I have owned rental property and been my own property manager for 15 years, but with the real estate meltdown, economizing on hiring outside help became critical.
During the past year, I began repairing appliances myself whenever I could, the fixes I was comfortable with. I also found out I could buy my parts inexpensively online.
This year we had an extremely hot summer, and about eight of my properties blew air conditioning capacitors. Every time the HVAC technician came out is was $200. This made such an impression on me, I decided to shoulder surf while he changed a capacitor one day, and saw that it only took him about 15 minutes.
I asked him for the old capacitor and looked up the part online. He had told me it was a $125 part, but actually it was about a $25 part. I started to do the math. 15 minutes for $200 is not a bad way to make a buck, I thought, and you’re clearing most of that. And, I was not his only client.
With real estate in the tank, I had been looking for some way to earn some income, so I started thinking about becoming an HVAC technician. At the very least, I could fix my own air conditioners and save a bunch of money, and maybe even make some cash fixing them for other people.
I started looking into it. I found some good training programs, and started to get excited. Then I hit the deal killer. It turns out that an apprenticeship of 4 years is required in my state in order to become a licensed HVAC technician. I was not looking for a lengthy apprenticeship. I was just trying to make some cash.
But it had gotten me thinking. What could I do for that kind of income?
At the same time, I had a refrigerator in my basement that was broken, and I had been putting off replacing it. I had called an appliance repair guy and he had asked me could I hear the compressor running, and I said, “no.” He said I may need to replace the relay, which would cost $140, or at the very worst the compressor was shot and I would need a new fridge.
I went and looked at some used and scratch and dent fridges, but I just couldn’t bring myself to buy one. It was a little beyond my comfort zone, but I wanted to try and fix it.
I had been reading about basic electronics, and I had come across a couple of DIY articles online that told me to test continuity and resistance, but I had been skipping that step and making educated guesses about what was broken. I had gotten lucky so far, but I was nervous about buying parts that wouldn’t solve my problems, since you can’t return most electrical parts.
I studied my model, and I confirmed that if it the relay assembly wasn’t working, the compressor wouldn’t come on either. I went down to the basement and ripped out the relay. In order to test if the relay was the problem, I found a site davesrepair.com that teaches you how to make a refrigeration compressor test cord, and I went out and bought the parts and made one.
You know what? When I plugged my test cord in, the compressor came on. Bought a relay online and fixed my refrigerator for about $65.
It was at that point I realized I liked appliance repair enough to see what it took to become an appliance repair technician.