Habitat For Humanity

Yesterday my wife and I volunteered to help out Habitat For Humanity with some of her coworkers. It was pretty much awesome for several reasons.

Number one, I like working on stuff with my hands. I am a decent carpenter and yesterday, I cut and built the moldings around the front and rear doors, as well as cut and installed the baseboards in the whole house. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to be able to do something with my hands, but to be able to do that for someone else really makes me feel like I spent my time well. Plus, home improvement is great exercise, as is pretty much any time spent off the couch!

Number two, H4H is a pretty cool organization. There is a misconception that they simply give away homes to people that cannot afford them. Not true. What they do is get the initial money for materials/lots from donors, and then build the house using mostly volunteer labor (i.e., us!). Then the person getting the house has to be employed for two years, make under a certain amount of money, live in less than good living conditions (the woman whose home we worked on shared a bedroom with her toddler son in her parents’ house, who were also working on the build), and be able to make the payments on a 0% interest mortgage. So when they get the keys, they are in fact paying a mortgage. They are just not paying interest to a bank, but only the principle. The recipients also have to attend classes AND must help out with the build whenever they can. It’s a great system, and one that has worked all across the country for many many people who otherwise might not ever get the chance to be homeowners.

Number three, it’s just fun to work with friends and family and get a sense of accomplishment that not only did you get to hang out and get dirty with people you like, but it actually helped someone. And really, would you have done anything better with your Saturday anyway? We wouldn’t have.

Check it out and volunteer at Habitat For Humanity’s website. You won’t regret it, and no experience necessary.

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Ice Maker

About a year ago, my brother-in-law’s ice maker stopped making ice. Now, his refrigerator is a very expensive oversized model, which means very expensive oversized repair bills when something goes wrong. So, I thought I’d try to help.

Once I took a look at how the ice maker worked, I was astonished at how simple and fragile these things are. There is a plastic tray with a row of 8 pits the size and shape of ice cubes, a water line into one side, and a row of rotating fingers that corresponded to the ice cube tray. Basically, the row fills up with water, it freezes, and then the row of fingers rotates around and kicks out the finished ice cubes into the door bin where it’s then dispensed. The tray then refills with water and the process repeats. It makes 8 ice cubes at a time and is made of very flimsy plastic with little else. What had happened was the water channel through the bottom of the tray had frozen shut, limiting water flow from the end with the water line to the far end. This resulted in only 1 or 2 ice cubes being made at a time. Over time, the supply in the door ran out which resulted in us thinking the ice maker had broken. In reality, it was working fine; the water just wasn’t filling the whole tray.

My plan was simple – I turned off the ice maker, unplugged the electric and water lines, unbolted the unit from the freezer, and then ran it under hot water until all the ice blockages melted away. Then I dried everything completely and let the unit sit out for 15 minutes just to be sure. Once everything was dry for sure, I simply hooked all the lines back up and bolted the unit back into the freezer. Then we waited. Sure enough, now that the water flowed freely, the unit began making full batches of ice again, and we were back in business! Of course, it took a few days for production to catch up, but everything was working again.

The lesson here is that it’s not always necessary to call a repair guy right away. Sometimes simple laws of physics can help you determine the root cause of the problem, and some time and a couple simple hand tools are all you need to fix something. Of course, if you feel a repair is way over your head in terms of skill or experience, or you do not feel safe performing any repair, DO NOT HESITATE ┬áTO CALL A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL! That’s what they’re there for – to keep us from breaking something we don’t know anything about or worse, hurting ourselves in the process.