Is consumer electronics repair obsolete?

Thread Starter

timbaker0365

Joined Aug 11, 2020
32
So a little background: I'm an older guy now, mid 50's, I have a decent job right now which may or may not be long-term. I'm a pretty handy guy and worked in the construction trades for several years, some carpentry, masonry, remodeling. I've always wanted to learn more about electricity/electronics and so a few months back instead of wasting my 'spare' time on nothing important like browsing the Internet reading a bunch of useless information or unimportant around-the-house tasks like repairs & upkeep (the woman doesn't agree) I enrolled in an electronics course to learn a few things. I have a little workshop and my thinking was I might learn some electronics to give me something to tinker around with and maybe someday in the future supplement my income fixing some things for people, etc.

Anyway, for now, I was looking for something else to do (learn) once I finish the program I'm in and I was looking at a more advanced program in electronics, but, I also don't want to spend the next 2 years or so (time is much more meaningful when you get older) studying something that really doesn't have much of a future from what my perspective is. A little more on that: I'm enrolled in the Electronics Technician program at Penn Foster which is perfect for me and I'll probably learn more there than what I need to know to do what I want, and I was looking at the Electronics Engineering program at CIE - not that I want to be an EE at my age, but I thought the challenge/knowledge would be worthwhile and I'd pick up some more advanced math skills (calculus and such) along to the way so I could take some other classes I was looking at too. So anyhow, I'm interested also in learning some HVAC and am considering taking that instead of the EE. My thinking is, later in my semi-retirement years if I might do some handyman-type stuff and the HVAC knowledge would certainly be useful. On the electronics side, in my semi-retirement years, it would be ideal for me if I could find enough things to fix so I could work at home out of my workshop, and, it would give me a reason to continue with the EE knowledge which I'd really like to do, however, I don't want to make a 2 year or so mistake...

So after that 'brief' background, intuitively, realistically speaking, there really isn't going to be much of a market or opportunity to repair consumer electronics is there? With the continued miniaturization and inexpensive electronic devices, not to mention the fact they become obsolete every year, the future looks bleak for someone interested in that type of work. First, you really aren't going to be able to repair at a component level, and nobody is going to pay much to fix a $300, 3 year old TV that that they can replace with a new one for $200. Am I correct? I also thought, well, a lot of people will be throwing away TVs, etc., because of this and maybe I could fix them up and sell them for a little, but are they even going to be repairable? Thanks for your thoughts.
 

Wolframore

Joined Jan 21, 2019
2,183
TV and most consumer electronics not so much. There are smaller niche markets you’ll have to find if you’re looking for this type of repair business. High end audio, pro audio, smart phones, industrial.. of course if we can expand this in that direction medical, commercial, municipal and others with cost sensitive and or time sensitive requirements. The days of fixing tube TV because they cost a multiple of a paycheck appears to be over. I’m sure there are businesses that will appear that will have to service electric vehicles and solar panels and inverters... we have to stay current.
 

Papabravo

Joined Feb 24, 2006
14,847
With any economic activity, a consideration of viability involves capital investment and time (labor). There was a time when the cost of an item far exceeded the cost of time in such a way that there was some utility in spending time and investing in tools to repair an item. Modern manufacturing techniques have reduced the cost of many items by a factor of 10 or more. The first large flat screen TV I bought cost nearly $4000.00. The one I bought last week was $498.00. I gave away the original TV and I seriously doubt that I will ever pay to have the new one repaired.

When I first went to work in 1966 as a programmer on big iron, my salary was about $3600/yr. When I retired in 2014 it was more than 20 times that amount. Those two data points paint a grim picture of the utility of repairing things whose cost to manufacture keeps going down and while the cost of labor and tools to repair keeps going up. The economics of consumer products do not apply in all cases.

Consider an industrial production system with thousands of interacting parts running 24/7. Any one part that fails hard brings the whole line down. Now the cost to repair, at any conceivable wage, is a tiny fraction of the lost revenue due to the line being down. Do you want to be that repairman with all the bigwigs giving you the hairy eyeball? Some people thrive on it, and some people wilt under the pressure.

You pay your dues and takes your chances.
 

Audioguru again

Joined Oct 21, 2019
2,374
The 4k UHD TV I bought last year developed problems during its warranty period so I phoned to find out where is their repair depot. They said they do not have a repair depot so I must take it to the garbage recycling place and send them the recycling receipt and they will send me a refund for the TV. So they do not fix anything no more no more.

