Friday, May 3, 2024

I Swore I Never Would Install Another Split-System (#8)

I haven't been posting as of late because I have been busy!

It seems like appliance follies go on forever.  We finally broke down and bought a new microwave.  Mark's Cuisinart (which he actually uses regularly) finally broke after 20 years - the safety latch is part of the plastic bowl and although they say it is dishwasher safe, well, the high temperatures tend to make the plastic brittle and the latch broke in several places.  I found a new bowl set on the Cuisinart site for $60 and the machine looks like new.

Yes, I contemplated buying a used bowl, but the folks on eBay wanted $30 or more for one, and the plastic on those was as yellowed and brittle as the one we already have.  Some were in fact already cracked and broken.  Despite the promises of that wonder-material, plastic does degrade over time, a process I call "plastic rust" - a topic of a draft posting I never finished.

The new toaster oven (free, under warranty) arrived and it works great.  I decided that it wasn't worth my time to repair a $59 toaster oven, so I gave the old one a toss.  The garbage man is going to start wondering why my trash is so heavy!  First a window unit, then a split system, then a toaster oven.  It is like I am throwing away bricks.

There is something pleasing about having new things.  It gets depressing to own things that are broken-down and don't work well or have broken features.  Whether it is an old car or a broken appliance, having busted-up stuff isn't always good for your psyche.  Sure, a "barn find" rat-rod is fascinating. But then again, hot steel floorboards and a "Texas Tan" (surface rust) are only charming for so long.  That new car smell can be intoxicating.

Of course, new doesn't always has to be new.  A lot of people throw away perfectly functional machinery only because they are bored with it, or their lease was up, or some other reason than being worn out.  A three-year-old car can be like new, as can be a three-year-old cell phone.  Why pay double for not a lot more?  And the upgrade from a decade-old appliance is considerable.

The split system I installed in the garage nearly a decade ago went kaput.  Spending over $150 on a new control board on the premise that it was not the inside control board that was broken (those are NLA) seemed like a sketchy proposition, particularly when the rest of the unit was a decade old and while not at the end of its design life, was getting awfully close.  So for about $800 or so, I got a new unit.  And this time around, I wall-mounted it, so it won't be collecting dead leaves and detritus on the ground - which may help extend its service life.

It is not an easy process, even though I was replacing an existing system.  The wall mount required drilling into brick, which requires some effort and some sharp carbide bits.  But it all came together in a couple of days.

This is the 8th split-system I have installed, and I think I am finally getting the hang of it.  I struggled with some earlier installs, dealing with leaks, until I realized that my tubing cutter was worn out and my flaring tool was kaput as well.  The difference between the amateur and the expert is in the tools.  An expert with crappy tools can be in a worse place than an amateur with new tools.  This time around, no leaks, right from the get-go. Pulled a near -30psi vacuum almost right away and held it for a half-hour without budging.  Put some pressure in it and leak-checked and no bubbles from the soap solution.

As I noted in my earlier posting, these things get gross over time, accumulating debris on the cylindrical fan.  So maybe even if they can last longer than a decade, it might not be a swell idea.  At least now, I know how to clean them thoroughly.  We never had that problem in the lab!

In fact, that is a problem in manufacturing research.  When you make things new, they are never dirty or clogged or corroded.  Sure, you can test in the "real world" but 100,000 miles of driving cross-country isn't the same as ten seasons of Syracuse salt and snow.  You can only emulate so much, which is why manufacturers end up with problems after a few years - problems that never showed up in product testing.

But eventually, things get old and worn and reach the end of the Weibull curve.  You can waste a lot of money trying to repair an end-of-life product, so just move on.  When that point happens is often hard to determine.  Repairs seem "cheap" compared to buying anew.  But a machine that is near the end of its design life is likely to throw you another big repair bill soon thereafter.  And then thereafter.  And thereafter.  Sometimes it is best to call it quits and start over.

On a happier note, consider how durable the human body is!  It can go for as long as 100 years before wearing out.  The ball joints on your car may be shot after a decade, but your hip socket may not need replacement for 70 years!  Pretty durable design!

If only God designed cars, instead of Darwin.