After reading about the constantly failing new appliances it makes the most sense to keep the old ones around. Finding replacement parts for the old appliances make sense, but I wonder if they are easy to get a hold of.
In theory, I have to agree with you, Lauren. But who isn't seduced by the new gadgetry and sleek look of new appliances compared with the old. You can't remodel a kitchen and keep the aging stuff around without a major overhaul appearing dated. That said, there is the question to be asked about why these new models don't perform well or don't last longer. I think your point about keeping them around as long as there are spare parts is sound, but my guess is those part reserves dry up in no time so we all cave into our urges for those shiny new appliances every 10 years!
Beth has a point. I had an extreme version of an old refrigerator once. I lived in a house built in the 1920s. The house was charming, but the kitchen was very small. The only refrigerator that fit the micro refrigerator space was tiny. The freezer compartment was actually inside the fridge.
The unit was very reliable, but it wasn't much fun.
I'd like to hear from some consumer electronics designers on this topic; My 5+ year old Kenmore Eltie needed the control panel replaced, most likely because of >cheap< silver ink flex. I know from direct experieince that the cycle life of switches using silver ink is limited. Can't solder it to fix it either. Given the very low cost of kapton flex in volume, I find this unforgiveable.
My 25 year old Jennair has had the control panel rebuilt a half dozen times. Parts are no longer available & my next home project will be to remodel the ktichen & replace it (ugh). At least I will end up with a gas stove again but I am sure I will have the same issues with .. control panels!
It is apparent that the quality of appliances being made today has taken a serious nosedive. Appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, stoves etc. used to last 25-30 years or more. So much for the term "durable goods". The dramatic and seemingly sudden reduction in life of appliances in general, would be a fantastic opportunity for one or more companies to build a lasting quality line of these products, as discontent customers of current offerings would beat a path to your door. It appears an industry wide cost reduction program were put in place at the expense of a multitude of dissatisfied customers. I will keep my older appliances going as long as possible and hopefully better quality products will emerge before I have to bite the bullet and replace them.
I agree entirely with these comments and have had a similar experience. Our 5 year old GE refigerator stopped working. The repair technician replaced the main control board and I still have the failed board clearly showing the result of leaking electrolytic capacitors. I sent a photo of the board to GE customer service. They thanked me but provided no further feedback.
As the technician was leaving, he noticed our circa 1990 Maytag washer and dryer. He indicated he had previously worked for Maytag, and he highly recommended hanging on to them as long as parts are available. He said they just dob't make them like they used to. I have been able to obtain and replace a couple of minor parts on the washer and dryer myself and they have been very reliable with regular use several times a week. We also had a 1975 vintage Kenmore (Whirlpool) refrigerator that lasted until 2006 with only one repair needed in the mid 1990's. It also survived 5 moves during that time. Certainly better than our newer GE refrigerator.
So, I concur with hanging onto appliances as long as they work. We certainly have experienced more failures on newer appliances.
The "quality" in appliances has consistantly decreased in the last few decades. We are now on our 5th washing machine in 25 years with the one prior to our current one lasting less than 3 years. The technician said the circuit card was bad. after weeks and still waiting for a $250 circuit card we purchased a new machine (I wonder why the circuit card was in short supply!!). Maybe there is a market out there that will refurbish the older machines and manufacture replacement parts for the appliances like they do with classic cars. I know I'd pay a grand for a classic machine that would last 20+ years.
There seems to be a pattern here in problems with the electronics (control board) on these new appliances. Are these applications too rugged for the electronics involved? I don't hear the same number of complaints about electronics failing in TVs or music players. It seems the big problem is the electronics in large appliances.
Therein lies the rub... most appliances have a motor in them somewhere... usually a big, open winding, unshielded hulk of a motor that spits out electric and magnetic fields like a high pressure sprinkler. The electronics are generally not shielded enough or 'hardened' for what is the equivalent of an 'industrial' environment. Most of your purely electronic products are isolated from that environment and have only small "clean" motors at best.
I had to replace an electronics module on my washing machine and decided to encase the module in a 'Faraday cage' of copper screen that was directly earth grounded. This was the third one within a year after only one previous year of operation. I found that I did not need another one for almost five years until about a week before the motor finally failed. The new one went into the faraday cage and has been chugging along for the past four years with no further incident.
I placed a Faraday cage around every control module on an appliance that I could and have had no issues from the control module on any of them.
Taking into account that those "Electronics" are working fine in planes and missiles , it doesn't seem that there is a problem with the ruggedness , there might be a problem with the "brains" of the manufacturing companies ,who indeed do not enable their staff/engineers to design the product as it should be designed and spend a lot of time to reeducate their professionals toward time to market and price consciousness.
This in itself is good if you invest the means to achieve the right quality .
But then it would impact revenue.
This phenomenon is called greed.
You have a point about television e.g. but how long does a TV remote control work ?
Good points Musketeer. The electronics in aerospace and even in automotive work for many years. So it's a mystery why they break down so often in appliances. I've been lucky I guess with TV remotes. They have all outlasted my TVs. Same with DVD players, etc.
I've been reading these columns for as long as they've been posted, and while I agree that for the purchaser, the stories related are heartbreaking. However, what all of you fail to remember that we are bound hook, line & sinker to the capitalistic system, and there is only ONE WORD in their dictionary, PROFIT! In order to satisfy the mandates of the investors, the demands of the unionized work force, and the forces of government (regulations, "green", etc.), the engineering team is forced into designing "durable goods" which ain't very durable anymore!!!! So, even though you might plunk down mucho dinero for your super-duper BOSCH, SIEMENS, JENN-AIR, THERMADOR, KENMORE ELITE, MAYTAG, etc., what you're buying all comes from the same box of cookies! No modern-day appliances will last the lifetime that your parents' appliances lasted. in the words of many modern-day philosophers, FUHGEDDABOUTIT!!!
The explanation of non-robustness, equating to an intense lack of durability, in current and recent appliances, goes way beyond just "design for maximum profit". I have had this discussion with sales simpletons many times: I ask about quality and they respond by describing features. If I press on and ask about how long the product will work before needing repairs, I get a spiel for their service plan. When I push and ask about quality again they tell me "that quality is features". Somehow it has gotten reversed so that durability and a long lasting product are not considered selling points any more. That is why the dishwasher has a stick-on keyboard that falls off after two years. My previous one had a mechanical timer that failed after 32 years, whenthe drive motor burned out. No flimsy microcontroller to fail at the first line disturbance.
So that is where the quality went-it was exchanged for a stack of features that provide "product differentiation", which is an MBA-shool concept, I think. It is also undoubtedly cheaper than building a product to last.
@ Taranach : an interesing idea about the shielding screen. But I don't think that a copper screen would provide much attenuation to a 60Hz magnetic field, nor provide much of a magnetic shunt. The other thing is that in the washers and dryers that I am familiar with there is a distance of at least 2 feet between the motors and the controls electronics. On the other side, most consumer goods have a bit less than the minimum required ESD (electrostatic Discharge) protection, and so a screen plus better grounding, and probably greatly improved connections, made while adding the shielding, undoubtedly reduced the chance of failure a good deal. My guess is that it was the other things that provided the improvement in product life in this application.
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