Haven't had a single problem other than the light inside the dryer eventually burned out when a housemate left the door open.
I know that when one of them eventually fails, it will hopefully be a cheap and simple mechanical fix.
I have no desire to own a "major appliance" (W/D, dishwasher, fridge) that has LCD screens, Internet connectivity, or any of those features that you don't really need and are just another point of failure. I manage computers all day at work, I don't want to come home and have to apply a firmware update to my washing machine.
Sadly my strategy has been to buy the cheapest possible appliances, understanding that they will fail within 2-3 years no matter what we buy, and then just replace them with less hard feelings. Disposable appliances indeed.
Did this with a display model Whirlpool dishwasher from Home Depot which we bought for $200. Had some dings on the stainless surface, and I was sure it was going to have a short life given it was a display unit. But ironically at this point it's made it twice as long as the fancy Samsung unit it replaced.
Now the more you optimize, the closer you get to the boundaries of what the materials can handle. You squeeze out all the buffers, all the extra's. And quite likely, all these buffers made the device last longer but at the cost of running inefficient. So the fridge that the OP talks about - the one running for 50 years - will have used much more electricity than the ones you could have replaced it with. Likely, the lower energy consumption of the device will have paid back the investment in 7 years.
However, it is also clear that e.g. control electronics is simply not made to last. E.g. they use the cheapest of electrolytic capacitors, which will leak and break in 5-10 years. Using proper ones might cost 1-2 cents more per device.
This also means that old dead TVs and stuff may often be repaired quite inexpensively - buy a 0.20$ capacitor and solder it in place - but it is still a frustrating thing that it breaks in the first place.
With cars I'd still say that despite the added complexity, the endurance of vehicles is simply amazing. We deplore that when the engine control unit fails, we have to replace the entire unit. But overall, you need much less maintenance on modern cars than you needed 30-40 years ago. Oil change intervals have gone from 5 000 - 10 000 km to 15 000 - 25 000 km. And 30 years ago, a car that had 200 000 km on the clock was really really worn out. Nowadays, it may work like it were almost new.
And then I remember my dad telling me that if you bought a new car in the 70s, if it wasn't a Merc, the best thing you could possibly do was to take it into a garage and get all hoses checked, bearings greased, nuts tightened, and then maybe you would have a trouble-free car for a year or two.
1. More parts to break--sooner end of life. I agree. Finding that bad capacitor is not easy. First it's hard to find a bad cap to begin with. The repair shops, if your electronic device is under warranty; just replaces the entire control board. It's usually never in stock, and it always seems to take a month or two comming from China.
For the DIY'ers, there's no schematics to be found, and even then it's still very hard to find that faulty capacitor on one of the boards.
End result--the electronic item is thrown out.
I don't know how this is tolerated--on a lot of levels. It's bad for the environment, and just wasteful. T.V sets used to be repairable. It dose bother me. Hell--we used to get a few channels over the air for free. Sometimes--I feel gone backwards?
"With cars I'd still say that despite the added complexity, the endurance of vehicles is simply amazing. We deplore that when the engine control unit fails, we have to replace the entire unit. But overall, you need much less maintenance on modern cars than you needed 30-40 years ago. Oil change intervals have gone from 5 000 - 10 000 km to 15 000 - 25 000 km. And 30 years ago, a car that had 200 000 km on the clock was really really worn out. Nowadays, it may work like it were almost new."
1. Agree. A vechicle with 125,000 miles is not much. (I think my conversion is right?). Rebuilding that modern engine is a lot more difficult than rebuilding a Chevy 350 though. I know Toyota dealership mechanics who can't repair the Prius gas assist engine. They usually just pull a used engine from the scrap yard. I will give Toyota credit on a well designed engine, but working on it is another story.
2. Oil changes--yea I'll give you that one, but honestly, I always felt certain industries pulled those oils change numbers out of the air. I've always changed my own fluids, so that was never an expense.
3. The problem with modern vechicles is that automatic transmission--still. At around 135,000 those sensors, those plates, that OD unit just start to wear out. If it's just a pressures sensor, that's fine, but when it's the Over Drive unit, or the transmission needs a rebuild; that's where the anger sets in.
A modern automatic transmission rebuild is not an easy task.
4. The plethora of sensors. I get it. They are needed for emmissions, and performance. And I get a computer. I don't get three computers, and systems so complicated dealership mechanics are learning of the customers dime. I just gave up on an older Dodge that would run at idle. I checked everything. It was a '98 so it wasen't nearly as complicated as todays vechicles. I had to bring it to the dealership, and reflashed reflashed the computer three times for a grand total of $1200. Let me rephrase that, they replaced a bunch of "suspected lazy sensors" before the three reflashes. No it wasen't my vechicle, but a family members who wanted her old truck. I don't usually ever bring a vechicle to a dealership.
4. I do forsee a generation of vechicles that will be scrapped because it makes no sence to fix them. That saddens me. Every time I see a new car commercial, and I see nothing but a electronic light show on the dash, heated seats, automatic cup holders, automatic everything, and I haven't even got to driver assist electronics; I get sad. They all look great, until something malfunctions. I guess this is what the consumer wants in a vehicle. I don't. As my deceased father used to say, "The day I can't roll down my window, put me out. And it's just something else that might break down. I want simplicity."
5. Just thinking about my Bosch washing machine that rings, but doesn't clean the clothes is making my headache worse. Just thinking about the two Mielde vaccume cleaners that are sitting in my garage with perfect motors, but bad blue tooth boards is making me thirsty, but I have no alcohol.
Why would they ever decide to replace a simple switch, and put in a blue tooth board in the handle? Good night people. I need to set up a small distillery in my room.
I don't think OD units are a thing on modern cars anymore. That higher top gear is just going to be another gear inside the transmission. Indeed, on FWD cars with a transaxle, there's really no alternative because it's all a single unit.
This will be an Issue that will be highlighted very soon. We'll see a huge devaluation in secondhand Tesla cars, since replacing the battery will be more expensive than replacing an engine in a car (I believe), plus it'll have to be done every ten years - while a car can keep the same engine for decades, especially when some of the wearables like timing belts and seals and such are replaced.
I hope Tesla will recognise this too and do something about it - battery replacement programs, preferably where they can replace batteries with higher-capacity ones as time goes by.
I don't see how owning a car in full can work for electric cars, not when the battery needs to be replaced every ten years. I don't know what the lifespan of the drive unit is either.
Is that bad?
I'm particularly concerned about the potential environmental impact of dumping a bunch of batteries into landfills. Is there a battery reburishment/recycling program for these vehicles?
AFAICT in "practical" mechanical engineering tribology:
is one of the fields that made the most progresses in the 90's, thanks also to the introduction on the market of totally or partially sinthetic oil, that literally changed the game when it comes to car engines duration.
The (huge) difference in spark plug life depends more on electronic ignition, of course and that also became mainstream in late 80's and 90's.
When it comes to water pumps, allow me to disagree, however, once upon a time if a water pump leaked you just changed gaskets and maybe the ball bearings, since around the same time you are often forced to buy a new "whole" pump as they are not any more serviceable.
As far as water pumps go, I've noticed that they often have alloy impellers now, and used to have stamped steel ones. I've heard of people rebuilding water pumps themselves (as opposed to buying a remanufactured unit), but never seen that done except in special cases (large stationary engine, rare obsolete engine).
I would be willing to bet, however, that net the energy cost of assembling, shipping, running, and ultimately discarding 3 or 4 "energy efficient" appliances is greater than the energy cost of owning one the more reliable older "less energy efficient" models over the same time frame.
This is why people sometimes describe hard drives as "spinning rust".
I agree with you on the first paragraph.
No. It's designed to fail as the article shows. Many components are like this by implication where they're designed for everything but quality and longevity. Things that reduce those two. There could be some extra effect on the two traits due to energy efficiency. The overall problem is there by design. It's also very profitable. ;)
Check out AVE on youtube, his teardown are great!
If you like more workshop instructions, check out "this old Tony"
His detailed teardowns are very interesting; he shares a lot of knowledge about polymers and electronics and combines this with practical experience about failure modes and use cases. At the end of the day it's clear that you get what you pay for if you know what you're doing. Some of his assertions about how manufacturers use brands parallel this story.
I think a lot of the HN set would not be able to tolerate the guy, however. He is not 'reformed,' to say the least.
Seconded: the Miele that my family insisted on buying us for the wedding is well beyond 8 years and we haven't had a single problem.
10 years warranty but rumour have it they might easily last up 20 years although you might have to change parts somewhere between 10 and 20 years.
Oh, and I think it cost something less than USD1000.
Win-win it seems? Miele has a reason to optimize for long life, customer has a basic expectation of a long device life time and a possibility to buy peace of mind?
I think there's a market for a "heirloom" edition that costs 40% more and has a 20 year warranty.
1995 - GBP50 for 2nd hand Miele tumbler dryer - looked 20 years old then (chocolate brown 70s stylecontrol panel) - repaired twice - quite noisy - but still going strong age around 40 years
2001 - GBP1000 for top-of-the range Miele washing machine (wanted 1600RPM spin speed) - rubber seal replaced twice - still going - would probably buy bottom/mid range now to get adequate spin speed
2009 - GBP900 for Miele fridge and freezer - no problems yet
I once carried a Miele washing machine up 3 flights of stairs with a friend. We thought we were about to die.
Later I looked up the specs in the manual: its counterweight weighs 120kg :´-(
The machine is (I think) around 30 years old, still going strong.
I just have muscle than brains (and not particularly much muscle).
I've had two front-loading washing machines now with counterweights, and neither one of them was remotely easy to remove the weights in.
And I didn't pay attention to how hard it would be to remove it -- it was already moot by that time. But it is removable.
It had lasted through 21 years of regular use, by multiple owners.
My dishwasher is a Miele, too. I have owned it for ... 13 years now, and I got if pre-owned, so I guess it is at least 20 years old. Has not given me any trouble, yet.
(My washing machine is some no-name brand, though, and it has worked well for 11-12 years now, so sometimes one can get lucky.)
Bought another Miele, and that is running just fine after 4 years.
My Miele vacuum was handed down to me by my mother when she died, and it's like a decade old and has zero issues.
And even if it does have issues, replacement parts for it are still sold (mainly because today's models are virtually identical).
Also, without the HEPA filter addon, it meets HEPA requirements (they're just not allowed to say so because HEPA sues anyone that didn't pay the idiot tax to license the name); and a box of 4 huge bags and both the inside and outside non-HEPA filters (you change them every 4 bags, comes in the box with the bags) costs around $20.
Most vacuums I've seen my neighbors own over the years cost like $15 for 2 bags, and you have to buy the filters separately. Miele TCO is dramatically lower, just a slightly larger upfront cost.
Also, all of the house cleaning people I've met over the years all swear by Miele, and they abuse theirs far more than I do mine.
We'd killed a couple of other vacuums previously (when you shave a St Bernard for a Texas summer...).
14 years later, I've never had to do any sort of major repair. Any problems I've ever had with the unit were fixed by taking it apart (without tools) and clearing the jam/clog.
Problem is, the HEPA filter in the Animal is about as good as modern Miele bags and non-HEPA filters... /w Miele's HEPA filter instead, it increases filtration rate 10x.
I looked into Dysons for my mom when she bought this... they're good vacuums, but they're not the best. I compared them to being an Apple or Cisco kind of product: everyone knows who they are, everyone thinks they're the best, but if you look around you can get something better.
As in, for every Apple there's a Microsoft (ala Surface), for every Cisco there's a Juniper, and for every Dyson there's a Miele.
I don't want the most expensive, or in some cases even objectively the best: I want something that has the lowest cognitive load of ownership: something that always works, something I don't have to question if I should have bought something else, something that has no killer flaws, something that is good across the board. Something I can be happy with.
Very few brands or product lines have ever made me a fan, all companies eventually ruin a good product, but Miele is on that incredibly exclusive list of companies that have made me a fan. When the end of this vacuum finally comes, I'm buying another Miele without hesitation.
Worked for me at least: when I had a problem, and I will buy the same brand again.
There were other similar brands but they've all gone bankrupt or been acquired (I had a UPO Pesukarhu washing machine which was maybe 15 years old when I bought it second-hand as a poor student, and it worked another 10 or so for me, and I only got rid of it because the 1970's color of the device didn't fit the interior in our new house, and later I regretted this. Now I've had the Miele for around 10 years.)
Perhaps you should check out commercial washers. The kind that you find in laundromats are designed to take a lot more punishment than the residential ones.
Turns out around here (Scandinavia), the brand to beat is Miele, which also seems to enjoy a near monopoly in pro gear, from what I can tell (Just about every vessel I've ever sailed on carries Miele gear in their laundries. I cannot recall ever seeing anything else.)
Also, after asking around at a place repairing appliances as to what brands they trusted in their own homes, the answers were similar - 'Miele. Or, if you think that's a bit over the top, ASKO. Both are made to last and to be repaired.'
So far, the ASKO stuff has stood up very well - ten years in, both dryer and washer are still working flawlessly - and I've got three kids; running two machine loads a day is pretty much standard fare, and has been for years.
Especially when it comes to laundry, the 'European' style is to use longer cycles that are gentler on clothes, quieter, and usually more efficient (whether on water or power use).
The two-year old runs around outdoors in kindergarten all day. More often than not, it is rainy and muddy.
The youngest still run through a couple of sets of babywear a day, down to a somewhat lackadaisical approach to her excretion of various bodily fluids.
We all swim weekly. Add to that the occasional nightly mishap by the child currently quitting diapers, and you're looking at lots and lots of laundry cycles.
Good thing water is free (It's not that we haven't got plenty of it to go around!) and power is cheap.
- The manufacturer of a commercial appliance usually won't provide a warranty for it if it's used in a residential setting.
- Your homeowner's insurance probably won't cover anything related to using commercial appliances in your home.
- In certain cases (probably not a washing machine, but certainly other cases like kitchen appliances), commercial equipment has different standards and codes that can be hard to accomodate for (this can be especially relevant for stoves and ovens)
Install them in your home at your peril.
The same goes for ranges, ovens, refrigerators, microwaves, you name it.
I bought some restaurant grade coffee mugs that are just fantastic. Pretty much impossible to chip and guaranteed.
