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How I Saved $300,000

*This post may contain affiliate links, please see my disclosure

Have you ever had a day where you TOTALLY ROCKED at money? Like, you found a 50% off coupon on a product that was already buy one get one free, purchased the floor model for another 40% off, then slipped and fell into a pile of $100 bills on your way to redeem your $5,000 winning scratch ticket?!!!! Yeah…me neither. But last night, I had the most epic win of all time. I saved $300,000 in one night!

Our House Almost Burned Down

For the second time in the past few months, we had an appliance “act up.” Normally, this might be an issue, but since we’ve got a sweet emergency fund in place, these so-called “emergencies” turn in to nothing more than minor inconveniences. Well, at least financially. Practically, they can definitely be a bit stressful.

Two days ago, my wife was being awesome (I mean really, when is she NOT?) and doing laundry using our Maytag washer and dryer that are technically fossils (I carbon dated them), when she smelled something burning. Using her ninja-like skills of speed and stealth, she quickly opened the dryer door and noticed that there was a bit of a smoky haze coming from inside the dryer, as well as a smell of burning. She let it air out, pulled all the clothes out to hang dry, and called me to tell me what happened.

Dryers Are Ridiculously Dangerous

Little did I know that we had a crazy scary fire hazard death machine humming downstairs in our house. I did a little bit of research on how to fix a dryer, and came across this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JKrz1yqXaw. Three deaths because of a dirty dryer! Yikes! I also found this report from FEMA detailing reported dryer fires, including 5 deaths per year: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v13i7.pdf. It looks like there are 2,900 dryer fired per year, and failure to clean was linked directly to 34% of those fires. So I realized that I had to do something about this problem, because if we tried running the dryer again, it could cost us $300k!

Mr. Fix It

Michelle calls me this, because I have been able to fix most anything without hiring a professional. Now, I’ll admit, I couldn’t even find the oil dipstick in my car, let alone fix ANYTHING before I met my wife. But once I starting dating Michelle, and realizing that I was going to be with this beautiful woman for the rest of my life, I started to learn everything I could about maintenance, repairs, and just how to take care of things in general. I knew that I wasn’t going to be her rich prince charming, but I wanted to be able to make our dollars stretch as far as possible to ensure that we we’re broke all the time, and part of saving money was learning how to fix things.

So, as many of you reading this blog have seen me do in the past, I did what any handyman would do in this situation; I looked up how to clean the dryer on youtube. After watching a few 3-minute videos, I was pretty much an expert, so I got to working. I pulled the dryer out, disconnected it, and started to tear it apart. Mostly, I used the steps and video laid out here to clean out the dryer. I also talked to a friend who said I should take the back off and vacuum off the coils and air blower as well, so I did that.

I re-assembled the dryer and gave it a test spin to ensure no smoke came out. It was a total success, and we are currently drying our first load of laundry in a few days. Michelle was getting a little worried about the laundry piling up, so it was perfect timing to fix it last night so we didn’t have to hang out at a smelly laundromat with creepers (not to say EVERYONE is a creeper, but you ALL know there’s that one guy leering at everyone there). Phew!

We Saved $300,000 Last Night

Yup, we saved our home and all of its valuables last night, not to mention all of the invaluable memories that could have been burnt to a crisp! My wife’s awesome ninja skillz and some resourcefulness also saved us another $300 – $500 for the purchase of a new dryer. Basically, it took me about 2 hours to complete the task, so I earned $150 – $250 per hour for the work I put in. Not bad, huh? Do you know anyone making that hourly rate? If so, tell them my wife still wants the fancy LG dryers that come in red ๐Ÿ˜‰

Best hiding spot in the whole house!
Best hiding spot in the whole house!
Yup. This could be a problem...
Yup. This could be a problem…
I ripped the front off with ease :)
I ripped the front off with ease ๐Ÿ™‚

Comments: Have you ever had an appliance fail or get all jacked up? What did YOU do about it? And what would you do in my situation? Is it worth $300- $500 to you to just replace the darned thing? Also, why am I wearing a headlamp with all the lights on?

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
Heโ€™s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

69 thoughts on “How I Saved $300,000”

  1. I remember when I was younger and still living with my parents their dryer started to smoke. Fortunately we were home at the time and managed to turn it off before it caught on fire.

