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They Used To Last 50 Years (recraigslist.com)
1359 points by teslacar 100 days ago | hide | past | web | 860 comments | favorite

When we moved into this house 12 years ago, I got the cheapest, simplest, most "mechanical" washer and dryer set that Lowe's offered (I think it's branded GE).

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.

My problem with the current market is that it's next to impossible to determine the quality of a machine. I would gladly pay $3000 for a washer if I could somehow tell that it will be better built, with higher quality metals, inner parts, and overall longer lasting. But it seems that the extra money these days just buys more flashy bells and whistles that just increase the chance of failure.

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.

Could it be that the lifespan of a appliance is shortened because it his to be more energy-efficient? The old fridges (and car-engines, or antything) were not very economic. A few decades ago getting 10 km per liter of petrol was more or less standard. Now the engine with the same cilinders (1.6 liter for instance) easily get as much as 20 km for the same liter of petrol. The engine is highly optimized by cutting away all the heavy parts and replacing it with lighter ones, adding electronics and more moving parts, etc. This optimization is best seen in F1 racing, where the same 1.6 liter engine can deliver as much as 750 bhp.

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.

That is partially true, of course. Energy saving makes devices more complex, thus they have more things that can be broken.

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.

Just wanted to send a note to icantdrive55 of the sibling comment: your comment is dead for some reason. Looking through your history, you seem to have a long track record of making on-topic, non-glib, non-ad-hominem posts, so there's no reason you should be getting downvoted. But almost all of your posts are dead from downvoting (I guess?). Either someone has a vendetta against you, or an algorithm has gone rogue. Either way, might want to ping the admins and see if they can fix this.

Note that if you click on the time next to the comment to open the page for the comment, you can click "vouch" and at least help save the individual comment.

Whoah, thanks for the tip!

That is very true. We have a vehicle that is now.....13 years old from new, 300k miles on the clock, and it runs perfectly fine. The wishbones need replacing every 4 years or so, and we had to replace the compressor once. But other than that, no mechanical problems as such - and it's a hugely complicated car, with a massive V8 engine, adjustible suspension, automatic all terrain control, 3-zone AC etc etc. All of it works(ok, the CD drive doesn't, but I don't recall the last time I wanted to use a CD). I think I replaced the bulbs twice, as the Bi-Xenon bulbs last around 5 years of daily use(and over here you have to have lights on 24/7).

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.

"That is partially true, of course. Energy saving makes devices more complex, thus they have more things that can be broken. 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."

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.

In my experience, if you prefer to stay with cars that are very low maintenance, 120-130k miles is a really good time to sell. The mileage is just low enough that the car will still have enough value to make it worth selling on your own. By 150k you'll be making minor repairs frequently, by 180k it get's expensive and becomes a question of how committed you are to keeping the car.

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. ... but when it's the Over Drive unit, or the transmission needs a rebuild ...

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.

Yes. I was very confused when I got a rental car in the U.S. in about 2004 and it had a separate switch and yellow indicator light for "OD". In Europe such a thing was so ancient history that I'd never seen one and I had to read the car's handbook to understand what it meant.

I thought the entire reason to have an OD disable switch is for towing.

I seem to remember something in the manual of an old car I had with an OD switch about it making it not change gears repetitively when going up a slight incline?

I have to disagree with this premise as it pertains to automobile engines. Automobile engines have improved tremendously in "lifespan" or Time Before OverHaul. In the '70's and '80's it was a challenge to get an engine to last 100,000 miles. They needed frequent oil changes, spark plugs replaced, had other short-life wearable parts (ignition parts), water pumps to replace, fuel pumps to replace, alternators went bad, oil leaks (rope seal packing), etc. In the early '90's some real improvements began to become apparent. Now cars routinely make it past 100,000 mi without replacing any of that stuff, and while producing more power per unit of displacement.

This is why I'm rather afraid of Tesla and their batteries - you know batteries, whether intentional or not, only last for about 1000 charge cycles, or in the case of Tesla for about 7-10 years, before they have to be replaced - which won't be cheap.

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.

Yeah, based upon the 1000 cycle count, Teslas will start to depreciate pretty badly at somewhere between 215,000 and 350,000 miles.

Is that bad?

I'd like to know more about this too, and how Tesla and other companies plan to address it.

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?

Tesla's battery recycling program sounds pretty impressive, and the cost of new batteries is lower every year. https://www.tesla.com/blog/teslas-closed-loop-battery-recycl...

I think at the 1000 charge cycle point, the batteries degrade but are not useless. There is an idea that they can then be used as grid tied storage or in places where AH/Kg does not matter as much.

I thought they took the guts out and seperated the constituent parts and put back in the raw material side of the gigafactory. Or did I just make that up?

In addition to the other commenters about EV batteries, note that 99% of the 12V starter batteries used in conventional vehicles in the US are recycled.

Yeah, they are high 90s% recyclable, depending on the technology.

The fear of battery degradation is way way overblown. You'll drive at least a few hundred thousand miles before you might "need" to replace it [1]. And even then, you could keep going.

[1] https://electrek.co/2016/06/06/tesla-model-s-battery-pack-da...

Presumably this is why they are getting into the battery market.

As a corollary, consider how much fuel (particularly diesel) and much more than that oil (lubricating oil) have bettered around those times.

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.

Yes, I agree that the oil has a major role as well.

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 thought about this too while reading the article.

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.

The technology to make motors efficient has been around for a century, not much has changed there besides controls and feedback. Engines on the other hand have greatly benefitted from modern control systems. Here is a primer on motor history: https://www.eti.kit.edu/english/1390.php And http://m.hpac.com/motors-drives/understanding-efficiency-mot...

The converse can also apply. Energy efficiency means less energy converted to heat, noise, and unwanted movement. All of which can contribute to wear and tear.

This is why people sometimes describe hard drives as "spinning rust".

I think the term "spinning rust" relates to the fact that the actual data is stored on ferromagnetic material, nothing to do with the energy usage.

I agree with you on the first paragraph.

"Could it be that the lifespan of a appliance is shortened because it his to be more energy-efficient?"

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. ;)

For tools (think saws and drills) this is changing somewhat.

Check out AVE on youtube, his teardown are great!


I'm not sure if this is changing or whether it never really changed (in the past 50 years or so): professionals using tools just have no need for tools which might break quickly so there always has been (at least in my memory) a market segment for proper tools (high end think Festool, Hilti, ... but even somewhat lower end tools never seemed to had problems like becoming unusable/unrepairable within a couple of years). And even though some small segment of the market might now be taken over by ultracheap less decent tools, the segment with the decent tools is still going strong as ever.

Second. This is the best thing on YouTube.

If you like more workshop instructions, check out "this old Tony"

Absolutely second this, I love 'this old tony' and I have no experience at all with machining in the slightest. AvE by contrast is I think a bit of an acquired taste.

You should check out abom as well. He is a bit more hardcore as a manual machinist but I binge watched his whole channel and still catch up with him regularly.

The popularity of AvE is telling; clearly many people want to know what they are buying.

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.

The Market for Lemons rule is that if consumers are unable to recognize quality and crap products while buying, after some time all the products on the market are crap.

Partially this, plus the monopoly position the post described: Three companies "won" the market and have no pressure to produce anything else then lemons anymore. And since a bad dishwasher is still better than no dishwasher, consumers will buy them even if they know it's crap as long as there is no alternative.

I know that thesis. But i find that the middle class usually has a propensity to buying the more expensive items (even if it ends up being only marginally better than crap) because of a different dynamic. and it always puzzled me, i see it as an uninformed, irrationally positive, outlook generated by the mean fact of paying more for a "brand", because "surely it is better".

But if the consumer has no way of telling which is better there's no reason for the manufacturers to use quality as the determining factor for setting the price. Instead they'll focus on making it look more expensive or add features you'll never use in order to win market share.

"would gladly pay $3000 for a washer"

Miele. https://9to5mac.com/2011/03/07/how-steve-jobs-picks-a-washer...


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.

Disclaimer: I work for Miele, but in the IT department. It is not really a rumor per se, I'd say - the internal idea at Miele is that the stuff should last 15 to 20 years with normal use. So of course it can break after 8 years, everything can, but it shouldn't - that's why Miele sells service certificates (extended manufacturer warranty) for 10 years etc.

that's why Miele sells service certificates (extended manufacturer warranty) for 10 years etc.

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?

The only thing I'm unhappy with about our Miele dishwasher is that I was told if I installed it myself, that Miele wouldn't honor the warranty. We're kind rural, and there's no local Miele dealer. I almost bought another brand instead.

I wonder how much more expensive an appliance would have to be if it were made to last as long as possible (within reason).

I think there's a market for a "heirloom" edition that costs 40% more and has a 20 year warranty.

Yes Miele - they are family owned and not part of one of the 4 groups referenced by the article

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

Yes Miele, but get as basic model a model as possible as they also have these "1.000 features you will never use but that will break and stop your appliance from working" types. A basic Miele washing machine will caost around $1.000 and weigh around 100kg, so don't put it on a flimsy table, but it should last you well over 10 years.

