Norelco HP 1601 Electric Shaver

In 1983 I bought my first electric shaver. Here is a web page that has pictures and a full description. After a number of years, it broke. I opened it up, and soldered the power connection that had come loose. A few years later the other side of the power connection opened up and I soldered it also. A few years after that, I dropped it and cracked the case. I superglued it, and it worked fine after that. Finally, in 2007 after 24 years of use, it failed. I opened it up, and discovered that there are some gears known as the 'gearwheel' and labeled 21 in the diagram on the above web page that had wore to the point where they no longer meshed. I was able to push sideways on them and the shaver worked, but only for a short time. I suspect much of the wear was due to chopped pieces of hair working their way through the seals into the interior of the shaver. Also I suspect the gears are made of some kind of plastic, which isn't as tough as it could be. In any event, I decided it was time for a new shaver. My choice was clear - it was time to buy a new Norelco. After all the first one lasted for 24 years. Hey Norelco, you really should make your shavers more robustly - that way I can hand it down to my grandchildren :-)

Fantazein POV clock repair

Some time around 2000, I bought a Fantazein POV clock. It features a wand with some LEDs at the end. The wand goes back and forth, and the LEDs show time time, date, and some messages. You can enable daylight savings time, but it uses the dates from around 2000, not the new magic dates that the feds chose. It has been quite reliable until 2022. The wand didn't move well, and the LEDs became intermittent. Then the wand stopped moving, and the LEDs were very very dim. It turns out there are two electrolytic capacitors inside the clock. One is 10 uF 10v near the CPU and the other one is 470 uF 25v near the power supply. I replaced both of them and the clock works well now. I measured the old capacitors. The 10 uF measured 7 uF, and the 470 uF measured about 0.1 uF. I am happy that the failed capacitor didn't damage any of the electronics.

Maytag Neptune Washer and Dryer

Maytag Neptune Washer Maytag Neptune Dryer

The Maytag Neptune is a front loading washer. It has the largest capacity of any standard sized washer. It uses less water than a conventional top loading washer. Since less water is used, less energy is needed to heat the water. The washer uses less water and electricity than a normal washer, and is advertised in Sierra magazine, among other places. You have probably seen the silly commercials on TV, with the Maytag repairman and the aliens with their flying saucer. About $1300 wholesale, $1500 retail for the washer and dryer (gas dryer). The washer comes with a video explaining how to use it, and describing all of the odd noises the washer makes. It isn't a loud washer, but it sure does make odd noises. It has a feature which spins the clothing very quickly, which gets out more water than the default. This is a nifty feature. I am quite impressed with how quickly the dryer works.

Well, my Neptune washer broke. It started dumping bleach at unpredictable times on stuff I was washing. Upon careful examination, it became clear to me that the bleach was staying in the bleach dispenser, and perhaps was coming out in spurts, or in some unpredictable way, damaging my clothing. So I called the special Maytag 800 number. Since it was out of warranty (1 year), they said it was $89.95 to send a service person out. I didn't have much choice, so I said ok.

The guy came out (early!) and simply replaced the top compartment dispenser which holds bleach, fabric softener, and detergent. He didn't test the washer before doing this, nor did he test it afterwards (our work has a 30 day warranty). He said the early units (like mine) sometimes had a problem with the dispenser, with a wax solenoid getting stuck (or something like that), and they were replacing the bad ones with a newer, superior design. Well it fixed the problem.

My brother got a washer also. When it was first turned on, it dumped water on the floor. They sent a repair person out, and it turns out a hose was loose. It has worked fine ever since.

Well my Neptune washer broke again. It required a new circuit board. Of course, my washer wasn't covered by the recall and I had to spend several hundred dollars getting it fixed. There was a class action lawsuit about the washers being unreliable, but I didn't qualify for that.

Well the washer broke a few more times. The first time, it was around $300 to fix. The last time, the estimate was over $1000. This included the motor pulley, the outer tub, and some other stuff. The repairman recommended getting a new washer, which is what I did.

I do not recommend the washer as it has a very poor reliability record. My sister-in-law has one and got the extended warranty and has had Maytag out many times to repair the washer. I heard that Maytag went bankrupt over the class action lawsuits reguarding mold on the front door and was bought by Whirlpool.

I had read about a very reliable horizontal tub washer that was designed to be fixed by the owners, rather than servicemen. The owners manual includes a repair manual, and all the parts are readily available at their website and reasonably priced. It has a capacity of 2 cubic feet, which is half as big as the current front loaders, and spins at up to 200 rpm to drain the water out. It also costs $1300 for the base model, plus $200 for shipping. If I was out in the wilderness, I might even buy one, but it is a bit spendy for my tastes. It is the Staber washing machine. It isn't really front loading, but the drum is horizontal and is supported on both ends. There is no agitator. The way it loads is from the top, because the drum can be opened up for loading and unloading. Looking at the website, it seems very simple and reliable.

Whirlpool Duet WFW9300 Washer

Well, the Maytag Neptune broke bad after about 10 years of light duty. I have heard that most washers last 10 years. The good news is that front loading washers are now very common, and it seems every washer maker makes several models. I choose the Whirlpool Duet, as it is highly recommended by Consumer Reports, as well as being reasonably priced. I also got a extra 5 years of warranty for it for only $129, so I shouldn't have to pay anything in the first 6 years of use. There is also a rebate from my utility company, which is for all high efficiency waahers. It features a clear door, so you can watch your clothing get clean, as well as a variety of nifty features I will likely never use. It also has sound absorbing material so it should be reasonably quiet. It spins at up to 1000 rpm to drain the water out. My old Neptune spun at up to 850 rpm. It has a capacity of 4.0 cubic feet vs 3.1 cubic feet for the Neptune. It is rated at 182KWh/year in the USA and Canada, which for some silly reason doesn't show up on the Whirlpool web site.