    I had no idea they were so dangerous, but like you we had a look for the fault and there was just a heap of lint and other crap that had built up and we assume that was what the problem was.

    Reply
  2. My friend recently told me that this is her biggest fear of all time. Seriously I’m not even kidding. And now she has me all worried about our house burning down because of it also. I need to clean ours!

    Reply
  3. Luckily the newer dryers hair auto shut offs so if the heat isn’t disappating, the heating element will be turned off automatically. We dealt with this when we first got our washer/dryer and it was taking hours and hours to dry… the heating element was being shut off because the venting tube was clogged from the previous owners of the house!

    Reply
  4. Our dishwasher started smoking a few months back, so we replaced it this Christmas with a new one from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore at a fraction of the cost. I had heard about this issue with dryers and was actually told by our home inspector to not them when we’re gone for this very reason.

    Reply
  5. Our dryer quit.working reliably and the timer no longer worked. It was also very inefficient so we bit the bullet and bought a new one both for safety and energy savings. It has made our laundry much easier and we no longer worry about forgetting to turn the dryer off. Well worth it to me!

    Reply
    • Yea, I’m still wanting to get a new one, just can’t justify the $$$ right now if our current one is still working. And heck, I would have needed to clean the ducting either way, glad I did it now.

      Reply
  6. Eep! I had to do some advanced lint removal the other day, too. How are your smoke detectors? Newish batteries? And not more than 10 years old for the devices? Always a good opportunity to check those out ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  7. We also had this issue with our ancient dryer….and vacuumed it out just like you did. We used to throw a load in and turn it on as we headed out the door, but now we never run the dryer unless we are home.

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  8. Like Alysia I pretty much never leave the house when the dryer is running. I know that most likely nothing would happen, but I just don’t chance it.

    We had to replace out dryer a couple years ago because it stopped heating up (which was fine it was 20+ years old and came with the house). Luckily we had a spare! After a quick tip to Menards and a quick google search, I rewired that bad boy from a 4 prong to a 3 prong. Of course I will have to wire it back to a 4 prong when I have an electrician swap out my fuse box for a breaker box and have him rewire that outlet.

    Reply
  9. Plastic tubing? I hope you replaced that with flexible metal at the minimum – and hopefully rigid!

    Our vent is 3 feet long, heh. It vents directly out the garage wall, which is pretty nice.

    Reply
  10. I actually think I could have done this cleaning job! I’ve unhooked our dryer hose a few times to make sure the dust didn’t pile up in there too much. I’ve never taken off the front cover though, but we did just buy a new washer/dryer so I’m hoping I don’t have to deal with that for at least a few more years.

    Thank goodness your wife turned it off quickly though! That would have been terrible to have something happen all because of some lint.

    Reply
    • Yea, I didn’t know how bad it was until I looked up some news stories on it. Scary stuff. A new dryer is probably happening soon for us as well, but I’d have ot clean out the vent anyways, glad I did it now.

      Reply
  11. This is exactly why I don’t run the washer or dryer when I am not home. I cleaned out the usual suspects of the dryer a few months ago. I didn’t think about taking the front or back cover off, so I think I will be doing that this weekend.

    Reply
  12. Dude, you’re the man! I love the photos. There is nothing more mighty than repairing something in your house. This week I tore all our counter-tops out, got them replaced, and then put together the whole sink (without ever having done this before). Man stuff!

    Reply
  13. Wow, that is scary mate. Imagine if you were not home when this happened. Most people set their dryer and leave not thinking anything. Same goes with the washer that can flood your house and host of other problems. Great photos!

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  14. This is why I never leave the house with the dryer running, I’m always worried something like this is going to happen! I’m glad you guys avoided your house burning down, and extra points for figuring out the problem and fixing it yourself!

    Reply
  15. Good job on fixing it and for your wife noticing it.
    I barely ever use our dryer, but I have always made sure it is thoroughly cleaned regularly for this reason. I have had my house burn down when I was a teen (my parents waterbed caused it, of all things!)
    I also ensure I have adequate insurance for my house, should anything happen.

    Reply
  16. Saving $300K is such an awesome perspective to take!
    I have done a bit of “housekeeping” type stuff on appliances lately and it’s amazing what we don’t get around to doing.
    I think I need to clean out the traps in my kitchen sink and I am totally not interested… it’s going to be gross!