I second that. The basic models already have sufficient features, unless you urgently need a special fature (which 99% of people don't). I do not know about prices in other regions of the world, but in Germany you should get a descent Miele washing machine for about €800 (roughly US$ 900).

> and weigh around 100kg


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.

IMHO the most frustrating part about moving is having to carry stuff like dumbbells, counterweights etc, because they have only purpose: Being as heavy as possible.

With the counterweights, it'd be nice if it was easy to open up the machine and take the counterweight out. This would make it much easier to move a heavy machine up stairs.

Turns out it was, as I found out later.

I just have muscle than brains (and not particularly much muscle).

What machine was that?

I've had two front-loading washing machines now with counterweights, and neither one of them was remotely easy to remove the weights in.

Can't be bothered to got to the cellar to look at the type tag. But it was from the '80s I think. Some Miele domestic machine.

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.

Good enough, I was just wondering about the brand. It being a Miele makes sense that it would be built that way. The machines I had were a late 90s Maytag (their first front-loader, the Neptune) and a mid-00s Whirlpool Duet. Both were definitely not designed for the counterweights to be removed for transport. You can take them out but it involves a significant amount of disassembly.

Another anecdote: My sister took over my apartment late 2014. Some time in 2015, the dishwasher (Miele) stopped working. She called support to see if it could be repaired. When she provided them with the serial number she was told that the dishwasher was in fact manufactured in 1994.

It had lasted through 21 years of regular use, by multiple owners.

A friend of mine did his training at Miele and spent some time in their QA. He was very impressed with their thoroughness. ;-)

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.)

Yes to Miele: Very solid. Will cost about 2k / unit. Very heavy duty, very basic, and very reliable. We've had ours for 5 years now with zero issues.

With risk of sounding like a shill. Miele is the only thing I ever buy. We had an old washing machine that broke after 10 years, so I called a repair man. He came, and looked at it and said: "I have been working for 5 years, and this is the second time I see a broken Miele. They practically never break". It was an easy fix, and the machine ran for another 7 years until lightning killed every electrical thing in the house.

Bought another Miele, and that is running just fine after 4 years.

Ours is super quiet. I wish it hadn't cost so much, but I can't say I regret it.

I'd also like to say Miele is immortal.

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.

I'm not sure about the current quality of their products, but I bought a refurbished Dyson "Animal" vacuum (the purple and grey one) in 2003.

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.

Of the entire line, the Dyson Animal purple ones are the only acceptable ones, due to their complex filtering system attached to what is essentially twins of their highest end models.

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.

Yep, Miele. Washing ~5 loads/week an a 27 year old machine. Replaced main water valve ~5 years ago (20€ part). Resoldered one relais PCB ~10 years ago (instructions on the internets).

Miele is definitely the best. Their vacuum cleaners are great too. I have two, and they are both > 10 years old, and showing no signs of wearing out.

Are those the ones that use 1/4 the water and don't destroy clothes?

Well, most mid- to high-range European dryers and washing machines do. But the Miele is of particular good quality for a consumer product.

Just the control board on a miele will cost more than a regular washer. The higher end units are basically junk once the warranty runs out.

However, Miele has a reputation that they don't care about warranty; if it breaks, even after warranty, they may fix it for free unless it's clear you've done something wrong (like it breaks because you didn't do regular maintenance and clean the filters as you should).

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.)

Some of the control boards can be repaired, see https://youfixit.eu/en/ I did this after an electrical surge blew out a component.

> I would gladly pay $3000 for a washer if I could somehow tell that it will be better built

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.

I purchased my appliances with much the same idea in mind; I wanted something that would last, period.

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.

If you want a higher-end appliance, European is often the way to go. Miele is a great example, but there are others.

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).

I have a 20 year old ASKO washer and dryer. The brushes on the washer's motor have to be replaced every 3-4 years and the plastic drawer where you add soap is broken and ugly looking (and unfortunately replacement parts are no longer available) but otherwise they still work well.

Two a day? What on earth are they doing to require that much washing?

The oldest kid does track&field and soccer practice after school every day. Also, he swims once a week.

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.

I have one 18month old kid. We average about 1.3 loads a day. Several sets of clothes, towels, nappies, sheets, bibs, ... It adds up very quickly

If you have three kids and one of them is a baby in washable nappies this is quite possible. You don't want the soiled diapers in with other items

Miele machines are small compared to most washing machines for the US market. I had an imported AEG and when I replaced it with a LG frontloader it seemed impossible how big the drum was. I used to only be able to wash 3-4 pairs of jeans at a time and now it's like 8-10.

I'm going to assume it's got to do with the multiple layers of clothing they no doubt have to wear in that climate.

Inner layer is always wool, which really doesn't have to be washed that much unless it's stained, but not everyone knows this so most still wash wool as much as cotton. Wool is very breathable, so just hang it out and it's as good as washed with less wear.

Generally speaking, purchasing commercial appliances doesn't work for a few reasons:

- 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)

This. Commercial stoves and ovens don't have any where near the fire safety constraints as consumer models. A typical commercial setting will include stainless steel jacketed walls, and a mandatory fire suppression system.

Install them in your home at your peril.

Presumably if you're installing commercial stoves in your residence, you're also installing all the gear that goes along with it in a commercial setting.

And they're designed for repair and maintenance too, since commercial operations care about total cost, not just up front cost.

The same goes for ranges, ovens, refrigerators, microwaves, you name it.

I go for this strategy for everything from audio equipment to washing machines. Pro gear is still well built.

Works for non electronics as well: restaurant tableware is much better value than the same brand consumer stuff (e.g. Wedgwood), as long you're happy with plain white and buying things in packs of 12.

webstaurant.com is awesome for getting restaurant grade stuff at reasonable prices. Pretty incredibly well designed website too in subtle ways. (no affiliation with them, just a fan)

I bought some restaurant grade coffee mugs that are just fantastic. Pretty much impossible to chip and guaranteed.

Another vote for webstaurant.com, I buy all my cheap flatware there in bulk.

At the cheaper end of $3000, I've heard great things about Speed Queens. The linked review below is meh, but people who love them love them because they're apparently built like tanks.


I bought a Speed Queen front-loader a few months ago. Although I can't say anything about the longevity, I was very impressed with the quality of the machine, going so far as to take pictures of the underside of the drum, drain plug, electronics package, and braces when setting it up. It's heavier -- about 250 pounds -- and quieter than the top-loader I replaced.

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.

That is all well and good, but if a review write things like this

   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.
I'm skipping it sadly (unless their front loaders are any better.)

I don't have numbers in my user or installation manuals, but the previous model year supposedly used 11.7 US gal per load, or under 4 per fill. Living in the desert, I feel good about my choice of washing machine ($22-29 monthly water bill).

Regardless, it's less than the top-load I replaced. Front-load washers are supposed to be more efficient and use less water.

I've seen that brand in laundromats. I had no idea they made domestic machines too.

I bought a top-loading Speedqueen washer and dryer pair. My laundry closet isn't deep or tall enough for front-loading washers or stackable dryers.

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.

Buy the one with the best warranty. A warranty is essentially a bet by the manufacturer that it won't break.

Usually failure follows a bathtub curve. If you know your appliance will probably break in 10 years, you can still offer a 3 year warranty easily without costing almost any extra.

A 3 year warranty is not the best warranty. It's just the legally required minimum where I'm from. I was thinking more like 10-15 years.

Ha-ha 15 year warranty

Miele is the brand of dishwasher for you. They are expensive, and not perfect, but it will slowly and reliably get the dishes clean. The best part is that it never makes a peep, this thing is super-quiet. The worst thing is: no child control-lock (you try and get a curious toddler to disregard it for hours).

But it seems that the extra money these days just buys more flashy bells and whistles that just increase the chance of failure.

Gresham's Law / the market for lemons.

On a Dutch TV show they calculated that it's better to buy a cheaper washer that breaks down sooner. After it breaks you will buy a new one, which is often more efficient, saving you more money. Also, the quelity in washing results is often negligible.

That's easy to see if you're replacing an older model with a HE unit. The case is not so obvious when replacing a recent model HE unit with a newer HE one.

This doesn't really make sense. There's only so much efficiency to be gained in washing dishes or clothes; we're reaping a lot of gains here in the last 10 years or so because of electronic controls and sensors, compared to the very simple mechanical systems from decades past. But the efficiency over time will be a curve, with diminishing returns. Basic physics dictates that you can only make cleaning things with water so efficient. Maybe eventually we'll go to cleaning things with ultrasonics or something, but for now, if you're swishing fabrics around in a drum with water, or spraying hot water on dirty dishes, you can only make that so efficient. I'm sorry, but replacing a 2016 model dishwasher with a 2018 model dishwasher is not going to net you any significant efficiency gains (though replacing a 1985 model dishwasher certainly will).

They didn't say you have to replace it every two years, like a phone. Maybe european washers are better, but I've never seen a ~$400 washer fail within 5 years. You can buy 5 of these washers for the price of a $2000 washer. This means that in 25 years (if they fail every 5 years), you would've spent the same amount, but every 5 years, you get newer technology.

