Note from PJ: This article touches on a basic concept that we should all embrace. Learning how to repair essential items around the home instead of simply trashing them and buying new is a valuable skill that might come in handy sooner than later. In the meantime you surely can save yourself some cash (and buy more ammo instead!).
NPR recently reported that American households spend an average of 4.1 percent of their annual budget on furniture and other household items. Meanwhile the EPA reported that up to 44 percent of greenhouse gas emissions result from the manufacturing and packaging of new consumer products. That’s a lot of money and a lot of carbon. But by simply repairing household items you would normally throw away you can save money and the planet. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
The first step is to simply look around the house and take inventory of all the items you’ve been thinking about replacing. Make a list of those items. Some of them you’ll be able to repair yourself while others may need expert repair, depending on your own skill level and expertise. If you think you don’t have the time or the skills to repair your stuff yourself, you might be right. But chances are you’ve got more game than you think.
It Is Easy Being Green
The next step is to take a good hard look at each item in need of repair. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is it dirty? If so, clean it. After you’ve cleaned it, check to see if it works. If it doesn’t, then ask yourself:
- Can I take it apart without destroying it? If so, go ahead and take the item apart. Even without formal training or experience, you can usually tell when something is out of place. Is the inside dirty? Is a connection loose? Is a circuit board fried? Is something broken? These are all things that are usually immediately obvious.
- Can I get a replacement part? You would be amazed at what you can get replacement parts for, if you just do a quick Internet search. You can get everything from parts for your hot tub to vacuum cleaner drive belts. If you can get the right part for a reasonable price, that leads to the next logical question:
- Can I install the part/do the repair myself? This is something only you can answer for yourself. However, before you concede defeat and call in an expert, realize that…
You Have Resources
If a consumer item exists, someone somewhere has broken that item and attempted to repair it with varying degrees of success — and they have posted their attempts online. YouTube tutorials are a DIY gold mine. Visit YouTube.com and do a search for the item in question, plus the term, “repair.” You will find repair tutorials for everything from dishwashers to didgeridoos. Other helpful sources of online information include:
- Manufacturer websites. These sites offer a wealth of information such as product manuals, information on product recalls, warranty and replacement information, and customer support.
- Forums. If you’ve got a rogue washing machine, Googling “washing machine repair forum” will return a startling number of results. Try this with any item and you’ll be sure to find a plethora of advice from people who have been there, broken that.
Know When to Say When
If you’ve come to the conclusion that the repair is beyond your DIY skills, the decision must be made whether to call in an expert or call it quits and buy new. Consumer Reports recommends the tried and true 50 percent rule: If repairing the item will cost more than 50 percent of the price of a new item, it’s time to replace. Even if it should come to that, you can take some comfort knowing you gave it your best.