Some Appliance Perspective Please

jimlaSeptember 30, 2012

Went washer shopping online and in stores today now that it looks like our 20 year old Maytag washer is about done. It fills then shuts down until you bail it, then it fills again and shuts down. Its $75 for a service call and maybe we'llfind out its a cheap fix or a major cost for a 20 year old machine that worked fine yesterday. Thinking that a 20 year old machine may be coming to its end we shopped.

Meanwhile we have our kitchen fridge which is 20 years old, a backup fridge about 25 and an upright freezer maybe 30 years old and all work fine. However we have it in the back of our minds that maybe we should consider an upgrade for one or all to something more energy efficient before they fail.

I learned from Consumer Reports and from the HH Gregg salesman that appliances today last only about 10 years or so!!! I could say that I am shocked but I am not. And to think that I grew up in the 60s and 70s and still remember the small GE fridge/freezer that my grandparents probably bought in the late 1940s!

Anyway whats your take on all this? Since our existing appliances were made when things were made well (at least based on their current longevity) but not energy efficient should we keep them until they fail or begin to nickel and dime. Could I get anotehr 10 years out of them and save at least half the cost of a new fridge? I know thats a hard question to answer not knowing the brands or how they are used or have been used. But just looking for some perspective or opinions. Thanks

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My general attitude is if it ain't broke, don't fix it and they don't make 'em like they used to.

My feeling is if your appliances are working and they look ok to you, I wouldn't replace them. IMHO the whole energy star thing is overrated - with some appliances they only achieve the rating on one particular setting not necessarily the one that you'll want to use and even if you do save a small amount on your monthly electric bill, the payback time on the cost of the appliance is very long.

On the other hand, it's not clear that it's worth repairing a 20 year old appliance that's not working - might be worth the $75 to find out, though.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 11:21PM
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I replaced the pump yesterday on my sister's 28+ years old Maytag washer (it came out of the factory April 1984 per the serial number). A pump is $55 to $69 at the online retail sources I typically use, but I found several on eBay, new and used. Selected a new specimen, $35.50.

December 2010 I replaced the compressor start relay on my grandmother's 1984 Whirlpool refrigerator. Cost a whopping $33.

Your washer problem could be a simple bad lid switch. The lid switch may not be in the circuit for fill (it'll fill with the lid open, yes? - sister's does). The lid switch is in the circuit at all other times, agitate and spin, so a bad switch will block the motor from running.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 11:52PM
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They don't make them like they used to because the Feds will not allow it.

If they did,Whirlpool could make you a washer that lasted 20 years for $400 or so.

Miele made an excellent washer that cost $1750 but priced itself out of the market.

Bosch made an ok washer for about $1200 but lost out to Samsung and LG because there washers had many more bells and whistles.

Now Miele and Bosch are out of the full size American laundry market.

For what is left, I would be inclined to fix whay you have.

That would be the advice I would give my sister if her 22 year old Whirlpool died.

If you want a new top loader I would probably go for Speed Queen and Samsung for front loader. Unless you can find new or nearly new Miele w4842 or w4082 units on your local Craigslist.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 1:53AM
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Energy efficiency is a good thing, but use one of the online energy calculators to see how much you'd be saving. It probably comes to $100/yr. When you consider all of the resources that go into making and installing a new appliance plus unmaking an old one, there really isn't a "green" benefit. The buy new and save energy programs have more to do with freeing up the electricity to power someone else's airconditioner and save the utilities from having to find more power to meet the demand. There's also an element of wanting you to buy new to create movement in the economy.

Part of the mobile culture of the American public, even though people aren't moving as far as they used to, is that people change domiciles frequently, and often sell their appliances rather than moving them. Therefore, much of the buying public only wants appliances that will do them for 5-7 years and still be working when they sell them. They want cheap enough to be able to replace them. Throw in Consumer Reports, which is heavily biased toward the rule of adequate performance for the dollar, rather than any regard for the best money can buy, and you just don't have that much demand for the best and longest lasting.

That said, a lot has to do with how hard you use your appliances. A moderately priced fridge that is opened several dozen times a day by the whole family, and which has the fridge and freezer running off the same compressor, etc., and has ice and chilled water and tap dances too, gets a lot more wear, has more delicate systems, and is likely to be more expensive to fix than it's worth much sooner than a high end, single purpose unit that only gets opened ten times a day by DINKS.

Same with washers. Mine is only 11 years old and I think of it as "new", but some people, with big families and many changes of clothes (sports, dirty work, babies, etc.) do as much laundry as I do in a month in a single day.

It's the same with cars. Drive 100,000 miles a year and you might need a new engine every year or two. Drive 5000 miles annually, and you might have the car for the rest of your life.

