DIY Elbow Grease and Ingenuity Is Far More Cost Effective than High-Dollar Service Companies

Hoses to both the refrigerator have to go from the connections under the sink and behind the cabinets.  It would have been easy for the original builder to put connections behind the fridge, as the sink in thehalf-bath is directly on the other side of the wall behind it.

Hoses to both the refrigerator have to go from the connections under the sink and behind the cabinets. It would have been easy for the original builder to put connections behind the fridge, as the sink in thehalf-bath is directly on the other side of the wall behind it.

Readers on this blog might know that it was four years ago this summer that I was in the full throes of the search for my first home, which I bought at the end of October, 2009.  I didn’t want, nor would the VA appraisers approve, a house that wasn’t move-in ready.  Even though the house was about 25 years old, it was  in good shape and built solid.  However, since moving in I have replaced the refrigerator and dishwasher, and last summer’s heat forced a new AC to be installed.

Still there are small jobs to be done for the upkeep of the house.  I don’t mind doing many of these tasks myself like painting or replacing window panes, but when it comes to dealing with most water problems (fortunately, there have been few in the four years I’ve had the house), I’d rather leave them to someone with more experience, as I’m afraid I’ll end up with some bigger mess.

Therefore, when I found I had a little leak coming out from under the dishwasher a couple of weeks ago, I just turned the water off under the sink.  I didn’t really think it was the dishwasher itself, but that it was a leak from the hose to it or the one to the refrigerator.   It didn’t don on me at the time that I had turned off the cold water valve, which goes to the fridge, and that the hot one going to the dishwasher was still open.   Anyway, I thought that whatever the problem was, the dishwasher would have to be pulled out to get to the hose and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with that.  For about 10 days, I just washed dishes by hand and drank the awful tasting water from the faucet.

A $22 hose and 10 bucks of connectors were all the replacement parts needed for this job.  John Moore's $729 estimate can be seen next to the drill bits.

A $22 hose and 10 bucks of connectors were all the replacement parts needed for this job.  John Moore’s $729 estimate can be seen next to the drill bits.

This past week when I had some vacation days, I called John Moore (Houston plumbing/AC/electrical repair service company).  They advertise a lot on TV and offer to come to your house and give a free estimate.  The repairman came first thing Tuesday morning, and he did a little looking under the dishwasher and said the leak was coming from the hose to the refrigerator, and said he would give me an estimate.  He went out to the truck for quite awhile and came back with a printout that said $729.  I said “no” that wasn’t going to work for me, and he said that they weren’t the cheapest in town but they did good work.  I had never imagined an estimate anywhere near that high.

One of several new holes that had to be drilled. For whatever reason, the old hose ran through the upper part of the cabinets.

One of several new holes that had to be drilled. For whatever reason, the old hose ran through the upper part of the cabinets.

The one thing that I learned from him was which hose had the leak.  Now I can’t believe I was that naive; just lack of experience mostly.  Since the problem wasn’t something urgent, I decided it could wait, and maybe I could find a more reasonable plumber.   Then I got to thinking about it and looking at where the hoses went through the cupboards and decided the hose from the fridge could go under the dishwasher instead of behind it, so I wouldn’t have to pull it out.

I got a new hose from Sears for $22 and  a couple of connectors from the hardware store for $10 and fixed it myself this morning in about 1 1/2 hours (that’s even including time to check me emails, watch a bit of “Judge TV”, and make a run to the hardware store).  I had to drill new holes at the back of the cabinets, but the hardest thing was threading the hose–I straightened out a coat hanger and attached a copper wire loop at the end to maneuver and pull the hose under the dishwasher, between the cabinets, and through the new holes I had drilled.  I had to get down on the floor in all different positions to do it, so I guess that was the $700 of labor.

Finally, the hose was reconnected to the refrigerator. Afterward, I removed the old hose and cleaned the floor (high time for that).

Finally, the hose was reconnected to the refrigerator. Afterward, I removed the old hose and cleaned the floor (high time for that).

Anyway, so far there are no leaks and now have my cold water and ice back.  I feel pretty good for being able to complete the task myself, but even better for not letting myself get ripped off!

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I Want My Gay TV (Part V): Satellite TV–Read the Fine Print and RuPaul–Draggin’ in Another Season of Reality Television

When I moved to my house, I decided that I wasn’t going to lug along my bulky Zenith TV, which I’d had for about 13 years.  It worked well enough, but I had been browsing the electronics aisles for more than a year ladmiring the flat screens.  Anyway, there was a small set with a built-in DVD player in my bedroom that I could take along and use for a while.

But when I had most of the furniture in place,  a desperate corner in the living room just longed for a big-screen TV, so I made excuses to myself about why I didn’t have to wait and could shell out the money for another expense to add to all those others that came from moving into a new place.  The Sears near my old neighborhood had an even-better-than-online price on a Sony that I had been reading up on.  And result is obvious.  They didn’t have one in stock, but would have by the following Saturday, so  I’d have to wait a few more days with the internet and a small radio made to be used in the shower, which had been given to me as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago and that I had stumbled upon hidden in some drawer during the move.  My God! More than a week without TV!  Had Hurricane Ike returned?  And what about the small TV?  No luck there either because I hadn’t yet ordered any type of cable service.