This isn't sustainable, these antics of these companies are basically negating any positive thing you try and do for the environment

For washers/dryers, go to an independent appliance dealer and get a Speed Queen top loader. They have 3-5 year warranties and since switching to electronic controls are offering a longer warranty on the controls.

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.

My university dorms had speed queens.

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. :/

I remember seeing on HN a year or two ago? About Samsung smart fridges calendar app not being updated when Google phased out the API it was using.

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.

That's what I do. I bought the "dumbest" TV I could find; I just want a display with speakers and HDMI inputs.

Give me something I can plug the latest smart streaming box into and change that box as needed.

I just ripped the "smart" buttons off my remote and never gave the TV my Wi-Fi password. Wish I could have found a TV that was the same quality without the "smartness" but as another commenter stated, it is basically impossible.

Have a look at NECs 24/7 display series [1] (think pro devices for hotel lobbies etc). They even offer cool stuff like raspberry pi integration [2].

[1] https://www.nec-display-solutions.com/p/uhd/en/portfolio.xht...

[2] https://www.nec-display-solutions.com/p/uk/en/press/pressrel...

That's where we have a huge gap in device ecosystem. If you want one of the best displays on a TV, it comes "bundled in" with "smart" features. It's a shame that appliances industry doesn't let us customize exactly what we want (that lasts longer and hence would be comforting to pay a good price for).

"If you want one of the best displays on a TV, it comes "bundled in" with "smart" features. "

Not true.

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 ...

Will they really be higher quality displays for viewing television, movies, and video games? I would expect commercial displays to perhaps be brighter, but I would be surprised if they focused on things that matter more for home viewing, like color accuracy, refresh rate, and contrast ratio.

Some commercial displays are tuned for bright, static, signage, which would naturally make poor video displays. However, I suspect that their actual display technology is usually identical to the consumer versions. Certainly the panels themselves come from the same factory.

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.

What I worry about with televisions is they'll come out with new standards that will render my keep-it-for-30-years TV obsolete in three or four years.

Some one will come up with an external adapter that will do the conversion. Generally saw this with the PS/2 <-> usb mouse. usb <-> ethernet etc.

HDMI won't be going away any time soon. You can replace the receiver, and keep the good display.

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.

Interesting, can you please tell us how to google those?

Keywords frequently include terms like "digital signage", and sometimes "industrial", "commercial", etc...

You might like the one NEC makes with a slot for a Raspberry Pi:



I think it should be that way with cars. Just include a screen and some buttons, then let people connect their smart phones.

Which is a fine idea, until you drive to a different country and the data connection starts costing a fortune.

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.

So, use an app with offline data and maps for the areas you are roaming into...

Perhaps I didn't make my point very clearly. Relying on a phone for in-car updates, such as traffic, is already an issue due to data roaming. Relying entirely on the phone will exacerbate this.

I appreciate there are offline mapping solutions, which I noted. However, there are probably also other edge cases I haven't specifically considered.

How do you propose you get in-traffic updates without some sort of data feed? You can't turn it off in any apps? Also, does your in-built navigation have this feature?

I think we really are talking at cross purposes.

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.

But the UI wouldn't be stuck with something from 5+ years ago for a car that should last 15-20 years. My year old car's screen came with a UI that felt dated out of the box. If it were my phone driving the thing, at least the UX would be current, and with data, even more could work... I wouldn't be any less well off, even without data, unless my phone were broken or forgotten.

So you're not responding to the parent comment at all? The comment:

> 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.

He's saying that he disagrees with the parent comment. That just a screen is great until it means you can't navigate.

Right. Except he doesn't just have a screen. He has some navigation system onboard that happens to use the phone's data system. Not just a screen. If it was just a screen you could hook your phone up to it and see the phone's screen. And then on the phone you use any of the many offline navigator apps. Which is perfectly viable, if it was just a screen, which he doesn't have.

What other services would require no data if it were integrated into your car but would require data if it were integrated into your phone?

There is an FM system in use in some countries (I know it works for sure in Germany). You just need to have a GPS unit with this receiver. More info here https://support.garmin.com/faqSearch/en-US/faq/content/i34WV... (it is the last one mentioned)

At least the EU recognizes the increased importance of data roaming and are working to abolish the extra charges hopefully this year.

I live in Austria, so can relate. But "just a screen and buttons" does not mean "permanent internet access". It could/should work without inet as well. But really, who wants car nav systems, when Google Maps on my phone is so much better?

First world problems :)

On newer cars, that's exactly what they do already.

https://www.android.com/auto/ http://www.apple.com/ios/carplay/

On a similar note, I've always wondered why when MP3 players started to become popular in the late 90s and early 2000s but cars were still stuck in the tape/CD stage, no car offered a stripped down entertainment system with just speakers, amplifier, and a 3.5mm jack.

Because way too many buyers would be put off by that and not buy the car. Sure, some young technically-inclined people would have liked that option at the time, but most buyers would not have.

I don't even care about the speakers or too many HDMI inputs... I have an AVR for all of that.

This is what I also try to tell people when they ask me for advice on a TV. I got a sharp TV about 6 years ago and it still works perfectly and has more HDMI ports than most TVs coming out now, with none of the "smart" features.

NEC makes some commercial displays designed like this [1] - they have a Raspberry Pi compute module slot where you can install the latest version of the compute module.

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)

[1] https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/compute-module-nec-display-...

I bought a sony Android tv and are pretty happy with it so far - it's not bug free, but having a standard OS means the apps get updates. YMMV

I have similar preferences with kitchen appliances. I cook a lot, so I expect a lot out of my stove, but I hardly bake, so I don't care about having a fancy/enormous oven. In fact, I'd rather not have and oven, only a cooktop plus a portable convection oven, but in large parts of the USA a residence is not considered habitable without a built-in oven. Therefore instead of buying a range, I buy a $1500 gas cooktop with a 22,000 BTU/hr burner and the cheapest built-in wall oven I can find.

I had to go out of my way to find a dumb TV. But when I found it, it was a few hundred cheaper than smart TVs of the same size. I saved money and headache!

When my mother bought a new 55" TV a couple of years ago, she didn't even know it was a smart TV (Android 4.4-based) until I came to visit and pointed it out.

She just ignores and never uses any of the smart features.

Brand ? Link ?? (Thx)

I'll have to double check the model later but it's an RCA 55" LED display. I don't remember exactly how much I paid at the time, it was a few years ago.

Why would your fridge need a calendar app?

Probably so that you can show off cool new tech as a trade show.

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.

It would make sense if 1) the fridge could somehow detect how much of various things you had left (milk, butter, etc.), 2) order these things for you automatically, and 3) there was an economical way of getting these perishable things shipped to you cheaply. It's sorta like Amazon with their buttons (I forget the exact name now), where you can press a little button in your laundry room and they'll immediately ship you some more detergent.

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.

After repairing my appliances one by one, finding the schematics, diagnosing parts and then searching for replacements I discovered the cheapest model and the most expensive model of most appliances by the same manufacturer share all the same parts except the exterior and control panel.

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.

An appliance salesman told me that decades ago. The dishwashers all had the same engine inside, the difference was usually the rack features.

This enabled the dishwasher maker to sell at various price points to different customers.

Yep and fancy handles.

After repairing my appliances one by one, finding the schematics, diagnosing parts and then searching for replacements

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.

Search for PDF < Model Number from appliance nameplate >

Prefixing your appliance model number with PDF cuts way down on unrelated sales material and spam.

elektrotanya is one good library.

~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.

Some of them have them in a plastic sleeve inside the machine. Others you can find online. They're intended for repairmen.

I did that with a dishwasher once. Bought the cheapest same one internally and then swapped over the door and sound insulation from the expensive older one.

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.

Could you upgrade the cheap model, or is the takeaway that the expensive options aren't really valuable?

You can't upgrade the cheap models unless you found a way to buy the control panel and fit it to your appliance. Which might look pretty Frankenstein.

Buy the finishing parts from the better variant along with the control (or steal them along with the control if you raid a used machine?)

I've had many cars with electric windows. They all eventually failed, usually when it was raining, and the windows could not be raised. Fixing them would cost over $500. My truck now has hand cranked windows, and mechanical door locks. They're no trouble at all, and I'm happy with them.

Cars are still in the old mindset. They're unmodular, un-lego. Kinda like average laptops before 2006 or so. Tons of intricate parts stuck together. Coming from the computer world, especially now that you can plug and swap all kinds of parts, this looks insane. And the carmakers are leveraging this to take a premium on anything if you don't dare to try fixing it yourself.

"Lego" cars used to be really common. Old Hondas were exactly like this, which is why they had such a cult following in the 90s. You could build up a Honda using parts from pretty much any other Honda.

This also contributed to their popularity among thieves.

I got 375,000 miles out of 1986 Honda Accord. I think one time I went almost 5 years where the only thing I did was change the oil. (but, I drive like an old lady, slow starts etc.)