Add on top of all of that the fact that the whizbang features that make new appliances such a pleasure to use imply circuit boards and chips which are often the first to go and the most expensive to replace, and it makes sense why they don't rate the life expectancy so high.

If you want new appliances, I think you can find some which will please you, and which, with some care, will last decently, but if you're happy with what you have, there's no good reason to change them.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 7:34PM
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Thanks all for the various but consistent perspective on why built to last is no longer the norm. So, given this sorry but realistic state of affairs, does it make sense to buy the aftermarket warranty? All sources say skip it but the salesmen press it hard saying one service call for a Facebook capabale, smartphone linked fridge can be the cost of the warranty itself. I exaggerate but are they worth it?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:19PM
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At least for a washing machine you can still get a Speed Queen. It is one of the last old fashioned appliances made to last.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 9:14AM
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In general the extended warranties are not worth it - they're mostly added profit to the person selling them - if they didn't make money they wouldn't sell them! Of course, you'll hear stories from someone with a major repair who was so grateful they had the warranty, but on average they're not a good deal. Take all the money you would have spent on them and save it for the repairs. One major drawback to an extended warranty is that it may lock you into a particular repair company (search for A&E on this forum). Also some extended warranties are from 3rd parties rather than the manufacturers and if the 3rd party goes out of business, you're out of luck. Also, some extended warranties have fine print that exclude some surprising things - you need to read them carefully. Salesman push them because they make lots of money on them, but be careful although some people do buy them for piece of mind.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 10:12AM
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Well they don't make them the way the used to because of what the dollar buys today is no where close to what it bought 40 years ago. Inflation has gone WAY past the "average wage" of the bottom 98%.
In the 60s a single parent usually the man could go out get just a decent job making about $500 or less per month and easily afford the home mortgage, a car, at least one good vacation a year, healthcare for all in family, put the children through college AND save some money in the bank.

Today in order to do exactly that BOTH parents would have to work and both making well above the median wage of $50,000 per year EACH. So around $8000 a month.
The vast majority in this country make considerably less than $50,000 per year total for the household.
This is why virtually everything you see is $19.99 followed by a "But Wait!" as they double what you get and give free shipping.
American companies have decided that cheap is good for several reasons, one being that most families simply can not afford a $4000 washer and $3000 dryer or $6000 refrigerator which is probably what it would cost for the same quality as we received 30+ years ago.
Also if they were to make appliances last 20,30+ years like they used to they would quality themselves right out of business.

If you bought a brand new O'Keeffe & Merritt gas stove in 1950 if you half a brain you probably still have it today and it works just fine.

Here is an ad for one:

1950 Twin Top With Griddle
Price: $184.95
Description You can roast a turkey and all the trimmings, broil other meats and vegetables, fry apple rings on the griddle--all this at the same time! Smokeless waist-high broiler is oven-size. Chrome-plated broiler rack adjusts easily to desired height. Oven has deep Roast-R-Pan and trivet. Visi-bake oven door lets you have the fun of seeing what's cooking; peek-switch turns on oven light. Three giant, two standard top burners, and two Warm-R-Burners. Cooktop covers with baking charts inside. Two utility drawers.

$185 for a stove that if merely taken care of properly will still be working as well today as it was over 60 years ago.

It would cost probably $10,000 today to duplicate what you could get in 1950 for $185.
This has little if anything to do with the "feds" as much as it has to do with rampant capitalism and deregulation which has given the top 2% a 400% raise in income while the bottom 98% have at best remained stagnant and making LESS spendable income today than they had 30 years ago.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 12:38PM
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Come on Nunya, give us a break from your "Super Left Politics"!

The "Capitalist did not write and implement the laws that have turned appliances into what they are today, that same group of "Lefties" were responsible for the laws that gave us 6 miles per galleon cars in the 70's and their latest "stunt", "Send all the light bulb business to china", (Some incandescents were made in the good old USA where virtually every florescent light is made in China. Fortunaltely we can escape some of these "Left wing shinanigans" by buying LED's as some of them are made in the US!


    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 12:59PM
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It's a false belief and a fairy tale that appliances built in the 50s, 60s and 70s lasted longer.
This has never been the case.

I've been in the appliance repair and sales business since 1973 and, on average, most appliances last 10 to 15 years.
For every appliance that lasted 30 years I can show you 2 of the same model and vintage that lasted 5 years.

This is still true today.

Yes materials have become lighter weight and yes if we built appliances with the same materials that we used in the 50's, 60's, & 70's the appliances would cost 5-10 times as much and also poison the environment 5 times faster.

But look at the cost of other items you use every day.
is 1970 I could buy bread for $.25. I purchased gas for $.30, most cars sold under $3000. A corvette was $5000. A home in the midwest in an average neighborhood was $12,000.

