Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Leaky Dryer Vent

Name: Kelly

City: Davison

Inquery Type: Appliance repair question

Comments: I have noticed in the last few months that it is taking longer and longer for my dryer to dry laundry loads.  I have visually checked to see if the moisture is leaving the outside vent.  It is.  My laundry room is not overly moist so I don't think it is a blocked vent.  Any ideas on what to do next?  Is there something easy to change.....like a heat coil?  Is it much like changing an electric oven coil?  
Thanks for your help, Joe.

Hi Kelly, 

thanks for your note. I have heard your statement a few thousand times. "Air is coming out the vent trap" Yet a service technician comes out and cleans a plugged up vent line. The amount coming out is crucial. I would suggest you disconnect the vent line from the dryer and do one load. That will tell you if I am right or not. Take the vent line off and clean it immaculate. The dryer may be a serious fire hazard if the vent line is not clean and clear. 
Regards Joe Gagnon. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Appliance 411

Name: Pat 

City: Livonia, MI

Inquery Type: Appliance care tip

Comments: Hi Joe,

On today's show, you mentioned Appliance 411 to look up your appliances  however, I missed the web site and reason for looking up your appliance.  Was it for recall reasons?  Can you provide me with the info, or where on your site I can look it up?

Also, I agree with the caller from Indiana, it would be great if we could go back and listen to your previous shows.  Sometimes I can't listen on Saturday mornings and it would be wonderful if I could sign in and listen to the previous show in some type of archives.

Thank you and God Bless you for all you do for others.

Hi Pat, 
Very nice of you to write. On the 411 thing, I just went to Google search and typed in appliance 411 and found a site for checking the age of appliances. It had nothing to do with any recall but sometimes people write and wonder how old their washer or appliance is. My son told me about this feature to answer a consumers question. Any questions on recalls can be seen on saferproducts.gov. There are 195 million recalled appliances in American homes. Please check out the site and check if you have any. As for archives etc. I will look into it. 

Regards Joe Gagnon. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Originally published in the Observer Eccentric Newspapers

In my many years of writing this column and my almost 30 years of doing a radio show I have seldom been in tears doing my enjoyable work. Last Saturday I received an on air phone call from Doctor Sase who lives in Ann Arbor. He described the following scenario. “We received a call from an Air Duct Cleaning Company who said they could clean our air ducts for a special price. We were taken by their phone call and committed to have them do the job. They came to our home and quoted a price of $800.00 to do the job and after I explained that it was too costly they did the work for $600.00. After they were finished we have been seeing moths flying all around the different rooms. It appears that we have been scammed by a very unethical air duct cleaning company and can you help us.”  He went on to tell me that he is 90 years old and suffered a stroke some months ago. His wife is 88 years of age and they live in a modest home of 1200 square feet. Suddenly he burst out crying while talking to me and that is all it took to get me in the same frame of mind. Now, isn’t this enough to give you a picture of what happened to this good man and his wife?

I have written in the past about crooked air duct cleaners and how it is a national concern and how all consumers should be aware of whom the bad guys are. Here is a typical story that is not going to end until I get myself involved. I have already made arrangements for a reputable company to go to Doctor Sasses’ home and give me a detailed report on the quality of the work performed by the bad guy. Once I get this report I am going to visit the Doctor and take him to his District Court and help him file a small claims case so he can get his money back. As you can tell, I haven’t mentioned this bad guy’s company name and all I know right now is that he is located in Livonia. It might be possible that he reads this column and I want him to know that I’m coming after him. Once I prove in a court of law that he ripped off this particular consumer and senior citizen I am going to write the second chapter of this story. I am also going to contact some friends in the television industry and don’t be surprised if you learn more about this company from watching the nightly news.

Now let me give our readers a sort of refresher course on some of my past years. Today I am a senior citizen, retired on fixed income but I used to be one hell of a consumer advocate. I used to work for Esther Shapiro, the retired director of Detroit Consumer Affairs and she was about as tough as they come when it comes to dealing with unethical business dealings. I spent years working as a fraud investigator with Attorney Generals Frank Kelly and Jennifer Granholm and I helped put some nasty people on hold. The television industry used me many times to help them set up sting operations which helped consumers become more aware and educated on how some services are too good to be true. In this State of Michigan, consumer protection is almost a thing of the past. There are no more consumer protection agencies which help people with problems like the one described above. You have to fend for yourself and God help you if you happen to be old and not as sharp as you once were. In the old days it wouldn't take this long to solve a problem like a rip-off company so described. I would just pick up the consumer and drive over to the crooks business office, explain what the problem was, introduce myself and get the distraught homeowners money returned on the spot. Maybe the guy who is now in trouble is reading this column and if so he can send a check for $600.00 to Doctor Sase in Ann Arbor. He can do it now or do it later. Stay tuned. 