    Reply
  17. Actually we have had an appliance fail. Two summers ago our dryer conked out. Even though summers are very warm in Phoenix, we still need a dryer to dry our clothes. I don’t think the HOA would be very happy if we hung our clothes on the patio. We did not particularly want to buy a new dryer or even a new washer so my husband, being handy, figured out the problem and fixed it himself. We still have our washer and dryer and we’re still saving money!

    Reply
  18. Ha! That’s a pretty insane story. Time for a new dryer. Speaking of accidents, I had a little mini leak in my kitchen. Go to get a snack as I’m watching the Leafs pummel the Pens, and my rug is wet…open the sink cupboard and water…..damn wasn’t a happy camper!!

    Reply
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  20. Well, hopefully you have insurance so it wouldnt’ have been $300,000! But it is great that you found out the issue, learned how to deal with it and fixed it. I’ve never cleaned a dryer before but will definitely keep this in mind if we start to have problems with ours. Ours is relatively new, but it won’t always be that way!

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  21. Good for you! We also always try and fix something before replacing. When our dishwasher quit on me I tried EVERYTHING to make it work but it ended up turning into an electrical issue. To fix (which we would have bought the parts for and done ourselves) was going to cost 250.00…to fix a 5yr old dishwasher with no guarantee…for 400 we got a brand new dishwasher with a 3yr warranty.

    Reply
    • We had the same issue with our dishwasher, my wife saw blue smoke (come to think of it, she’s always there when the appliances break…..hmmmm…maybe she just wants new appliances….). Replaced it with a craigslist model for $99.

      Reply
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  23. What a scary situation to be in. I was in a situation very similar to that back a couple years ago. A local cable company was installing some new lines and while they were trenching the lines in they accidentally hit the gas line but didn’t notice it and the natural gas line actually started to back up into my house. Luckily, we noticed it before anything bad happened but all it would have taken was one person to light a match.

    Also it’s amazing how many helpfully videos you can find on You Tube. It can a very helpful resource to fix things.

    Reply
  24. Your like me. You dove into a situation and got it done. Washers and dryers are basically the same machines for the last 30 years. I fix them for a living. You only need a 8 grade education to understand them. They are basically motor, heating coil and timer. It’s the same across all machines. Some are jazzed up with sensors and pretty lights. You have the old fashion get it done attitude that’s missing today. Well done.

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  25. Ten years back, something went wrong with our dryer – I can’t remember what it was…I think it was a belt. Anyway, I’m not really a handy-man type of person, but I’m willing to get my hands dirty sometimes. I had one of those huge books that covers just about every home repair issue you’ll ever encounter, and it showed how to open up the dryer and troubleshoot the problem. Once I knew what was wrong, I called around and discovered that there’s a parts place in our city where you can get parts for just about any appliance. I got the dryer fixed and it lasted for many more years.

    Reply
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  27. Wow! That could have been very scary indeed…or worse. Earlier today I read on some news site that lint is more flammable than paper!

    When my dryer overheated, I asked a guy who cleans dryer vents as part of his business — he said the vent didn’t need cleaning and, amazingly, didn’t charge me anything for the courtesy. So I figured something was wrong with the dinosaur, which a) I can’t move so can’t experiment with handyperson projects and b) can’t afford to replace. So I started hanging the laundry on lines…and to my amazement, discovered that I really prefer to hang at least certain things.

    A year or so later, an appliance guy came over to work on the oven. Asked him to look at the clunk dryer, which he did — and wouldn’t you know, it ran just as cool as could be. He pronounced it OK to use. That’s great…but I still don’t leave the house while it’s running!

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  28. It is little things like this that many people tend to overlook. They don’t look at it as a cost saving at all – Until its too late. It just goes to show that being proactive is an effective money saving strategy

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  29. This is amazing and something I need to do immediately. Unlike you’re amazing wife, I have a tendency to let appliances smoke until the job is done. My husband reprimanded me for blowing up our Hoover vacuum when he smelled burning plastic upon arriving home. Oopie! Jokes aside, part of my parents’ house burned down a couple years ago and it was very traumatic. They’re both okay but the process of rebuilding after something like that is enormous. I plan to clean my dryer (translation: ask my husband to) when I get home!

    Reply
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