My newbness (or age) is showing. I wish I got to know these. And I believe it might come back since production may distribute closer to people (3D printing for non mechanically challenged parts)

I've had to replace the motor/regulator for my driver's side power window twice now ('05 Mitsu Galant). Fortunately it's just a $75-100 part and less than an hour of work.

Can confirm, window motor replacement's not terrible, and Youtube will probably tell you exactly how to do it for your make/model/year (did for our '01 Honda, which is the only car we've ever had power window problems with)

If you would like a challenge, get yourself a 1996 or newer Land Rover Discovery or Range Rover and try fixing the guaranteed to fail central locking or window regulators. A window regulator at a dealer is a 5 hour job. Owners who do things themselves avoid this job for as long as possible because it hurts to do it. Both of these systems can affect the alarm/immobilizer too, so enjoy being locked out of your car at a service station 100 miles from home.

Hardest is to dis- and reassemble the whole thing. Inside it's pretty simple.

I have to do this on my mother's car. Surprisingly both doors internals started to fail around the same year.

Mitsubishis have always been notorious for shoddy build quality.

I thought I was the only one who did this. I just about factory standard everything for my Chevrolet truck and nothing mechanical has broken down in the cab in 12 years. It is a mid-sized truck, too, which are more prone to breaking down. The only thing I replaced was the clock radio.

If you think of your car as any other tool you start to realize the electronic stuff might quickly get in the way of it functioning reliably whenever you need it. We have cranked windows, no AC, no other fancy electronics stuff (park assist? really? is that meant to unlearn people how to drive?) but electrical door locks. The one thing which ever let us down: the door locks of course.

And when your electric door locks fail, you can't even get into the car, nor can you open the hood to replace the battery.

I live in Europe, and my feelings About us cars is the same as the story about washing machines: somewhere in the '80 the quality got from superb to rubish. Where Honda cars of the nineties stil drive around, american cars dont. You see the old american cars of the sixties and seventies, but then you get a gap to only those almost new.

American here. Sorry, no: American cars from the 70s were complete and utter junk. The reason you see some (not a lot) still driving around is because their owners love them and put a lot of time into keeping them running. It's just like why you still see American cars from the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s driving around and at classic car shows; it's not because they're that reliable. Put enough work into repairing it and you can keep anything running.

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.

It's not that older American cars are more reliable, but that they have enough charm for people to maintain them and a healthy aftermarket to support them. '80s and '90s American cars, on the other hand, were with a few exceptions ugly as shit.

I've got a 12 year old Dodge and the driver's side electric window only works when it gets hot enough. (and its not the switch). Drives me nuts... A mechanic friend of mine told me that changing out a window motor is a pain in the ass.

I wasn't able to do that with my last car but I did avoid air conditioning, the salesman just couldn't grasp why I'd wait a week and pay the same for a car with less features.

I didn't even know you could get a car without A/C

I'm looking for a truck with hand cranked windows. What brand is this?

Base spec Land Cruisers and Geländewagens still have hand-cranked windows. Whether you can still buy one in the so-called civilized world is another matter altogether.

Seriously! I'd like to know too. I thought these went extinct.

80's Bronco 2

Microwave ovens are another classic. We got ours 25 years ago, and it's still going strong. In fact several people who know about appliances have warned us never to ditch it - apparently the magnetron tubes for all modern microwave ovens burn out in a couple of years.

When we moved into this house, the wife made noises about replacing the "ancient" oven [0]. I asked "Has the technique of cooking food with heat, changed drastically since the 70s?" We left it in.

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 [1]. 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.

[0] https://goo.gl/photos/qrgoixCJDViks8am9

[1] https://i.ytimg.com/vi/hLhXgVAYoAE/maxresdefault.jpg

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.

One thing you might want to try is a sugar browning test [0]. I have an "ancient" oven - gas fired from the 1970s. It's a rental home and I don't feel like spending my own money on a kitchen upgrade, but it would probably be money well spent.

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)

"Has the technique of cooking food with heat, changed drastically since the 70s?"

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.

I have a Sunbeam Radiant Toaster from the 1960s that I inherited after my grandmother passed away.

It still makes toast like a champ.

"Has the technique of cooking food with heat, changed drastically since the 70s?"

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.

well ... your wife refers to the oven (baking) and you respond to cooking. while I would still agree and keep the old oven, I have to say it does make a difference. modern ovens are much more easily regulated to and kept at specific temperatures. to give one example.

Ah yes, the Radar Range: https://youtu.be/uEywGpIt0vw?t=12

(That's Mike from Breaking Bad I think...)

I justs recently replaced a built in GE Microwave's magnetron and diode for around $75 with parts off of Amazon (it was 5 years old). To replace the Microwave would have cost me around $800 and to call a repair person would have been about $250.

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 have a Goldstar microwave that I bought about 30 years ago. I belive this company is now named LG. But it's been flawless and still works great.

I also have a chest freezer that my parents bought in the late 1970s and it's still working perfectly as well.

I remember our first VCR in the 80s being a Goldstar.

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."

A serious problem in the US was that regulation demanded clothes washer lids be locked when in operation. This led to forced electronics on clothes washers starting several years ago just to handle the automatic switch. I know Speed Queen was trying to delay this mess but I don't know if they are still manufacturing purely mechanical washers or not...

I don't know the nature of the regulation, but if all it demands is that the lid is locked while it is in operation, then I don't see the need for complex electronics at all. When the motor is spinning, lock. When the motor stops spinning, keep locked for 10 seconds. This can be done with cheap electronics known to work for 100.000 hours, more than enough hours for 30 years of service.

You're right that the electronics are cheap but they're still the first thing to break since they take quit a beating. They might last 30 years in a vacuum but not in a washer.

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.

How could a relay and a 555 timer possibly "take a beating"?

I can't think of more time-tested electrical components.

Is this true? I bought a (new) washer < 3 months ago that does not lock. Top-load, so maybe that's why?

I never understood front-load anyways. Topload fails safe. Front load fails in a giant puddle all over your floor.

Uh, no, a top-loader should certainly lock while it's running. When that thing spins to drain all of the water out, it moves dangerously fast. You should double check that there's not something wrong with it.

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.

> a top-loader should certainly lock while it's running.

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.

I have a top loader that doesn't lock, but it immediately shuts off if it's in the spin cycle and you open it. Perhaps yours is like that?

Yes, mine does that. No braking as discussed below though.

Top loaders have no need to lock when they are running for the prevention of putting limbs in them while they are moving. The moment the lid is opened the lid switch is tripped which shuts the washer off. Maybe you are thinking of a locking mechanism to keep someone from drowning in one?

My top-load Whirlpool locks the lid when in operation.

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.

When the drum inside a top-loader spins to drain the water, it uses centrifugal force to squeeze the water out. This means it spins extremely fast.

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.

I was told by the guy that delivered my washer that the High Efficiency washers spin dangerously fast which was why it locked. Switching off immediately would still be capable of causing harm.

I second this. In NZ most washers are top-loading, and I've never seen one that locks during operation. Instead, if you lift the lid while it is spinning, it engages some kind of emergency-brake and that spinner grinds to a halt in a fraction of a second.

> it engages some kind of emergency-brake and that spinner grinds to a halt in a fraction of a second.

On an HE model if it braked that fast I think the whole washer body would spin around.

Front load is better in every other way: easier on your clothes, so they last longer. Uses less water and less soap. Can take bulky fragile items like a down comforter or a tent.

It's not better in every way.

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 our front loader. All our towels are moldy. I can never get the smell out. The machine emits a vile rotten egg smell during the spin cycle.

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.

Front loaders are the worst. I got stuck with one in a rental . I've managed to make it acceptable by doing 3 things.

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.

You know what's worse? A modern top-loader (a high-efficiency one). I'll trade you. My top loader is absolute shit, and the front-loader we used to have was perfect. It's not remotely difficult to leave the door open and never have a mildew issue.

Thank you for the STPP/TSP tip... I'm really sensitive to purfumes/dyes, and although I can get the purfume/dye free detergent, fabric softener without it is harder to come by. Sometimes use "baby" fabric softener or detergent.

I also have problems with perfume and softeners always get such a bad chemical smell very fast. Will try to get hold of TSP, thanks!

I've never had a problem with mildew but I also tend to leave the door open for an unspecified amoutn of time once it's done. I'll close it later if I can be bothered but the open door doesn't get in my way so I don't really care.

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.

I live in a very humid country and even top-loading washing machines suffer from mildew - here detergent is sold on anti-mildew properties and you can buy special washing machine cleaner liquids.

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.

Newer front-loaders seem to come with a self-clean cycle that does the trick (especially when you add some vinegar or bleach to the four hour process).

Check your manual. There's usually information about running a hot cycle with bleach for maintenance.

Try running it with a double strong dose of Star San. In general, mildew can be avoided with star San and borax.

Run the hottest program once in a while ( 90 Celsius )

The only reason a front loader has less mildew issues is because the top is unsealed. Repairs are not more expensive in my experience, and why should they be, the basic principles are the same. A front loader usually washes better, saves you quite a bit on the water and electricity bills, and for all that you just need to remember to not close the lid when not in use.

