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Nature of the Work
* Although employment of home appliance and power tool repairers is expected to grow slowly, opportunities should be good for skilled repairers.
* Many repairers are high school graduates who are trained on the job.
* Knowledge of basic electronics is becoming increasingly important.
If your air-conditioner or refrigerator has ever broken, you know the importance of a dependable repair person. Appliance and power tool repairers, often called service technicians, fix home appliances such as ovens, washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, room air-conditioners, as well as power tools such as saws and drills. Some repairers only service small appliances such as microwaves and vacuum cleaners; others specialize in major appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, and dryers; and others only handle power tools or gas appliances.
Repairers visually inspect appliances or power tools and check for unusual noises, excessive vibration, fluid leaks, or loose parts to determine why they fail to operate properly. They consult service manuals and troubleshooting guides to diagnose particularly difficult problems. They disassemble the appliance or tool to examine its internal parts for signs of wear or corrosion. Repairers follow wiring diagrams and use testing devices, such as ammeters, voltmeters, and wattmeters to check electrical systems for shorts and faulty connections.
After identifying problems, they replace or repair defective belts, motors, heating elements, switches, gears, or other items. They tighten, align, clean, and lubricate parts as necessary. Repairers use common handtools, including screwdrivers, wrenches, files, and pliers, as well as soldering guns and special tools designed for particular appliances. When repairing appliances with electronic parts, they may replace circuit boards or other electronic components.
Many manufacturers incorporate "fuzzy logic" technology into their more expensive appliances. Fuzzy logic technology involves sensors, or inputs, strategically placed inside an appliance to transmit information to an on-board computer. The computer processes this information and adjusts variables such as water and electricity, to optimize appliance performance and reduce wasted resources. Fuzzy logic uses 1 input; "neurofuzzy logic" uses up to 5 inputs; and "chaos logic" uses up to 10 inputs. Dishwashers, washers, and dryers commonly use neurofuzzy logic in their components.
When repairing refrigerators and window air-conditioners, repairers must use care to conserve, recover, and recycle chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants used in their cooling systems. The release of CFC's and HCFC's contributes to the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects plant and animal life from ultraviolet radiation. Repairers conserve the refrigerant by making sure there are no leaks in the system; they recover it by venting the refrigerant into proper cylinders; and they recycle it for reuse with special filter-dryers.
Repairers who service gas appliances may check the heating unit and replace tubing, thermocouples, thermostats, valves, and indicator spindles. They also answer emergency calls for gas leaks. To install gas appliances, repairers may have to install pipes in a customer's home to connect the appliances to the gas line. They measure, lay out, cut, and thread pipe and connect it to a feeder line and to the appliance. They may have to saw holes in walls or floors and hang steel supports from beams or joists to hold gas pipes in place. Once the gas line is in place, they turn on the gas and check for leaks.
Repairers also answer customers' questions about the care and use of appliances. For example, they demonstrate how to load automatic washing machines, arrange dishes in dishwashers, or sharpen chain saws.
Repairers write up estimates of the cost of repairs for customers, keep records of parts used and hours worked, prepare bills, and collect payments.
Home appliance and power tool repairers who handle portable appliances usually work in repair shops that are generally quiet, well lighted, and adequately ventilated. Those who repair major appliances usually make service calls to customers' homes. They carry their tools and a number of commonly used parts with them in a truck or van and may spend several hours a day driving. They may work in clean comfortable rooms such as kitchens, or an area of the home that is damp, dirty, or dusty. Repairers sometimes work in cramped and uncomfortable positions when replacing parts in hard-to-reach areas of appliances.
Repairer jobs generally are not hazardous, but they must exercise care and follow safety precautions to avoid electrical shocks and injuries when lifting and moving large appliances. When repairing gas appliances and microwave ovens, they must be aware of the dangers of gas and radiation leaks.
Many home appliance and power tool repairers work a standard 40-hour week. Some repairers work early morning, evening, and weekend shifts. Many repairers remain on-call in case of emergency. Many repairers work overtime and weekend hours in the summer months, when repairers are in high demand to fix air-conditioners and refrigerators. Repairers of power tools such as saws and drills may also have to work overtime during spring and summer months when use of such tools increases and breakdowns are more frequent.
Home appliance and power tool repairers usually work with little or no direct supervision, a feature of the job that appeals to many people.
Home appliance and power tool repairers held nearly 71,000 jobs in 1996. Nearly 1 out of 10 repairers was self-employed. Almost 2 out of 3 salaried repairers worked in retail establishments such as department stores, household appliance stores, and fuel dealers. Others worked for gas and electric utility companies, electrical repair shops, and wholesalers.
Almost every community in the country employs appliance and power tool repairers; a high concentration of jobs are found in more populated areas.
Employers generally require a high school diploma for home appliance and power tool repairer jobs. Many repairers learn the trade primarily on the job, while some receive their training in a formal trade school or community college. Mechanical aptitude is desirable, and those who work in customers' homes must be courteous and tactful.
Employers prefer to hire people with formal training in appliance repair and electronics. Many repairers complete 1-or 2-year formal training programs in appliance repair and related subjects in high schools, private vocational schools, and community colleges. Courses in basic electricity and electronics are becoming increasingly necessary as more manufacturers install circuit boards and other electronic control systems in home appliances.