I worry a little about the electronic control panel, the same one pictured in the review you linked, but I have hope it'll last more than a decade. The warranty is exemplary, even though I haven't had to use it yet so I can't attest to how well it's fulfilled. And it's made in Wisconsin: it's not just another rebranded Electrolux or Whirlpool.
For example, the similarly priced Electrolux EFLS617SIW removed 27 percent more stains than this
Speed Queen on its Heavy Duty cycle and 13 percent more stains on its Whites cycle. We got
similar results from Kenmore, LG, Maytag, and Whirlpool front-loaders
Those stains remain in spite of the fact that this Speed Queen uses over 40 gallons of water for
the Whites cycle and over 24 gallons for the Normal Eco. We estimate that this washer will cost
around $85 a year to run. That's average for a top-load machine, but almost triple what a
more-efficient front loader costs. A lot of our readers tell us they don't care about the
environmental impact of their appliances. But, maybe they'll care about the extra $275 on their
water bills over five years of ownership.
Regardless, it's less than the top-load I replaced. Front-load washers are supposed to be more efficient and use less water.
They have worked well for over 4 years.
I have never caught on to front-loading washers.
The SpeedQueens are not EnergyStar, and you won't find reviews of them at Consumer Reports, but they are build well.
Gresham's Law / the market for lemons.
The only downside is that they aren't "pretty", if you care about that and they run smaller than typical consumer washers.
I've had mine since like 2000. Every single person I've referred there has been super happy with it.
I was not delighted. Clothing was torn to shreds by the washer and then left still wet by the dryer. The machines were always getting called in for maintenance. I get that they were being ran 24/7, but the number of loads I had done correctly versus left wet and not so clean wasn't a very good ratio. :/
Also Blu-ray players don't get updates after a long while too I've heard as YouTube and Netflix changes their APIs - the devs of these devices don't keep them up to date.
I would prefer a dumb TV, and just buy a replaceable box with the computer part. The only way I could see embedded software lasting is if the company made the firmware/OS across all their devices and made it more generalized to work with all their devices of that class.
Give me something I can plug the latest smart streaming box into and change that box as needed.
If you buy a commercial display (you know, those panels you see in airports) not only will it be a far higher quality display than any consumer model, but it will also be the dumbest display you can imagine.
They're not that much more expensive - which makes sense, since end users are sometimes building video walls out of 10 or 12 or 16 of them ...
But for what it is worth, my NEC commercial display doesn't look as good as a 4K display, naturally. It isn't a great monitor for text. I can't imagine how you could make 1080p at 55" look great at only arm's length away, though. That's just too much real estate to fill with too few dots.
But it's more than sufficient, and I greatly enjoy gaming and the occasional movie on it. It looks much better than the 42" off-brand it replaced, but not as good as the 32" Samsung in the other room. I'd buy again and recommend them. I'm certainly a big fan of them having a simple remote and a serial port with a well-documented control protocol.
The biggest problem with NEC and commercial displays in general is that you aren't really going to be able to do any pre-sales checks. They're not going to have an NEC hanging on the wall at Best Buy to compare. So all you have to go on is people like me who took the chance and offer up terribly unprofessional reviews, that might be pretty deeply contaminated with self-justification.
Yes, TV broadcast standards will change. Over here, we lost analog TV a few years ago, and in about three years we'll lose DVB-T on only have DVB-T2.
You might like the one NEC makes with a slot for a Raspberry Pi:
I have a 2016 Hyundai Tucson. To obtain the traffic camera alerts, I need to tether my phone to the car. The car then uses my phone's data connection to obtain the latest traffic updates. However, whenever I drive out of my home country, which is quite often as I live in Central Europe, I turn off my phone's data connection. Otherwise, I'm slugged with a big bill for data roaming.
If I had to use the phone's data connection for, as an example, the entire navigation system, it would seriously degrade the experience once I'd left the borders of my home country. As it is now, I already lose the convenience of traffic camera alerts.
I appreciate there are options - OsmAnd with local maps, a better data roaming package or simply rely on paper maps. Nonetheless, I don't believe relying entirely on the phone for in-car functionality is viable until data roaming has been addressed.
I appreciate there are offline mapping solutions, which I noted. However, there are probably also other edge cases I haven't specifically considered.
Yes, my in-built navigation system requires me to tether my phone to receive traffic updates. No tethering, no traffic updates or traffic camera alerts.
I don't have an alternative solution and understand a data connection is required for this functionality to work.
My point was that already I lose this service if I travel out of my own country and turn the data connection off to save money. If the car only had "a screen and a few buttons", relying on the phone for everything, much more functionality could become hamstrung without a data connection. I appreciate there are offline mapping solutions, but there are probably other service edge cases I haven't considered.
> I think it should be that way with cars. Just include a screen and some buttons, then let people connect their smart phones.
Your situation as described:
A built-in navigation system which is quite a bit more than just a screen and some buttons. It just happens to use your phone for data connection.
Not sure about the longevity of that standard though...
(also another thing to note about commercial displays is that as they are usually on constantly, they frequently suffer heavy burn-in after a few years,so not sure if replaceable parts is such a big sell)
She just ignores and never uses any of the smart features.
IIRC, people have been trying to stick computers in refrigerators since the first dot-com boom. It made little sense then (and even less sense now), but it has a superficial appeal if you don't think about it too much: everyone in the family interacts with the fridge on a regular daily basis and many people use it as the household noticeboard. However, when you think about ergonomics, efficiency, and maintenance; the whole idea falls apart quickly.
The problems here are 1) there's no easy way to automatically detect the levels/amounts of foods in your fridge with current tech, 2) shipping a single milk or stick of butter is horrifically uneconomical, and 3) shipping cold, perishable items is even more uneconomical. I guess you could configure the computer on the fridge with your favorite items inside, and then just press buttons on the screen when something runs low (so it's not fully automatic), but that doesn't help with #2 and #3.
That dishwasher or washing machine with extra modes for $1,000 more? It's the same as the cheapest model, they just didn't put the extra controls on the panel.
This enabled the dishwasher maker to sell at various price points to different customers.
Where did you find the schematics?
I tried a few years ago to find just instructions for some appliances and gave up because of search engine spam etc.
Prefixing your appliance model number with PDF cuts way down on unrelated sales material and spam.
~10 years ago I decided to obtain and review service manuals before buying machinery, to be sure I could have the documentation and to try and figure out what pile of crap I am getting into.
Also did that with a garbage disposal, the housing was identical and the sound insulation mounted perfectly over the new cheap one from the old expensive one.
This also contributed to their popularity among thieves.
I have to do this on my mother's car. Surprisingly both doors internals started to fail around the same year.
You're absolutely right about American cars in the 90s versus Japanese cars from the same time. Hondas back then were bulletproof, really fantastic cars. American cars from that time were junk, not much better than the ones in the 80s (which were even worse). On top of that, the styling of American cars in the 80s was so awful that no one actually wants to keep them around. 70s American cars were ugly to me, but I could see how some people might like that kind of styling, but the 80s cars were just ugly boxes that were attempting to compete with the economical and reliable Japanese cars of the time, and failing badly. The 90s weren't much better, and had all kinds of bloated-looking American cars coming out. It's only been in the last decade that American cars haven't been horribly ugly as a rule. By contrast, the Japanese cars from the 90s were not only reliable but looked nice too.
When I went to college in 1993, I was given my grandmother's original Amana RadarRange microwave from 1968 or so, the model with the two dials and the "done" buzzer that wouldn't stop until you hit a button . It was huge, HEAVY, and we joked that it was full of lead shielding, but it got used for three years of college and after that was donated to my workplace when I moved to Austin. As far as I know it kept working there for another 2-3 years, and by then was most likely 25+ years old.
Addendum: I just realized that the microwave I have sitting in the kitchen was given to us as a wedding gift in 2001. The clock no longer works properly, but it cooks just fine.
My own oven varies by over 100F plus or minus during regular cooking cycles. This is hugely significant when it comes to baking almost anything. If I put cookie dough in at the wrong time, they'll burn. I do my best to dampen the variability with a baking steel, but a more modern gas oven wouldn't have as much of a range of operating temperatures. Or, at least, a modern and high-quality one.
So, in response to your relatively sarcastic question: yes. Things have changed - not in how we cook, but in the quality of homeostatic controls for ovens.
http://www.xojane.com/diy/oven-calibration-article (technique from cooking for geeks)
Ovens? I guess not unless you go for very very high end.
I'd like to say a few nice words about my induction stovetop though: if anybody is in the market for an electric stovetop the induction based ones are vastly better IMO.
Heats pans faster. Does not heat if there is nothing on top of it. Cools down quicker.
Feels a bit magic.
It still makes toast like a champ.
Convection ovens and steam ovens have become a thing since then. Modern ovens have also become a lot better at keeping a constant temperature.
Also my 'modern' (~8-9 years old) oven gets a lot hotter than my old oven.
(That's Mike from Breaking Bad I think...)
Thanks to youtube and about 30 minutes of work it is working like new again. These days I fix everything myself. Appliances, cars, electronics, furniture, etc. I also try to buy quality instead of disposable but that is getting harder every year.
I also have a chest freezer that my parents bought in the late 1970s and it's still working perfectly as well.
I believe that LG at one point stood for "Lucky Goldstar" as they eventually changed company name and branding.
Ah, from Wikipedia: "GoldStar merged with Lucky Chemical and LG Cable in 1995, changing the corporate name to Lucky-Goldstar, and then finally to LG Electronics."
If you're willing to live without a lock or spend a few bucks for new parts then you can keep your machine running perpetually but you basically have to buy an old or commercial unit for the availability of parts.
I can't think of more time-tested electrical components.
I never understood front-load anyways. Topload fails safe. Front load fails in a giant puddle all over your floor.
Also, after growing up with a top-loader, and having a front-loader at my current apartment, I'm amazed at how much water is used and wasted by a top-loader. It's like filling a damn bathtub.
By law, though, as GP mentioned? That surprises me, given my recent purchase...
> You should double check that there's not something wrong with it.
I'm 10000000% sure that the thing isn't designed to lock.
> When that thing spins to drain all of the water out, it moves dangerously fast.
Sure. We don't have any kids or pets, and it's in the basement where visitors have no reason to be. NBD, for us.
> I'm amazed at how much water is used and wasted by a top-loader
I'll definitely keep this in mind if I ever move to a water-poor region or a city with bad infrastructure debt.
It's also an utter piece of crap. No wonder the former owners of the home elected to take their fridge but not their washer/dryer. Do NOT buy a top-load High Efficiency washer. IMO, without an agitator (it just has a nipple-shaped thing at the bottom that serves only to twist drawstrings into knots that absolutely ruin the garment) and without adequate water, a top-loader cannot clean clothes properly.
My front-loader at my old place was vastly superior in every way. Probably used less water, too.
For example, this model spins at 710 RPM
However someone else pointed out that if they don't lock the lid, they might engage a brake and stop the drum's spinning if the lid is opened. This achieves a similar goal.
On an HE model if it braked that fast I think the whole washer body would spin around.
Mildew. Having to leave it open so that the seals air out. Gravity - undefeated champion.
Replacement parts and repairs. Get ready to open up your wallet. Good luck working on anything yourself.
I hate all our appliances. Every last one of them. From the microwave that lasted a year to the freezer that leaks water and ruined my hardwood floors.
They're all garbage. Horrible, horrible expensive garbage.
First, I switched the hot and cold water inputs. My machine's idea of "warm" was actually more like "very very cold". Now, it gets enough heat. I also cranked up my water heater as high as it would go. These two changes effectively take care of all mildew issues. Don't listen to all of the horrible water temperature advice out there; they advocate for temps that optimize for bacterial growth. Hotter is better.
Second, I looked up videos on youtube to figure out how to make it use a lot more water. This is a relatively simple process that involved unscrewing and removing the case, using a hair dryer for 30 seconds to warm up a loctite covered screw, and turning that scree about a quarter turn. More water is always better.
Third, I ordered a giant sack of Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP) from a chemical supplier. Prior to that, I used to buy Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) from Amazon (make sure you get the real stuff). Both require hot water, need about a tablespoon per load, and work extremely well, though STPP is supposed to be better (I haven't noticed a difference). This has two big impacts. Your clothes, especially towels, will feel much softer and nicer. And also, your clothes will stop smelling "good", because STPP is a rinsing agent that helps get all of the soap out of your clothes. The only reason your clothes smell "good" is because modern detergents do a terrible job and the perfumes are added to cover the odor.
If you want to enter a time machine back to a magical era when appliances worked correctly, add a tablespoon of TSP to your dishwasher and run it on the hottest setting.
I also tend to empty it within an hour after it's finished so I have no problem with mouldy clothes or linen. I hang out all of my washing and live in Australia, though, so that may be different since it's permanently a million degrees here and everything dries quite quickly.
I'm very happy with my front-loader. My only worry was that the cycle times were longer when I go 'oh shit, I need this clean and dry in an hour' but it has a 30 min quick wash anyway and then i can toss it in the dryer or hang it out in the sun if it's a hot day. It's served me well.
edit: I also wash all clothes on the 'cold' setting aka what's straight out of the tap. Linen I'll let do at the 40 or 60 or whatever it wants to do it at because it seems to produce marginally softer results but I don't really care either way and prefer to save the electricity on my clothes washes which make up the overwhelming majority of my use.
We had issues with mildew-smelling towels in our top-loader once during the rainy season (one month of non-stop rain and we hang-dry our clothes) but changing detergents solved that.
Also, use warm water and half the suggested amount of washing powder.
I live in a humid area and my washer is in a basement that occasiaonly floods. No problems with mildew or seal leakage after 7 years.
The only problem I've had was with the water inflow valve. I ordered a new part online and installed it myself.
And this isn't some fancy machine; I bought it a Sears scratch 'n dent showroom.
Source: owned a front-loader, several cheap "old school" top loaders, and a modern, High Efficiency top loader. The last one, is the best by far.
Why would a spin cycle wear clothes more when oriented one direction versus the other?
I enjoy being able to wash my blankets. When I had a front loader, it was impossible to get anything large clean, especially with how many fabrics here in America at least are all synthetic so water beads off rather than being adsorbed. The only way to clean cheap linen here is to completely immerse it in water.
My US front loader forced water saving mode, it sprayed a light mist of water, which quickly beaded off of synthetics.
It was otherwise a great machine, but until I moved out I had multiple large comforters I couldn't use.
