How to Fix a Range Heating Element

Range ElementThis article is about how to fix a range heating element, but it is really about more than that.  It is about maximizing your existing revenue stream.  Making the most of what you have available to you.

When you own rental property out of state, you are at the mercy of everyone.  You need someone to respond to calls, you need someone to fix minor things, you need someone to drive by the property periodically, etc.  Every one of these events takes time and money.  Your money.  Your retirement and financial independence money.

This is a recent situation that happened to me.

The tenant texted me about her range not heating up.  It was a real cold night here in Minnesota, and I had just got back from a nice semi-warm vacation in Florida.  I had a lot of catching up to do and the last thing I wanted to do was get in my cold truck, drive over to the rental, and look at the problem.  So I asked a few more questions…

The tenant said she could see the heating element and where it was broke.  I have had this happen a few times before.  So I had the tenant send me a couple of pictures.  That is one of the beauties of smart phones.  Take a picture, send it around the world in a matter of seconds.  I wanted a picture of the heating element and the range model number.

DSC03810Normally I use all the same ranges, a Tappan range with a self-cleaning oven.  A TEF351.  I own ~23 of them.  I have replaced nearly every part in them over the course of the past few years.  Parts are relatively cheap, and the oven cleans itself.  This unit was one of my first kitchens where I installed a GE range without a self-cleaning oven, before I knew the advantages of a self-cleaning oven.  Since it was a different model range than I typically use, it takes a different part than the one I have hanging on my “landlord shelf”.

Replacing a range element is not a hard fix, but it is likely not a tenant fix.  You need someone that can turn off a circuit breaker, handle a screwdriver and change an electrical part.  It needs to be someone that will make sure they do not put the part back in and create an electrical short.  Or put the wires on loose where they come off and cause a short.  Or attempt it with the circuit breaker on, and the oven switch turned on.

Attach0After I received the range pictures from my tenant, I went to the trusty internet to find a part.  Often, there is a great difference in prices between suppliers.  A factory part is typically 5x+ what an aftermarket part cost.  It may take come searching, but you can usually find an appliance part at a minimal cost.  In this case, it was a $13.51 part with $4.99 shipping, $18.50 total.  That’s pretty cheap, but a factory part was over $92 at a different store – plus shipping.

A range element being out is not an emergency.  It does not take an immediate fix, although if I had the part I would have changed it that day.  The stove top still worked.  I never like to let maintenance items sit, as you never know when the next one will pop up.  Then you have two, and you have to work your real job the next day.  And then another thing pops up.  Things like snow that you have to clear out to leave your own driveway.  Never procrastinate.  Get ‘er done!

Ordering and receiving parts takes a few days.  I let the tenant know the part was ordered and as soon as it comes in, I would let her know.  Typically, shipping takes 3-4 business days.

Fixing a range heating element is not a job so complex that an electrician to do.  It only takes minimal skills.  It is a perfect job for a landlord if you are physically present in the area.  You really have three options in this situation.

Option 1

Call an appliance repairman.  The appliance repair guy will typically charge $75 for a trip to diagnose the problem.  A handyman might be able to fix it, but many handymen are just not that handy.  Either way, someone needs to drive over and look at the issue.  They are not going to rely on your tenant’s pictures.

Once they get there, they will recognize the issue, go to their truck and get the part, then replace the heating element.  They will use name brand parts, as that is what they are authorized to do.  They charge full list price, as they have to make money on the part too.  They cannot have a bunch of parts inventory in their truck without getting paid for it.  So, you will pay $90+ for the part.  You may even pay mileage.

Altogether, this option will cost you ~$175.  A new range costs about $350, the 5-year old one you currently have is not worth $100.  Now you still have a $100 range with a $175 repair.  That is not a good investment.

Option 2

Call Lowes for a new range.  As stated previously, a new range will run ~$350.  If you catch it on sale, it costs a bit less.  Find a 10% off coupon on eBay, and you can save even more.  Free delivery, install, and haul away.  You will also need a new appliance power cord.  Lowes doesn’t typically use old appliance cords.  They say it’s a liability issue, but I think it is an excuse to sell a $25 power cord.

Rather than put a $175 repair on an old range, spending $350 on a new range is a better option.  The tenant is much happier; the range is clean.  In my case, it would have also matched all my other ranges.  I seriously thought about this option.

If I would have been out for town for a lengthy stay, and had to hire out the fix, this is the option I would have done.  A simple call, and a credit card number, and it is complete.

Option 3

Fix it yourself.  There are many advantages here.  The part itself is less than $20.  Comparing a $20 fix to a $350 new range is a big difference.  Do a simple fix like this every month, and you have an extra $1,200+ in your pocket.  After tax.  Some ‘investors’ do not even clear $100 a month on their properties.  Here, you can get a guaranteed $100+ with minimal risk and time invested.

