Americans have been staying home more than ever, which has lead to a huge increase in how much we're using our home appliances. With people cooking more at home and a marked increase in how often we're running the washing machine and dishwasher, it's no surprise that appliances are breaking down at a higher rate. With the holidays just around the corner, no one wants to be caught with a broken fridge or dishwasher. NBC News investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen looked into the surge in appliance repair calls and found that many Americans are either on long waitlists for professional help, or are trying DIY repairs in hopes of getting their devices working again — fast.
"The requests for repairs are coming in fast and furious across the country with backlogs for service calls at companies big and small," said Nguyen in her report.
"With a lot of us working and learning from home, we’re using our appliances more than usual … whether it’s the oven or the fridge. Consider this fun fact: before the pandemic, we opened our fridge an average of 37 times a day. Now that’s up to 130 times a day!"
Daniel Pidgeon, CEO of Sears Home Services said that his technicians can barely keep up with the demand for repairs.
"Right now we have a shortfall of 1,000 technicians that we have that we're hiring," said Pidgeon. "It really is something unprecedented."
Heather Dyer-Yoder, who runs Dyer Repair Academy in Richland Hills, Texas says that people who have lost jobs in retail and restaurants are now taking her two-week long course to become certified appliance repair techs, reported Nguyen. Dyer-Yoder's classes are booked through January 2021.
"I have employers calling me weekly," said Dyer-Yoder. "'Do you have somebody I can hire?' all over the country. All of my students get jobs, all of them get hired before they leave."
Dyer-Yoder suggests people check on their appliance health. For example, clogged fridge coils and dryer vents are some of the common culprits that lead to repair calls that people can prevent with a little maintenance of their own.
While most homeowners are looking to repair their existing appliances in order to save money, those looking to replace them may find there are shortages on items such as fridges. Dyer-Yoder says that if you do buy a new appliance, consider a model that's more basic.
"Find something with less bells and whistles," she said. "Less WiFi, less computer chips, because those are the things that are breaking and those are the things delaying, you getting your refrigerator back working."
Nguyen suggests that even if you've been in your home for years, now's a good time to consider buying a home warranty. "Read the fine print to make sure it covers your major appliances," she said. "What's also great about this, when you're covered under a home warranty experts say it could shorten the amount of time you wait to get a repair tech out to your home because you get priority as a warranty holder."
And if you do get a repair tech out to your home, remember to make sure everyone including the tech is wearing a mask and consider keeping windows open for better air circulation.
Another avenue is to DIY it. "See if it's something you might be able to handle yourself," said Nguyen. "Check sites like Repair Clinic on YouTube where you can find DIY videos for repairs. If you think it might be something simple you can always try calling your local repair shop and see if they will offer some free advice."