Newer ones from any manufacturer are indeed failing more often, and are designed worse.
The only explanation is that this is on purpose - just like cars or laptops or smartphones, they are designed to fail faster so you buy new ones. Planned obsolescence, plain and simple.
The best appliances today, by the way, are made by Bosch/Siemens and Miele. None of the other manufacturers come close, period.
Interestingly, the high-end machines from Bosch/Siemens made in Germany are higher quality than the ones made in Poland, China, Spain or Turkey.
Same design, but it seems they use lower quality electronics and metals, as the most common failures are with the motors, control boards and bearings.
I think a more likely explanation is that in the majority of cases when shopping for an appliance and your choices are a $1500 one and a $2000 one, you buy the cheaper one. This forces manufacturers to compete on price, and to cut costs wherever possible to remain profitable.
Additionally, I just spent 30 seconds googling and a washer/dryer set cost $495 in 1953, which is ~$4500 in today's buying power. You can buy a cheap washer/dryer set these days for $500 on sale, which is pretty incredible. I don't know what super heavy duty high end washer/dryer you could get these days for $4500, but I bet you could find one that would last 50 years.
James May (unusually) made a very good point that the "good old days" is an illusion created by survivorship bias, nostalgia, and failure to understand economics. The survivorship bias especially should be obvious:
Lots of cheap crap was made throughout the years, but it didn't survive. We only have examples of the stuff that managed to survive, or was notable in some way. The $50 Smartphone equivalent of the 50's was no more notable than today's version, and no more long-lasting.
I also strongly recommend the mini-motorcycle episode.
"Therefore medieval England must have been full of cathedrals. It must have been amazing!"
Even Lego is looking to cut mfg costs (or has, was an older article) by switching to cheaper plastic, and removing some of the supports.
What kind of world are we living in where we need cheaper plastic?
These product comparisons all fail because today, we can make so much cheaper products than we could back then. And we are now comparing the cheapest crap (even a 100$ keyboard is cheap in comparison to the Model M) with MUCH more expensive products from the past. (Lego might be an exception here, as that product is the same)
Being both non-American and non-public, LEGO are less susceptible to the MBA bean-counting that is at the root of most of the problems described in this thread.
The difference between a top 1% appliance and an average appliance is probably less than $10 of materials and $5 in labor.
Once you work in manufacturing you realize that components are actually very expensive, not a $10 joke.
In the case of a refrigerator, the manufacturer undersized the motor, probably to meet some efficiency standard. The previous years model had an adequate motor, which worked much better.
I've also seen cases (Whirlpool refrigerators) where they included a rubber nipple that was too narrow, and would either freeze up and clog with biofilm. End result was icing of the condenser and evaporator. (Here's a description of the problem: https://partsdr.com/blog/w10619951-updated-drain-tube-fix-ki... )
Then of course, you have Beatz headphones, which really are the next best thing to a scam.
Meanwhile my cheap apartment-scale fridge was made with chewing gum and hope.
For refrigerators at least, it doesn't make sense to make them robust enough to last more than 10-15 years since it's worth it to replace them over that time period. My understanding is the vast majority of refrigerators are then recycled. All those metals are valuable.
And all those refrigerants need to be collected to prevent release to the atmosphere.
the paint, drum, motor, finish, everything looks like new. But, the controller board burned.
I know my way around electronics, mind you, I can see exactly what is wrong (burned transformer), but the whole board is covered in some gelatin that makes any repair impossible.
the power input board is also water proofed with the usual epoxy that you can chip away and do your repair. but the controller board gelatin thing makes it impossible!
oh, and that board not only is NOT covered by the ten year warranty (only the drum and motor) but not a single place carry it. even LG cannot provide me that part for any money in the world. discontinued they say. after 4 years.
if anyone want to pick it up and drive the pristine electronics with an Arduino, msg me. machine is in socal though.
I don't know what the rationale is for the board being covered in a half inch of rubber potting. A smaller coating would have provided a water seal, and this rubber is a heat insulator. Seems counterintuitive to me.
You will have to replace the board if the transformer has an open winding, because all these transformers are application specific. The silicone was burnt around some of the transformer terminals on my board, which scared me, but I didn't find any open windings. The other special part on this board is the cpu, everything else on the board is commodity and it is a real shame that LG decide to use this rubber potting AND screw up the supply of replacement parts.
I think it's a real flaw to integrate switchmode power supplies into control boards.
Experience tells us that the simplest explanation for manufacturer's behavior is the kind of malice called "maximizing profit, all else be damned".
That's Occam's Razor in use right there -- we would need to get out of our way to invent morally good businesses, incompetent engineers who can't get things to last, and modern conveniences that have short lifespans as necessary engineering tradeoffs to explain that away.
I was going to suggest that a lengthy warranty would be a good guide, but gcb0 below says their LG came with a 10 year warranty which was worthless because it didn't cover one part.
Are customers even offered the option?
And why would "50 year appliances" have to be more expensive? The simple parts, and more basic processes used to manufacture them don't sound like costing more. And they could drop most of the electronics, IoT crap, and fancy features. If the average household could buy a fridge in 1970, why wouldn't they be able to afford one today?
Miele sells dishwashers.
And better made things cost more money for lots of reasons -- better materials ($$), more coats of paint (time, materials), heavier duty metals or plastic (time, materials, shipping expense), more careful manufacture, tighter tolerances, and marketing.
> New fridges aren't just a little more efficient, they're incredibly more efficient. A 1986-era 18 c.f. fridge uses 1400 kWh a year, while a modern energy-efficient model uses only 350 kWh — a whopping 75% reduction. At 15¢ kWh, trading in a pre-1986 fridge for a new efficient one would save about $158 a year in electricity costs. And some older fridges are even worse than the average. One reader estimates her savings to be $238 per year for trading in her 1979 fridge for a 2004 model.
There's not some great conspiracy of appliance manufacturers. All those difficult-to-repair parts have been added to make the appliances cheaper, or more energy efficient, or quieter, or speedier and more effective (compare how dishwashers and washing machines and dryers from a few decades ago work to how they do now).
200$ in 1959 for a washer = 1600$ today inflation adjusted. So yes I can go on Best Buy's website and pick a mid range washing machine for 1/2 the price. And yes there are plenty of cheaper examples, but the mid range cost in no way justifies 1/5 the the lifespan.
Also, a sidenote - that Hotpoint washer comes with a free 10 year parts warranty - you have to pay for the engineer to come and install it, but Hotpoint will replace any part of the washer for free, or give you a new one if they can't fix it.
And people complain the average machine does not last 10 years. So, unless you found the cheapest washing machine from 1950's it's not exactly a direct comparison.
Take jackets. I guarantee you that a modern windbreaker is in every way better than an old school leather jacket. Lighter, cheaper, requires no maintenance, and lasts longer. But polyester is not as cool as leather and doesn't feel as sustatial so we have the sense that things used to be better. No way. It's just that synthetics like that didn't exist 100 years ago and leather was the best you could get.
I used to buy a nice looking faux-leather jacket from Zara three years ago. The faux leather layer started discoloring making it look like shit after a year and completely peeling off after a year. Worst shit ever. I learned that I have very little need for fancy clothes, and I don't care about styles. But I learned to buy leather jackets after that. A good (not nice) leather jacket is very much worth the money I paid for. Same for shoes, shoes that are built to last are very valuable to me.
I'm hoping the Electrolux I spent $3000 on 5 years ago lasts another 45. That would be great. So far so good though. No rust, no leaks, and the only problem we had to call a service person for turned out to be the fault of our electrician, not the appliance.
Both my washer and dryer failed within 2 months of each other after 6 years.
The dryers main board failed and price to repair was nearly £350 just for the part.
The washers pump and some kind of water sensor failed simultaneously, leading to a constantly filling drum that wouldn't be emptied. Que the film style comedy of water vomiting forth from the soap dispenser tray all over the kitchen.
The warranty is only 2 years standard (thanks for that at least EU) but anything more is paid. No 10 year guarantee anymore!
And mine wasn't the only newer Miele I've seen with expensive early failures as other friends have been caught too.
General consensus of the repair technicians I spoke with was all to get the cheapest non-condensing dryer (white-knight was mentioned as reliable but super cheap to repair if needed) you can and an LG washing machine for the sealed direct drive motor which comes with a 10 year [EDIT - seems they've dropped it to 5 years only now] guarantee.
Bosch dishwasher I'll concede is still going strong after 7 years. And It's really been abused (no filter cleaning for first 5 years!) so I take you point on that.
Reading about this stuff also makes me sad that the rest of the world have such weak consumer protections. In Norway, sellers are obligated to provide 5 years of warranty by law, and the consumer has certain rights such as the right to get a replacement if the product cannot be fully repaired after a certain number of attempts at resolving a problem.
I'm not saying that's the sole cause, but it surely doesn't help when filters aren't cleaned, things aren't replaced at their regular intervals, and other standard maintenance isn't done.
I'm comfortable with buying a used car given the maintenance paperwork and/or maintenance-related receipts are provided. But that's about it.
I'll probably never buy any used household appliance related to hygiene or food consumption -- washing machines, dishwashers, or even a microwave.
Also, do you guys even dishwasher? You clean them by using a wash pack like this. You don't need to physically remove the filter save for a blockage as you just wash it in place.
So yeah, I exaggerated, what a dastardly scallywag!
Now I don't care if they fail in 2 or 3 years because they're the same cost as the repair of an expensive model. And like you say, all appliances fail at some point, so I'll keep fueling this horrible new world we've built for ourselves and let the manufacturers fight it out over price.
It's literally the law in the UK that such goods have a method of being 'taken back' so they don't end up in landfill.
I can't actually put any such goods in landfill if I tried, save for fly tipping. Even then the item would end up through the recycling chain.
I should add that getting rid of big items can be especially difficult, but most appliance delivery includes taking away the old one to .. wherever they go.
And because recycling it is one of the most pointless things you can do. It's sand, we have unlimited quantities of it, the planet is made of it.
I thought the glass process was basically melting sand and adding some trace additives, rather than forcing any chemical reactions uphill. Recycled glass also needs melted (if it doesn't, that's called a reusable bottle, not recycling).
>no filter cleaning for first 5 years!
That's pretty disgusting for something you use to eat.
White Knight dryers are surprisingly good, yeah. The LG washers work fine for 3-5 years, their weakest point is the suspension (really hard to replace) and the drum bearings/spider (irreplaceable), especially if you overload them.
Don't know how reliable they are.
My parents installed Miele appliances in a kitchen remodel about 6 years back. The fancy expensive oven must've broken down 5 times in the first year. I think it eventually settled down though.
Maybe it's different depending on EU country but it should be 2 year manufacturer warranty followed by 4 years covered by the retailer.
See -- no conspiracy theories required, just general greed and irresponsibility. :)
It's not that people 'want' to buy cheap stuff.
That's the mistake PC laptop makers made for 20 years, collective racing to the bottom until they figured out ways to produce $300 laptop. But they eventually learned that a large consumer base had no problem paying $1200 for a MacBook. It turns out, people were willing to pay substantially more for a better product. Now, PC makers are dishing out laptops that are comparable to Apple's.
In my view, main problem is this; when you make washing machine ranging from $500-$2000, inevitably they will share significant number of parts. And the weakest link will most likely be the shared parts engineered to cost, so that they can be profitable in the $500 model.
So why use not bespoke, higher quality parts for the $2000 one? Because it will end up costing more like $4,000-$5,000.
Overall reliability of appliance would shoot up, if a company stopped making their cheapest model so dirt cheap.
I'm pretty sure they do. In that price range you're looking at entry level commercial / heavy duty cycle equipment.
> Overall reliability of appliance would shoot up, if a company stopped making their cheapest model so dirt cheap.
They have to be dirt cheap to compete with decades of used appliances available.
Anecdata: Most people I know outside of my circles of engineers, gamers and well-off college students who disproportionately own Thinkpads, Asus gaming laptops and Macs respectively, still own throwaway PC laptops.
This is not just a VW thing. For the longest time Honda did the same thing: European Accord were sold in the US as Acuras while the US got it's own special Accord.
This is probably due more to the high vehicle taxes and lower volumes of Europe than it is an inherent "cheapness" with Americans.
My experience, as well as facts, don't support that. Cars are lasting longer than ever. The average age of a car on the road is highest it's ever been.... http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/07/29/new-car-sales...
I remember when I was a kid, as a rule of thumb, people would say to expect a car last for 100,000 miles. Now I'd expect closer to double that.
I'm actually pretty amazed at the quality of modern cars.
Despite that, a few minutes with a soldering iron and a trip to home depot, it's fine now (and has a proper fuse holder to boot). I think people are going to have to learn to get more comfortable hacking their appliances moving forward.
There are short-term blips in this data when new vehicle sales surge (or vice-versa), but the average age of vehicles hit a record high of almost 12 years last year, and the long-term trend is clear: our vehicles last much longer than they do in the past. There has also been a population surge in vehicles over 15 years of age, which has been a significant positive secular trend for numerous parts manufacturers and repair shops in the industry, and the increased complexity of the vehicle fleet (more parts that repair shops need quick access to), which has pushed numerous players in the automotive supply chain to invest more in their distribution infrastructure. Cars have become more complex, but the parts in the vehicles also fail much less frequently than they did in the past (though many now integrate more parts and cost more than they have in the past).
I did a bunch of research on the automotive sector for my last job, and it's striking how laymen's views are completely contrary to what is going on in the industry. I don't know much about the other appliance markets, but I wonder if there is a similar misperception issue in the other markets.
As for the short life-cycles in new technology like smartphones, is that really so terrible? My current smartphone is much better than the last one I bought in 2014, and miles better than the first smartphones that were in released in 2009-10. The short life-cycle reflects how quickly the products improved and evolved. That said, the improvement rate has slowed down, so hopefully, people will hold onto their smartphones longer instead of updating just for fashion reasons.
> Interestingly, the high-end machines from Bosch/Siemens made in Germany are higher quality than the ones made in Poland, China, Spain or Turkey.
What's the price difference for a made in Germany Bosch/Siemens v.s. a wherever-it-comes-from Whirlpool? Does it justify shelling out the extra $$$ for it v.s. the expected life to replace the latter when it dies? (presumably sooner than the German one)
But that's partly because they only make the top end models in Germany, with mid-range models being made in Spain or Poland, and cheaper models in China.