I have used the Duet a bit, and it very quiet, and it is most amusing to watch the wash through the clear door. I am very happy with it.

Pur Water Filters

Around 15 years ago, I noticed a new company making water filters for the outdoors (hiking, backpacking, and the like). In addition to filtering, the filters somehow put some iodine in the water (after filtering) to kill nasties in the water. I never bought one of these filters, instead relying on more traditional water filters from Katadyn, MSR, and First Need....

Fast forward 10 years. I decided I wanted some better drinking water. I was at CostCo, and there was a Pur water filter that attached to a water faucet. It was reasonably priced, so I bought it. I guess the water tasted better, but it was a subtle thing (perhaps the tap water was ok already). I did have to change the filter every so often, which is likely how they make their profit...

Fast forward another 5 years. The old filter made of white plastic broke off at the faucet. I tossed it, and went to CostCo and bought another one, this one was shiny chromed plastic. I noticed it came with a 5 year warranty. A friend who is wiser than I am, suggested I call Pur and tell them about the broken filter. I said it was a crazy idea, as I wasn't sure of the exact purchase date, I didn't have a receipt, and I didn't have the main unit (as the trash had been picked up) only the part that screwed onto the faucet.

But it was a toll-free call, so I made the call. I told them about the problem. They said something like "That doesn't sound like satisfactory performance from our filter". I told them I had replaced the unit. They asked me how much I paid for it. I replied $50. They said they would send me a check for the new unit.

(Now most people will realize that a 5 year old item is usually worth much less than a new item. If your 5 year old car breaks, the car company won't likely pay you the cost of a new car of the same model. But this is exactly what Pur did. Not only that, but I had no proof that the old filter broke, or even that I ever had a filter. Now I know I am an honest person, but how do they know that?)

In any event, I quickly got a check from Pur for the water filter. It seems that Pur has sold their outdoor line of water filters to Katadyn. I looked to see if Pur had a larger 'under-sink' water filter, but they don't. Too bad, because given their excellent customer service, I would certainly buy one. And the filtered water tastes better than the unfiltered water.

Haier Microwave Oven

I bought a small Haier Microwave. My old microwave had become unreliable, and this was small and inexpensive. It worked like it should. After roughly 1.5 years of use, it made a loud sound, an odd smell, and it failed completely. Of course, the warranty is 1 year. Now it is useless. I am dismayed at its poor reliability.

Sunny Boy Solar Inverter 4000US

I purchased this in 2010. This is a 60 Hz based inverter. It is quite heavy due to a big transformer. It is reasonably efficient. I bought a Bluetooth module for it, and a 'sunnybeam' which is a data logger. The sunnybeam data logger failed, but they sent me a new one. Very reliable. Also for sale now.

Sunny Boy Solar Inverter 7.0-US

I purchased this in April 2019. It is far more sophisticated (and complex) than my 4000US inverter. It is a high frequency unit, which is roughly the same size as my 4000US. It has a wireless connection and uploads data to the SMA web site called sunnyportal. It also has a dedicated web-server which you can log into. Logging in is a somewhat tedious process, but eventually you get to their web pages. They don't work well. Often they hang and need to be reloaded, or re-navigated to. What is worse is the data logging. The 4000US logged data every 10 minutes. The 7.0-US logs data every 5 minutes. You can save multiple days of data to CSV files.

Sometimes this works well, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the web interface freezes, and it is impossible to download data. Sometimes the downloaded data has days where nothing is logged. Once you have a day where data isn't logged, it seems to be gone forever. The manual says at least 2 months of data is logged. This is incorrect. I contacted SMA USA after I first noticed this around May 2019. They seemed pretty clueless and told me to let them know if it happened again. It did, in July. They said that there was something wrong with my inverter (based on sunnyplaces) and much more data should be logged. They told me I needed to have a memory card in my inverter, and I didn't have one. I asked the installer, and after awhile they sent me a memory card. The problem is that my model doesn't have a memory card. The SMA tech gave me bogus information. I called again around august, and they told me that my inverter didn't have new firmware. I pointed out that it was set to automatically download new firmware, They agreed, but said it wasn't. They explained how to manually update the firmware, which I did. They said to let them know if the problem persisted.

Well, at the end of Nov 2019, I had the problem again. I emailed them, but relieved no response for a few weeks. I called them today, and I emailed them the CSV file that was corrupted. They said they needed more data to tell the developers in Germany. This means that the other times I have contacted them, they didn't forward anything to the developers. I tried to download some data using their web interfaces, but it failed to download any data. They said without more info they would close my case in a day. Clearly they are not treating bug reporting seriously. I sent them the screenshot of me trying to download data (and it not working).

There are many bugs here. First, the automatic firmware update doesn't work. Second the web interface looks and works like a joke. Third the data logging seems to clear data less than 2 weeks old at seemingly random intervals. Fourth, there is no decent process in place to report bugs or to have issues get to developers. I cannot recommend SMA inverters because their software quality is grossly substandard. Also their cybersecurity is quite lax. Credentials are hard-coded, they don't use certificates for their web server. I could go on...

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