Consumer Reports: 10-year track record for appliances

There was a rehab of our Harvard Square condo about 10 years ago. I was up there recently to teach a class at MIT and can give the following report on appliance durability.

The LG refrigerator was plugged in 10 years and has performed flawlessly, including the ice maker(!). That’s 24/7 operation for 10 years. Go Korea! (#Truth from the NYT: “LG refrigerators seem to make the most owners the happiest”)

With only light usage (apartment vacant much of the time and many restaurants nearby), the KitchenAid range has gotten stuck on (burning gas) twice and the control panel developed a buzzing sound. See KitchenAid tries to burn our house down a second time and High-end KitchenAid range with burner stuck on.

With only light usage, the top-of-the-line KitchenAid dishwasher failed completely once (needed a new circulation pump) and then failed almost completely more recently (would not dry; control panel flaky and often locked itself). In its favor, the machine was very quiet. It was just recently replaced by a $1300 Bosch with “CrystalDry” technology that is purportedly amazing, but in fact leaves massive amounts of water on top of coffee mugs. (Maskachusetts law prevents retailers from swapping dishwashers without a licensed plumber, so it isn’t easy/simple like in some other states.) It was challenging to find the desired Bosch dishwasher in stock, so I guess 1300 Bidies is below the market-clearing price (see Is inflation already at 15-30 percent if we hold delivery time constant? from June 2021). The previous Bosch required 7 service visits to work at all, so I guess I should be doubly grateful that this new one seems to work, albeit not nearly as effectively as a Whirlpool that I put in back in 1996. The default cycle time is 2 hours and 39 minutes. Maybe they will soon need a “days” field for the timer?

The plumber who came to deal with the dishwasher was also tasked with restoring flow through a shower valve and a kitchen sink. Cambridge water is full of sediment and minerals that clog up plumbing fixtures. Ten years was long enough to disable the shower (no hot water; new Hans Grohe temperature control valve required; thanks to Hans Grohe for keeping parts available a decade later!) and reduce flow in the kitchen to less than what a bathroom sink had.

Two of the Levolor custom cellular cordless blinds (over $100 each) failed such that they won’t pull down all the way. The 10-year warranty is worthless in this situation because Levolor demanded that the old blinds be sent back and then they will rehab them and return them after 6 weeks. That’s a long time to go in a bedroom with the street lights pouring in!

The Schlage electronic locks are still working perfectly, though it was impossible to buy a new 9V lithium battery as I had wanted/intended to.

I can see why Floridians tend to reject any house older than 20 years and strongly prefer a brand new house. Nothing lasts and it is tiresome to be an amateur property manager. As I dealt with all of the issues above, the words of my friend in Houston rang in my ears: “I won’t go anywhere north of Washington, D.C. because everything is dilapidated. In New England they call it ‘charm’.”

Meanwhile, back in Florida, the Bertazzoni in-wall microwave wall suffered a disabling failure when a clip holding a browning coil to the oven roof broke. Cost of a replacement, including shipping: $40. Cost of a new standalone microwave from Walmart: $55, That’s luxury!

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Who is rich enough to buy genuine HP toner cartridges?

I returned to stay at my grad student apartment in Cambridge, Maskachusetts (pre-2020 it was popular on AirBnB, but despite a 25 percent rate cut (via Bidenflation) it sits vacant much of the time these days) while teaching at MIT. I found that the HP 400 MFP M475dw printer cartridges had been depleted by the AirBnB guests. I went onto Amazon and found a genuine HP replacement set at a shocking $484:

The printer itself, including four cartridges, cost $750 in 2012 (equivalent to 1,000 of today’s mini-dollars).

I elected to buy refilled cartridges for $70:

Who is actually rich enough to pay for the genuine HP-brand cartridges? HP claims that the yield will be roughly 2,000 pages so the HP cartridges will cost 24 cents per page. The ghetto-brand folks say that their cartridges will yield more than 4,000 pages, about 2 cents per page(!).

I would love to know who says “I don’t mind paying $484 rather than $70”!

Another question is why the refillers don’t want customers to send back the spent HP cartridges. The box says “made in China”, but they need to get their old cartridges from somewhere, right?

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Toaster for Kwanzaa

Happy 5th day of Kwanzaa everyone. Here’s a kinara that a friend designed and 3D-printed:

I can probably get the 3D model from him if you need it for next year.

