One of the non-obvious problems of living to a ripe old age (we’re into our 70’s, yeah?) is that you will no doubt begin to outlive most all the crap you have acquired over the years.

How to keep up with the rising expenses when things – especially major appliances – begin to break down can be something of a challenge.  While we have a little dough in the bank,. trading account, and no bills (other than the water bill and usual paid-monthly crap (garbage, power, yada, yada) there’s no point in burning through life savings on things we MAY be able to fix ourselves.

Such was the case a week back when Elaine and I both noticed that the fridge was not keeping things as cold as it should.  An overnight with a temp and humidity meter bore out our worst fears:  The fridge was on the fritz.

I don’t know if you’ve been shopping for a modest (22 Cubic Foot class side-by-side fridge lately, but they ain’t cheap.  In fact, its easy to roll past the $1,000 price tag – if you’re not careful.

So instead, we decided to throw a little money and labor at the problem ourselves.  Not that either of us is accomplished appliance repair persons, but it’s not rocketry.  Here’s where we started:

troubleshooting chart 1

The very first thing – which I didn’t note at the time – was that my filtered water for my tea wasn’t taking as long to heat up in the ‘wave.  Went from 2:30 to 2:12.  I had written that off as “water water in summer already?”  Bad call.

Then the beer got warm.

And so over a week, or three, the dandy fridge grew horns and started to look mighty unfriendly.

The second phase of solving was to hit the web and start researching like hell:

First Pass at Solving

Problem solving like this is usually an iterative process.  You go through all the videos and how-to’s on the web, figure out what is cheap and likely and work up the cost food-chain as needed, adjusting along the way for new-found knowledge.

In this case, Monday was spent pulling out the fridge, re-leveling it, defrosting the blockage on the fridge side and also cleaning out the evaporator drain tube.  It was surprisingly clean…and dry.

This eventually got me to making a short list of “What might be wrong” – and from there we will move forward as parts come in.

The first thing is the freezer is just very damn cold. And since our prepping freezer isn’t as big, we will have to “eat our way” into the problem a bit.  Meals like frozen fresh fish and a some filets, and why not make a nice pot roast.  Why, how bad can this fixing-to-get ready be?

Statistically, the most likely part to be bad is the $18 evaporator heating unit thermostat.  That was is attractive because it would keep everything else from working right…although the next escalation if that isn’t it would be an evaporator fan motor ($65) and an equally pricey heating unit. Fan blades could be broken and stuck, too, but not as likely.

A lot of times we take the modern conveniences of life very much for-granted.

But this encounter was a reminder (to us) that “in the event of an actual emergency” how much of our food will store in a freeze and how much in freeze-dried or cans…so we don’t require refrigeration?

We’ve got frozen veggies, a couple of pizzas, but most of the frozen stuff is meat and fish (high protein sources) and all this has the feel of a wake-up call.

Can we throw a $1,000 bill at it and be done?  Sure, but at some point it became a personal challenge.  Figuring out how to get things back together can be a brain puzzler, too.

Main thing is to be appliance model-number driven in all purchase decisions.  In addition to Amazon, look to sites like (which has great exploded drawings) and which gives you something like Las Vegas odds on whether the part will solve the problem.  In this case, 42% odds the evap heater thermostat will solve it.

One subtlety to the AppliancePartsPros site:  If they have a model page on whatever you went and broke, try hitting all their symptom and troubleshooting links.

That’s because their “fridge too warm” says 42% odds on evaporator thermostat, but since the freezer is also icing up now, that is solved 99% of the time with the thermostat, I couldnb’t go wrong.  (We’ll see about that, lol…)

With odds like that, I’m willing to spend a little boy-girl appliance mechanic time with Elaine and keep $900-bucks in our pocket instead of someone else’s.

We still have ice for our drinks, so we’ll just have to remember to toss beer in the freezer 45-minutes to cocktail hour for a week or two.

Besides:  In Amazonese (management style tip from Jeff Bezos I read recent in a book on mental modeling of decisionmaking) this “let’s try oursevles” is an entirely reversible decision.  We can take “the cheap path” and if it doesn’t work, no one will turn up their nose at our long-green for a new machine.  If it costs $100 in parts, hey!  That’s the cost of what…dinner out?

There’s a momentary “inconvenience” sure, but how much are you willing to suffer fort $900 bucks?

Write when you get rich,