When you are at the rental unit performing the fix, take advantage of it to get some face time with your tenants.  In my case, I was able to talk to my tenant while I did the 5-minute fix.  And I talked to them for another 15+ minutes after that.  When they see the owner is working as hard as they do, they (hopefully) appreciate your property more.  That is worth more than any $20 part.

Have you completed any appliance repairs on your own rentals or home?  Would you attempt a range heating element replacement?  What are you doing to save money in your rentals?

11 Replies to “How to Fix a Range Heating Element”

  1. My rule of thumb for major appliances is if one breaks down and is at least 7 years old, I replace it.

    There are always exceptions, though.

    I had a tenant call me about her clothes dryer making a clanking sound. It had to be at least 10 years old, but still looked good. I discovered that the drum was banging against the inside. I went on YouTube and found a video of how to repair that exact dryer, and it included a link where to buy the parts.

    I took a chance and spent $75 on the parts. Three days later I had the parts and fixed the dryer myself. I saved several hundred bucks, plus I learned how dryers work.

    George Lambert
    Author, What You Must Know BEFORE Becoming a Greedy Landlord. How to build a portfolio of investment properties for an income that lasts a lifetim

  2. Now that you’ve laid out the range part replacement, it seems like something I would tackle at home, but my rental is out of state so that would be something we’d have the warranty cover. They are pretty good with claims, either repair or replacement, so far, but I sure wish their call-out fee wasn’t so much ($75).

    Your comment about not clearing $100/month made me sheepish. My first 6 months into the rental, we weren’t bringing in that much after expenses. Once that existing lease was up, though, we brought in a new tenant at a higher rent and now we definitely do! It makes all the difference in cash flow. It’s our first rental, though, so some mistakes were bound to happen.

    1. Thank you for reading!

      $100 a month is not much for a rental, mine do quite a bit more. One simple thing and the $100 can go away. I know a lot of landlords that use an appliance repair insurance. For like $20 a month, they cover many items. Unfortunately, that is pretty expensive as it is a high profit item. And at $75 per call, it adds up fast. I get relatively few calls per unit in my apartments, so I self-insure.

      1. You wouldn’t happen to know the name of the appliance repair insurance that you mention, do you? I carry this particular policy specifically for the big stuff because it’s out of state, $75 is still less than the cost of my going out to do repairs. But if there’s a good nationwide company that has good service for less, I’d love it! 🙂

  3. Great post! I totally agree with your philosophy, it’s worth it to try to figure it out and replace cheap parts yourself to save anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars. Recently, we had some trouble with the boyfriend’s dishwasher, though, and it wasn’t totally clear which part was broken. I had narrowed it down to about 4 or 5 options, which was too many to try the “replace one part and see if it fixes it” solution. That sucked, because we had to just bite the bullet and replace the (only 2.5 years old!) dishwasher. I’m hoping we just got a lemon and the replacement will last longer. It’s a different brand, but they’re all basically the same. We didn’t get the extended warranty because that seems like a scam. The companies make big money off of those, so they must pay out less in benefits than they collect.

    Good point on getting the sneak peek at what the tenants are doing!

    1. A penny saved is a penny earned. Sometimes, I am able to swap parts with a working appliance to see if I diagnosed the issue correctly. Or I can by-pass parts like a door switch temporarily and see if that fixes the issue. An appliance guy does the same thing often, but they have parts in their truck.

  4. Nice article. DIY will almost always be the cheapest option. I wanted to suggest another alternative for landlords who are not as handy or perhaps lives far from the rental unit.

    This is easier to do if you own a rental unit in an apartment complex – befriend the building’s Super. This is usually not too difficult. Make chit-chat whenever you see him, leave him a nice tip for the holidays, call his boss and leave good feedback, etc. Once you develop a relationship, talk to him about helping you with repairs on your unit.

    Whenever you need a repair, buy and ship the part directly to the Super. Call him to ask him how much he’d charge for the job. For something that is a 5-minute fix like your range heating element, from my experience $20-40 will do.

    The Super welcomes the extra money for not much effort. He’s around the building’s premises anyway so he’s not going way out of his way.

    The landlord gets the repair done way cheaper than hiring a professional.

    Win-win for both parties.

    Also, once you have this relationship, if you own other rental units near where this Super is based, he may be able to help with those repairs as well.

  5. Haha, I love how you call out the handy man… “many handymen are just not that handy”!

    Currently I outsource all my PM. I just don’t have the time to deal with issues. Although if I did, I can certainly see where you could save a nice chunk of change.

    I do however try to stay on top of my PM’s expenses back to me and ask for additional details occasionally (just so they know I’m looking). Knock on wood, but so far they’ve been pretty fair.

    1. Thank you for reading.

      I have called handymen that say they are mostly painters. No plumbing or electrical. Some do not even want to change out a light fixture or a faucet. I can hire anyone to paint. Or just do it myself. It’s easy and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

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