Inspired by the life of Professor Dr. Dr. Maulana Karenga, Ph.D., Ph.D., the creator of Kwanzaa, I ordered a new Breville toaster oven (“They also were hit on the heads with toasters” — Wikipedia) this week. It would have been nicer to get a Karenga- or Kwanzaa-branded toaster, but the Australians behind Breville apparently aren’t experts on Kujichagulia, Ujima, and Kuumba. I’m pretty sure that they have studied Professor Karenga’s work on Ujamaa (“cooperative economics”) because I have had to cooperate with them on about 6 toasters in 12 years (the function knobs fail, making it tough to switch modes; I paid Amazon for 3 extra years of warranty on this latest one). Our old huge-for-a-countertop Breville air fryer oven still works, though the function knob is touchy, but we’re using it outside to cook fish, etc. The Smart Oven Pro takes up less counter space and is plenty big for most projects. It is not quite as heavy as the air fryer version, but still suitable for traditional Kwanzaa observance (hitting kidnapped women on the head). Due to the small size and low thermal mass, it heats up much faster than your regular kitchen oven(s). I love this toaster oven for everything except… making toast. The bread is much farther from the heating elements so you don’t get the fast perfect browning of a conventional pop-up toaster. Who else bought a toaster this year for Kwanzaa?

Let’s check out the Ministry of Truth at ChatGPT:


The founder of Kwanzaa is Maulana Karenga, who is not a convicted criminal.


In 1971, he was convicted of felony assault, torture, and false imprisonment of women.

(Unclear if there was a specific toaster-related conviction.)

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Why can’t we get Art Nouveau furniture made by CNC?

What I wanted for Christmas and did not get is an entire house full of Art Nouveau furniture as seen in the Musée d’Orsay or the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Here are a few images of the collection at the d’Orsay, from our October 2022 trip there:

With modern 3D printing (e.g., for the lamp) and computer numerical control (CNC) routers, what stops the mostly-automated production at near-IKEA prices of replicas of the above works of genius and craftsmanship? An IKEA-crafted bed for comparison:

Maybe the problem is that putting an Art Nouveau piece into a standard American developer-built house or 2BR apartment would make the walls look sadly lacking in ornamentation.


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Apple Emergency SOS by Satellite is perfect for lost people who know exactly where they are?

In testing the new iPhone 14’s satellite SOS feature before a trip to Death Valley, where getting lost sometimes leads to death, I reached the following demo screen:

Why would dispatchers ask for your location? Can it be that the iPhone, which knows your 3D position precisely, doesn’t bother to share this with the folks who try to respond to emergencies? In other words, Apple copied all of the features of the EPIRB/PLB except the one that matters: automatically transmitting the location of the person in distress?

If so, it is great for lost hikers who happen to know exactly where they are!

For lost hikers who happen to have 5G mobile data available, Apple offers a help page on the Web that explains a complex procedure for sending one’s coordinates to people who might be able to help. An additional help page seems to contradict the demo screen:

After you’re connected, your iPhone starts a text conversation by sharing critical information like your Medical ID and emergency contact information (if you set them up), your answers to the emergency questionnaire, your location (including elevation), and your iPhone’s battery level.

So maybe the people who wrote this help page and the people who wrote the demo don’t talk to each other?

Once in Death Valley, how did the system work? Fortunately, we didn’t suffer any emergency conditions there. However, after about 2 hours away from mobile data coverage, the phone prompted me to share its location via satellite. Presumably this updated the Find My maps for those with whom I have shared location. It took about 2 minutes of holding/pointing the phone out the windshield of our rental car (the notification hit while my friend was driving).

Another recent interesting Apple user interface issue… a friend in the neighborhood put an AirTag on his dog’s collar. Every time that we walk the dogs together Apple warns me that an AirTag is following me around and do I want to disable it.

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Jeremy’s Razors vs. Almighty Dorco

Looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for a friend who shaves his/her/zir/their beard? Let’s examine Jeremy’s vs. Dorco, which prevailed over all competitors in my 2019 testing (see Friends weigh in on Dorco versus Gillette and Dorco Shaving Test: 7 blades good; 4 blades bad).

During the ordering process, the company deplorably references “Columbus Day” rather than Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Fighting wokeness isn’t cheap:

At the time this order was placed, Amazon was selling a Dorco handle with 10 Pace 7 cartridges for $29.99 (free shipping for those of us in the elite inner circle of Prime membership).

