Second Hand Appliances?

Second Hand Appliances.  Curse or Blessing?

Scattered across this great nation of ours are myriads of small community centres, bingo halls, churches and small social clubs. While we may think that community halls or other centres are outfitted with commercial kitchens, this is not always the case. Even within a city the size of Calgary, many small churches and community halls cannot justify having a commercial kitchen, yet they still have a fairly busy social calendar. And many of them have kitchens with hand-me-down kitchen appliances. Second hand refrigerators, ranges, ovens, freezers and dishwashers can be an excellent choice for some of these small halls, but several factors need to be observed.

No community hall wants someone else’s problem. If you are involved in the maintenance second hand appliancesor running of a small community hall or church building, be sure you know and trust the source of that used dishwasher, refrigerator or stove being donated. However sad it may be to contemplate, many an organization has been saddled with a used refrigerator, oven, or dishwasher that didn’t work or only partly worked because someone thought it would be “good enough” for the hall. Pawning off such a “treasure” in lieu of paying to have an old kitchen appliance disposed of properly may seem like a low blow, but it does happen.

On the positive side, there are some authentic treasures to be found in small community halls or social clubs. Many of the older models of kitchen appliances may be simple and plain, but what a benefit they can be if they are an appliance of quality. While it is true that an older refrigerator or freezer may not have an ENERGY guide sticker, the fridge or freezer in question may be very well constructed, with good insulation. In the cool basement of a church for example, the compressor may not have to run as frequently as a newer model refrigerator or freezer. By the same token, one can’t expect the bells and whistles associated with a newer model. For example, ice and water dispensers didn’t used to be nearly as common on refrigerators. However, if this feature isn’t a necessity in a small community hall or church, then a good older model refrigerator may be very adequate – especially if it has been a free gift to the building.

What about ranges, ovens, stoves? Again, some of the older models may be simple and plain (or an unsightly colour), but they could be of a very good quality and still quite serviceable. Think practically and bear in mind how often the oven is going to be used. A potluck every 3 months puts a very different strain on an oven than daily usage. Many older ovens still function very well and were constructed with high quality parts and excellent insulation, but are without self-cleaning features. Is this going to be a necessity for your hall or church? Are there enough volunteers to keep that good ol’ oven clean when the need arises? If there aren’t, then it would be better to forego the free, hand-me-down range and set money aside in the budget to invest in something else with a self-cleaning function.

Dishwashers can be notorious. Hard water can cause various parts to clog, rendering the dishwasher ineffective. If your organization decides to take on a second hand dishwasher be very sure you can ascertain the appliance’s history. How long has it been sitting? How long was it used? Where? Get the whole story and make an informed decision. There is no point in paying to install a dishwasher that is not going to get dishes clean and then have to pay to dispose of the appliance anyway.

Even the highest quality hand-me-down kitchen appliance has a limited lifespan. Nothing lasts forever, parts become obsolete, but there are circumstances when the right used appliance can fit the need very well. Maybe someone’s home renovation could result in the perfect refrigerator or stove for the community hall and the donation would be very beneficial. Isn’t it better to give a good quality refrigerator, freezer or range a new home and help the social club or community hall rather than sending a quality appliance to landfill before its time?

Maybe you have a win-win story about a hand-me-down kitchen appliance which has benefited a small hall, social club or church?

Gords ApplianceGord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience. Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances

Creative Appliance Recycling Part 2

Creative Appliance Recycling Part 2

At the risk of generalizing to the point of ridiculousness, I think it is safe to say that we humans tend to fall into 1 of 2 categories, or at least possess a bent in that direction – the “messy” and the “neat”.  I am willing to bet that no one with even the slightest neat tendency is reading this, as the thought of keeping “junk” around to make something out of is not remotely appealing.   However, if you can handle the idea of keeping “junk” around long enough to make something out of it, you might be interested in learning more about creative appliance recycling.

Creative Recycling of Washers & Dryers

Before I started to do some research for this series, my understanding of creative Recycling Appliancesappliance recycling was very limited to a few farm uses and some red neck concoctions.   I was impressed to learn that there is actually a segment of the design world that focuses on using recycled materials.  One design company I found in Sweden, Recreate Design Company, (thank you “Uncle Google”), runs public workshops in their studio so that people can work on DIY home décor projects out of reclaimed items. They have scores of blogs which display a diverse range of recycled designed.  Their blog entitled “15 Ways to Recycle a Washing Machine Drum” features some wonderfully creative ideas for shelves, tables, and lamps made from washing machine drums.

Fire Pits & Incinerators

If the tumbling drum inside your dryer is metallic and not plastic it can make a good burning bin or fire pit.  The holes in stainless steel washing machine drums allow for excellent air circulation and fast burning with minimal smoke for incineration purposes.  Some people put these up on stands, but I like the idea of setting them on a group of flag stones or bricks, because I think they might be less apt to tip over or ignite dry grass.