They should last longer, be quieter and have all the extra features, but I'm not sure if it's worth double the price.
I always use last generation high end stuff (refurb or used), and fix it myself.
My Infinity Kappa 6.1 speakers are the same age; just had to refurbish/replace the cone surrounds a few years ago. If anything they sound better than when I bought them. :-)
So considering this: You're right, there's probably more money in the strategy of planned obsolescence.
In audio, it's possible to find products designed to last. My current amplifier is from Bryston, bought about 16 years ago. Their warranty for their analog products is 20 years. (http://bryston.com/pages/faq.html)
Because "Made in Germany" is a badge of honor and the German giants take care to not damage both their own brands as well as the "Made in Germany".
One of the early class sessions was a lecture from a guy at a power tool company, making some kind of jigsaw or handheld cutting tool.
He explicitly told us, paraphrasing, "You don't want to make your product too reliable, because people won't buy more of them, and you won't make as much money". I was horrified, literally looked around at my classmates to see how horrified they would be, none of them were. I ended up majoring in philosophy.
Of course this site is dedicated to the idea he expressed, so I am not looking for agreement here, just relaying what I consider an interesting historical fact.
My professor was himself horrified by that (but he was a teacher because he believed in not working for corporations so that was not very surprising)
I do know one company that has a reputation for not doing this. Miele in Europe but then their appliances are double to triple the price of typical companies.
EDIT: corrected Mean Time Between Failure instead of Mean Time Before Failure. Thanks slim
But today, when everything is made in Asia by people who earn orders of magnitude less than the people buying the products, that TV or washing machine is ~10% of a months salary, and you end up with "fixing it is more expensive than buying a new", because the labor costs of fixing stuff (locally) is orders of magnitudes larger than labor costs for manufacture (in Asia).
Corollary: if global salaries become more equal in the future, we will get quality long-lasting stuff again.
Apple could easily increase the wages of all their Chinese staff to $10/hour and they would still be making 30-40% margins on every phone.
I suspect the real drivers environmental, China is willing to pour megatons of waste into their wilderness in a way that we would never consider here in the US.
If the industry margin is e.g. 10%, then you might assume more beneficial practices that cost up to 10% if the company is privately held. Not more, and not anything significant if you're public - since if you do so, then it would be trivial for anyone with big resources (e.g. an investment bank or hedge fund) to buy your stock to gain a significant voting percentage, replace management with literally anyone else, and sell stock that immediately becomes so much more valuable.
> the lowest wages will just move elsewhere.
Remember - a bad job has low wages. I high wage job can also be bad - to the economy.
In my case, obsolescence is a problem to be addressed to attempt to support a long product lifecycle. In most companies, planned obsolescence is a tool to advance tech, decrease support and manufacturing costs over the long run, and increase profit.
This makes sense to me. If you want to engineer and support a long-lasting product, you have to own more of the supply chain, make more of your own component parts, or limit yourself to components that are "standard parts" and likely to remain available.
Historically, the company I work for has been a market leader in the niche they serve, and as such, their products were initially incredibly complex as they were first to market and invented a lot of the technology. Over time, those products have been simplified and cut down, with only the most important features kept (and a few "whiz-bang" features).
Interesting issue with this, though - while I completely agree with your suggestion, some of the pushback for taking that direction involves the perception that the inherent complexity of the products is a strategy in and of itself. If the product is simplified and streamlined then it is easier to copy and harder to protect, according to some who think that way.
Personally, the competition is going to be there if it really is that much simpler to make the same product with less components/features and easier to maintain. Patents, etc. protect a business' position to an extent but, ultimately, competition still often points the way to more efficiency that benefits everyone.
I think much like companies use "planned obsolescence" to try to control their market position, they also use "intentional complexity" to try to do so as well. Both strategies have their pros and cons.
I think really strong companies maintain market dominance with simply constructed, simply understood offerings, done well, at a fair market price, with the related mind-share branding that goes with it. But that definitely sounds a lot easier than it is in reality.
I think Miele serves as an excellent example for why the market has moved away from designing products with a 30+ year expected service life. If the average modern appliance lasts for 5-10 years as this article claims (and has proven true time and time again in my experience) but the reliable brand costs 2-3x more, you would have to be absolutely certain that the "reliable" product will actually last at least 20-30 years if you are to ever make up for the initial cost premium.
The problem is that even the most well built appliances will have random part failures and the chance of a failure happening (25-50% IME) over a span of 30 years is high enough that it has to be treated as an inevitability. Even if the parts are available that far in the future, the cost of having a technician diagnose the failure ensures the repair will cost at least $150 in labor alone and the average cost for any appliance repair with parts included is somewhere between $300 and $400 in my experience.
My point is that the "cheap and unreliable" appliance is almost always a financially sound choice even though it leads to a graveyard of dead appliances over time. The real problem is that graveyard of broken appliances we leave behind by making the financially sound decision to buy an appliance we know will only last ~10 years at best.
More renters = even less incentive for reliable products, as the cheapest install that works is sufficient to rent.
I really don't see how home ownership is a factor here at all. This is just a symptom of modern society where people don't expect things to last and don't penalize mfgrs who sell them short-lived junk, and instead look for generally the cheapest stuff.
Have you rented recently? I can tell you from my own experience (US/Ca and Ut) as well as family/friends who don't own - that often landlords (or property management companies hired to manage the rental) much prefer "new,shiny,cheap".
My 2002 Volvo V70, which I bought second hand a couple of years ago, is so reliable that I consider buying a Volvo again.
Would you consider buying a NEW Volvo? If not, your purchase exerts little to no pressure on the only market which Volvo is concerned with, namely the market for new cars.
Yes, a reputation for reliability increases the demand for used Volvos thereby increasing the resale value which positively factors into the decision to purchase a new Volvo. However, the increase in "value" to the buyer of the new Volvo is so marginal that it is overwhelmed by any number of other factors involved in the final judgement of value in the decision to purchase a new car. A Volvo V70 of similar vintage to yours can be had for anywhere between $1,600 and $2,500 depending on condition according to my local Craigslist. If their reliability is so well regarded that a Volvo V70 is hypothetically worth 50% more than an equivalent Subaru wagon, resale premium afforded to the original buyer is just $1,250. That premium is so small that a manufacturer's sale incentive can wipe it out entirely, nevermind the fact that many of Volvo's competitors are less expensive by a far wider margin.
Basically, my point is that long term reliability doesn't really matter to manufacturer's beyond a certain point. As long as the vehicle meets the expectations of the original buyer and remains useful enough to keep the resale value out of the gutter (which doesn't appear to be the case with Volvos, at least in my area), the manufacturer has no incentive to further improve the reliability of their products.
For one, lease prices are partly determined by the expected resale value, and a lot of new car drivers get them by leasing them
Yes - sorry I forgot to add that bit :)
This seems like the most important detail by far.
As the article describes, when replacing a part costs a comparable amount to the price of a brand-new appliance, people buy new appliances. With this mindset, the correct term is no longer "between" failures - when you might replace a part and average the described time until the next failure - but "before" failure - at which point you replace the device and buy a new one.
Not every customer needs a power drill that lasts 5000 hours. Most people are okay with a cheap drill that lasts a cumulative 10 hours because that's the amount of lifetime use they get out of it.
Power tools are an example of how to get it right. If I go to Home Depot and look for a drill, it's obvious from the branding, battery, warranty and physical characteristics which DeWalt drill is the "ok" consumer one, and which is a professional tool. (I use this as an example because I bought one yesterday)
The problem with consumer appliances is that they use dark patterns to sell stuff. There is no meaningful signaling about what is garbage and what is not. No facts are obvious that tells me what the expected lifecycle of a washing machine is... can it handle 350 loads a year? 100? 50? 1000? No fucking clue. Counter-intuitively, many of the premium priced units are worse than their cheaper counterparts!
I think your power tool analogy is a good one. Same with most consumer goods, people know that when they are buying a plastic version of something that it likely won't last, so they wrestle through the tradeoffs.
Also, thanks for the Krylon tip. I bought a house that came with a Hamilton clothes dryer from 1970. Works fine, no plastic parts, though it is starting to rust. (My main worry is that the heating element will eventually rust away and they don't make replacements.)
That said, my BMW is at 147k miles without a clutch replacement, and it's lived a pretty hard life (track events, etc). In fact, in 20 years of driving, I've never replaced a clutch in a car I owned, and I've never owned a car with less than 50k miles (well, okay, I just bought a brand new car last year, so of course its clutch is still going strong).
A new, mass-market quality (e.g. Honda) car made in the last decade will easily go several 100K miles if given basic care, and will probably not have any major problems or be showing much if any rust in that time.
So your extra 10 kg would cost me about $20 more. At retail that would be another $100 or so. In other words, making it 10kg heavier would sharply increase the price; it would also be for things that aren't easily visible to the consumer. Your competition would destroy you.
Source: I own a factory.
Of course if that 10kg of steel was on the drum, the stationary mass would need to be increased as well. But I doubt washing machine drums are really a high failure part, so a hypothetical "10kg of steel" is a useless in the context of a washing machine.
It's hard to make a comprehensive argument about entire machines when the problem is designers having a principle agent problem for every single part.
It's been a while, but I remember when the transition from pull tabs to "pop tabs" occurred; at first (IIRC), the "pop tabs" were solid, but it wasn't long until they became hollow as well.
Of course, that led to some problems which still exist today (though not nearly as often). The biggest one being the balance between the strength of the tab, vs the opening part (whatever it is called - closure?). In the past (and occasionally today for the odd soda), you could pull up on the tab - and it would bend or break off, without opening the soda! Simple enough to fix (do not press down on the opening with your thumb!) with a butter knife or some other similar tool, but annoying at the same time.
But, of course, failures are statistical. Worsening the quality of the most over-engineered part is usually beneficial, since in most cases you're paying for nothing, but occasionally that'll still be the part that gives out. So you come out ahead by making a more cost-effective product even while failure rates rise.
Of course, that's where the article's point about insufficient competition comes in... Standardizing quality throughout the device is sensible, but if those savings aren't passed to the consumer then they're losing money.
You can explain this as "planned obsolescence" or poor engineering (or a poor understanding of the market's needs), but not both, really. I think what you say about consumers often wanting a "disposable" version of a product is true for a lot of products but by no means every product. This is all also tied in with the cycle of trendy new electronic gadgets, which seems to drive consumers' desire to replace perfectly good products they already own.
The outcome is planned obsolescence as highlighted in this article. As the article also points out, not only does this damage us economically, it also damages use environmentally. It should be the place of Government to ensure that these externalities are re-addressed (e.g. by taxing companies on every item of theirs which goes into landfill), and for us the citizens to lobby them to do so.
It isn't. So, there's something very flawed on my reasoning above. Do people want stuff that breaks, is the problem a market for lemons? Or what else?
If enough consumers do this the market for junk should fail.
In some markets it has and in others it hasn't, apparently in appliances junk prevails.
I think over the long run we've seen evidence for the opposite due to consolidation. Markets aren't perfect; so I am highly skeptical of such a claim.
it almost seems like the more the market matters to society, the less choice consumers actually have.
I am more interested in trends over time than point-evaluations of dynamics at a specific moments.
Back in the 80s and 90s Ford and Chevy were making real junk that wouldn't last long, and people that wanted better and started buying Toyota, Honda and Hyundai.
If my Elantra is anything like my aunt's it will last until I wreck it. Hers was wrecked when another driver ran a red light and stopped her 210,000 mile streak. I hear the American companies are doing better, and things like Ford Fiestas are expected to last, I think we need more time to see.
I used "if" and not all markets follow the same path of that if statement. That just means consumers didn't get fed up enough in the markets going one way in that if.
No, people want the thing that is the cheapest to buy, not the thing with the lowest total lifetime cost.
I don't think that's really true. There's something like 4 million people born in the US each year, plus immigrants. If your product is so good that it gets 100% market penetration, that's still a lot of sales. Plus, you can still make money selling spare parts and support.
I think the real "drawbacks" to a company of not pursuing planned obsolescence are actually:
1. You can't slack and rely on milking your existing customer base for new sales (without making compelling improvements).
2. You're less likely to get the "world-spanning megacorporation" achievement, because you won't be running waste factories to fuel the obsolescence. Once you hit total market penetration, your operations and company will need to scale back to a smaller, sustainable (but still profitable!) size.
Both those "drawbacks" are probably better for the world and humanity in general, but they conflict with the self-interest of a few minority groups.
taxing companies on every item of theirs which goes into landfill
Second that idea. From my perspective, if recycling was perfect the only limitation on single use items would be how convenient it is to dispose and obtain another one. Also, I hate searching for new clothes that fit when the current options go out of fashion.
That won't eliminate the externality. All appliances will now cost $X more. In the meantime, the government will have collected $X*N more revenue, but it won't have gone toward recycling the decommissioned appliances; instead, they'll have gifted it to their favorite special interests. Net outcome is a happy special interest, a re-elected politician, but a sad consumer and a sad mother earth. I don't see it being worth it.
But I feel confident in predicting that it won't address the other side of the coin, that revenue would be used to actually keep the old appliances out of landfills, and to recycle their components. I'm hard pressed to think of examples of putatively earmarked taxes where the entirety of the revenue still goes to what it was originally promised for.
If that's not your argument, then what is unique about landfill taxes that make them more likely to be "gifted to special interests"?
I didn't say anything that even implied that. Clearly there are public goods that are best handled by a government.
My reply was directed specifically at a comment that proposed a tax to address environment problems caused by planned obsolescence. I was showing that the proposal doesn't actually do anything to eliminate the environmental externality.
If you can show me a more complete proposal that (a) really does address the environmental impact as part of the program; and also (b) addresses Public Choice economics (meaning that it accounts for regulatory capture, capriciously re-purposing the funds by politicians, etc.), then we can talk about it.
Whoa! Where on earth did you get that idea? This site is dedicated to being interesting. Making things last is interesting.
The software that runs HN has lasted a decade so far and we would love it to achieve 1950s refrigerator longevity.
The growth curve of the venture-backed companies native to this community seems to be "get as big as you can as fast as you can." That's not necessarily in contradiction to building something that lasts, but it does seem like long-term considerations are often cast aside in favor of the funding round.