What do you get? A beautiful box:

The cartridge contains six blades arranged in pairs so it initially looks like a three-blade device. The handle is about twice as heavy as Dorco’s standard handles. I have seen speculation on the Interweb that Dorco is behind Jeremy’s, but the connection system is slightly different and Dorco’s 6-blade cartridges do not arrange the blades into pairs.

Here’s the Dorco 6-blade cartridge for reference:

I set up a test where I would shave two days of growth in the shower using a new Dorco Pace 7, my favorite product from that company (see Dorco Shaving Test: 7 blades good; 4 blades bad (referenced above) and Gillette versus Dorco Shaving Test 4), on the right side and a Jeremy’s razor on the left side. Dorco has a handle with some additional freedom of movement, but for comparability I used a Dorco handle that allows the cartridge to rotate in just one axis, like the Jeremey’s handle.

Whereas the top-of-the-line Gillette (Fusion 5) v. Dorco Pace 7 test revealed subtle differences, Jeremy’s v. Dorco was not a close contest. The Jeremy’s razor was much less comfortable and it felt like it was snagging on every bristle, though ultimately it produced a similarly close shave.

Winner: the quietly competent Korean engineers at Dorco whose opinions on #MeToo, 2SLGBTQQIA+, and white patriarchy are unknown.

Jeremy’s includes some collateral material that mocks the Gillette celebration-of-transgenderism ad:

Plus some instructions:

Who wants this kit? I will be happy to mail it out, minus the one cartridge that I have used, to any reader who wishes to continue this research project.

Oh yes, speaking of beards… a Hero of Faucism in the Bellagio casino, Las Vegas, with a full beard plus simple mask:

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Warning symptom of Affluenza: a shrinking dishwasher

A story to keep in mind as we enter the season of outrageous consumerism (i.e., Christmas)…

I visited a friend who lives in a 10,000-square-foot beach house here in Florida. The core of the two-story house is open, which makes the ceiling in the living room about 25′ high. He said that he was planning to remodel the kitchen. “Why?” I asked. “This house was built only about three years ago, right?” He responded, “They put in a tiny dishwasher. They wanted something that would match the cabinet size and didn’t think about the function.” I imagined an 18″ Manhattan-style dishwasher in the kitchen, which was itself the size of a Manhattan one-bedroom apartment. After getting a good workout by opening and closing the doors on the 72″-wide wall of Sub-Zero refrigerator/freezer (each door 36″ wide), I located and opened the dishwasher. It was a non-standard Asko-brand unit in the completely standard 24″ width of an American dishwasher. His house and kitchen were so vast that the standard-size machine seemed like Derek Zoolander’s dishwasher.

It looks as though a 30-inch dishwasher was actually made for home use at one time. From Dacor:

From the reviews…

We love being able to fit lots of dishes into our pretty dishwasher; however, everything must be rinsed very well before loading and the wash time is 2 hours. We’ve had less expensive dishwashers that were more effective with less time.

Loud, Poor cleaning, Unit replaced, Still bad, Racks begin rusting in 18 months, 3 yrs the rusted racks are falling apart. 800 for bottom rack 300 for top rack. Now I have an oversized space in my cabinets. If you want to spend 3K on a dishwasher and really want greater capacity, buy 2 24″ washers, I wish I did.

And that last idea is what’s going into my friend’s new kitchen: two dishwashers.

Separately, I’m not sure why he needs so much dishwashing action. He doesn’t have more kids or more meals than moderately rich people. He doesn’t even eat breakfast. When he has a big party there are caterers. I guess one justification is that dishwashers now take more than 2 hours to run so the obvious solution of doing two loads in sequence isn’t as sensible as it was back in the 1970s.

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Should new houses and apartments be designed with an alcove for a robot vacuum cleaner?

Everyone I know who tried the first robot vacuum cleaners eventually gave up. They held so little debris that it was just as much work to empty them as it would have been to vacuum the room with an $80 Hoover. Walls got banged up from the robot’s clumsy attempts to map rooms and avoid furniture. Delicacy prevents me from going into details, but a family dog with a stomach bug and a robot vacuum cleaner turned out to be a toxic combination in many households. (Do a web search and you will find many stories!)

Friends in Maskachusetts have been been on a renewed buying spree lately driven by, I think, the following beliefs:

  • the original electric home vacuum cleaners were not marvelous labor-saving devices and their descendants (up to 114 Bidies for a decent Hoover?) are, in fact, extremely tedious to push around in a McMansion
  • a battery-powered machine is always more effective at cleaning than a 114-Bidie plug-in Hoover with a 1440-watt motor
  • the latest and greatest robots have better sensors and software
  • their children have weak immune systems from 1.5 years of school closure and activity lockdowns and shutdowns and therefore the house must be cleaner than ever before

Although the market segment was pioneered by iRobot, an MIT spinoff, these guys have come to the consensus (“a Scientific consensus”) that the Chinese-engineered Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra is the best machine and has the best software.

