Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fix or Replace

Tuesday, 14th January 2014: In the run-up to Christmas it suddenly seems important to get things done. Some things are probably more important than others. Our oven and hob are both around 13 years old and both started having problems. You’d think that the only question to consider is whether to fix/get them fixed or replace. The problem is the oven was built-in and the hob was nameless.

They were fitted before we bought the house (by the previous owners), but we did get in touch with the company that fitted the kitchen.  They were helpful, but their records didn’t go that far back. The trouble is that you can get significant call out fees before you even start and our oven was one of the less popular makes. The problem was the oven would stop heating, but pretend to be on! Which can be very disappointing when you think a chicken has been roasting – but it hasn’t.  The demand on the oven would be even greater over Christmas with visitors and guests as well.

A health check for this particular manufacturer was £250 (inc. VAT) plus the cost of any parts although it seemed to cover more than the oven was capable of – gas checks when our cooking is all-electric for instance.  Some places don’t even quote a cost although I am sure I could have gotten it for less somewhere – but access to spare parts?  So our dilemma was – do we get it fixed but then find it breaks down with some other problem. Or do we replace it.

We investigated replacing it, but the Manufacturers seem to be phasing out built-in ovens for their particular range.  They were available at John Lewis though – mind you after some issues with buying a fridge/freezer from them I’d said I’d not buy similar white goods from JL ever again and would go direct to the manufacturer.  Issues about not knowing when it was going to be delivered, being told by JL that the old fridge/freezer would be taken away to have the delivery company say no it wouldn’t. After phones calls JL then told us it would cost extra. It seemed to me that the only role played by JL was a piggy-in-the-middle, value-subtracting one. There fridge/freezer came with a cash-back and extended warranty – but you had to claim after getting the appliance and finding where to claim on the web was not easy and then the cash-back was via a Cash Card… Argh – shopping does not need to be so difficult.

Back to the oven – it turned out there were none in the country.(I rang the distributor to check availability and whether the new model was the same size as the old one. Except JL had an ex-display one in their warehouse. So I went back on my word and the good news was that it would arrive in 3 days time and be fitted by JL people and they would take the old one away. The even better news was that we got nearly 40% of the list price. The even better news was that although it was a slightly newer model it really did fit the old space.

Getting the Hob fixed was not so easy. Some companies wouldn’t look at it if we couldn’t tell them the make!  In the end we went with a company based in the area called Main Appliances. With their help we tracked down the maker – who had gone into liquidation and then discovered who had bought the old stock (Leisure Products (Bolton) Ltd). So I bought a new regulator from them and Main Appliances came back and fitted it.  Voila – one hob with all rings working again.

I also looked at replacing the hob – but the holes they fit in are not all the same and this particular company was no more in any case. The last thing we wanted was to have to partially remodel the kitchen before Christmas. It was great to get it repaired though and both Main Appliances and Leisure Products (Bolton) Ltd were a pleasure to deal with.

I reckon that it is harder to get things repaired than it used to be.  Several times during the saga we were told we’d be lucky with fixing things over 10 years old because of the parts issue. I was also surprised how the sizing of various overs/hobs seems less standard than I had been expecting. So you end up with the bill for kitchen work as well.

With modern manufacturing and electronics we ought to be getting better at making products that self-test and are more modular and more fixable. There seems to be a combination of obsolescence, design (eg try replacing a batter in an iPhone) and constant production evolution.

I have a British Gas service contract (the source of many grey hairs) and after servicing my system they then produced a quote telling me how efficient my system would be with a new boiler. I later got a sales call trying to push the new boiler. They weren’t amused when I pointed out that their quote indicated an expected boiler life of 15 years and here they were trying to get me to replace my boiler at around 10 years old.

Yet at the same time we are, quite reasonably,  advised to “stop buying more ‘stuff and mend cars, fridges and washing machines”. To be fair cars can be kept going, my wife’s car was still in pretty good nick at 14 years old (Honda). I can easily buy parts for my Bosch dishwasher and Magimix whizzer-thingy off the web. I couldn’t get my Onkyo AV amp repaired four years after I bought it – fortunately (for me) I got a 5 year warranty from Richer Sounds and they replaced it with a better model. The good thing about bicycles is they are definitely in the fix-camp. Although a new bicycle is always nice.


I must admit I find the whole approach to re-cycling rubbish to be rather chaotic – we have councils doing their bit – but some of the rules are rather odd. Things that can be re-cycled change randomly. Here in Cambridge we have a special machine – except it broke down for 14-months. Yes 14-months, which meant extra waste being dumped resulting in a landfill tax – which was paid for by the company doing the munching (or not). Apparently the machine was made by BAM Nuttall (also behind the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway).

Now I see the landfill tax as more of a fine – and ultimately the general public pay the price with fewer council services. Fines – a slightly weird concept when applied to organisations. Often those that end up felling the pain are the ones responsible or in control.

Talking about weird councils – how about this one-mile country lane with 63 no-parking signs along it.

Now let me just say that I do believe that Climate change is real and that the world is warming and that it is due to human activity (New Scientist link).  There are attempts to re-dress the balance  - check out this satellite picture of the London Array with a maximum generating power of 630 megawatts.  The trouble is that it is a complex issue – the weather system is incredibly complex and so we get strong views for and against. However it seems to me that the world’s weather is changing, even here in England the weather has changed over my life-time. (Now I know that isn’t proof.)  It would seem that here in the UK we aren’t helping ourselves by over-development with cutting down trees, developing on flood plains and more and more concrete.

The concern is that by “blaming” Climate Change” we ignore that other man-made changes to our landscape. The even bigger danger is that everyone argues and nothing gets done. As I write this there are warnings of Gales of 80mph and heavy rain set to batter Britain (again).  There are also some wonderful pictures of the Somerset (where I lived for 15 years.

It worries me that  here in the UK there is not enough of a long-term view and plan – an example – whilst we are struggling with the roll-out of “superfast broadband 24mps and higher in Cambridgeshire” the Koreans are taking the long-term view and developing 5G – with speeds of upto 1gbps. Why well this not only benefits the general economy but also puts them in a leadership position to sell such technology around the world. The same seems to be true of many aspects of the government of the country.

Well I reckon that one the one hand regular cycling is good for me and helps keep my blood-pressure low, unfortunately some of my posts seem to cause it to rise. At the moment I am re-building my fitness and generally pootling around the Fens every other day. I am also trying not to take too many pictures – since they will all be the same – except things do change. So here are pictures of my ride up to Wicken Fen and back mainly on Lodes Way.

As you will seeI also quite like a frame around pictures. Moons ago when using Zoundry to write posts it was easier to add them. My current work flow using Windows Live Writer means adding them at the picture editing stage (using Picasa). I will try them for a while and see what I think. Let me know what you think?

Look East from Fen Road (Lode)

Reach Lode (from the bridge)

Looking East from Reach Lode Bridge

Burwell Lode

The Sun Setting over Bottisham

It seems I returned by NCN51 – I do prefer not to cycle there and back on the same road/track.

Oops – meant to add some picture links. How about these flying drone pictures – a neat thing to be able to do. Talking about flying – pictures from an aeroplane as a regular passenger. I try to have a camera with me when flying as well.  And penultimately – iceberg pictures – well yes I have done some of that as well – down at the bottom of the post.  Finally a picture of Tokyo from a tower – some of mine here at the bottom...

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