How is leaving the door open a big deal? I just leave it open and pretty much only close it if it's been open for more than 24 hours or I need to use the shower (it's a small bathroom). No mildew or strange smells. I think the problem is that people these days don't want to deal with even a minimal amount of maintenance.

It's not even maintenance, it's a change of habbit. Which is hard for some people.

Recently replaced a mildewy washer with the cheapest top loader LG makes. Fuck it. I'm not buying another expensive appliance ever again. The previous one was barely repairable.

My LG front loader has a small hose behind a panel on the lower front where the drain pump filter is. When I am finished washing I take the plug out of the hose, drain all the water, then remove the drain pump filter and leave the door open until I next need to use the washer. Otherwise, there would be ~500 mL stagnant water in the plumbing of the washer, keeping the humidity inside the washer comfortable for mold.

Also, use warm water and half the suggested amount of washing powder.

All kinds of things will grow on the water pipes, drains and containers. That's normal. I can take all of them out super easy on our old siemens washing machine, we're talking less then 15 minutes. Rinse, put them in a dishwasher, put back in 15. that smell is gone for a couple of years. Good luck doing this on a more recent washing machine. I wouldn't recommend leaving the door open. Some rubber parts don't like it if they are dry for too long.

The secret to maintaining a front load machine is to leave the door open when you're not using it. That's it.

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.

A top loader with no center agitator is almost as good, though it does still use somewhat more water than a front loader.

I've seen so many front loaders where the seals aren't regularly cleaned, and they just look gunky, moldy and or like they are drying out/cracking. Maybe it's just in Arizona. That alone doesn't appeal to me. Also, there's the load height, though with stands, it isn't too bad.

In Europe you will find nowhere toploader. We know they are poor engineering: Bad water and electricity efficiency combined with more stress and wear out for the fabrics during washing. Only plus side I can see is that it is faster... but wasting so much resources does not justifies it IMHO.

This is not true. Modern top loaders, such as Samsung High Efficiency top loaders don't waste water like the old mechanical top loaders. They weigh the clothing, adjusting the water levels accordingly. They also don't have agitators, and wear fabrics less than the spinning action of a rotating drum. For a 2nd story laundry, they are a no-brainer, because the spin cycle (which is much faster than an old-school top loader) results in significantly less vibration than a front loader.

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.

No. They're fucking terrible. Don't buy one. Buy a front-loader. Trust me.

Why would a spin cycle wear clothes more when oriented one direction versus the other?

They also have ridiculously long cycles. No thanks, I'll take the front loader and 22 minute cycles.

Even Samsungs best top loaders still use significantly more water and energy than a front loader.

We had a top loader that spins around horizontal axis, just as front loaders do, should have the same water consumption.

Oh yes, that's true! In Europe they are also used when there is not enough space for purely front loaders... nevertheless they still spin around horizontal axis.

> Only plus side I can see is that it is faster...

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.

All front loaders I know (Europe) have programs for all use cases (it's more complicated for sure). But when I compare a usual top loader in the US with a usual front loader in Europa I can relate to the top loader having much more space (when you get space problems in any loader it will not wash good). Never had a problem to wash the largest blanket in a normal front loader here were I live (Germany) but we also do not like synthetics so much for blankets.

> All front loaders I know (Europe) have programs for all use cases (it's more complicated for sure).

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.

A washer can rip a kid's arms off or worse if their sleeve gets caught in it while the lid is open.

You don't need electronics to do that. A solenoid hooked up to the timer would be enough.

The problem is not regulation or electronics. Rather the problem is designs intended to fail shortly after the warranty period expires.

Random note, seems to me that the *washers market has been a scam for a long time, the only difference between models seem superficial: interface aesthetics, a few programs and a new screen. Imagine if the rotor and fluid was decoupled and you could swap the controlling part ?

I've worked on hundreds of domestic appliances.

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.

"The only explanation..."? What about "never attribute to malice..." and Occam's Razor.

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.

Well that, and a home appliance doesn't cost 1/7th of your annual budget anymore. Some things were built to last because to justify the expense, they had to last.

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.

Speaking of James May and manufactured items of yore vs today, he recently did a series where he puts together a bunch of old stuff.


That's actually the series in which he makes the observation I was paraphrasing. I found that show pretty entertaining actually, and oddly satisfying. Edit: I think it might have been the stand mixer episode.

I also strongly recommend the mini-motorcycle episode.

In a similar vein, I hope you've seen the Primitive Technology channel on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAL3JXZSzSm8AlZyD3nQdBA

Oh yes, I love that channel...it's like virtual meditation crossed with a really interesting lesson.

The clip you mention is at 21:50 in this episode, indeed the kitchen mixer episode:


"Therefore medieval England must have been full of cathedrals. It must have been amazing!"

I'm really enjoying episode 1 so far. There's something almost therapeutic about it.

I agree... it's mildly amusing, mildly engaging, mildly informative... it's just mild in the best possible way. It actually feels a bit like looking over someone's shoulder in a workshop, in a pleasant way.

Well, there's buckling spring model-m style keyboards, or even other keyswitch keyboards vs typical gel membrane keyboards... but even then, the casing material and backplate on a newer unicomp doesn't match the older IBM keyboards... it's definitely cheaper plastic everywhere except the keys themselves. Unicomp are about the only kb mfg today whose keys don't show obvious wear within a year of purchase.

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?

The keyboards are significantly cheaper as well. The Model M keyboard retailed for 150$, which would be almost 400$ in today's money. For 400$ I guarantee you you will find a keyboard with a thick casing and quality plastic today.

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)

LEGO are, officially at least, looking to move to a more sustainable plastic rather than a cheaper one. They have spent a lot of time and money coming up with an analog that is more environmentally friendly without sacrificing quality (compression strength, deformity, discoloration, etc).

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.

I'm on board with half of this claim. The failure-due-to-defect rates actually are rising, according to systematic studies of home appliances. But the cost decline might actually compensate for that, at least in consumer terms. If you cut costs on the most over-engineered parts of your product, you can often create a less-reliable device that's still more cost-efficient. Of course, whether you pass those savings to consumers is a second question.


This is why if you are a thrift store, the older-looking item is often a better buy than the newer-looking item of the same kind. The newer one is often further along is wear cycle than the older one.

Occam's razor goes on a different path if you know a little bit about the guts of the product.

The difference between a top 1% appliance and an average appliance is probably less than $10 of materials and $5 in labor.

Very unlikely.

Once you work in manufacturing you realize that components are actually very expensive, not a $10 joke.

The spectacular failures in these products that I've seen in the last decade were all skimping.

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... )

I know that weight makes a big difference when shipping parts or complete machines. So the cost of shipping magnifies when you use heavier materials.

Perhaps when we buy applicances we should just choose the heaviest one.

I remember when I disassembled a VCR I was suprised to find a lead weight in it.

Presumably to help dampen vibrations from all the spinning parts?

Definitely, you'd have bits rattling around otherwise, and maybe even some harmonic issues. Even if it wasn't a noise issue, it would probably wear out the tapes a lot faster, and lead to more jams.

Then of course, you have Beatz headphones, which really are the next best thing to a scam.

You're probably correct. At the time I thought it was done to make it feel higher quality.

If that becomes a popular rule then unfortunately it's fantastically easily gamed.

Compare the average <$1000 fridge/freezer combo, with a Sub Zero model. My mother has one she's kept running for over 25 years...

Meanwhile my cheap apartment-scale fridge was made with chewing gum and hope.

That 25 year old refrigerator is almost certainly very expensive to operate. Look at the energy use over time: 1990 -> 2015 saw a halving of power usage (1000 kWh/y -> 500 kWh/y) -- over a ten year lifespan with CA electricity at $0.19/kWh, that's $950 in increased energy expenditure as compared to a new refrigerator. ie it would be close to free.


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.

> All those metals are valuable.

And all those refrigerants need to be collected to prevent release to the atmosphere.

When I moved in with my wife, we replaced her 10-year old bachelor-sized fridge with a new one that was over 3x bigger and the new one had nearly the exact same power draw...

That makes a lot of sense though, a bigger fridge can have better circuit and insulation and will have a significantly larger "cold inertia".

A deep freezer is a very different beast. It is a simpler appliance with very basic components. Far fewer things to break than your combo which has to precisely regulate the temperature and has auto de-icing. I grew up with fridges that needed to be de-iced every few months. Those didn't break much either.

Sub Zero is a brand, it's not a deep freezer.

I believe Sub Zero still has sub-average lifespan.


don't look any further, I bought a 3k washer and dryer combination from LG 4 years ago. It boasted a ten year warranty!

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.

The gelatin covering the board does serve a purpose--it helps with vibration, among other things. It's called a potting compound, and you'll find it around electronic components in other high-vibration applications (automotive, power tools, etc.)


Don't know why LG does that when Miele only has a dedicated compartment containing the bare motherboard + service manual in plastic bag

Potting is less expensive than designing an entire suspended/isolated container.

