These days, lots of household appliances make annoying BEEP sounds. Their product designers must want you to know the stuff is working for you, right now. Products beep to show they are finished with a cycle. They beep to show they are starting a new cycle. God bless.
Two examples are our washer and waffle maker. Click on the sound files below of the actual sounds they make. Washing machines are supposed to make soothing, gurgly sounds to lull a baby to sleep. Our washing machine sounds like it's making the signal for lights-out in a prison. Likewise, waffle makers aren't supposed to be obtrusive. The kids make waffles on Sunday morning, after mom and dad have stayed up laaaaaate on Saturday night. Our waffle maker sounds like a fire is breaking out at iHop. After a couple cups of coffee, it's like a 220-volt wire attached to my gut.
So for GeekDad Day -- a.k.a Father's Day 2012 -- my daughter, 9, and son, 11, went around the house to perform a great service to their over-caffeinated dad. They performed open heart surgery to remove all the horrible beeps. It required a little research into the product schematics and a little soldering, but it was worth it. With a few minutes of work, the house was quiet again.
Step 1: Find the Source of the Noise
Unfortunately, the waffle maker did not have any online documentation. So Lucy had to figure out where to start. She saw a bunch of holes in the housing where it looked like blindingly obnoxious noises were supposed to emanate. She began taking it apart there. (All appliances we worked on were unplugged, of course, and also not the type of appliances with big capacitors and reserve power like TVs that could shock you even when unplugged.)
Step 2: Removing the Buzzer
A-ha. Lucy found a little circuit board under the plastic grille with a component that looked like a little speaker. We talked a little bit about how piezoelectric buzzers work, about how voltage is applied to little crystals inside the device, and they make two conductors push back and forth on each other. The results is an hateful, ear-splitting anathema to sleepy parents everywhere.
We removed the little buzzer with a soldering iron. We were going to use special desoldering braid, but the component fell off once we touched the tip to the lead.
Step 3: Testing the Waffle Maker
Post surgery, the waffle maker performed quietly. To figure out when the device was up to temperature, we had to monitor the lights near the dial instead of listen for the noise. The control panel illuminated an orange LED when it was heating up and a green one when it was ready to load with batter.
Step 4: Next Up: the Washing Machine
We had just hacked our dryer to get it up and running, when we realized the washer was too close to the bedrooms. The sound it made to show the clothes were done woke the kids up. So Archer took matters into his own hands. He unplugged the device and began looking under the hood.
Step 5: Finding and Disabling the Buzzer
Lucky for us, Electrolux has good schematics online, and we mark the document with our own red arrows to show the culprit. Archer was able to identify PART #14, the "Buzzer", and then he knew where to look in the device.
He removed the buzzer by pulling off the electrical lead from the component. These devices are made to slip on and off.
Step 6: Testing the Washer
We were able to test the new quiet wash cycle with a set of sheets and towels. Ahhh. Nothing but water sloshing back and forth.
Lastly, we went to work on the buzzer in a power supply for the computer. The device is great in letting you save files just after the power goes out, but it has an alarm that goes off when that happens. Since power outages often happen after midnight in New England, often during peaceful snowstorms, AND OFTEN WHEN THE DREAMS OF WINGED HORSES COME, horrible alarm noises are never appropriate. Never EVER.