Be Prepared or Be Me

Hail clouds often exhibit a characteristic gre...

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We had some nasty storms roll through over the weekend. There was a lot of tornado-ish activity, 70 mile-an-hour gusts of wind, hail, and an electrical blackout.  For almost 24 hours, we were living in the stone age, with nothing but smartphones for internet, and high-lumen flashlights being used to see.   With no cartoons for the girls, we were forced to read them bed-time stories, while my son and his friends were forced to use their imaginations to entertain themselves.

Every time we called, the electric company added 12 hours to their estimated repair time.   Amazingly, they came in 7 hours ahead of schedule, if you don’t count the first two revisions.

By Saturday afternoon, we were out shopping for things we should have already had ready.

For years, we had discussed buying a generator.  For some reason, it never became a priority.  We have a large freezer and refrigerator full of food.   With no electricity, a generator was suddenly prioritized.   All of the places near us were sold out of budget-priced generators when we decided it was better to drop $400 on that than to lose $600 worth of food.   We did find one, eventually, but it would have been better to take it out of the garage than have to shop for it when we needed it.   Naturally, 10 minutes after we got it home, the power came on.  Do yourself a favor:  if you own a home and have a small corner available for storage, start shopping for a generator. Pick one up on sale instead of waiting until you have no real choice.

We have a ton of batteries.  It’s one of the things we stock up on when they are on sale.  Unfortunately, our broadest-beam flashlight takes a 6-volt battery, and we don’t keep a spare.   By the end of the night, it was getting pretty yellow and dim.  Another night would have killed it completely.   This wasn’t a widespread blackout, so there was no shortage of batteries, but it would have been nice to have the spare already at home.  Check your emergency supplies and make sure you have replacement batteries that fit everything you need.

The one thing that would have improved the night most is a good lantern.   We had our 5, plus two of my son’s friends all trying to play board games by flashlight.  A lantern could have been set on the entertainment center and lit most of the room.

For everything we were without due to the blackout, the one thing I truly missed was the air conditioner.  When the storm died, so did the wind.  Completely.   Opening all of the windows didn’t help at all.   Other than that, it was nice to have everyone forced to interact.   Nobody was whining about being bored and we were all having fun.

I want to schedule a pseudo-blackout more often.

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Expensive Cheese

Saturday morning, I woke up to a room-temperature refrigerator.   I dislike drinking milk that’s 40 degrees warmer than I’m used to.

We called the repairman who showed up at 9PM and poked around in the fridge for a bit before announcing that he didn’t have the needed parts in his truck.

The parts came Monday.  The next repairman got there Tuesday afternoon.   For those of you keeping track at home, that’s nearly 4 days without a refrigerator.

That poor bacon.

Tuesday’s repairman didn’t think highly of Saturday’s.  Apparently, the two parts Saturday ordered never go bad at the same time, so he was guessing.

He also didn’t notice the slice of individually wrapped American cheese that had slipped between a shelf and one of the cold-air vents, preventing any air flow at all.


I wish I would have noticed that on Saturday.   I now own the most expensive cheese in the world.   It’s not Pule, which comes in at $616 per pound.  This lowly slice of American cheese cost me nearly $200.  At one ounce per slice, that’s $3200 per pound.   Of course, I’m counting the lost food.   My hamburger, eggs, bacon, milk, and mayonnaise are gone, along with every other perishable bit of food we had on hand.

I don’t know how much the repairs cost.   Saturday’s visit, minus the parts, was billed at $95.  I didn’t see the total for Tuesday’s visit.

We pay for a repair plan through our gas company.   For around $15 per month, we get a list of appliances protected.   We don’t have to worry about our washer, dryer, water softener, stove, refrigerator, or our sewer main.    Assuming Tuesday’s visit was billed the same as Saturday’s, this one repair paid for the plan for an entire year.   When you count our sewer main–which backs up with tree roots once a year and costs at least $200 to fix–the repair plan is definitely worth it for us.

When we get tenants in my mother-in-law’s house, we’ll have the repair plan set up there, too.

Do you use any kind of repair plan?  How is it working out for you?

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Repair Plans, Appliances, and Rancid Meat…Oh, My!

Older refrigerator model, with freezer compartment
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We recently had our annual barbecue.   (For the purists, I am Minnesotan.  Barbecue means “cooked over fire”.)   Due to massive scheduling conflicts, it was a bit smaller than normal; only about 20 people came.  At least 10 other people RSVP-ed that they were going to make it, but didn’t.  Grr.

Naturally, we had food for everyone said they would be there and enough for half of the people who didn’t say anything, since Minnesotans don’t RSVP well.  That translates to a lot of leftovers.   No problem.  After all, leftover ribs are hardly a punishment.

Sunday morning, we woke up to find that our refrigerator was happier at room temperature than the standard “cold”.  We didn’t know it at the time, but the defrost unit was borked, so the cold air couldn’t circulate from the freezer to the refrigerator.  Bye-bye leftovers.  Hello, Mr. Repairman.  We needed an excuse to clean out the fridge, anyway, but not at the price of my beautifully seared meat! (Sadness strikes.)

Monday evening, the repairman came out, worked for 2 hours and left a functional refrigerator and a $240 invoice in his wake.  Thankfully, we are on the appliance repair plan through the gas company.  We pay $26.40 per month to cover repairs to our range, water heater, furnace, drier, sewer main, and refrigerator.  The first four items are standard, the final two are options that cost extra.

We originally got on the plan for the sewer main.  We had a tree whose roots grew into the main and clogged it every year.  A backed-up sewer main is a crappy way to wake up.   Getting that snaked to the street cost $200 per year.  At the time, without the refrigerator, the plan cost about $12 per month.  One $200 call-out more than paid for the plan for the year.  That was easy math.   Now, our 20 year old refrigerator has been repaired twice in the last year, giving us $500 worth of repairs for $316.80.   I would like to take this time to thank all of the people with reliable appliances for subsidizing my repairs.

My furnace, drier, and range are all reasonably new and shouldn’t need repairs any time soon, but the refrigerator and sewer main have paid for the plan themselves, several times over.

Should you get a similar plan?  If your covered appliances are more than 4-5 years old, I would consider it.  If they are more than 10 years old, I wouldn’t hesitate at all.  Repairing quality appliances is cheaper than replacing them, especially when the repair cost is paid monthly and subsidized.

Do you use a service plan?

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