Similarly, the idea of pivoting your business is not necessarily contrary to the idea of building things to last. Obviously it does no good for anyone to build things no one wants, regardless of how long it lasts. Still, it does make it hard to plan for ten years from now knowing we may abandon the current direction in six months. Or that the team building the product may have entirely turned over within those ten years.
Enough of the companies and products we love and discuss here get acquired and shut down that it is a semi-regular topic in our community. That's not building to last.
Even the big players in our community are not really committed to products long-term. Change is the name of the game. Disruption does not lend itself to long-term stability. We don't actually value the company creating reliable, predictable products. We value the company disrupting that company with untested, immature products.
The attitude of our whole industry is tied to the ephemeral. We don't stay with employers long enough to see things through over ten year periods. And generally we all praise the more flexible job arrangements. I know I personally have benefited from it, but I know it was always left a hole in team I was leaving.
So I can understand why he would get that idea.
Let's imagine a market where 1,000 people need a widget, with 10 new people per year. You design and develop a 100% reliable widget and quickly sell 1,000 of them (recouping your development costs). You need to sell 10 per year to stay in business. Other companies see your success and rush to market with a less reliable but cheaper widget. No one buys from you since it takes years for reliability issues to surface in your competitors product. You probably don't have enough cash reserves to wait it out. Ergo, you go out of business.
Premium products can command premium prices. They just don't move the same volume.
The issue is a premium that people can't notice for many years. Apple's phones are not premium in a reliability sense, so are not a good example.
Selling reliability can be a serious problem when nobody will know what's reliable for sure without waiting several years. There's some tricks, like offering a warranty and heavily marketing the reliability, but the consumer still has to reason about the chances the vendor will still exist and be solvent, whether the warranty will be annoying to cash, how honest the vendor will be about allowing claims, etc. Until a company has been around long enough to have a reputation, it can't really get out of that
> Of course this site is dedicated to the idea he expressed, so I am not looking for agreement here
This feels like a comment that needs some explanation or proof (your comment, not lecturer's).
I think there's some unfair nostalgia about appliances being built to last years ago. A quick search revealed a 2 speed/3 cycle 1962 washer sold for $185 which is over $1400 today. You can buy that washer for $300 today. Plus it has safety features to prevent ripping your kid's arm off. :)
In my opinion, what this individual told you should belong to a business lecture, not engineering. If your systems fail in engineering, you aren't doing your job right.
> Motors last about 1/3 to 1/4 as long as they used to.
That's questionable, but lowered motor life is probably in the cards due to efficiency gains. Modern motors are far more efficient than old ones and the more efficient designs are simply more delicate for a variety of reasons not the least of it is lighter materials and running closer to their optimal maximum which means more wear and running hotter in general. Also the reduction of hazardous materials and other regulations means we can't just use environmentally dangerous materials like lead willy-nilly anymore. I recently read that due to laziness and consumer ignorance, your average ceiling fan was something like 30% efficient up until fairly recently. So you were burning a good 75-100 watts on what should have been 15-30watt usage. These manufacturers just used these old designs for decades, thus increasing our electric bills and adding to pollution. Consumers pick up the fan and feel its "heavy" due to this old motor and think its "quality." Its really just a waste of electricity.
>Not enough competition.
I just bought all new appliances for my house a few years back. If anything, I was bowled over by all the players in this space and had to do a lot of legwork in regards to reviews. I really don't think lack of competition is an issue.
>Refrigerator door seals are glued on now instead of screwed on
This is a generalization. For my current and previous fridge they were screwed on. Even then, strong glues could hold these for their expected two decade lifetime if done correctly. Again, the author can't, or won't, give us specifics here. Certainly cheap and poorly engineered brands exist. Name and shame. Don't generalize.
>They can often be found for $300 at big box retailers, but they usually break within 2-3 years.
10+ years on my last dishwasher before I moved and 4 in on my current one. No issues and my current one is a fairly low-end Samsung. I do ok financially, but I'm cheap. My samsung is a cheap knock-off of the 'real' Bosch at the store. It even mimmicks its styling. So yeah, I'm not buying rich guy stuff here. Also, we're parents so we run that thing almost everyday.
>There is too much confusion over who is making quality appliances.
10-20 minutes reading reviews isn't asking a lot. I spend more time reading reviews of office chairs or video games, let alone $500+ appliances I depend on for my daily living.
>Newer appliances start rusting within even a year or two whereas I’ve seen washers and dryers and other appliances from 40 years ago that are still rust free.
I can't remember the last time I saw rust on a modern appliance. Maybe this is limited to one vendor using cheap paint. I wish the author tried to be specific. Rust on the stuff I grew up with was everywhere. I remember trying hard not to cut my hand while doing the laundry. I remember my dad buying rustoliem all the time because everything rusted back then. We didn't have clear-coats as an industry norm and stainless steel, a mid-range finishing today, was rich guy and restaurant only stuff back then. We had nice thick but brittle paint, but if you chip that, and don't catch it on time, then you got rust.
> If an old refrigerator or freezer would last 40-50 years before being replaced
These were serious edge cases and as an old-timer I remember having a repair tech come out periodically and my parents paying fairly significant bills to fix this stuff. Sure they "lasted" only because we were constantly replacing their innards.
>Elon Musk would have already started working on building a better appliance that runs off a battery bank and solar.
If you think today's stuff is overly engineered and delicate, wait until you start dealing with the pita that li-ion batteries are and how short their effective lifetimes are with daily use. Let alone running solar and how much that'll cost to install within code on your roof and how much that'll increase the cost the next time you re-do your roof. I have cheap-ish electricity and natural gas available in my basement. I'm good, thanks.
Seriously, this guy isnt a researcher or engineer, he's some guy who sells junk on craiglist. This post is one step above 'forwards from grandma' territory. This is classic fallacy of idealizing the past here. I imagine as a craigslist junk seller he doesn't see the old appliances our parents all threw away, he's just seeing a biased sample of all the stuff that were well maintained or had low usage, like buying a 30 year old car with 20,000 miles and bemoaning how 'cheap and crappy' modern cars are.
That said, the modern world isn't all roses. Because there are so many more manufacturers and so many budget brands, its easy to cheap out and get a lemon. Or there are so many lines, its sometimes unfair when you get a lemon model from a decent manufacturer. When I was a kid these things cost, fixed for inflation, a whole hell of a lot of money. And even in the late 70s and early 80s, in a normal non-ghetto but not rich Chicago neighborhood, I still watched old ladies scrub their laundry on washboards and hang them on laundry lines because of cost prohibitive issues. You either could afford for the reliable $1,000 GE washer or you couldn't. Lets not romanticize a time where everything was super expensive and which left a lot of people out in the cold.
Some people are going to buy the budget Amana that is crappier than the GE they grew up with, but it regularly goes on sale/clearance for $250 or so at Walmart. Sure beats the $700+ GE if you're poor and very much beats paying the laundromat. The take away here isn't modern things are terrible, its don't buy budget brands if you want quality.
The post specifically addresses this: most of the brands you see have actually been consolidated into a small number of manufacturers. Brands under the same parent corporation may only appear to compete, while really being a means to achieve market segmentation and illusion of choice.
I also noticed he didn't mention any giant German brands like Bosch or Miele. Nor any Japanese brands. Or less popular brands like Amana or Admiral or Hotpoint. Again, this space is full of competition. Compare that to tech where we have natural monopolies all the time or a duopoly, at best, with lots of little third-level competitors that barely get sales.
Car guys fall for this fallacy too. Latte-sipping Fiat engineers with only small car diesel experience who are appalled by off-roading aren't designing the new Wrangler. The Wrangler is its own design and designed by the same engineering team that worked on it before the buyout. The 2018 Wrangler won't be a Fiat mini with slightly larger wheels. It'll still be Wrangler and reading reviews on it will be all that matters. Of course, this can change, but the idea that a single large owner depresses the market and hurts quality is questionable. They do, of course, have a big advantage with pricing and other market advantages.
This is exactly what they're doing. Your example, GE, actually sold off it's appliance division to Haier. They had also been relabeling LG appliances for years prior to the sale of the entire division. The article for this thread also made note of the fact that "Kenmore" is nothing but an umbrella label under which includes products from almost every manufacturer. The only difference between my Kenmore refrigerator and the LG equivalent is the label on the door and the far lower number of reviews on the Kenmore due to its limited distribution. Unfortunately, the LG was widely known to be junk but since the Kenmore was exclusive to Sears, there was no information available to make this connection until I had it disassembled in my home and I began to look up part numbers to fix it.
Source 1: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/16/business/dealbook/haier-g...
Source 2: http://www.appliance411.com/purchase/make.shtml
Nope. This argument works for portable power tools (lighter designs are more delicate), but not for stationary motors. The efficiency gains for stationary motors have primarily come from better drive circuitry.
> running closer to their optimal maximum which means ... running hotter in general
This is utterly wrong. The maximum power is defined by the amount of copper (and thermal resistance to ambient), which is constrained by cost/weight. Warmer windings actually mean higher ohmic losses, so the manufacturer's savings actually mean higher electricity consumption.
> I recently read that ... your average ceiling fan was something like 30% efficient up until fairly recently
Citation needed, especially with your implication that this was due to the motor itself (as opposed to say shape of blades and electrical power factor)
Averages currently are 75 watts and up to 100 for typical sizes.
You can google up articles from the early 2000s were it was conventional wisdom that the fan ran 100 watts.
I did read a bit about motor design but I can't find it now, but clearly the differences in wattage are real. I believe the newer ones are brushless DC vs the single phase induction of old. I imagine newer fan design helps too.
This Kensgrove is a whopping 72" but with a DC brushless motor. 31 watts on the highest setting.
Cheaper 56" at 35 watts:
This ultra efficient 56" phase induction motor design still uses nearly twice the power of the DC motor!
> newer ones are brushless DC vs the single phase induction of old. I imagine newer fan design helps too.
Yes, this is the advance in drive circuitry that I referred to - same with the "DC motor" fans. It's still a fact that at the current consumer design point, adding more copper to the windings will increase weight, efficiency, and longevity.
Did you really not major in engineering over that exchange with your class?
It's a failure of feedback that makes this happen.
If people can't get reliable information about quality, quality will not determine what they buy. Price will, and price is readily available. To get price down, you need costs down. To do that, you replace the parts with crappy parts.
If feedback worked, people would know they were paying less for a less good appliance that will have more downtime, and they would act accordingly.
Part of it is statistical noise: you only get to use so many washing machines in your life, and you may or may not have big problems with them. Your only direct evidence on quality then depends on this roll of the dice.
Part of it is lack of competition: only 4 competitors. You only need to be in the ballpark of "OK" to sell. You're not scratching around for every customer, there's definitely going to be some. So why spend a lot of money making your machine more reliable?
Part of it is cost of information: how much time are you going to spend finding this information? You'll need to learn a bunch of technical terms. And how do you find trustworthy reviews? Most likely reviews are another source of noise, for the same reason as mentioned. So information is expensive to get and anyway if you're right about the manufacturers being the same it's also worthless!
They could do appliances (stuff like SpeedQueen washers), hand and garden tools, kitchen stuff like pots and pans and knives... just anything that's solid and lasts and doesn't require ridiculous maintenance to make it so.
Sometimes now I'd be willing pay more but either I can't even find the stuff that isn't cheap junk, or I just can't tell what's going to break and what isn't.
I think having high quality appliances is partially why Sears tanked... First they didn't sell as many (due to having to compete on price with lower quality / cheaper products), then when they found a way to compete (having Samsung make Kenmore appliances, for example), they lost the quality and the last reason anyone would opt to go there over Costco or Amazon or Home Depot.
I bought a matching Washer / Dryer set from Costco. Then the next year I bought a Fridge and Dishwasher from LG there too. For the first three years or so it was fine, but about 5 years in I think they all have issues. My house is about 20 years old, and the Dishwasher I replaced was the original... so it lasted 15 years. I can say that the new (and fairly top of the line) Dishwasher has more issues at 5 than the old builder-grade one had at 15. I really regret not getting a Bosch...
But even up into the 80s and 90s Sears / Maytag were known for selling top quality goods that didn't break. Here's a cute commercial.
* 1988 Maytag Repairman Commercial - YouTube || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZHsxPEAUOI
Sears is a lost cause. The only thing keeping them afloat is the value tied up in their real estate holdings.
I hadn't even thought about this.
Funny... my parents have a very low energy bill compared to mine... even using these "old" appliances. I think it has more to do with the fact that they have a smaller house, and still prefer to wash dishes by hand, and don't leave any computers on or have an air conditioning system. Makes me wonder how much "efficiency" at the appliance-level matters. No doubt the EPA isn't a bad investment, but I don't think they are regulating the things that really matter. Homes built in the 1950s were tiny... like 1,200 - 1,500 sqft. Average house today is 2,700 sqft. And there are a lot more bells and whistles going into it.
It's a bit ironic though, because there is a lot more stuff that can and will go wrong in a £600 heat-pump condenser dryer vs a £150 vented dryer. If they are both equally designed to be 'disposable' which is really better for the environment?
Eventually the dryer stopped working and I started looking for replacements. I stopped at a local used appliance place and described the problem, the guy who worked there suggested that since it was one of the old sturdy types, it might be a simple repair. I had him come out and he took a looks. It was a bad fuse. $40 later, I was back in business.
I dread the day when I can no longer have them repaired and have to replace them with disposable appliances.
I know I can lease washers, but the price makes is such that I might as well buy and replace every so often. 2 years amount to buying the machine, and most machines last longer than that. But pay to lease a commercial grade washer would be great.
Mattresses are similar, but fortunately, there is https://www.themattressunderground.com/ , which is a high quality site. I bought a Tuft and Needle mattress based on my learning there and it has been spectacular.
Similar needs to happen for appliances.
Do you know about Consumer Reports?
It's a non-profit organization which puts out a magazine (and website) which does unbiased product testing, has zero advertising, pays for all the products they test, never takes sample products, buys all their products anonymously (so they can't be given better samples for testing purposes), and has extensive laboratories, procedures, scientist/technicians for testing (a private track for testing cars, for example).
I never heard of anyone saying that Consumer Reports was fraudulent or paid-reviewed. Appliances are things that they definitely review all the time.
The downsides of Consumer Reports are as follows:
- it's U.S. based, so it's focused on products available in the U.S.
