, the way you ask for help in places like Home Depot or Lowe, might be the difference between success or failure in your task. Besides, you might get some free help from the store associates too, on how to fix it. Remember, they deal with these technicians 24/7!

-Once you have everything you need, keep the kids away from the area where the repair will be done, be safe!

-Once the repair is finished, keep all your tools, receipts (in case something didn't work), and manuals in a place where you will always find them, without a problem.

-For AC's always keep a clean and good quality air filter, replace it according to the instructions on the product label. Also, in order to avoid clogs, poor a mix of bleach and water inside of the pipe, located in the inside unit. You will have to remove the cap first, poor it slowly, replace the cap, and repeat this at least every three months. This is something one of the technicians told me.

-For a clogged toilette, the snake is the best solution. However, if you do not have a snake (although I strongly recommend you to get one), you can use a mix of baking, soda and vinegar. You need to leave it for a few hours there. The chemical reaction from this mix, is a thick foam which pushes the clog through the pipe.

-When is about washer and dryer, be aware that they accumulate dust, and also that you would need to clean the inside of your washer often, to avoid nasty odors. There are some cleaners you can use to this effect too. Their price fluctuate between 7 and 15 dollars. Always keep the laundry area, clear of flammable items such as paper, chemicals, and used fabric softener dryer sheets. Lack of ventilation, could cause a fire.

-If it is a minor repair, you should be able to follow the instructions in the manual and get the parts yourself. However, if it is electrical you might want to get a technician anyway. And this goes for your stove too.

-When it is about to dishwashers though, the best way to avoid a repair is keeping it clean. Don't let food residues accumulate after you use it, The best thing is to rinse the dishes before you place them in the dishwasher, and rinse your dishwasher out empty, with hot water, at least once a month.

-Another appliance to break quiet often is the garbage disposal. Make sure you know how to operate it according to the manual, and ALWAYS disconnect it before you stick your hand in there. I could tell you some horror stories about this. Never stick seeds of any kind in it, especially olive seeds. The seeds get stuck in between the ring and eventually it could break the mechanism down. Some people even throw egg shells and chicken skin in it. I have found out that this stresses out the mechanism, and honestly is just easier to throw it inside of a plastic bag and seal it before throwing it in the garbage can, in order to avoid odors. But if you would ever had a clog, first try to find if there is anything obstructing around the ring, like seeds, coins, etc. Once you clear it out, then poor some bleach, or dish detergent, making sure to press the red button, before you start it again. Again, MAKE SURE IS OFF, while you are working on it.

Being handy on these days, is not just a skill, it is also a PRIORITY!


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    • endenfin profile image

      Lizzie Edenfield 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Fl

      Thank you for your input! I'll research that too.

    • profile image

      JP 3 years ago

      Another cool way to protect your a/c unit is protecting its condenser coils.

      Permatron, a company who has been manufacturing US Made air solutions since 1957, has a product that will help save your utility bills from high cooling costs: the PreVent® Wrap-Around A/C Filter.

      The unique PreVent A/C Filter will save you money by protecting your system from debris - such as dust, pet hair, cottonwood and grass clippings - with a UV protected mesh without restricting air flow to the system; therefore, boosting system efficiency. To clean, un-wrap and either rinse with water or brush the debris off with a broom.

      Learn more here: