Last week my KitchenAid (owned by Whirlpool) microwave oven ceased to function. It is a high end appliance with a retail cost in the neighborhood of $550. I investigated the standard reasons which cause such a failure: circuit breaker, wall socket, appliance power cord, etc. I found that one of my circuit breakers had tripped and I reset it. I then tested the wall socket by plugging my blended in the same socket used by my microwave and found the socket once again functioning properly. I then re-plugged the Kitchen Aid microwave into the wall socket I just tested and still my microwave would not operate. Next I went to the internet and searched Youtube and Google to learn a little more about what could go wrong to cause such a catastrophic failure. I found a wiring diagram which showed that my model has a fuse; one that is commonly found in microwave ovens ( a 20 amp 250 volt fuse which can be purchased at Amazon, the big box hardware stores, and dozens of other appliance repair websites for less than $10 and as low as $.80 on Amazon – Bussmann model ABC-20). I pulled my microwave off the shelf and searched the bottom and back of the oven for access to the fuse, as my research indicated that the fuse is the first place to look for a complete microwave failure. I could not find the fuse or an access door that might cover access to a fuse. Since my microwave was manufactured in June of 2008, my warranty was long gone and I would not be able to justify a call to an appliance repair technician that would likely cost over $100. I became resigned to buying a new microwave. I reviewed the wiring diagram and although it did not clearly indicate where to find the fuse, it made it clear that I would need to remove the stainless steel casing to find it. The repair videos made it clear that even though I had unplugged the microwave from the wall, internal components (i.e. capacitors) could continue to hold a charge which could result in an electrical shock, if I was not careful. At this point I was resigned to relegating my microwave for scrap metal recycling, so I just needed to be careful about avoiding a shock. I decided to remove the stainless steel casing and search for the fuse. Unfortunately, the six screws that held on the casing were security screws (referred to a star or torx screw with a pin or hole in the middle, it has a tamper-resistant pin in the middle) . Since I do not have the appropriate tool to remove these security screw, I pondered how to proceed. I had nothing to lose because I had already decided that I was unwilling to pay for a repair service technician, so I found a small flathead screwdriver and proceed to use it to jimmy the six security-resistant screws. I was able to remove all six screws without doing damage to the screw heads. Once the casing was removed I was able to quickly locate the fuse. The fuse was easily accessible and was held into place with a holder which enabled me to easily remove the fuse without exposing myself to any danger from electrical shock. I removed the fuse and headed over my local hardware store and purchased a package of two identical ABC-20 microwave fuses for $3.49. I returned home, replaced the fuse replaced the casing on Kitchen Aid microwave, placed the microwave on the shelf from which I had removed it, plugged in the microwave and I have been using my microwave without any issues for almost two weeks now.
My questions are:
Why would a company who touts themselves in a press release from June 21, 2016 as creators of “consumer-centric innovation” bury a $2 fuse in casing secured by tamper-resistant security screws and therefore rendering a $550 microwave to scrap metal?
Why would a company put out a press release on June 21, 2016 touting “Whirlpool Corporation Makes Newsweek's 2016 Green Rankings for Environmental Efforts” when their design renders a perfectly good microwave as scrap metal because they use tamper-resistant security screws to limit access to an easily replaceable $2 fuse?
I have contacted both the office of the president of Whirlpool and senior members of Whirlpool press relations team and asked if they have ever replaced a fuse in their automobile. I asked if they chose to replace their own automobile fuses or pay a dealer at a rate of as much as $100 per hour to replace the fuse for them. All I heard were excuses of how opening the case on my microwave exposed me to shock danger because components in microwaves store power even when unplugged. However they had no explanation of why their design did not include a hatch making the fuse safely accessible. Further, I asked wouldn’t a hatch accessible fuse be much more “consumer-centric” and better showcase their “environmental efforts?”
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