- for appliances, say a washing machine, they are going to pick only 10-20 models to review, even though there may be hundreds of models on the market
- there are a million things they'll never review because they are not an ordinary, common, consumer purchases; you'll never see reviews of oscilloscopes :-)
Another downside, as the article pointed out, is the intentional smokescreen of multiple product names and slightly differing versions that make comparison shopping and meaningful reviews virtually impossible, and why I don't get as much value from my Consumer Reports subscription as I used to.
This is particularly prevalent in the mattress industry.
You stated the entire cause->effect very succinctly yourself: "If a brand gets a good reputation, some big conglomerate buys it and starts using it to make trash, and it takes time for consumers to learn it through the grapevine"
It is an extremely straightforward way for a company to make quick money.
BS. It's my #1 criteria when buying something.
Businesses are also generally more conservative in future projections and less price sensitive than consumers.
I personally started doing this a few years ago. I even have a throwaway LLC that sounds nebulously like a contractor so I can sign up for "industry only" marketplaces. Since I can usually get wholesale prices doing this, I pay only maybe 30% more than for crap consumer level throwaway stuff.
The major downside is the time it takes, but the upside is that none of my stuff ever breaks.
Which means that if you need some replacement part in the future it's going to cost even more.
I don't even mind that modern appliances break so often; it's the fiddly plastic bits and lack of parts that are the problem. Give us something made of metal with some screws and the damn thing can probably be fixed.
(re: the article topic, this is another thing that's kept me away from automobiles for the past twenty years)
For people who move every few years, whose requirements change (from solo to 4-person family), and so on, the current situation is pretty ideal.
Spend less money, change models more frequently to fit your changing needs, and often it's even cheaper to buy a new one than to get it fixed -- which for consumers is amazing! (Because repair costs certainly aren't getting cheaper.)
Of course, the negative externalities on the environment are pretty clear and potentially horrific. As well as what it means for cultural values where more and more things are disposable.
But that's the answer, that's why they don't last 50 years -- because consumers actually prefer something that lasts only a few years at 25% of the price.
But instead, when a consumer good becomes less expensive, our federal reserve overlords increase inflation to make sure most everybody is still being "encouraged" to work full time. This is their explicit policy! So we end up with the downsides of cost optimization (cheapness), but not the benefit (actually saving money).
Indeed, if products were getting cheaper in absolute terms (via deflation) not just in relative terms (inflation-adjusted, as is the situation now) this would not lead to people buying high quality products which last because the expectation would be that they would be cheaper to replace in future.
I would happily use a washing machine, dishwasher or fridge that is 50 years old. The only tech advances related to those gadgets that would concern me are CFCs in the refrigerant.
The prices of appliances has dropped dramatically in the last few decades.
Building a long-lasting appliance often requires even marginally more expensive materials - many of which are highlighted in this article.
If consumers are primarily price sensitive at the time of purchase, they may choose the $50 cheaper appliance even if it lasts 40 years less. What I mean to suggest is that price sensitivity at time of purchase often trumps long term gains - which is why you often see things like payday loans being used. When a person is paycheck-to-paycheck they probably aren't thinking about their financial position in 50 years, simply out of necessity.
Another reason might be that the Nokia 3310's of the world have been basically prototypical products - they are overdesigned. When the user has a perception that a phone is fragile, what's the threshold? We might not need a phone that can be run over by a truck to think a phone is tough. If the split of material cost -> price point and consumer perception is optimal at a certain point - companies will try and design to that point.
Additionally, at least in Australia, my perception has been that most renters are required to bring or purchase their own washing machines and refrigerators.
Do all rental properties come with appliances in the US? Here in NZ that's the exception rather than the rule.
In Europe it varies by country. From the same, to having only a bare sink with a tube for the gaz.
Sure there's planned obsolescence but there's also the cost factor as well.
But outside these niches, it is a race to the bottom.
when i bought my speed queen washer and dryer, the person selling it said they only had mechanical, which some consider an advantage. I tend to agree.
A mechanical timer is likely to be a commodity part used by many different manufacturers in a variety of products.
An electronic timer is more likely to be a custom board designed by the manufacturer of the appliance you are trying to repair, possibly designed specifically for that model. There might be only one source for replacements, and they may be restricted to "authorized" service companies.
The biggest culprit is flash memory. It's in almost everything, and has a much shorter life than the 10 years most manufacturers claim.
as for easy to change, replacing the mother board on my refrigerator would cost 600$ without installation fees. guess who bought a new refrigerator? :(
It used to be everything in a hostile environment (hot/wet/corrosive) was potted (dipped in epoxy) and in an enclosure. Now they have bare boards. Electronically controlled motors and very limited protection circuitry for the ICs. Just not built to last. No commonality in circuit boards so parts are very expensive (possibly by design; they only need parts for warranty repairs, after that they don't care about cost/availability).
as for touch pads, contacts fail all the time.
Isn't there an element of survivorship bias to these statements? What about all the 1950's fridges that didn't last until today?
Right. If fridges made in the 50s routinely lasted 50 years I should have seen lots of 50s style models growing up. I didn't. Anecdotal, so take it FWIW.
He may have good points about declining quality, but I suspect it is demonstrably true that such appliances didn't typically last 50 years. In fact, it is the rarity of seeing such old appliances that make people really pay attention when they see one.
Perhaps also of interest, Consumer Reports regularly reports that modern cars are much MORE reliable than cars of old. (They have lots of data on the issue.) This despite being much more complicated machines than they used to be.
Another anecdote. Watching an 80s TV show with my not-yet-tween daughter, we came upon a part where a character hopped in a car and found it turned over but wouldn't start. My daughter asked me why it wouldn't start. She has to this point in life never seen a car not start! That was a weird thought to me, someone growing up in the 80s. (My daughter has heard of dead batteries possibly being a problem with cars from time to time).
I tend to be a more optimistic person (feel free to call it naive!). While i'm sure there are brands/companies out there plotting to make a dishwasher that breaks 6 months outside the warranty, I have a feeling its much more likely that it's due to other reasons.
As someone else in this thread brought up, quality costs money. People are getting used to paying less up-front for their appliances, and in order to stay competitive these companies need to also drop their prices, which means cutting corners in some areas. If they make it look nicer "at purchase time" (like with fancy exteriors, easier install due to lighter weight, more features, etc...) and skimp on the reliability, they will sell more now and stay competitive (with a possibly intended, but also possibly unintended side effect of causing more to be sold in the long run due to failures).
Elsewhere in this thread, people are comparing prices of 1950's appliances to todays, and I'm noticing that in the 1950's they cost around 4x more than they do today about across the board! That right there could account for a fairly significant amount of the difference in quality.
The observations from the article can be explained by simple attrition. Old fridges that were crap have been thrown away. Old buildings that were crap have been demolished. Old cars that were crap have been scrapped. What you're left with is the tiny percentage of buildings, appliances and cars that were designed and built a little better and cared for a little bette than the rest, making it look like old things are of a higher quality than new things.
Half a century from now, there will be people who, looking at the few surviving buildings, cars and appliances from today, will lament that they don't build things like they used to in the early 21st century.
In any case, I also guarantee that most of the junked appliances people throw out either still work fine, or are repairable. But there are other factors at work. A new kitchen remodel will often include new appliances. Is it wasteful? Sure. But it doesn't have anything to do with the reliability of older appliances.
As for repairs, labor costs have increased far faster than the cost of new appliances, so repairs are not always the better economic decision. Then add in large gains in efficiency of newer appliances, and utility savings _alone_ often make it worthwhile to junk a working appliance in favor or something newer.
I'm not trying to defend reliability of modern appliances, but this article way overstates the reliability and manufacturing quality of older ones, while ignoring a lot of other factors at play.
Electronics are the kind of things that really shouldn't be expiring. They do though, and for most cheap electronics it's on purpose - they install underrated condensors that will start to leak shortly after the mandatory warranty expires.
I have an old LCD monitor which stopped working, but my dad's handy with a soldering iron, replaced the leaking condensors and it's lived for twice as long already with no signs of giving up any time soon. I'd rather want to replace a monitor because there's better and more modern alternatives, than have to because of leaky condensors / planned obsolescence.
No one would ever, for economic reasons, plan (or just allow) for the lifespan of their products to decrease. http://resource.co/article/lifetimes-household-appliances-be... Technology is always getting better!
The old timers who almost universally report this phenomenon just don't know enough arm chair statistics. Delusional, basically.
If a study were done, or a set of studies, say between changes in average appliance lifespan between 1993 and 2007, these could never show a dramatic decrease in the average lifespan of most appliance categories.
1993 NAHB results
2007 NAHB results
I don't think anyone honestly expects that an inexpensive appliance bought today might still be working 35 years from now.
The world isn't big enough for two things to be true at the same time.
No, that's not what I'm saying. "Every single manufacturer" does not need to coordinate for this kind of problem to exist. Otherwise, it the numerous instances of this kind of collusion which have actually been outed, over the years, would not have been possible.
All that's necessary is is insufficient competition in a particular sector. We see this increasingly in the industrialized, Western world, where just a few megacorps handle almost all of the business, much more so than in the past. I would attribute this to largely to less free markets, which reduces competitive forces that would normally prevent this sort of thing. Large corporations are often allowed to buy influence, dictate legislation, that create barriers to entry in the very markets where one sees this kind of dysfunction. Less cynically, one can also look to industries with rising capital costs, e.g. if it takes super expensive R&D to compete in a market you might see just a few large firms.
Once there are just a few firms in a particular sector, it's tempting to form a cartel. But it's not necessary to explicitly collude in order to be less responsive to competitive forces, or even to communicate.
If you read the OP's article you may have noticed that the author points out the diminishing number of firms in the appliance business.
>> The world isn't big enough for two things to be true at the same time.
No a particular market sector isn't big enough for these two things to be true at the same time. One "honest"/driven competitor will largely rout out such bad behavior, which I think is a more proper statement of your core insight here. So the question we should be asking ourselves is, why can't one good competitor enter the marketplace for washing machines in today's climate, e.g. a significant market share selling 30-year washing machines, since that's clearly possible?
I don't doubt it exists in some cases, but if it were as ubiquitous as many say, I'd suspect to find evidence of other conspiracies. Many other industries also lack a centralized organization (one ostensibly for standardization) to facilitate such a conspiracy. Overall I just find the argument very weak, especially in the face of normal market forces and cost-competition being sufficient to explain much of the observed changes.
I do agree that appliances likely represent a real decline in durability over the past couple decades.
Another poster mentioned the DRAM case, this is one of a fairly good number of examples of collusion. When you are talking about a type of behavior that people will generally go to good lengths to keep under wraps, a better conclusion would be that the known cases are a fraction of the actual cases.
If we had something closer to perfect competition there would a lot less of this... but we don't. Many of the cases where antitrust action has been deemed necessary by governments were IMO caused by government interventions in the first place.
>The old timers who almost universally report this phenomenon just don't know enough arm chair statistics. Delusional, basically.
Most all the links that you've referenced do acknowledge the role of perceived obsolescence, ie, replacement of an appliance before its useful life is up. That, along with selection bias and the absence of solid data from the 50s-70s, are important factors that are unaccounted for. Snark won't change that.
A new study commissioned by the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA)
has revealed that the lifespans of electrical and electronic appliances are
becoming shorter, with the amount of appliances replaced within five years due to
defects increasing from 3.5 per cent in 2004 to 8.3 per cent in 2013.
Selection/survivorship bias isn't something you just get to make up... it's also not a smart guess, in this case, because the common anecdotes don't make the mistake of saying "oh, most of these washers are new, therefore old washers must suck." That would be selection bias, but no one is saying that, as far as I can tell. They are saying, the average age of appliances at replacement is decreasing over time. Selection bias would not explain that.
Now the GP, whose train of thought you seem to relate to very closely here, suggested -- without evidence -- that labor costs have gone up, explaining why you both seem to think people simply throw away good appliances now, instead of repairing them.
The problem is that real labor costs have been stagnant for middle class workers (i.e. appliance repair people) during the period for which I actually cited data. So it's very unlikely that would be the explanation. Can you generate another explanation for why people would throw away good appliances now?
Meanwhile, the skill set required to fix an appliance has increased beyond blue collar level (complex automation, sensors, switching power supplies and motor control) while the large diversity of brands and technical solutions requires specialized parts which are rare and thus expensive due to simple economics. A vicious cycle is enforced where repairs become expensive relative to the appliance cost, less people perform them, therefore it does not pay to design for repair because it will make your appliance more expensive, therefore it becomes even harder to repair - so even less people do it.
The reliability has indeed gone down and it has a detrimental effect on the environment. But it's not a conspiracy, it's basic economics in an consumerist environment. There is no evidence for a cartel of planned obsolescence. The appliances are build cheaply enough to last just enough for the average life consumers expect, during which they are usually covered under warranty.
People don't want refrigerators that last a life time, they want refrigerators cheap enough so they can replace them every 5 years. They might say otherwise but vote with their wallets for just that. You might not be in that category, me neither, but we are a but a statistical blimp in the market, not enough to induce manufacturers to change this behavior.
To illustrate the point further, take the car industry. The reliability, performance, affordability and eco-friendliness of cars have all improved dramatically form the 50s, despite similar consolidation and reduction in competition. Why is that ? Because cars are expensive, people expect them to be repairable and function reliably for decades.
Adding up the "time cost" of the first 5 major appliances in the list, I figure the real cost of major appliances has gone down by a factor of 5 between 1959 and 2013. And by a factor of 3 between 1973 and 2013.
Interesting this roughly corresponds to the decrease in lifespan alleged by the linked article. So one could surmise that the quality has been reduced in order to to keep the per capita revenue up.
Whether or not this is a free market "preference" effect is highly debatable, since it amounts to customers getting basically none of the economic returns of better technology. There are also an awful lot of people out there who will tell you they do value reliability and dislike the trend.
Also, I think your view that "it's not a conspiracy" should possibly be tempered by the fact that several such "conspiracies", better known as cartels in market terms, have been revealed in great detail to history. And in all those actual cases, there were people beforehand who said it couldn't be so.
I do tend to notice the common theme with modern appliances, especially counter top, is that people just don't treat the equipment nicely. put it away as clean as the day you bought it!
large appliances, especially refrigerators just are never going to be as efficient as modern ones.
By far the most helpful resource out there for learning about available types and characteristics of each so you can make an informed decision.