Appliances today are bargins compared to everything else and you can still expect the same average life for them.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 2:41PM
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Yet I know of a stove built at the turn of the century that is 100 years old and works just as well today as it did when new, was a wood/coal burner though. Damn thing looks almost new even.

I used to rent a place that had a 1952 O'Keeffe and Merritt in it that was in the house since new, never had a problem with it and that was in the 90's so it was 45 years old at the time and I bet still working great today.

When I was a kid my mother had the same washer she had since before I was born and she had it until she gave to a family member 30 years later and it was still working fine.

My mother also had an old Kirby vacuum cleaner that she bought in the 40s she used it until about 2000 so about 60 years then gave to her brother which uses it still today and it is over 70 years old.

Most every house I have ever been in that was built back before the 40s is also built better. The house I was born in was built in 1903 and had mostly "pegs" in it instead of nails. That house is still in great shape today. Whereas the house my wife and I live today is 27 years old and we have had numerous things we have had to replace and rebuild.

I guess I must live in a fairy tale, because I don't expect any appliance today to last trouble free for more than 10-15 years tops.
Yet I could buy a fully refurbished or very well taken care of 1950's range and I would expect to have no problems for the rest of my lifetime.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 5:09PM
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Since the topic was "Some Appliance Perspective Please" I was trying to give the perspective based on the 60,000+ appliances that worked on over the last 39 years ( average of 7-8 appliances a day)
I'm sure there are a lot of antidotal storys about longer lasting appliances just as there are an equal number of storys about shorter lifes (BTW my Moms Kirby lasted 11 years) but it doesn't change that the overwheming number of appliances over the last 50-60 years had an on average 15 year life.

Of course anything can be fixed if the parts are still available and money is no object. However Most customers I deal with don't have unlimited funds and in many cases parts become more difficult to find and more expensive as the appliance gets older.

If you can do your own repair you can hold down the labor costs but not everybody is handy or capable enough to do this.

Again you can purchase a 1950's refurb appliance but it will be smaller in capability, less convenient, and most likely not as safe as a more modern appliance. But to each their own.

Do they built appliances like they used to???


But they do build them safer, bigger, and more convenient to use. ( I hated filling ice trays when I was a kid )

But again this is just my perspective

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 9:00PM
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As long as this has turned nostalgic....I was born in the 50's and grew up when leather shoes, white goods, toasters, TVs, radios with tubes and vacuum cleaners were repaired not trashed in favor of new. Thus the basis for my request for perspective. We had "fixit shops" just like Emmett the fix it guy from Mayberry. I grew up in coal country where old strip mines were my playground and the dumpsites for used appliance, most full of rusty .22 and 30.30 holes. One fall day in the mid-70's my prediction came true and I saw my first microwave tossed into a pit. Perhaps that marked the symbolic beginning of the social and consumer mindset discussed in the responses above. And in the early days of the PC, we all bought a plastic box with a few ribbed rubber bands and pulleys, threw in an ink cartridge and you had a $125 printer. Not worth fixing because now you can get them for $30. I understand and appreciate the view points that you all provided. I do realize all this progress was done with efficiency and safety in mind not just shortcuts but I still find it hard to believe that a 150 pound washing machine is now a disposable good in our society. But I guess it helps to support the peddlers who come around on trash night with their old pickups and scavenge the scrap metal from my curbside including old car rims, gas grills and washers for a few dollars at the scrap yard the next day. Thanks all.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 9:40PM
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Well, I may be atypical but my Whirpool washer, dryer and fridge are still going strong after 30 years - and never needed a repair (the fridge is now delegated to the garage). Also, when I redid my kitchen 10 years ago, the Whirpool DW and O'Keefe and Merrit range were still doing fine.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 12:09AM
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Thanks jakvis!

People remember the appliances that last and forget the ones they had to replace. Add to that the pleasures of "in my day..." stories.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 1:54AM
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The old cooking appliances seem to last - I see lots of old ones from the '50s and '60s still in use, and old fridges tend to be demoted to the basement or garage because they're too small or unattractive but they still work. I rarely see old washing machines though - all the shaking, chemicals, water, and humidity wear down the mechanical components, which may involve a transmission, oil, clutch, belts, and other stuft that wears out or breaks. They can usually be repaired if it's a good machine overall, but parts can be hard to find for some older machines (but are usually out there somewhere).

The dryers seem to last longer than the washers do since they're less complex - basically a heater with a fan that blows air into a revolving drum. Dishwashers are a mixed bag - some don't last a decade, but lately i've run across several that date from the 1950-60s that are still in use (the old Hobart-built, pre-Whirlpool-buyout Kitchenaids seem to be indestructable).

If you have an old fridge from the '70s or '80s, you may not want it to last. Those things were energy hogs, using about 3x the electricity of new ones.