There were a number of choices, but finally I decided on satellite with DirecTV, which I ordered through AT&T.  I was trying to bundle up with my cell, internet, and regular phone services.  Also the house already had the DirecTV dish in place with all the wiring.  The price was right for the Choice Xtra:  $29.99 per month, and with all those HD channels.  I like as many ESPNs as I can get and I wanted Logo (the gay channel), and the Choice Xtra gave me those.

I scheduled the DirecTV installers for Saturday, so that I would be off from work; it was one of those “they’ll be there between 1 and 5” deals.  The problem was the new TV wouldn’t arrive at the Sears store until some time that same afternoon, so I wouldn’t be able to pick it up until after the installers had been there.  Of course, like many of those situations where you have a time slot to wait for service people, these didn’t come until between 4 and 5.  It didn’t take them long to get everything hooked up and the little non-digital TV was tossing out the various channels.

Not long after they had left, Sears called and told me that my Sony had arrived, so I hopped into my car and went to pick it up.  When I got to the store, it seemed like everyone was picking up something, so I had a wait for my TV to come out.  I was a bit surprised by the size of the box, but it fit into back of the hatchback.  Even though the screen size is larger than my old TV, it must weigh about half as much, so while I had to maneuver a bit because of the size, it wasn’t long until I had it out of the box, in place in the corner which had been waiting for it, and finally hooked up to the satellite dish cables.

When I first started flipping the channels, I thought the picture looked a little fuzzy, but I decided that it probably was because I had been watching the smaller TV earlier.  I was so enthralled with the new TV and involved with figuring out the channel line-up that I really didn’t pay that much attention.  I thought the image should be better with an HD TV but because I hadn’t had one before and because satellite reception was also new to me, I figured everything was the way it was supposed to be.

Then about a week later, I was visiting someone who also has a Sony HD, and I thought “Wow, this picture is so much better than mine.”  They said to me, “Are you watching the HD channels?”  “I think I am,” I replied doubtfully.

When I got back home, I started looking at the manual the installers had left me and found “need HD equipment for HD channels”.  I thought that’s what I had.  I looked at the box but couldn’t see any indication.  Then I went back online to the DirecTV site that had the offer for the various service choices and, of course, at the bottom in special notation it says this:

††To access DIRECTV® HD programming, HD Access fee ($10/mo.), a DIRECTV® Slimline dish, DIRECTV® HD receiver and HD television equipment are required. Number of HD channels varies by package selection.

No mention of that option had been made when I talked to the salesperson when I ordered the service.  I’m really surprised because she had tried to get me to buy other services.  I definitely want the HD but I haven’t ordered it yet.  I’ll need time to be at home, and, I’m sure, to wait another four hours for the service people, and there will be charges for the installation for that Slimline dish, I bet, and for the HD receiver box.  If the picture is a little fuzzy until there’s time in January to do that, no big deal.

There’s another charge to watch out for on the DirecTV special offers.  When I got my first bill, I checked for all the specific charges.  One item was for Equipment Protection Plan.  I even got another letter from DirecTV telling me that I had signed up for the Protection Plan @ $5.99 a month.  I knew that I hadn’t signed anything, since I had ordered over the phone and no mention had been made about any such Protection Plan.  There was a number to call if I didn’t want this plan, and they told me if the dish or the receiver had a problem if I didn’t have this plan, it would cost $49.  It seems to me this protection plan is no different than those the stores like Sears and Best Buy try to sell you when you buy some type of electronics; it’s just another way to get extra money out of a customer.

Anyway, for the most part, I like my new TV.  The channel line-up isn’t much different that what I had with TVMax (read my post about TVMax) at my old apartment.  TVMax also had several ESPN channels and Logo.

Even though Logo has a lot of re-runs and shows I don’t watch, I like having the option of watching gay-themed TV shows and movies when I want rather than waiting for “a glimpse of gay” on other channels.  One of the hits of last season on Logo was a reality show called “RuPaul’s Drag Race”–sort of a transvestite  “American Idol” a la “Project Runway”.  The host of the show is RuPaul, singer/drag queen, most known for his/her hit song “Supermodel (You Better Work)”.  It’s similar to “Project Runway” because not only do the contestants perform, and ultimately, there is a winner, but they share living space, so we see also how they interact when they off the stage and out of drag.

I’ve never been one to really get into watching drag performances (lip-synching) in clubs, but the contestants on this show have been well-selected both for their talent and their personalities, so it’s not difficult to be lured into watching the show week after week, pulling for one favorite or another.  The first episode of season two will air February 1st at 8 PM (Central).  Check out some teasers here.  I couldn’t stop laughing at this promo for the show which takes a jab at Sarah Palin’s book cover.  There are drag queens and there are airheads, and RuPaul is certainly not the latter.