As always, anything that holds dirt can be turned into a planter.  Holes are already in place for drainage and you can creatively recycle Styrofoam peanuts or chunks by filling the bottom half of the planter so it weighs less and can be moved around more easily.

Garden Composter

If you haven’t yet checked out Part 1 of this series, there is a fabulous article by Jenny Humphrey from the Cranbrook Guardian about Rick and Brenda Metheral and their raised garden beds made from old fridges and freezers. (Meet the Metherals, Masters of Recycled Container Gardening, July 9, 2013) They have also made a composter out of their old washing machine.  The photo I have used to accompany this blog is of Brenda Metheral posing with that very top loading composter. (The photo is courtesy of Jenny Humphrey.)   If you look closely, you will notice that the front panel of the washing machine has been cut away and a plywood door is in its place for easy access.


Earlier I referred to Recreate Design Company.  There are some great photos of lamps in their blog entitled “15 Ways to Recycle a Washing Machine Drum”.  Apart from the drum, the agitator can also be used to make a very funky looking lamp.


I read about someone that used the glass doors of front load washers as salad bowls and large fruit bowls.  (Please note that some glass does contain lead which can leach into food.  The more acidic the food and the longer the food’s exposure to the glass, the more leaching will occur.  Unless you are able to confirm that the glass is lead free, using fruit that must be peeled, or using the bowls to serve dry food such as chips or peanuts may be a better idea.  If in doubt, stick to using the bowls for decorative purposes.)

Playhouses & Tree Houses

Those very same glass doors on front loading washers can make very cool looking portholes or skylights in a playhouse or tree house.

Kid’s Repair Shop

There are some kids that have an innate curiosity about how things work.  They want to works with tools and their hands.  If you have a child like that you can keep him or her busy for hours disassembling a washing machine or a dryer.  Have them sort the bolts and screws into different bins and see if there is anything there that is reusable or salvageable.  Let their imaginations run wild and free and then scrap the rest.  Who knows?  You could be planting seeds that will one day lead to a career at NASA or even the appliance repair industry!

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Gords Appliance


Gord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience.
Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances.

Creative Appliance Recycling

Creative Appliance Recycling – Part 1

We all know them. Maybe you are even one of them. And hey, no judgments if you are. After all, you help keep our economy ticking along. Who am I referring to? I’m talking aboutcreative appliance recycling those people that get rid of good stuff that is a bit out dated or that has simply lost its appeal. The attraction of something new and exciting is overwhelming so others get the benefit of gently used wares often found online, at Good Will, or even on the curbside with a “free” sign attached.

If you aren’t part of this segment of the population and you hang onto your stuff until it dies, then you need to dispose of it. The municipal landfill is one option for your old dishwasher, washer or dryer, refrigerator or freezer. However, there may be other options besides taking your old appliance to the dump. This series is dedicated to creative ways to recycle common household appliances. To kick things off, let’s talk about that old chest freezer, upright freezer/refrigerator.

Get Practical

Before we begin to get creative, let’s start with practical. Refrigerators and freezers contain refrigerants. One needs legal certification and the proper collection equipment for the disposal of these gases. The landfill contracts with a company that extracts the hazardous materials from fridges and freezers and then recycles the rest. The DIY old fashioned way with an axe and a breeze is environmentally irresponsible and defeats the purpose of creative recycling. More importantly, it is illegal and Environment Canada takes a dim view of the practice. That said, some companies that install and service commercial refrigeration units will extract and recycle refrigerants for a small fee if you bring your appliance to their shop. They will send you on your way with paperwork verifying that your appliance has been decommissioned.

Creative Re-uses for Chest Freezers & Fridges

Raised Garden Beds

Remove the doors and shelving from the chest freezer, (refrigerators or upright freezersfridge and freezer garden must be laid on their backs of course). Make drainage holes in the bottom of your unit, put a layer of gravel in the bottom and fill the rest with soil and compost/aged manure. The appliance’s insulation helps maintain the soil temperature overnight and can even extend your growing season. The height is easier on your back than the traditional ground bed and ideal for those who are wheelchair bound or need to sit to garden. (Check out this interesting story in the Cranbrook Guardian to learn more about these raised garden beds.)

Worm Composting

Worm castings make excellent fertilizer, so if you are into organic gardening, a worm farm might be ideal for you. Used chest freezers can make excellent worm farms. (Check out for some great information) A worm farm can also be a great idea if you are a fan of fresh worms for fishing. Instead of buying bait, you can keep a ready supply in your own yard. (Be sure to research the bylaws in your area first.)