Regardless of whether their basic skills are developed through formal training or on the job, trainees usually receive additional training from their employer and manufacturers. In shops that fix portable appliances, they work on a single type of appliance, such as a vacuum cleaner, until they master its repair. Then they move on to others, until they can repair all those handled by the shop. In companies that repair major appliances, beginners assist experienced repairers on service visits; They may also study on their own. They learn to read schematic drawings, analyze problems, determine whether to repair or replace parts, and follow proper safety procedures. Up to 3 years of on-the-job training may be needed for a technician to become skilled in all aspects of repair.
Some appliance and power tool manufacturers and department store chains have formal training programs that include home study and shop classes, in which trainees work with demonstration appliances and other training equipment. Many repairers receive supplemental instruction through 2- or 3- week seminars conducted by appliance and power tool manufacturers. Experienced repairers also often attend training classes and study service manuals. Repairers who are authorized for warranty work by manufacturers are required to attend periodic training sessions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that all repairers who buy or work with refrigerants must be certified in its proper handling; a technician must pass a written examination to become certified to buy and handle refrigerants. Exams are administered by organizations approved by the EPA, such as trade schools, unions, and employer associations. The are even EPA-approved take-home certification exams. Though no formal training is required for certification, many of these organizations offer training programs designed to prepare workers for the certification examination.
To protect consumers and provide recognition to home appliance and power tool repairers who have become highly skilled, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers has instituted the National Appliance Service Technician Certification Program (NASTeC). Manufacturers, schools and field experts have cooperated in writing questions that measure the skills of their trade. To become certified, technicians must pass a comprehensive examination testing their competence in the diagnosis, repair and maintenance of major home appliances. The examination is given twice a year at locations throughout the country. While there has not previously been standardized certification, growing numbers of employers now encourage repairers to become certified.
The Professional Service Association (PSA) has a certification program with similar goals to the NASTeC program. To become certified, technicians must pass an examination. The PSA certification is valid for 4 years, and for renewal the technician must complete at least 12 credit hours of instruction every year during the 4 years. If the technician fails to accumulate the 48 hours, they must retake the examination.
Repairers in large shops or service centers may be promoted to supervisor, assistant service manager, or service manager. A few repairers advance to managerial positions such as regional service manager or parts manager for appliance or tool manufacturers. Preference is given to those who demonstrate technical competence and show an ability to get along with coworkers and customers. Experienced repairers who have sufficient funds and knowledge of small business management may open their own repair shop.
Employment of home appliance and power tool repairers is expected to increase slower than the average for all occupations through the year 2006. The number of home appliances and power tools in use is expected to increase as the number of households and businesses grows and new and improved appliances and tools are introduced. The increased use of electronic parts such as solid-state circuitry, microprocessors, and sensing devices in appliances will reduce the frequency of repairs. Nevertheless, as the current pool of appliance and power tool repairers retires or transfers to other occupations, job openings will arise. Prospects should continue to be good for well-trained repairers, particularly those with a strong background in electronics. Most people with the electronics training needed to repair appliances go into other repairer occupations.
Employment is relatively steady because the demand for appliance repair services continues even during economic downturns. Jobs are expected to be increasingly concentrated in larger companies as the number of smaller shops and family owned businesses decline.
Home appliance and power tool repairers who usually worked full time had median earnings of $579 a week in 1996. The middle 50 percent earned between $354 and $760 a week. The lowest paid 10 percent earned $255 a week or less, while the highest paid 10 percent earned $929 a week or more. Earnings of home appliance and power tool repairers vary widely according to the skill level required to fix equipment, geographic location, and the type of equipment repaired. Earnings tend to be highest in large firms and for those servicing gas appliances. Many receive commission along with their hourly wage salary.
Many larger dealers, manufacturers and service stores offer benefits such as health insurance coverage, sick leave, and retirement and pension programs. Some home appliance and power tool repairers belong to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Other workers who repair electrical and electronic equipment include heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics; pinsetter mechanics; office machine and cash register servicers; electronic home entertainment equipment repairers; and vending machine servicers and repairers.
For information about jobs in the home appliance and power tool repair field, contact local appliance repair shops, manufacturers, vocational trade schools, appliance dealers, and utility companies, or the local office of the State employment service.
For general information about the work of home appliance repairers, contact:
Appliance Service News, P.O. Box 789, Lombard, IL 60148.
National Association of Service Dealers, P.O. Box 9680, Denver, CO 80222.
United Servicers Association, Inc., P.O. Box 59707, Dallas, TX 75229.
National Appliance Service Association, 9247 N. Meridian, Suite 216, Indianapolis, In 46260.
For information technician certification, as well as general information about the work of home appliance repairers, contact:
National Appliance Service Technician Certification Program (NASTeC), Suite 1231, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60606 or call toll free 1-888-NASTEC1 (627-8321).
Professional Service Association, 71 Columbia St., Cohoes, NY 12047.
National Association of Service Dealers, 10 E. 22nd St., Suite 310, Lombard, IL 60148.
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