EDIT: Unclear on why this is getting downvoted; explanation would be appreciated. I posted this hoping others might find it useful.
I bought a GE refrigerator last year. Just a few weeks after having it, I woke up one morning to the thing not getting cold. GE insisted they come to look at it, while I insisted they replace the refrigerator. Repair guy comes on the first visit 2 weeks later, tries some different parts, tells me, "I'll be back next Friday.", which was 7 days away. He comes back the next Friday and determines the refrigerator is unrepairable. It had heated up and completely warped the inside. The repair guy had to take photos and video for corporate. That means a brand new refrigerator went straight to the dump. It's upsetting. And note how much time it took before this poor guy could get to me. He was booked with appointments.
This was a month long fiasco. I had spent time researching and purchasing the refrigerator before hand, which was even more frustrating. During the month without a refrigerator my only option as I saw it was to bite the bullet and buy another refrigerator. That refrigerator has been great, albeit my standards for a 'great' refrigerator have lowered.
But planned obsolescence isn't a conspiracy, it's a design requirement: there is a requirement to reduce costs, at a greater rate than reduce in production cost due to advancements in manufacturing and logistics. That reduction in cost can not come from thin air, so most balance it by designing products that are not designed to last as long as those that were made 70 years ago.
That reduced cost isn't driven as much by consumers no longer ready to pay the high costs that they used to. You can find a premium fridge for +$5,000, but would you be willing to pay that much for a fridge?
When adjusted for inflation, that isn't much more than a good refrigerator cost in the 1950s. Only today, a $5,000 would get you a top end fridge, while $495 in 1950's Dollars might allow you to buy an average one then. iow, you'd have to spend much more for premium products then. And because there is less market for $5,000 fridges, it only drives the price of those upwards.
Some make the argument that amortized the cost over the lifetime of the appliance, a $5K fridge would cost the same or less per year of service, than a $1,000 one. This discounts the cost to operate the refrigerator (newer ones are more efficient,) and that a dollar spent today is worth more than a dollar saved today. Assuming you can even spend $5,000 today. Most can't.
In 10 years, I'd throw that old fridge, and buy a new one, cheaper and better, more efficient, quieter (those 50's refrigerator are quite noisy), and that won't contain as many hazardous and poisonous materials. The problem this creates is one of disposal and recycling, which is one to solve; but arguing that things used to be give better bang for the buck. You get same bang/buck, at a difference balance of features.
I don't want a good warranty, I want a well working equipment.
I would be happier with something the manufacturer was confident was serviceable. Control boards that approach the cost of a high end smartphone are unreasonable, but also common.
I wonder, truly, if this would be successful. I have no way of even wrapping my head around how to get something like that off the ground.
I think if someone designed and shipped a car, for instance, that was completely serviceable by the owner and designed with that in mind first and for most, you could easily disrupt the car market for a very broad amount of people today.
In the last 15 years, I can only recall one time a car went into a shop for a reason other than the above and that was an independent shop where I was too busy to deal with the job. That's across a Mercedes, a Jeep, a Honda CR-V, and Alfa Romeo, and some classic Mustangs.
There are a few marques that are DIY-unfriendly (hello, BMW), but most cars can be effectively DIY maintained. A DIY-friendly car would not be as disruptive as perhaps you think.
Combine that with trying to keep parts compatible over years and you would develop a following.
I think if I have learned anything from Silicon Valley though its this: Never assume that these assumptions are categorically true, or that they were undertaken with due diligence.
Perhaps it is true, and there is not enough interest in this to justify it happening. What if, though, they didn't do the market research properly? Or steadfastly, it actually didn't happen at all?
Your observation is spot-on.
According to http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/50selectrical.html a washer and dryer set cost around 500 USD (in 1953 USD) which according to http://www.usinflationcalculator.com would be around 4500 USD in 2017 USD.
Since I'm not from the US I don't know what's popular there, but if I look at http://www.homedepot.com/b/Featured-Products-Popular-Laundry... it seems like they go between 500 and 1000 USD. So between 4.5 to 9 times cheaper than in 1953.
From that page, it looks like the price of the washer, adjusted for inflation to 2016, is $1756.12. A comparable washer today, from Sears, appears to be somewhere in the $400 - $600 range, or about 30% as much as it used to cost.
Data for today's washers: http://www.sears.com/appliances-washers-top-load-washers/b-1...
That household refrigerator that was $329 in 1952? $3024 in 2017 dollars.
Personally I usually perfer the least features possible mainly because more features = more stuff to break.
The article seems very US-centric, and doesn't mention European brands such as Miele, Bosch, Siemens and Jura (coffee machines), all of which are wholly owned and produce high-quality stuff.
If it means less repair bills and downtime and not having to replace for 25+ years, why the hell not?
I think your information is wrong. BSH is a subsidiary of Bosch, and Bosch is owned by the Bosch foundation. Siemens is also its own conglomerate.
Otherwise we would have plenty of other devices based on the same technology fail.
My own repair guy told me that often the insides of different brands are IDENTICAL, changing only the brand name, door chrome and other superficial things to justify some kind of premium. This means you’ll break down just as often spending thousands more. The companies themselves are becoming lousier, it is not that they are taking your extra money to make a good product.
I have a family member who does appliance repair and he says the same thing.
Because everything else -- the push for higher efficiency, more bells and whistles, a proliferation of models that change all the time, lighter metal parts -- applies to automobiles too, and today's automobiles are significantly more durable and low-maintenance than those of my parents' and grandparents' generations.
a) devices back them broke about the same and had similar lifespans. Yes, some devices lasted for a long time but I suspect that it is just a survivor bias.
b) there were less devices overall (no dishwashers for example), they were harder to get and more valuable.
c) they didn't have any modern electronics. All failures were mechanical, while today they are electronic (and usually non-reparable, only replaceable).
d) some of the devices were built using post-war production lines, e.g. ex-military electric motors, heavy metal bodies etc.
e) those devices were not even closely comparable to today's. Vacuum cleaners that were a metal body and a motor basically. Washing machine for <6kg that was twice as big. Fridges that couldn't keep temperature, had no proper ventilation, multi-zones or sound proofing. Rubber elements that degraded faster than now. The list is endless really.
Article paints old tech as better overall which is maybe applicable to top models in some countries and still not even close. But he is right of course and we do need to strive for more durable devices.
I used to worry about this, but we bought a high efficiency front loader anyway. After 4 years we've replaced: Door gasket - ~$80, and Pump - ~$50. Once, the front control panel started misbehaving and I thought for sure the machine was done for. But I looked and found that a wire harness had worked its way loose, and one of the wires was rubbed almost in two. I repaired the wire and the machine returned to normal. My opinion is that parts are generally available, and that these machines are as simple to repair as any older machine.
Instead you pay by the page.
Apple did a similar thing last year with their phone rental program.
If appliance makers are really worried about recurring revenue, maybe they should explore the subscription program. It would then be in their best interest to make things that last longer, since they would have to replace broken equipment sooner, but at the same time, if they make it last long enough, they can get more revenue out of that with a subscription than without it, and it's much smoother revenue.
Not a single problem in all that time, though I suspect it could use a new door seal. It is a manual-defrost model, which gives me the opportunity every few months (or when the door no longer closes :) to thoroughly clean it out.
The only other issue is that I have had to raise the temperature setting (rotate the 'wheel' away from "Coldest") from time to time over the years. It started at about 6 and is now past 3. If the trend continues, have a good 10 years left before it ices up completely.
Although it is true that it is not very efficient. A rough guess, based on having left it unplugged for over a month while traveling earlier this year, would be that it uses $0.65 (ConEd rates in NY) per day.
Enjoyed and agreed with the article, thanks!
When clearing out my grandmother's house a few years ago, my uncle and I almost broke our backs trying to get the freezer out. It felt like it weighed a ton, even empty.
My grandmother told us it had been a wedding present, and that they had been totally awestruck at the time at the generous present from her parents-in-law. After all, a decent freezer cost at least 2,000 kroner! (At this time, the average yearly gross pay was just in excess of 7,000 kroner.)
My grandparents married in 1950. Since then, monetary value has been reduced twenty-fold.
You can still buy a top-loading freezer for 2,000 kroner; I just checked.
So - in 1950, you had to work for five months to earn money for a freezer (after taxes.)
In 2017, I have to work one day for a freezer (after taxes.)
If you want a reliable appliance, buy the least energy efficient, oldest commercial model you can find with most mechanical controls possible. I've had my commercial Speed Queen washer and dryer since 2001.
You could say 'tortoises! they don't make them like they used to' for example.
If you would pay $100 more for a washer with a 50 year warranty, there would be a washer with a 50 year warranty. It really is that simple. So many people choose by price, then quality, the best thing you can say about appliances today is that they cost less in real dollars than the ones from the 50's and 60's. If you chose your appliance the other way, quality first and then price, the manufacturers would put in quality to get you to pay more.
Every single thing mentioned in the article if you compare an appliance "with" that thing from the 50's to one "without" that thing today, every time by leaving it out you can sell for less, or sell for the same as the competition and make more profit. Metal thickness? check. Motor quality? check. Anti-rust coating? Check. Durable control circutry? Check. Everything.
You want to change the market, then the market has to prefer quality over price, and pay for it even when there is a cheaper, lower quality alternative.
That's really hard to do when so much of the market is living paycheck to paycheck. Many people want to choose quality, but simply can't afford it: their dishwasher is broken and they've got to steal from the food budget or the kids' Christmas gifts to fix it before Thanksgiving.
The decline in appliance quality has the same root cause as the rise of Walmart: real wages have stagnated and regressed since the halcyon days of heavy metal gauges and fifty year motors, and people simply can't afford to pay a premium for quality.
(They can't afford not to, either; "the poor man pays twice" and all that. But when you're living paycheck to paycheck it often seems like there's no real choice.)
So buying the "quality" machine actually stretches your paycheck further because you won't be re-buying a machine in 10 years.
Of course it is really hard to help people understand that math, but once they do they can find a whole lot of cost savings in their lives.
What I got out of that book was that this behavior is built in at a much deeper level of our brains than you might expect and to counter it, and to get out of its grip, requires thoughtful action. In my case I find myself falling into these patterns with respect to spending time poorly when I don't have enough of it.
I already had to deal with new ones 4 times, including one I personally purchased when I lived alone for a while... None of them ever got close to the 'granny' version my parents have in quality, the stove I bought never really pleased me.
I think it is just sad...
My parents also have older than me:
Photo Camera with cool interesting lenses.
A VHS player.
Also one of my dad favourite computers, that he is still using, is a now 13 year old HP laptop... He happily uses WinXP and the newest Ubuntu in it without issue, and use it as his main coding computer, because despite being 13 years old, it works better than any of his new laptops, it doesn't misbehave, don't get slow out of the blue, and is just more useable and sturdy... he only uses his most new laptop when he needs beefier amounts of RAM and CPU, but for day to day stuff, the 13 year laptop somehow is faster. (I am not even sure how or why, but it is, I also used that laptop myself for a long time).
I can see an opening for Trump here. If he wants the US to be known for high quality, long-lasting products, he could differentiate US products from cheap and crappy Far East stuff. There is clearly a demand.
Like all the people who chat shit about not having account support for their Google account. Tell them to get Google Apps and they all go quiet.
Except for that one guy who complained about Google Search limiting. Which is reasonable.
Almost anything is available for a price. None of you want to hear it, though.
Ten thousand blogposts about how you like quality won't work so long as your revealed preferences are different.
Not sure it would work in reality, but an interesting idea that is actionable by the government.
Don't ask for a plan though..
I bought a Miele vacuum cleaner in 2012 to replace a bagless Electrolux unit I'd had since I moved into my house. Yes, it was four times the price but it's more than four times the vacuum cleaner. E.g., the Electrolux couldn't handle sucking up plaster dust (I kid you not), and was an absolute nightmare to empty - you had to do it outside or you'd get dust everywhere. The Miele will suck up anything dry, is much quieter, much stronger, doesn't get tetchy about fine particles such as plaster dust, and doesn't make a mess when you change the bag inside (after experience with various bagless vacuums over the years I've come to the conclusion that they all, erm, suck... and not in the good way).
My dishwasher and washing machine are Bosch and AEG respectively. I've had them both since 2010 and the only problem has been the filter pump crapping out on the washing machine in 2013 (which was annoying because it happened just after the warranty expired). Other than that neither of them shows any sign of giving out any time soon - the washing machine is direct drive and is still just as quiet as the day I installed it. No rust anywhere either.
Again, they weren't cheap, and whilst a big part of me rails at spending relatively serious money on something as boring as household appliances it's absolutely been worth it, and has probably saved me cash over the longer term.
The best part is you can get spares. Hose cracks? £12 for a new one. Wheel breaks? £8 delivered.
I bought expensive high end Miele's (washer and dryer) but they broke within 6 years and getting spares was crazy expensive and limited to just a couple places.
The discussion here has revolved around paying more for better quality but something the repair tech opened my eyes too when my stuff failed is simply planning for failure.
Others have pointed it out that everything will fail at some point, so you might as well buy something you can repair. That's lead me to change how I buy and landed me with a George vacuum, White-knight dryer and super common Hotpoint washer with readily available spares.
This isn't to point out you should have done differently, just a different way to respond to what is an industry wide problem of planned obsolescence.
I've actually got a Neato robot vac now. I'm not sure if moving chairs and rugs etc to prepare the way for the robot takes more time than actually non-robot vacuuming. It's calming to see it go around on its own though.
First, it's often more expensive than people can afford. Most relatives I know are "stuck" buying low-grade appliances/furniture just because they can't afford more, and they know they will have to replace it in 4-5 years.
Second: fashion/mode/trend. I was surprised to see many people throwing functional appliances, computers and even furniture just because it was outdated, not trending. such as "My old cell phone still works but I'd pass for a retarded if I don't show up my latest iPhone". Same for furniture, curtains, chairs and tables that are still good, but people often change because they want to renew the appearance in their homes. Do many of you still use good'old wooden furniture of your grand-parents in your home?
So, I'm not convinced the "50 years" model would be ideal for everything. Because human nature.
A 10 years model would be great, imho.
I've got a mid-2007 iMac I'm still using. Great build quality. Unfortunately the latest macs seem gimmicky - thin iMacs and touchbar MacBooks etc.