This is the subject of this thread. How much "less expensive" you get on a $3~4k machine where the competition is $500. To compare with well built machines going for $3~4k in the 50's

An SMPS controller burned on my LG Washer control. LG didn't have any boards in stock, so I decided to repair it myself. Pried the board out of the tray with autobody pry tools and pulled away the silicone goo where I needed to repair.

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.

Might be worth suing them in small claims for breach of implied warranty.

Relying on an LG appliance warranty is an invitation to heartbreak...

>"The only explanation..."? What about "never attribute to malice..." and Occam's Razor.

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.

Maximizing profits also involves making products at the price points customers want. If customers don't want to pay for 50 year appliances, why should they make one?

I do want to pay more for a 50 year appliance. How can I tell it will last 50 years?

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.

Exactly. What incentive is there for manufacturers to make appliances that last 50 years when consumers won't even be able to tell? They'll just buy the cheapest one anyway.

>Maximizing profits also involves making products at the price points customers want. If customers don't want to pay for 50 year appliances, why should they make one?

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?

Sure they are -- eg Ford, Chevy, Toyota, and Honda still sell cars. We're betting on getting to 250k and the maintenance costs: do you pick a Honda Civic/Toyota Corolla, or a domestic brand?

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.

Maybe they couldn't afford a refrigerator in the 1970's. Living within ones means is a value that has not been a large part of the country's identity (US.) We could just be growing more conscious of living with in our means now because of the economic crisis. I don't mean to sound like an expert or anything, I'm just playing devil's advocate

The average household can afford a fridge today. How many people do you know who don't have one?

When did I contest this? What I asked is: if they could afford a 50-year-good fridge in the 70s, why wouldn't they be able to afford a 50-year-good fridge today?

They're also so much more energy efficient now:

> 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).


You are picking an unusually high end example.


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.

He said a washer dryer. I can buy a brand new Hotpoint washer for about $250, but you won't find a washer dryer for that price.

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.

Washing machines cost between $250 and $2,050; dryers cost anywhere from $200 to $1,750. http://www.kitchens.com/product-guide/washers-dryers/washer-...

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.

If you have to pay their engineer, there's surely nothing to stop them charging an inflated price that more than covers the parts cost, no?

Not only that, but people also _want_ to buy new appliances, since they actually become better. More silent, less power drain, more features, etc. So if everyone buys new stuff every ten years or so anyway, why bother building stuff that lasts fifty since that undoubtedly is more expensive.

I'd be happy if new stuff lasted 10 years.

Came here to say the same thing. I am always skeptical when people use the phrase "they don't make them like they used to" because the reason they used to make them like that is either (a) they had to hand make them and it wa super expensive, (b) they didn't have cheaper materials so they used thick and strong stuff just so it wouldn't fall apart before being delivered, (c) they didn't have the infrastructure to repair or replace parts, or (d) there were no economies of scale because everything was a one off.

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.

That's what you get for buying fake leather. A polyester jacket will perform better and be lighter, and not need maintenance. It won't look like leather, though. That's why you're having problems: you're trying to get something that looks like leather, because you want that style, not because it actually performs better.

I wear leather jackets because I like them. A good leather jacket is better than a shitty faux leather jacket. But for the same price, synthetic probably wins.

Shoes are a hard one for me... 13-6E (US) so my options are very limited, form meh, to okay.

> 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.

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.

Some little controller will break in 3-4 years and cost $450 to repair.

Came here to ask how the author could write that entire piece and not compare costs.

If I can buy $500 ones that last 10 years I will be better off than buying 1 for $4500 that lasts 50. Although the planet wont be

And then account for interest, inflation, improved efficiency and possibly future reductions in cost -- a $500 one that lasts 10 years might be a better investment than a $4500 one that lasts 1000.

Having to worry about safety (electric shocks, leaks, fires, short circuiting) when something breaks, hauling big heavy appliances in and out of the house, selecting new ones,... those are costs you have to factor in when choosing to go with the shit that doesn't last. I'd prefer having the stuff that lasts longer for a little bit more money if I had a choice.

I would too - but 10 years would be ok

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity" is a great way for the malicious to fool the stupid.

Sorry but I'm not drinking the Miele Kool-Aid any longer. Maybe in the past they were great (my MIL has a 20 years old washing machine that's going great) but not the new stuff.

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.

Are we ready to dismiss an entire brand because of one anecdote? All appliances fail at some point. We can't make a judgement based on a single data point.

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.

The other thing that's discounted here is how people treat their products they've purchased.

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.

Point of order: The non-filter cleaned item is the longest lived.

Also, do you guys even dishwasher? You clean them by using a wash pack like this[1]. 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!

[1] https://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=25945475...

I took my anecdata straight to the shops, jumped onto the planned obsolescence bandwagon and bought the cheapest replacement I could find.

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.

Unless the world gets really good at recycling, this is also the guaranteed way to utterly trash the planet.

Where do you live in the world that doesn't recycle white goods?

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.

recycling in the US has to be profitable. Where I live we are no longer allowed to put glass into the recycling because it is no longer a profit center for the city.

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.

> to put glass into the recycling because it is no longer a profit center

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.

The right kind of sand for making glass isn't found everywhere. In the UK, we have a particular problem that the only glass-suitable sand we have is not suitable for making clear glass, so we can only make coloured glass. All our clear glass is imported, mostly from France. However, most local recycling centres only have a "mixed colours" glass bin, so we can't even make our own recycled clear glass. And That's Why We Can't Have Nice Things (tm).

The reason to recycle materials made of abundant elements (steel, aluminum, glass) is to conserve energy rather than ores. (Even the energy justification would be far less significant if world energy systems were mostly non-fossil.) Though city planners should do the arithmetic to double check that the collection system doesn't waste more resources than it saves.

Refining iron or aluminum from ore takes significant energy because you're basically un-rusting it, and that reaction naturally runs the other way; recycled metal gets to reuse that energy investment.

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).

This is incorrect. Making good glass is not trivial, glass has been recycled since Roman times. Even today, "Savings for other materials are lower but still substantial: about 70% for plastics, 60% for steel, 40% for paper and 30% for glass."

How new? 14 yo Miele washer never had an issue.

>no filter cleaning for first 5 years!

That's pretty disgusting for something you use to eat.

It's one of the dumber features of the Euro dishwashers. All you need is a good macerator and no worries with periodic maintenance chores.

Well, I haven't had to clean my filter in over 5 years, but I still pre-rinse (yes, I know you're not supposed to need to anymore, but I don't want to risk it), so I check the filter regularly, but it's clean.

Ha! That's not quite how my model works (you just use a wash pack to clean the whole machine) but yeah, when I did finally clean the filter because a plastic straw was stuck in it it was not so bad considering.

Well, the rate of failure is the lowest compared to other manufacturers. And those repairs are way too expensive I should say.

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.

The drum was a point all the repair guys brought up for basically all washing machines because all the modern ones are welded or something. Essentially they said they are terrible for repairs compared to the old style (which I presume weren't welded?) but the benefit to the newer setup was less leaks (or words to that effect).

I've got an LG direct drive. The bearings failed after about 6 years. The repair ended up being about $250(US). They replaced the stator, rotor, drum, and bearings (essentially all the moving parts of the appliance).

Staber washers are supposedly made with industry-standard components (seals, bearings, motors, etc.) so if they fail you can get replacements from any mechanical parts supplier.

Don't know how reliable they are.

Someone should start a company building all appliances this way - they'd be taken over and shut down very quickly.

> Sorry but I'm not drinking the Miele Kool-Aid any longer.

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.

Miele's reputation is based mainly on their washing machines. When we bought the appliances for our kitchen we did not even consider any Miele products, but for washing machines I would never buy anything else.

>> The warranty is only 2 years standard (thanks for that at least EU)

Maybe it's different depending on EU country but it should be 2 year manufacturer warranty followed by 4 years covered by the retailer.

Here is a much simpler explanation: people want to buy cheap stuff. If given a choice between $1200 appliance which lasts 25 years, and $1000 appliance which last 15 years, and no infomation about the actual lifetimes, most people would choose the cheaper model. The people feel good, the sales rise, and who cares what happens in 15 years -- the company will have different execs by that time. And once people get used to 15 years life, the company can introduce even cheaper mode which lasts 10 years only!

See -- no conspiracy theories required, just general greed and irresponsibility. :)

I think the problem is more complex.

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.

Also, on average people move houses every 7 years in the US (give or take based on age) and it is typical for the appliances to stay with the house. This means the original owner/buyer is pretty unlikely to see the appliance fail before they sell the house. The next owner might, but will buy a new one and then move before it fails. Repeat...

I think this is also why "no brainer" upgrades like solar panels (depending on location) and very efficient HVAC systems aren't installed. Ditto woodwork that's not actually glorified cardboard and can be refinished indefinitely, et c.

Not to mention that warranties on major appliances or home products are often either explicitly or practically non-transferrable to new owners. The previous owners of my house had the basement waterproofed but I can't makes claims under the warranty unless I pay a yearly fee!