Nothing about the new gov't regulations should make the new appliances inherently less reliable, although they may increase the price. The manufacturers cheapen their stuff because cheap sells, and they want profitability. Take a look at what those vaunted old refrigerators or washing machines cost in 1958 and adjust it for inflation, you'll be amazed at how expensive they were. Top-load washers cost $300, which is $2,400 in 2012 dollars.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 3:43AM
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It's true that energy efficiency reduces the life expectancy of appliances. Think about this for a minute. That old fridge that lasted forever had a durable low speed compressor. These old compressors ran at 1125 to 1725 rpm. In order to get efficiency up the motors needed to run much faster. Most fridge compressors today run at 3450 rpm and some are running even faster than that. The tolerances are much tighter than years ago, but the faster something runs the faster it wears out. The manufacturers aren't making bad compressors or washing machine motors, we are simply running them faster to get efficiency gains at the expense of operating life. Heres a neat little fact. That compressor in your fridge that lasts ten years will have traveled the equivilent of 1 million miles without so much as an oil change or any maintenance whatsoever. If you tried that with your car I don't think it would last the full 10 years.

Manufacturers are starting to get to the edge of what physics will allow as to energy efficiency. Sure there will be some more gains but all the low hanging fruit has been plucked. A case for longer lasting appliance parts is the washing machine motor, this motor has gone from a simple one or two speed motor to the variable speed inverter controlled direct drive that is becoming much more common today. There are fewer mechanical parts, they turn slower because they are directly linked to the washing machine with no belts and pulleys. Ever wonder why companies that use direct drive inverter motors offer 10 year warranty's on the motor? Because they will last much longer than 10 years.

The electronics are another matter, all that high tech comes at the expense of longevity, especially when those boards come from china. I have repaired more boards from china that have cold solder joints in the last 5 years than I care to. Any yes I have even gotten multiple replacement boards with the exact same problem. The last issue is the public being misled by technicians with sales motives. Case in point, a customer has a tech come out for a washing machine problem, tech diagnoses bad motor control board, repair is $450-$500, tech tells customer that it's not worth repairing as "other things will break in the future". Customer agrees and goes out and buys a $1500 washer. The $500 repair would have been $1000 cheaper. Sure another part "could" break in the future, but no one can predict the future. Now if the washer was old and had multiple issues, or was just plain beat, then yes replacement makes sense. We have become a throw away society that when something breaks the first time we just replace the whole thing rather than fix it. This is more of a customer problem rather that the manufacturers problem.

Appliance manufacturers need to do a better job of training their technicians. I have seen simple problems take 2 and 3 techs replacing almost every part to fix a problem. Some simple trouble shooting skills and a multi meter can confirm if the part is bad before replacing it, yet some techs don't even use their multi meter. Why? They don't know how because they haven't been trained properly.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 10:17AM
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I've had more problems with the electronics in new appliances than with any of the mechanical components. For example, I've dealt with five Bosch appliances that needed repair, and every single one had the electronic control board or such go bad. The motors, compressors, buttons, hinges, and racks all looked new. If they could make their electronics reliable, they'd have the world's most reliable appliances.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 7:28PM
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The problem with the electronics is that they are made in China. Chinese boards have the highest failure rates due to bad and cold solder joints. I have repaired many a board by touching up the suspect solder joints. The only way to make the electronics more reliable is to have higher quality standards put onto the board vendors.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 8:45PM
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They are made in China with the American company telling them exactly what they want. That is why they are so cheap and shoddy. Has nothing to do with where its made, has to do with that is EXACTLY what was ordered. Cheap sells

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 9:49PM
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Nunyabiz, this is true, the manufacturers are buying these boards at a certain price point. That said for what these boards cost there is certainly enough margin for higher quality control. Another factor that has been thrown into the mix is that the world has gone to lead free solders. The old leaded solders were very forgiving and had a wide process window, the new lead free solders have to flowed within a very narrow process window or you get bad solder joints. Automotive electronics are lead free and very reliable as they have very strict quality control standards. The millitary has stayed with leaded solders due to their excellent properties and ability to avoid tin wiskering which can short out sensitive components. The main thing to think about is even mechanically controlled applicances are not gonna last like they used to, even the mechanical timers and such have been cheapened and built to a price point. Buying a new mechanical timed appliance is not going to be the solution, the solution will come when the consumer is willing to shell out a little extra $ to buy that quality. Adjusting for inflation todays appliances are cheap compared to those of years ago. There is a saying, you can have cheap or quality, pick one. Yes the manufacturers are part of the problem, but so is the consumer for demanding cheaper and cheaper products that do more, save more energy and cost far less than they used to in inflation adjusted dollars.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 7:34AM
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