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Home Appliance Repairers

Significant Points
  • Good job prospects are expected, with job openings continuing to outnumber jobseekers.
  • Individuals with formal training in appliance repair and electronics should have the best opportunities.
  • Overall employment is projected to grow more slowly than average, reflecting average growth among wage and salary workers and a decline among self-employed repairers.
  • Repairers of small household appliances usually are trained on the job, whereas repairers of large household appliances often are trained in a formal trade school, in a community college, or directly from the appliance manufacturer.

Nature of the Work Back to Top Back to Top

Anyone whose washer, dryer, or refrigerator has ever broken knows the importance of a dependable repair person. Home appliance repairers, often called service technicians, keep home appliances working and help prevent unwanted breakdowns. Some repairers work specifically on small appliances such as microwaves and vacuum cleaners; others specialize in major appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, and dryers.

Home appliance repairers visually inspect appliances and check for unusual noises, excessive vibration, leakage of fluid, or loose parts to determine why the appliances fail to operate properly. They use service manuals, troubleshooting guides, and experience to diagnose particularly difficult problems. Repairers disassemble the appliance to examine its internal parts for signs of wear or corrosion. They 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, home appliance repairers 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.

When repairing refrigerators and window air-conditioners, repairers must take care to conserve, recover, and recycle chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants used in the cooling systems, as is required by law. Repairers conserve the refrigerant by making sure that there are no leaks in the system; they recover the refrigerant by venting it into proper cylinders; and they recycle the refrigerant with special filter-dryers so that it can be used again. Federal regulations also require that home appliance repairers document the capture and disposal of refrigerants.

Home appliance repairers generally install household durable goods such as refrigerators, washing machines, and cooking products. They may have to install pipes in a customer's home to connect the appliances to the gas line. They measure, lay out, cut, thread, and connect pipe to a feeder line and then to the appliance. They may have to saw holes in walls or floors and hang steel supports from beams or joists in order to hold gas pipes in place. Once the gas line is in place, they turn on the gas and check for leaks. Gas appliance repairers check the heating unit and replace tubing, thermocouples, thermostats, valves, and indicator spindles. They also answer emergency calls about gas 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 to maximize their performance.

Repairers write up estimates of the cost of repairs for customers, keep records of parts used and hours worked, prepare bills, and collect payments. Self-employed repairers also deal with the original appliance manufacturers to recoup monetary claims for work performed on appliances still under warranty.

Working Conditions Back to Top Back to Top

Home appliance repairers who handle portable appliances usually work in repair shops that generally are quiet and adequately lighted and 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 on their service calls. Repairers may spend several hours a day driving to and from appointments and emergency calls. They may work in clean, comfortable rooms such as kitchens, but they also may work in damp, dirty, or dusty areas of homes. Repairers sometimes work in cramped and uncomfortable positions when they are replacing parts in hard-to-reach areas of appliances. Repairer jobs generally are not hazardous, but workers must exercise care and follow safety precautions to avoid electrical shocks and prevent injuries when lifting and moving large appliances. When repairing gas appliances and microwave ovens, repairers must be aware of the dangers of gas and radio-frequency energy leaks.

Home appliance repairers usually work with little or no direct supervision, a feature of the job that is appealing to many people. Many home appliance repairers work a standard 40-hour week, but may work overtime and weekend hours in the summer months, when they are in high demand to fix air-conditioners and refrigerators. Some repairers work early morning, evening, and weekend shifts and may remain on call in case of an emergency.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement Back to Top Back to Top

Employers generally require a high school diploma for home appliance repairer jobs. Once employed, repairers of small appliances usually are trained on the job, whereas repairers of large household appliances often are trained in a formal trade school, in a community college, or directly from the appliance manufacturer. Mechanical and electrical aptitudes are 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 important as more manufacturers install circuit boards and other electronic control systems in home appliances.

Whether their basic skills are developed through formal training or on the job, trainees usually receive additional training from their employer and from 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 also may study on their own. They learn to read schematic drawings, analyze problems, determine whether to repair or replace parts, and follow proper safety procedures. W. to 3 years of on-the-job training may be needed for a technician to become skilled in all aspects of repair.