> So why use not bespoke, higher quality parts for the $2000 one? Because it will end up costing more like $4,000-$5,000.

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.

It's not like $300 models went away.

A lot of people want cheap stuff. Cheap PC laptops are still popular.

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.

See also: the story of Volkswagen AG and its parts for American vs European cars (esp Passats)

Reference? A quick search brought up not much.

VW aggressively cuts costs and reduces quality of their American products. The American Passat is different than the European Passat, we get the Euro Passat in the US as the CC. VW also massively decontented the Jetta a few years ago to better compete with the Japanese cars. Despite the car reviewer universally chastising VW for making their cars feel "cheap", Jetta sales skyrocketed.

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.

Cars are designed to fail faster? Um...No. not even close.

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.

This rings true. I just fixed our 5-year old Kenmore fridge - a 15A glass fuse blew after a storm. Of course it is soldered into the power control board directly without a housing, and the manufacturer lists it as an unserviceable part. They'll only sell the control board as a whole unit for $200+.

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.

The belief that "our cars used to last much longer, manufacturers are screwing us" is bullshit. I'm not sure if people are looking at the past through rose-colored glasses, or if there's severe selection bias (people only notice the 40 year old car, not recognizing that it only represents >1% of the vehicles produced at the time, and has received a fortune in repairs and maintenance costs), but the data is clear, our cars are better and last much longer than they do in the past. Just look at the average age of the vehicle fleet:



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.

I would easily agree with you about cars, but do not agree regarding appliances. What the article states about appliances is absolutely true. If you look at most major appliances warranties, you will see evidence of this that is completely the opposite of what you see with cars. Cars are seeing warranties stretching to the 10-year, 100,000 mile mark, whereas warranties on refrigerators (compressor), for example, has been halved in the last 15 years, going from 10-year warranties in the early 2000s to 5-year warranties today.

> 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.

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)

You do notice the quality difference immediately, like the difference between an iPhone and a cheap flip phone. The high-end Miele machines do look a bit like what an Apple washing machine might look like, too [1]. It's not just the design; those things feel expensive.

[1] https://m.miele.de/haushalt/waschmaschine-1566.htm?mat=07082...

The price for Bosch/Siemens made in Germany is about twice as high than the ones made elsewhere.

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.

I agree. It would be worth double the price, if they used all different components than the ones used in its cheaper siblings. But if much of the parts are the same inside, where it's manufactured doesn't really matter.

But what about the time spent moving it around/waiting for the technician/trying to repair something clearly not designed to last/shopping for a new one?

Someone forgot to tell Rotel this (the Hi Fi company). My amplifier and pre-amp from 1997 are still going strong this day today, 20 years later.

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.

Personally, I think there is a market for quality in appliances as well (certainly I'd look for quality over wiz bang Internet of Things crap); the appliance market just has a quasi-monopoly dominating sales, and they are currently over-focused on a race to the bottom.

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)

> The best appliances today, by the way, are made by Bosch/Siemens and Miele. None of the other manufacturers come close, period.

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".

We used to joke that Miele bought up all the metal that wasn't used for the Leopards for their washing machines (cast iron counterbalances and very thick walls) :D

Anything wrong with buying a commercial clothes washer and dryer, like the ones at laundromats?

I know a guy who did extensive research and bought a Speed Queen washer and dryer, simply because most of their business is in commercial units. They're built simply and made to last, but not easy to find at retail.

They will be much louder and may be less energy efficient.

Any reason to expect them to last longer?

They are more serviceable at least, you can get the replacement parts pretty easily along with manuals. They're purposely made that way for hotels/laundromats/etc where you can't just swap it out.

They're built for commercial/industrial service.

You don't need a conspiracy theory to explain cheap laptops and smartphones. Those devices get way better every couple years. It doesn't make sense to build a smartphone that'll last 5 years, if it'll feel like a crappy phone for years 3-5. Even though there are plenty of people who don't care about the difference, enough people do care to make the market.

I am sure that Miele builds outstanding washing machines. But, first, a Miele basically costs double what another branded machine would cost. And partly, they live on their old name and reputation. Same with Mercedes. I am sure a Mercedes is an outstanding peace of hardware. But I am also sure any Mercedes will never be as long lasting and as reliable, as a Mercedes build on the W123 platform.

Even appliances from the same factory going to different countries are vastly different in quality. Pretty much the same model too. There is a huge washing machine assembly operation inmy town, my friends work there, they warn anyone that would listen.

See Lindy effect. Most things fail pretty quickly but things that last a long time tend to keep working.

High end Bosch is now manufactured in Turkey as well :/.

When I went to the first semester of engineering school at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, there was a class called Engineering Professional Development 160: Introduction to Engineering.

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.

I had a similar experience in a mechanical engineering class, our professor was discussing MTBF (mean time between failure) and how calculating this more accurately allowed companies to better engineer their product for obsolescence. For a company, a product that is too reliable is unprofitable in the long term and so they adjust by making sure that the product works beyond the terms of the warranty but not much more.

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

It's obvious that companies do this sort of thing. The main thing that prevented it in the past was that parts and labour were actually a significant cost, so things would be more expensive (in real terms) than today. When a TV or washing machine could be as much as 100% of a month's salary for a family, people couldn't afford a new one every 4 years. Companies realised this, so they made stuff that lasted longer.

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.

I'm afraid your corollary won't apply; the lowest wages will just move elsewhere. There already was a company in China that moved production to the US because of wages there (plus transport costs, etc). I could see countries in Africa become the next manufacturing powerhouse(s), direct access to major seaways to both the US, Europe and Asia, etc. I don't know if they have the natural resources though, or the political stability for that matter.

This exploitation of cheap foreign labor is a big reason why rural America is doing so poorly. Corporations used to go to rural America for cheap labor, but because of our environmental and labor laws as well as our higher standard of living, it's not viable. I honestly don't see how this trend can continue without destabilizing our country.

If you look at a typical smartphone, the retail/supply chain labor costs in the US are at least twice the production and logistical costs in the country of origin.

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.

It makes me wonder if the people at the top could handle expecting less, could trends reverse themselves and more people benefit, or if it's beyond them with too many other factors to consider. Does it really all come down to "We have to grow every quarter or die"?

In any competitive market if one manufacturer decides to stray far from optimal behavior for such reasons, it won't even last a decade before their competitors overtake them (no matter if simply taking their marketshare, or with literal buyouts, or by taking over their assets in a bankruptcy/restructuring sale) and reverse those practices.

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.

I don't know why you're being downvoted. The board of directors exists to maximize profits, not create a stable society. As long as greater profits can be achieved by gutting the lower and middle classes, it will happen. To create change, the government must step in, which is almost impossible since the major corporations of this country have lobbied so much and spread so much propaganda.

It already has; see the 2016 election. Factories will come back, but they won't require labor anymore, so in the long term something fundamental needs to change.

> if global salaries become more equal in the future,

> the lowest wages will just move elsewhere.


The richest capitalists are planning a move to Mars, and presumably instituting (effective) slave labor or indentured servitude there.

Yeah but if you finish your contract on mars you get the anti-aging treatment for free.

Ever notice how the high cost of wages in the USA combined with RORO car carriers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roll-on/roll-off) to lose 85% of the UAW jobs in the USA? They allowed very low cost sea transport to the USA. The UAW constant striking for wages, perks and pensions (now close to $75 per hour)and other labor restrictive rules threw away 85% of their members jobs. This was an unintended consequence of greed and management parallel avarice who just upped the cost of cars by passing it to us. Now most people can own only used cars. The net effect also increased all other US wages - all of which now come home in spades. Furniture and matresses, locally built items can still be US made.

Remember - a bad job has low wages. I high wage job can also be bad - to the economy.

Yep, there is absolutely no way whatsoever policy could have prevented that from happening. It's all the fault of workers and there is no choice but for all of us to reduce our standard of living to compete with the world's most destitute places.

I think automation is going to do the very opposite.

Ironically, I work for a manufacturer who tries to support their product for at least 20-30 years, but obsolescence is an incredible challenge due to use of a lot of commercial of the shelf electronics which themselves go obsolete at a ridiculous pace. What I'm saying is, even if you try to engineer a product to last, if the supply chain supporting you isn't to doing the same, the problem often compounds.

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.

> What I'm saying is, even if you try to engineer a product to last, if the supply chain supporting you isn't to doing the same, the problem often compounds.

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.

What if your company decided to sacrifice features for maintainability and kept the electronics in the product to a minimum? There might be a strong market for something that does only 1-2 things but can be maintained indefinitely with simple materials and tools.

Yes, actually this is a strategy for sure.

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.

Then you can't offer the features and efficiency that the competitors' models do. Replacing the simple mechanisms of yesteryear with microcontrollers and sensors is how our appliances have become so much more efficient, just like humans have become the dominant species on this planet by having the most complex brain, instead of trying to get by with the mental abilities of an amoeba.

Miele did have parts for a 30 years old vacuum cleaner a couple of years ago when I needed them.

>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.