Dry Erase/White Boards

If you know someone who owns a deli or food kiosk, a large chest freezer lid can make a creative white board for menu postings. The idea of a communication board also applies for residential applications. You can make a large calendar, customize a daily- weekly-monthly chore list for the kids… you get the idea.

Meat Smoker & Home Brew Fermenter

Plans to make smokers for fish and game, as well as fermenters for home brewing can be found on the internet or researched at your local library. Again, unless you reside in the country with no neighbours to disturb, municipal ordinances need to be checked. It would be a shame to go to all that work only to have to tear it all down and get a fine to boot.

Rodent-proof Container or Watering Trough

If you have spent any time in farm country, no doubt you are already familiar with the sight of a chest freezer or two, along an out-building, in a barn or the mudroom of a farm house. Chest freezers make great rodent-proof storage containers for grain and other pet foods. The contents remains fresh and dry and you can lock the lid.

The chest freezer can also make an excellent drinking trough for horses and cattle. It is easy to clean on the inside and the insulation factor makes the trough heater’s job easier in the winter too.

I know that we have covered this point, but it bears repeating: please don’t attempt to creatively recycle your used fridge or freezer without first having your appliance decommissioned so that it is rendered free of hazardous materials. This little blog covers just a few possibilities for creatively reusing an old refrigerator or freezer. No doubt many of you know someone or have come up with some really creative uses yourself for recycling old fridges or freezers and we would like to learn about them. Please contact us with your ideas and send us your photos.

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Gords Appliance
Gord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience.

Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances.

Replace or Not

Replace or Not to Replace? – That is the Question.

Whether tis nobler to repair what may have cost you an outrageous fortune or to take arms against compressor troubles and by calling the Junk Guys end them.

As Easter is upon us you may be thinking about purchasing a couple of turkeys on sale to have on hand for later.  Easter, turkey, freezer, is that aging fridge or freezer going to make it until next Easter?  Is it better to replace it now than have it die during a heat wave this August?   If you have been considering replacing an aging appliance, now may be as good a time as any. Previous year’s models that didn’t get sold during either black Friday or Boxing Week sales are taking up space in warehouses and show rooms.  So if you don’t have to have matching appliances, or the very latest style, you are in a position to save money on a new appliance.

Before you get your heart set on a new appliance however, consider whether you areKitchen Appliance Garbage better off repairing or replacing.  Repairs can be rather expensive, especially when you’re dealing with a large appliance like a washer, dryer, dishwasher, or refrigerator. It is important to carefully compare and contrast the cost of purchasing a new appliance versus having it repaired – maybe more than once.

If you have an appliance repair technician you trust, it is particularly helpful if you can provide the make and model as well as a brief history of the appliance.  An ethical and experienced technician can weigh the pros and cons for you and help guide you in your decision making. There are also online forums that can be excellent sources of information.  If you educate yourself a little bit, you can avoid breaking your wallet on a repair or replacement that is overpriced or non-essential.

When to Repair an Appliance

If you have recently invested a great deal of money in a new appliance, and it begins to act up, a repair may be the best option. Old appliances in need of repair may require specialized parts, and in many cases, it may be better to purchase a new dishwasher or refrigerator rather than getting your old one repaired. If you receive a price quote for a repair, compare it to the price of replacement options to see what’s right for you. Also, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion on a repair to ensure you’re getting the best price possible.  Most reputable appliance repair technicians use the National Major Appliance Price Guide and repairs are done on a flat-rate basis rather than by the hour.

When to Buy New

When the price of replacement parts and labour seems too high or your appliance is reaching the end of its life, it’s probably best to purchase a new one.  You get up-to-date technology as well as the manufacturer’s warranty.  If your appliance has broken down or had repeat problems in the past, it may indicate that it is reaching the end of its lifespan. Replacing your old refrigerator or dishwasher with an Energy Star alternative is a great option. In general, Energy Star appliances are more efficient and can save you money on utility costs in the long run, which further compensates you for the investment. But this isn’t always the case.  Sometimes for example, an older freezer can be more energy efficient than a new one.  Older freezers, while having larger compressors requiring more electricity to run, are very well insulated and may run less frequently than newer, lighter models. However, no appliance is designed to operate forever and eventually all of them need to be replaced.

Ask a Professional

If you are uncertain about appliance repair or getting it replaced, contact one or more local professionals for advice. Receiving several quotes on repair or new installations is also a very good idea. If you end up requiring a repair or new installation, an expert will be able to ensure everything is working properly, so it is important to communicate with an experienced technician you know and trust.

Appliance repair or replacement can both be expensive investments. By knowing when to repair an appliance, purchase a new one or defer to expert advice, it becomes much easier to avoid wasting money on unnecessary repairs or replacements.

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Gords Appliance


Gord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience.

Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances.