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Other things made of real parts

Two more examples of design that support ongoing product use

If we're going to live without fossil fuel (and, let's face, we are going to live without, or very nearly without), then one thing we have to strive for is products that last a lot longer. Particularly, they have to be reparable. Some things are designed to be reparable, but most these days aren't. It makes me awfully happy when I run across something that I can indeed fix with a suitable replacement part (and extra points if it can be fixed with improvised parts).

A couple more recent, small examples. The battery gave out on my vTech wireless phone. Obviously batteries are designed to be replaced, so it's not like there's any significant innovation there, but in fact this phone is old enough that nobody sells the exact battery anymore. That said, the phone clearly marks the specifications it requires by way of voltage and milliamperage, so I was able to order a similar battery online. And it would appear that there's a relatively standard connector for consumer wireless phones. The new battery had the right connector, but even if it hadn't, I could have cut the connector off the old battery and soldered it onto the leads of the new battery. And the battery enclosure in the phone is roomy enough that the new battery doesn't have to be an exact size match (in fact, the new battery is smaller, but I'd have had a little leeway on the larger side if I'd needed it.

The valve that sits at the bottom of the water tank in one of our humidifiers gave out a couple days ago. When this happened with a newer, spiffier humidifier, it was game over because no one sold replacements and it was an unusual size and design. For the big "Sears Kenmore" type console humidifier, though, the part screws off and replacements are available for a few bucks apiece. This is the way the world should work.

Meanwhile, earlier today, I noticed that the fan motor on one side of the console humidifier has stopped working. Thus: the moment of truth. I have a hope (faint, admittedly) that I'll be able to get to the electric motor, remove it without breaking molded plastic parts, and replace it with something comparable.

So I pulled the top off the console, spent a few minutes unscrewing a couple of parts inside, then got enough of a view of the motor that I could check for it online. As it so happens, this is a Sears/Emerson humidifier, and thus it falls into that category of old-fashioned things for which every part in the device can be bought for repair. Everything down to the individual screws. The motor, in this case, costs $45 bucks plus shipping. This makes it very nearly not worth bothering with, at least in the current consumer world that most of us live in. I could buy a new console humidifier for $120 and given that it has two of these motors in it, it's arguably a better deal to have all new parts. But I like the idea of not having to ditch the entire unit (though I'd probably actually save it to scavenge parts in the future). Anyway, for better or worse, I've ordered the replacement.

And this is my point -- in a world where less custom-molded plastic winds up wasting fossil fuel in landfills, stuff has to be fixable, parts replaceable, and the know-how for repairs readily available (though YouTube can be pretty remarkable on the know-how front).

Humidifiers suck in general, by the way. I hate dealing with them.

Robert Richardson is the principle nomad here at the Mode.
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