The owners manual says the TV receives software updates so maybe it failed because a software update had errors?
Then the manufacturer hopes that owners of this TV will throw it away and buy another one?
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
7,697
Repairing industrial electronics and machines can be very profitable IF and ONLY IF one is able to consistently get the systems running quickly. But the skill set needed for that includes being able to understand very quickly how a given machine works, and then quickly deduce what part has stopped working. I am not aware of any organization able to impart the talent to cover more than a very narrow section of that area.
Servicing consumer and some commercial devices is quite different, and much easier. That is because the poor quality leads to many problems having a very similar cause and thus usually a fairly simple fix. For consumer grade VCRs the fix was mostly cleaning the drive mechanism and recording heads, and often re-seating some connectors. The talent there was patience and understanding what parts needed cleaning, plus the skills to re-assemble the thing after cleaning.
Being a general handyman could be very profitable if one can be reliable and dependable and always complete a job as promised. Far too many just claim to be a handy-person but lack any real knowledge and they are devoid of the adequate motivation to complete a project.
Servicing medical equipment, I learned, demanded at least a masters degree in medical equipment servicing, and who has four years to earn that degree later in life?
 

sghioto

Joined Dec 31, 2017
1,801
My thinking is, later in my semi-retirement years if I might do some handyman-type stuff and the HVAC knowledge would certainly be useful.
That's the direction I took in 2005. Started my own handyman business after being in electronics for 35 years of which the last 26 was in consumer electronic repair for a major company. I could see the "writing on the wall" and never regretted leaving. The one thing about being a handyman is you will always have plenty of work which can be blessing and a curse.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
21,984
So after that 'brief' background, intuitively, realistically speaking, there really isn't going to be much of a market or opportunity to repair consumer electronics is there? With the continued miniaturization and inexpensive electronic devices, not to mention the fact they become obsolete every year, the future looks bleak for someone interested in that type of work. First, you really aren't going to be able to repair at a component level, and nobody is going to pay much to fix a $300, 3 year old TV that that they can replace with a new one for $200. Am I correct? I also thought, well, a lot of people will be throwing away TVs, etc., because of this and maybe I could fix them up and sell them for a little, but are they even going to be repairable? Thanks for your thoughts.
That pretty much sums it up!
I was in the domestic repair business for a very few years and back then everything was virtually repairable, i.e parts available etc.
Just recently my daughter in law acquired a dead 50" TV, gratis.
I took a look and located the board, all SMT of course, it was only 2yrs old and spares boards from the manufacturer were no longer available.
The large scale IC's were unobtainable or available in multi quantity only.
The better, more lucrative area is the Industrial electronics side, much of which is far more likely to be repairable, albeit a little trickier than 30yrs ago.
Max.
 

Thread Starter

timbaker0365

Joined Aug 11, 2020
32
Being a general handyman could be very profitable if one can be reliable and dependable and always complete a job as promised. Far too many just claim to be a handy-person but lack any real knowledge and they are devoid of the adequate motivation to complete a project.
Well, I don't have a problem being a general handyman. In fact, I was actually more than a handyman - a quite skilled builder amongst other things. I actually enjoyed doing it. But as my age progresses I don't to get into any big, complex, stressful jobs - plus I want to be a one-man show. So I'm thinking general handyman stuff would be right up my alley. I have no problem with the work or "motivation to complete a project", especially on the scale I'm thinking of - small stuff you know. And yes, I could stay busy... it's real hard to find anyone to do anything anymore. I've tackled many many difficult projects in harsh conditions over the years so I know what it takes to get a job done sometimes. I'm thinking minor repairs, etc., and I think with some new electronics/HVAC knowledge that would enhance my opportunities. And no, I wouldn't expect to go out and be an expert HVAC guy or anything - just an added knowledge for maybe doing some general furnace or water heater maintenance, etc., maybe some minor troubleshooting/service. But yeah, I'm leaning towards that. Thanks Bill.
 