Apple aims at planned obsolescence. Those 2007 Macs are still reliable (I have one) but you can't upgrade to the latest OS, so you miss security patches... Same for IOS devices.
But here is the kicker: a) People don't want to pay big money for something they don't know will last 50 years,.
b) People want new things. While it's convenient to not have to replace something for decades, they also want to remodel their kitchen efter 10-15 years, at which time thet fridge needs replacement anyway (in 2000 it was chrome, in 2010 it needs to be black, etc).
That said, it would be good if the people who want new things could sell their old ones, instead of throwing them away.
And there would be no incentive for "planned obsolescence".
So why does it only last 15 years? You can no longer get replacement parts for it. The machine looks to me like it should last 50 years.
The part failures mine had over the last 17 years are:
1. blower motor failed due to the bearings not being lubed, the replacement has sealed bearings and never needs lube
2. a relay on the circuit board failed - new board is $600. The relay is a $2 part.
3. the igniter failed. It's a $25 part, and 5 min to replace it. A $300 service call.
Additionally, the manufacturer probably doesn't want to have to stock parts for 16+ year old models.
An analog would be software; nothing stops a circa-1994 Windows NT machine from continuing to work, but good luck getting support.
Corrosion is unlikely to cause any problem with the heat exchanger unless it is really severe, as there are no moving parts in it.
> nothing stops a circa-1994 Windows NT machine from continuing to work
My older machines of that era have all failed due (most likely) to failed capacitors. The disk drives fail most likely due to lubrication issues. The semiconductors fail because all semiconductors fail due to the migration of the doping that occurs when they get warm.
None of my 80's machines will power up anymore. I'm not too surprised, they were only built to last a couple years, and it only takes one failure in those enormously complex machines to do the whole thing in.
I try to keep my XP machines running because those were the last to support DOS programs and I still support Digital Mars C++ generating DOS programs.
However, the original question concerned the longevity of gas furnaces, and possible limiting factors on their lifespan.
As such, you might care to contemplate:
* What are origins of CO?
* What are such possible origins within a house?
* What are the likely mechanisms for transit of CO from normal exhaust systems to interior space?
* What might be the long-term consequences of thermal stress, oxidation, cycling, etc., on manifolds of such spaces.
If you choose to focus myopically on heat exchangers and heat exchangers alone, that's your call. I'd suggest keeping the batteries up to date in your CO monitors, however.
A US car manufactured to withstand south american unpaved roads would be largely wasted. 99% of people won't ever use them in that manner. So money is spent on things they will use (like infotainment systems and more "creature comfort" stuff).
In an area where unpaved roads are more common, the suspension might be beefed up, thicker steel used, an overall hardened vehicle, but the interior will be a shell of what the US car would be.
The Tacoma is a pretty sturdy truck, you see lots of older ones running around along with legions of Taco fans. They aren't available with a diesel engine like the Hilux, but the Hilux diesel wouldn't work in the US because of emissions and not being for ultra-low-sulfur diesel.
Managed to get it replaced with a second hand one for £300, including labour.
Skip to 0:30
I don't really know what to do. The current one isn't very energy efficient, isn't laid out very well — but it's better than any of my other options.
Is there some small bespoke fridge maker out there?
Just in Amsterdam, I know of two , so undoubtly there are more out there?
 https://www.bundles.nl/ and https://www.peerby.com/
The other one is knowing which appliances you have and how long they last.
With smart power outlets the aggregated data across many households comes available. That means that consumer protection programs get a lot of ammunition to hold manufacturers accoutable.
I'm not really inclined to conspiracy in the large but there are probably some small and lots of subconscious (for example managerial empire building) forces designed to fully employ and otherwise bolster certain economic localities (manager's headcount/power, company's volume->quarterly P&L) that have pulled us in this direction. A rising tide lifts all ships kind of thing, if the rising tide is more units sold, and more people building/tweaking the products. Unfortunately that is massive amounts of waste, and if you care about quality as a virtue.. misery in every direction.
Back to appliances, it's interesting to think about energy use as a whole.. newer motors, refrigeration tech etc may be more efficient, but if you have to replace it 3x it's likely a net loss due to energy expended in manufacturing and shipping. For example, over half of the pollution for a car is caused by manufacturing, so buying a new more efficient car for altruistic reasons is basically worse than maintaining a used car.
I remember in 1990s it would be somewhat remarkable to see a car from the 70s. But in the 2010s it's pretty common to see cars from the 90s.
And the paint in my nine year old car basically looks brand new.
Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Honda, Toyota, especially.
American mid-to-low market passenger cars, not so much.
(Pickup trucks somewhat moreso.)
People generally don't look at resale value when shopping for appliances.
If this website is accurate:
A washer and dryer set in 1950 would cost the equivalent of $5000, and a refrigerator from 1950 would cost $3400
There was a case where Cadbury (the UK chocolate company) changed the recipe for their 'Cadbury Creme Egg' (to make it more profitable) but they changed the recipe too much and there was some backlash from consumers.
There are other cases though where hardly anyone notices. I know someone who worked for McDonalds in Australia who told me a story that the size of the buns used to make 'Quarter Pounder' burgers decreased suddenly - It seems that almost nobody noticed (except for the employees).
Also, pizzas from big brands have been getting progressively smaller over time and the toppings have gotten increasingly thin.
Same with fruits, vegetables and grains. I'm sure that soil quality has gone down and vegetables are lower quality today than they were 20 years ago. I was travelling around Europe over the past year and I noticed that the quality of fruits, vegetables and grains seems to vary significantly between different countries.
- sound quality is worse: cds >> mp3s
- flying is slower: concorde >> easyjet
- articles more errorful: newsrooms >> bloggers
People prefer to consume more, different, faster, rather than less, better, slower. And, of course, the true cost of externalities (on the environment et al) is not properly factored in.
Now they use aluminum wire, which works perfectly fine, until there is a power surge in which case the aluminum overheats and the motor is now dead.
As I understand it, aluminum wound transformers are more reliable than copper under surge conditions because aluminum has a much higher specific heat than copper - providing more of a thermal buffer prior to damage.
Motors aren't transformers, but I'm having a hard time seeing how this same effect wouldn't be in play.
Aluminum wiring in houses, has some known problems, such as metal fatigue and differences in thermal expansion between copper and aluminum: http://www.alwirerepair.com/aluminum-wiring-whats-the-proble...
What might be the case, is that as copper increased in price, manufacturers quickly switched to aluminum but did not allow/adjust properly either for the greater expansion of aluminum when heated, or, did not have their anti-oxidation finishes that coat both the wire and the terminals, perfectly adjusted.
If so, current "second generation" motors should be failing at a much lower frequency - but we might not see that as an effect yet due to that group being newer overall.
Aluminum conducts electricity much better than aluminum oxide, which forms almost immediately if aluminum is scratched or otherwise exposed to air, thus the anti-oxidation finish.
E.g. Still very early days (only me on full stack), but here is the ibGib I just did the other day when we got a new calphalon pan: https://www.ibgib.com/ibgib/pic%5EF1D5A3B90BB7580442405402A7...
(This particular use case is like a product-lifetime blog.)
This is a broad question, as ibGib is many things. To be precise, it is its own question and answer, so the answer to this would be "ibGib". This would encompass your definition of ibGib, Bob's definition, etc., but this would probably overly pedantic. Basically it's different things and has many use cases.
As for ibGib WRT software, it's an engine/architecture that I'm implementing (https://github.com/ibgib/ibgib, https://www.ibgib.com). It's probably easiest to think of the engine as a graph database (but it isn't) and the web app as one interface to the engine. The data store architecture has only four fields: ib, gib, data, and rel8ns. The ib is user-controlled variable "name"; the data is internal state as a key-value store; gib is a sha-256 hash of the ib, data, and rel8ns fields; and the rel8ns is a list of named relationships to other ibGibs. So the ib+gib (ib^gib) acts as a content-addressable URL to the ibGib itself. The rel8ns turns the graph into what is now thought of as a merkle graph - or possibly forest, since the rel8ns allow for multiple single graph paths/projections to be created.
So any ibGib has internal data and relationships to other ibGibs maintained via ib^gib pointers. Since these pointers contain the gib hash, this provides integrity and verification of the structure. I've seen a lot of similarities in ibGib's structure with things like IPFS and others, but unlike such systems, ibGib is not file/folder-centric. Those are like two specific roles of ibGibs: files are focused mainly on the internal data, and folders are focused on the relationships (but they have only one type of relationship: hierarchical/containment).
> What does the name represent?
That is an extremely interesting question for me personally. Suffice to say that the acronym was first conceived with the phrase "i believe God is being" (I was agnostic borderline atheist at the time). Since it has a religious context, I avoid speaking too much to it in others' forums. (But for me, it's about logic.)
I'm planning on doing a Show HN here in the future once I have a couple more features implemented! I'd love to talk to you (or anyone) about it in more detail if you're interested. :-)
Consumers might say they care about quality, but ask them to define it beyond "it lasts" and they will likely say brand.
For example, take searching the web, what's the best search engine and how often do you think people compare the options they have and the quality of the search results?
It's just there's no incentive to make products last past warranty, so it doesn't happen.
Anyway, ever tried to move a 40 year old fridge? Good luck to your back.
They are also not very energy efficient.
But yes, TCO is a interesting topic we humans and markets can often get wrong.
The only thing was that you could not open it too many times, otherwise the ice build up would mean you had to turn it off and defrost it.
Makes me wonder if 'convenience' leads to a reduction in longevity at all? Nowadays fridges are self defrosting, self cleaning, have built in IoT and a myriad of other features in order to try and make life easier for consumers.
Has this abdication of care and responsibility actually cost us in the long run? Perhaps if people went back to having to spend time to care for their goods, and took on a little extra time to ensure simple preventative measures, simplicity of manufacturing could come back in and things will last longer?
I wouldn't want to give up that convenience in exchange for troubleshooting the system once a decade when something goes wrong.
From the 1970s through the 1990s, possibly 2000s, efficiency improved tremendously.
That said, some 1950s manual defrost were quite efficient, though you'd probably want to check door seals.
(some) people are never satisfied, always want more more more...
If we observe that the current market is not solving this automatically, the question whether a more abstract version of the current market will solve it is kind of moot. Either that, or we currently do not have a free market in the household appliance sector.
The reason it is not being solved by the free market, is that a free market is never the best option for all actors inside this market. There is always a group of actors who gains by having the market less free. So they will actively try to make the market less free by using their freedom in this free market.
In this case, household appliance manufacturers formed an alliance in that they all dropped on quality, and used obfuscation methods to make sure they cannot be punished by the consumer (who does not know who actually manufacturers which product), combined with a reduction in the number of manufacturers through series of acquisitions. Such oligopoly formation can be done without problem through mediation by independent consultancy companies, who go give the same presentations to all manufacturers.
But I guess in the end the free market did bring about it's demise, when Scandinavians produced cheaper alternatives.
I guess it depends on the market, if 'longest lasting bulbs' are a selling point, you lose the race. However, if all other manifactures like your business model they will follow.
Marketing is also important. Companies with best advertising often sell more than companies with the best products.
Fortunately technology is making it easier for us to read reviews and get more information. Hopefully we will soon live in a world where manufacturers are obligated to get good reviews five and ten years after their appliance is sold. That said, the technique of folding a brand and spinning up a new one is a great way to bypass these consequences.
I don't know of a product I have recently bought that is the same model that was sold 5-10 years ago. When I'm looking up a product to buy, I look for the model I'm intending to buy. Likewise, when I'm asked for a review, it's from a product the company is currently marketing.
I focus my dollars on companies with better customer service records, but beyond that, how should I "encourage" companies that build things to last? Especially when few companies build with that mentality?
Even typical "built-to-last" brands like craftsman and kitchen-aid can no longer be trusted to not fall apart. The only thing I can think to really kick-start better quality, is to enforce mandatory a 5-year (or 10-year?) warranty.
On the other hand I have a 30 years old washing machine which is rust-free and it simply just works. I am not sure I would ever want to replace it.
I like my Bosch dishwasher, even if I think it has only five more years max.
Miele machines are expensive but indestructible. Siemens ones are very strong and not much dearer than other brands.
Are those not available in the US?
Years ago, I bought a Miele dishwasher with cutlery rack; it was incredibly good. Other people have had mixed experiences. Service is difficult to find for Miele.
I lived in Hawaii for 7 years. Everything rusts.
I still have a couple of HP-41 calculators. Over thirty years old and they look brand new and work as new. Here they are, on my desk. Always there as computers, keyboards and trackballs have come and gone.
The same is true of power tools (not battery operated) of that era (early 80's).
My Bridgeport milling machine is another example. Yes, it's an industrial machine so the comparison might not be fair but the electronics function as new.
One of my biggest concerns as we were forced to transition into RoHS chemistry for electronics assembly has always been product lifetime. The intent of RoHS was, of course, to reduce pollution. I think that, in practice, it may have produced exactly the opposite effect. Sure someone has studied this. I hope I am wrong.
How is this the case? Well, RoHS solder chemistry has problems. From brittle solder joints to tin whiskers, the latter being a huge concern.
Whereas prior to RoHS one could build a great product like and HP-41 calculator and have it last decades, RoHS ended all of that. There is absolutely no way to prevent or predict tin whisker growth. Consumer electronics companies do not report failures (to be fair, the probably don't see most of them) and we have no real way to track people just tossing electronic products in the trash and why they do so.
Having tin whiskers is like having guaranteed obsolescence. Products will fail and there is no way to predict when and how. Which, to me, means we are probably dumping more shit in landfills than we used to.
In other words, my HP-41 hasn't gone into a landfill in over thirty years and it is unlikely to do so in another thirty. But nearly every other post-RoHS calculator is likely to end-up there because of these unpredictable failures.
And so, while the intent of RoHS was to clean the planet I have a feeling they have effectively setup the world for massive product failures over the years and far greater piles of electronics waste to contend with.
Professional marketers apparently refer to this sort of manoeuvre as "harvesting the brand".
Since 2012, they've been 90% owned by Haier, one of the "big four" he lists.
I've had the lot for 4 years now.
They're one of the first pancake motor users in appliances and because of the extremely short unsupported section of shaft are next to indestructible if not abused.
I've seen people scouring dumps for those for some hobby project or other (windmill, hometrainer, electric go-cart...).