Friday, February 8, 2013


Originally published in the Observer Eccentric Newspapers

I would like to know how many organizations there are that control and set policies on energy consumption in this country. I think every person should be singled out and how much money is directed to each specific group. I want to know because I’m tired of not knowing who is responsible for the thousands of dollars that cost Americans right out of their pockets for the new ideas that come out of Washington. Who is it that has the right to dictate to homeowners that you can no longer purchase an 80% furnace and must install the 90% plus as a replacement? Under mandate of law, the heating company of your choice will no longer be able to sell them. Many consumers will be shocked at the increase in price for having a new furnace installed. This law goes into effect in the early months of 2013 and it reminds me of when the Energy Department got involved with the toilet issue that turned out to be one big mess. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in saving the planet, recycling and all the other things that can be called normal but I’m strictly against the rip-off ways that get mixed into the methods of getting things done. Let me give you just a few examples of how change which caused some very adverse expense results.

In 1982 the manufacturers of gas ranges had to change the method of ignition on their stoves. They had to go from a pilot light to an electronic ignition system. The old system worked great but it wasted gas which we had plenty of and still have an abundance to feed us for the next 200 years. This move had to cost the manufacture many millions of dollars in new design etc... I want to tell you that it didn’t take very long for them to get a return on investment. The igniters were just a pure piece of junk back then and many range owners had to buy a new one every year at a cost of near $100.00. It was several years before the igniter was perfected to withstand some longevity. The same picture is true of furnaces. Most people who purchased a new furnace 20 years ago with the new ignition system had to replace several igniters during the first few years of operation. I know, I’ve replace 5 of them in my furnace which is still operating like a champ but now comes the big decision I have to make along with several million other homeowners. I simply don’t want to replace my furnace at this time. My old one works great and I might get another 10 years out of it. If I do decide to replace it now, I don’t want one of the higher efficiency units. I don’t believe that the extra expense of installation and extra cost is feasible to recover in my remaining years. It just doesn’t work for me and I’m not alone. To sum it up, I either purchase an 80% furnace now or I wait until my current one goes bad down the road and I buy what is available and the 90% furnace is shoved down my throat.

Now let’s say that I am really concerned about energy savings and have the new energy saving furnace installed now.  I figure that I might save a lot of money compared to what it will cost me a few years from now.  Keep in mind that it is not just the extra cost for the product but the additional amount of money I’ m going to spend to have holes drilled through the side of my house for the new venting requirements on this new furnace. Thank God I don’t live in the center unit of a condominium or I’d be spending more for venting than I would for the furnace. I think I spent $1400.00 for a furnace 17 years ago and today it would cost around $3000.00. I expect that next year it would cost around $5000.00 and who knows what the price will be in the next few years.  I would like to know who the people are that have never held a screwdriver and make these decisions for me. Stay tuned.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Originally published in the Observer Eccentric Newspapers

I would like to believe everything I read and hear that comes from those entrusted in telling us the way it really is, but life has taught me otherwise. When I find out that I am being conned I more or less shake my head in disgust and pray that many of my fellow consumers are wise enough to figure it out.
In the last few years the manufacturers of dish washer detergents have removed the phosphates from their products. They did this with little warning to homeowners who suddenly discovered that their glasses came out of the dishwasher with a cloudy finish on them. I am very disappointed that they still have not come up with a solution to the problem nor do they think they have? In my house we have been using the Lemi Shine product to add to our current powdered detergent and it has been doing a good job of keeping the glasses fog free. After seeing some television advertising that portrays a woman telling another that these new packages of predetermined amounts will take care of her foggy glasses, I went to the store and purchased some of that particular brand. I’ve been using it for the past 2 weeks and I’m not happy. I’ve got 5 glasses that look like they have been through a snow storm. They just won’t come out nice and clear so I boiled them in a big pot of water for 10 minutes and that didn’t help. So I’ll say to the well-known advertiser, “you are lying, pure and simple.”

I recently read a story about Kent Carson from Chicago who awakened in a hospital bed to find that his legs and one arm had been amputated. This unfortunate 55 year old man was infected with Legionnaires disease. He doesn’t know where he caught it and it is seldom reported unless if affects many people who were at the same place. For many years I’ve been telling homeowners to pay attention to the humidifier on their furnaces. Going back to 1950’s the advertising would tell you that the float type humidifier was necessary for good health for people who lived in the cold climate such as Michigan’s. Even today a doctor will tell his patients who have respiratory problems to make sure the air in their home has humidity added. There were many millions of these installed on furnaces and a lot of people still have them. Parts are still available and heating companies are still fixing them. My advice to those folks is to get them off the furnace as quick as possible. Legionnaires come from water that is sitting and heated and that is exactly what the water is doing in that antiquated humidifier. I strongly recommend you think about the flow through type humidifier. One other important factor on a humidifier has to be mentioned here because it is so important. The filter has to be changed! I’ve seen filters that are covered with black mold because the homeowner was trying to save a few dollars.

In this world we live in and with the technology now available we are smothered with many different messages that it is easy to confuse people. As Esther Shapiro used to say, “A confused consumer is easy prey.” White is white isn’t it? How can toothpaste make your teeth whiter than the next? The same analogy applies to soaps used in a clothes washer. In closing this column I would like to mention for the last time my last few columns which pointed out the newly invented way I have been doing the laundry at our home. I’m not using detergent or hot water and my clothes are as clean as ever and they even smell better. You can believe in the advertising you will see on this product. Stay tuned.