Thread Starter

timbaker0365

Joined Aug 11, 2020
32
That's the direction I took in 2005. Started my own handyman business after being in electronics for 35 years of which the last 26 was in consumer electronic repair for a major company. I could see the "writing on the wall" and never regretted leaving. The one thing about being a handyman is you will always have plenty of work which can be blessing and a curse.
Good for you sg. Yeah, I'm really leaning that way. I do have an interest to learn some HVAC stuff - it has a lot of different elements - some electrical, mechanical, chemistry, thermodynamics, etc. Plus it's broad enough to keep it interesting for a while. The handyman stuff I do think is the direction I'm heading and I think the HVAC class for something to do to help keep me occupied and add to my skill set is a good fit. Thanks for the input.
 

Wolframore

Joined Jan 21, 2019
2,183
I’ve kept my aging HVAC system going for about 10 years now, it’s always the vacuum switch or a dirty thermal sensor. Oh once I had a bad heating element... all very simple and inexpensive. Im sure people would pay well to have heat when it’s -20F.
 

Thread Starter

timbaker0365

Joined Aug 11, 2020
32
The better, more lucrative area is the Industrial electronics side, much of which is far more likely to be repairable, albeit a little trickier than 30yrs ago.
Thanks Max, always a pleasure reading your stuff. Yes, if this was 25 or 30 years ago (or I mean if I was 25 or 30 years younger) I probably wouldn't be asking this question - I'd probably be heading towards continuing learning more electronics. But 25 or 30 years back or more, I was kind of busy caught up in life stuff at the time and just trying to make a living, etc. Now, I'm just pondering what's left of my future... probably heading towards the HVAC class. Thanks.
 

Thread Starter

timbaker0365

Joined Aug 11, 2020
32
I’m sure there are businesses that will appear that will have to service electric vehicles and solar panels and inverters... we have to stay current.
Indeed. I know there will be opportunities for skilled electrical/electronic techs still. I'm just thinking, in my case, I'm not about to begin a new challenging/demanding job working for a company or anything at that level. I was thinking more of a part-time, semi-retirement thing later on to pick up a few bucks. And like I mentioned, ideally I could work at my shop at home fixing some things, etc., and in the present it would give me more of a reason to pursue some more advanced electronics knowledge to keep me busy. But, pragmatically speaking, that's probably not, well, pragmatic... I guess I'm really not out anything by skipping that alternative though, since the PF program really is thorough and quite complex - you get out of it what you put into it - and I'll probably know more than I'll need (or at least know where to start looking) when I'm done. So I'll probably pursue the HVAC, without regrets as I'm eager to learn more there too, and not look back. I guess I was just thinking out loud and wanted some expert opinions (and I know you guys are truly experts - I've read enough of your posts) to reaffirm my own thoughts so I could get off the which-way-should-I-go dilemma... Thanks Wolf.
 

Wolframore

Joined Jan 21, 2019
2,183
Oh another one which I did last summer, fixing low voltage landscaping lighting, a contractor dug a trench and messed up the lighting. I made some good side money fixing it and upgrading their halogens to LED. The contractor was at fault so he had a worker follow me around to dig.
 

Delta prime

Joined Nov 15, 2019
610
Hello there :)
probably heading towards the HVAC
Pursuing an education in electronics will expose you to various scientific disciplines. You probably never even knew existed
But you will have a foundation on which to build on quickly and very profitable.concentrate on reading schematics learning the components and how they interface with each other. because you will find schematics are a luxury and you will be reverse engineering products from companies that no longer exist.HVAC system for an Industrial, Commercial, Residential, incorporate subdisciplines of Mechanical ,Electrical engineering, based on the principles Newtonian Physics of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics
Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and Distributed Control Systems (DCS), Industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs), Human-Machine Interface (HMI), Remote Terminal Units (RTUs), control servers, Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs) and sensors.
 

MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
1,956
The challenge is most electronics aren't worth the labor to fix, and those that are usually require some specialized knowledge and sometimes special tools. Check out The Rossmann Group on youtube for a good example of what it takes to make a business of repairing electronics these days. HVAC will always be needed, and at least in my area regular old electricians charge 2 arms and 4 legs for any type of work at all. I was quoted $800 to move a breaker switch inside my existing box and add an outlet next to it on the wall, so guess what I'll be teaching myself to do. :)
 
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MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
7,697
Breaker panel work can be a bit tense if the mains are still live. But replacing a breaker panel with the mains disconnected is not tense, mostly tedious. The cheating trick is to clip to the open terminals just below the meter and run in an extension cord so that I can have plenty of light.
 
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