Some appliance 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 manufacturers. Experienced repairers also often attend training classes and study service manuals. Repairers authorized for warranty work by manufacturers are required to attend periodic training sessions.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that all repairers who buy or work with refrigerants be certified in the proper handling of refrigerants. In order to become certified, a technician must pass a written examination. Exams are administered by EPA-approved organizations, such as trade schools, unions, and employer associations. There also are EPA-approved take-home certification exams. Although no formal training is required for certification, many of these organizations offer training programs designed to prepare workers for the certification examination.

In addition to earning the certification required by the EPA, home appliance repairers may exhibit their competence by passing one of several certification examinations offered by various organizations. Although voluntary, such certifications can be helpful when seeking employment. The National Appliance Service Technician Certification (NASTeC), which is administered by the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians (ISCET), requires repairers to pass a comprehensive examination that tests their competence in the diagnosis, repair, and maintenance of major home appliances. Examinations are given in three specialty areas of appliance repair: refrigeration and air-conditioning; cooking; and laundry and dishwashing. Although the NASTeC credential does not expire, continuing education classes are available so that repairers can keep abreast of technological changes. The Professional Service Association (PSA) administers a similar certification program. Those who pass the PSA examination earn the Certified Appliance Professional (CAP) designation, which is valid for 4 years. If CAP-certified repairers complete at least 15 credit hours of instruction each year during the 4 years, they need not take the examination to become recertified. Otherwise, they must take the examination again to become recertified.

Repairers in large shops or service centers may be promoted to supervisor, assistant service manager, or service manager. Some 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 other workers and customers. Experienced repairers who have sufficient funds and knowledge of small-business management may open their own repair shops.

Employment Back to Top Back to Top

Home appliance repairers held 50,000 jobs in 2004. About 42 percent of salaried repairers worked in retail trade establishments such as department stores and electronics and appliance stores. About 20 percent of repairers are self-employed. Almost every community in the country employs home appliance repairers; a high concentration of jobs is found in more populated areas.

Job Outlook Back to Top Back to Top

Good job prospects are expected, with job openings continuing to outnumber jobseekers. Many prospective workers may choose not to enter this occupation, because they prefer work that is less strenuous and that is performed under more comfortable working conditions. Individuals with formal training in appliance repair and electronics should have the best opportunities.

Overall employment of home appliance repairers is expected to increase more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Slower-than-average employment growth is expected among wage and salary workers, while the number of self-employed home appliance repairers is projected to decline.

The number of home appliances in use is expected to increase with growth in the numbers of households and businesses. Appliances also are becoming more technologically advanced and will increasingly require a skilled technician to diagnose and fix problems. In recent years, consumers have tended to purchase new appliances when existing warranties expire rather repair old appliances. However, over the next decade, as more consumers purchase higher priced appliances designed to have much longer lives, they will be more likely to use repair services than to purchase new appliances. Employment is relatively steady during economic downturns because there is still demand for appliance repair services. In addition to new jobs created over the 200414 period, openings will arise as home appliance repairers retire or transfer to other occupations.

Jobs are expected to be increasingly concentrated in larger companies as the number of smaller shops and family-owned businesses declines. However, repairers who maintain strong industry relationships may still go into business for themselves.

Earnings Back to Top Back to Top

Median annual earnings, including commissions, of home appliance repairers were $ 32,180 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $23,510 and $41,090 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $49,760 a year. Median annual earnings of home appliance repairers in May 2004 were $30,840 in electronics and appliance stores and $33,790 in personal and household goods repair and maintenance.

Earnings of home appliance repairers vary with the skill level required to fix equipment, the geographic location, and the type of equipment repaired. Because many repairers receive a commission along with their salary, earnings increase with the number of jobs a repairer can complete in a day.

Many larger dealers, manufacturers, and service stores offer typical benefits such as health insurance coverage, sick leave, and retirement and pension programs. Some home appliance repairers belong to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

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