They’ve sent me pictures of this dock and robot in their $2-3 million COVID-safe suburban bunkers. They take up a lot of floor space and look completely out of place. Here’s what the naked machine looks like:

(Across the top you have dirty water (post-mopping), clean water (pre-mopping), and a wastebasket for the self-emptying dust bin within the robot. The company claims this allows 3-4 days of usage before the robot’s human servant must be summoned to change out the water or empty the bin. They base this on a small footprint of 1,070 square feet.)

You wouldn’t leave a regular vacuum cleaner out where family members, guests, etc. could see it, right? The vacuum cleaner is ugly and used intermittently so it lives in a closet. These robots aren’t smart enough to open doors, so my friends are putting them where they are often visible to people trying to enjoy the house. It’s New England and the robots can’t climb stairs so a house with three living levels will have three of these cluttering the space.

I’m wondering if houses and apartments should now be designed so that a robot vacuum with dock will stay mostly out of sight. Maybe it lives in an alcove under the stairs. Perhaps there is a curtain that it can drive under (it is mostly the dock that needs to be hidden). The companies that make these devices should get together and agree on a standard for the shape and size of the alcove. Obviously the alcove needs electricity. Maybe for rich people there should also be a fresh water supply plumbed in and a drain and perhaps robots could be made that tapped into these so that the only thing that the human servant of the robot ever had to do was empty the dust bin.

I know there’s a fine line between brilliant and stupid. Which side of the line is this idea on?

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Is Instant Pot cooking stupid or am I?

We finally moved into a house with enough counter space to experiment with a pressure cooker (Ninja brand that is a ripoff of the popular Instant Pot). Most of the recipes that I have tried called for a “quick release” of the pressure. If you don’t do this, it takes perhaps 30 minutes for the pressure to bleed off naturally and the food will be overcooked (also, it won’t save any time compared to using the stovetop or legacy oven).

If you do open the quick release valve, however, the kitchen gets filled with an aerosol spray of whatever was inside the pressure cooker. If the goal is mac and cheese on a plate, the result is aerosol milk and water filling the kitchen and settling on the surfaces.

The CDC says that anything aerosol can be defeated by wearing the simplest of cloth masks, but my experience is that Formula 409 and paper towels are required. At that point, how was any time or effort saved compared to stovetop cooking?

It seems possible that slow-cooker recipes, e.g., for stews, could be accelerated via pressure cooking even if we account for a natural dissipation of the pressure at the end.


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Get a whole-house surge protector now that it is impossible to buy anything or get parts?

The local power company wants to sell us an $11/month surge protector that is sure to protect our home from a 100-million-volt lightning strike and then, because it works so well, charge an additional $6/month to clean up the damage when the surge protector fails to provide any protection:

Florida has epic thunderstorms, for which climate change can be blamed, but the lines feeding our house are underground so I don’t see why we would be vulnerable. I’m wondering if we can infer from the pricing that the surge protector is only 50 percent effective. It costs $12/month to buy electronics surge protection as pure insurance, with no hardware installed in the house. It costs $6/month additional to get this surge protection if one is already paying $11/month for the protection hardware plus insurance on the appliances that will be zapped when the protection hardware does not protect.

Having gone my whole life without suffering anything damaged by a power surge or knowing anyone personally who has lost anything electronic to a power surge, I would ordinarily map this into the “total waste of money” category, especially given our underground lines. I would also be concerned that the surge protector would fail in a way that shuts down power to the house despite no surge having occurred. A neighbor who has been here since the inception of Abacoa (2003 for this corner) has never had or heard of a surge problem.

But given that everything is out of stock forever, I’m wondering if the idea isn’t as dumb as it seems. If our KitchenAid 42″-wide built-in refrigerator failed, it would be four weeks before we could get the required two service visits plus part replacement to restore it to functioning. If we wanted to replace it, that would take months. If we wanted a new GPU card for the PC, we’d have to rob a crypto miner. Working from home makes a power surge that takes out cable modem, network switch, WiFi access points, or PCs far more destructive than if one were using a house only for sleeping and watching TV.

Readers: Has anyone ever had anything damaged by a power surge?

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