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.

There's another factor to this - the US homeownership has gone down over the years, and will likely go lower.

More renters = even less incentive for reliable products, as the cheapest install that works is sufficient to rent.

Not necessarily. The problem here is that many appliances are the property of the landlord, and it's their responsibility to repair or replace them. Landlords who buy cheap junk appliances that need quick replacement are going to see their profits wiped out.

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.

> Landlords who buy cheap junk appliances that need quick replacement are going to see their profits wiped out.

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".

> For a company, a product that is too reliable is unprofitable in the long term and so they adjust by making sure that the product works beyond the terms of the warranty but not much more.

My 2002 Volvo V70, which I bought second hand a couple of years ago, is so reliable that I consider buying a Volvo again.

>(W)hich I bought second hand a couple of years ago

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.

Resale value definitely affects new car purchasing.

For one, lease prices are partly determined by the expected resale value, and a lot of new car drivers get them by leasing them

> Would you consider buying a NEW Volvo?

Yes - sorry I forgot to add that bit :)

Plus 1 - my 2002 v70 had quarter a million on the clock and was very happy. 2.4 diesel was built to last. Not sure how the newer greener engines would be, all diesels now need a DPF that needs changing regularly, or a similar device to keep emissions down. I bought another (newers and sadly non Volvo) diesel, and I'm regretting it on a longevity POV - it's a great car now, but without pouring money into I'm not sure how long it will last - if I get 3 years I'll be happy (often less that 7k miles per year, so I don't tax my cars - just irregular long motorway trips with the rest of the time the car barely used).

Any diesel engine that has SCR and isn't miserly on the urea should be good to go. It's the ones that cheap out and rely excessively on EGR that you should watch out for.

Mine is a citroen so uses a urea system - hopefully good then... It's a lovely family car and easy 53mpg - though as a cyclist and parent I'm now feeling guilty about particulates, but as I say I drive irregularly and mainly motorway miles.

The urea system allows the engine to run lean and hot without excess NOx emissions, which reduces particulate emissions. The particulate filter should take care of the rest.

Great to hear! Pleased that they haven't been drawn into the emissions scandal (so far?) - really hopeful that my next car can be a electric or hybrid - but just have to see how the used car market pans out.

> their appliances are double to triple the price of typical companies

This seems like the most important detail by far.

Mean Time Between Failures

That's an interesting contrast. I mean, you're correct, but why is the acronym "between" instead of "before"?

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.

That's a good point. I'm not sure why I misremembered the term but in this case it might actually be more accurate.

The other one is Mean Time To Failure.

I also studied engineering and I think your professor missed the point. You don't overengineer stuff anymore nowadays, not because you want to scam your consumer out of money (aka planned obsolence) but because the design tools got better and every gram of metal or plastic and every screw and every operation like welding, glueing and so on costs money. Nowadays simulation tools, new manufacturing processes and experience allow very cheap designs that endure the predicted amount of stress but not much more. That's the trade-off.

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.

Fundamentally, you can't serve a turd and call it steak.

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!

Author here, you are absolutely right. Want to see me angry? You should have seen me when I found out my 90 year old neighbor lady is on her second Whirlpool made vertical modular washer in the past 5 years. (top loading washer with the led lights on the control panel) Not everyone can afford to be ripped off and sold garbage washing machines that WILL break within 3 years.

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.

When it comes to tools, I usually buy the cheap version at Harbor Freight first, and then if I end up using it enough that it breaks, I'll research and get something more reliable.

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.)

Considering that Black & Decker own DeWalt, I wouldn't put much hope into your drill being a long lasting professional tool. I put my vote with Makita.

To your point, I saw or heard an interview with a Ford engineer a while back where he basically said look we know how to make parts that last forever, but they are heavy and expensive. He went on to say people want more affordable cars (cheaper parts) and we need to make cars lighter for fuel efficiency standards (lighter parts), so they set an internal goal of 10 years of longevity for a part, and then try and make the cheapest/lightest part that meets that goal.

Having worked with their racing teams in the past, you are correct. A good example is the clutch. Most clutch pads made these days, and likely for the last 4 or so decades, are made out of composite materials like ceramics, carbon-fiber, and even paper. These clutch pads have higher heat tolerances before warping occurs, yes, but they wear out much faster under daily driving conditions. Brass clutch pads will last beyond the next 2 ice ages, but do warp at very high heat/pressures, as one may experience when first learning a stick (but then decided to continue grinding away for the next 15 years anyways). They also do not design such that it will only last 10 years, they design such that it will last until some statistical deviation longer than the warranty for that part/car (depending on the contract corporate pushes out). Example: The manual transmission has a warranty for 3 years/50,000 miles. The clutch pads are then designed to wear out at 55,000 miles/3.25 years, or whatever the algorithms says will produce the most money.

A clutch is a wear item that will not be covered under warranty, regardless.

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).

I don't think cars are a good example. Cars last much longer and with far fewer significant problems than they used to. A car made in the 1970s would maybe last 100,000 miles, if it didn't rust out first. And it would likely have one or more significant problems in that time (transmission failure, major engine problems, etc).

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.

Eh, when you consider the drive-train of your average 70s American car there's nothing preventing it from going 300k. The same small-block v8s and 3spd autos were used through the 90s with very good reliability. It's the little crap going wrong everywhere else that makes people upgrade.

It's a fucking washing machine, 10kg extra isn't going to make any difference.

10kg of steel would cost about USD$10.00, and then shipping it around the world costs again. At my factory, we use the number "50 cents a pound" as an average cost for shipping pallets around the lower 48 states.

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.

Are washing machines not still being made with concrete in the base? I'm sure balancing has gotten more intelligent, but there still needs to be some mass to keep the thing from walking.

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.

I seen an article on the ring pulls on top of coke cans. They are hollow because it has a huge impact on raw materials usage (over the course of 10 million cans). I think every gram counts to the bottom line of the share holders no matter how mundane. Similar to the UK Construction Industry. Hit the minimum possible legal requirement and charge the maximum amount of money.

> They are hollow because it has a huge impact on raw materials usage

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.

The other point is that you don't want to over-engineer any single part. Getting a 10,000 hour lifespan out of the motor is useless if the chuck cracks in 2,000 hours and the thing gets thrown away. Ideally you'd have the entire thing fall apart at once.

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.

That lifetime perspective is really on point. I recently bought some used barber supplies from a guy who's mom is in the styling business. There's been a shift for them to go cordless/battery powered for convenience and I wound up buying some trimmers and clippers from him for a fraction of the cost. The lifetime these tools were designed at far exceeds the lifetime of my usage with my family and stuff; they'll go the distance for sure. I've since come to learn that this little market does appear to have pretty serviceable parts as you can see with a lot of exploded diagrams they put out https://www.proproductsandmore.com/images/andis_sl2_trimmer.... I'm trying to remember what the lifetime quote to me was, something like these clippers were meant to cut 20 heads a day, day after day for some number of years. I realized at the rate I was going they'd be heirlooms to pass on to my son and stuff.

If products are failing before their owners were "done" with them, then the analysis you describe is inferior to whatever design techniques preceded it, regardless of how sophisticated it is, because, well, products are failing before their owners are done with them.

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.

Whilst this is clearly how no company should aspire to be, it's easy to understand that they want to make a profit, and if you design a "once in a lifetime" product, you'll find yourself out of business within 10 years or so after everyone owns said product.

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.

Heaven forbid said company should use that quality to build their brand reputation, charge more to funnel back into R&D to create another product to fulfill a different consumer need, grow, get more profitable, and continue the virtuous cycle. That'd be, like, justifying capitalism or something.

This should be the default state of every appliance, just because it should outcompete every other player. (Who would buy something that breaks?)

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?

Capitalism maximizes benefits to Capital, not consumers or labor.

I think the implication is that if consumers are well informed they will lookout for their own needs and try to buy goods of sufficient quality.

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.

> If enough consumers do this the market for junk should fail

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.

Not at all incompatible with the parent post. "Sufficient quality", "junk" are the counterparts to "upsell", and "over-engineered". It's in the eye of the beholder.

I think in some markets it has worked great. My cheap car, a Hyundai Elantra is at just about 100,000 and I have not had to replace any major components.

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.

Sure some markets like autos are like as you say. Many others, much less so.

I think all markets follow that logic.

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.

> Do people want stuff that breaks

No, people want the thing that is the cheapest to buy, not the thing with the lowest total lifetime cost.

> it's easy to understand that they want to make a profit, and if you design a "once in a lifetime" product, you'll find yourself out of business within 10 years or so after everyone owns said product.

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
Just tax each sale at the cost it takes to recycle.

> by 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.

In NL, whenever you buy a new appliance, you (the consumer) have to pay a "removal fee", which is a few% or a fixed price depending on the product - think like €15 for a washing machine. This is used for the shop you buy a product from to take away your old one, and to cover some of the costs of recycling (I guess the materials in a dishwasher aren't valuable enough on their own to warrant recycling for the sake of making money off of it. Probably not many reusable parts either)

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.

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.

It would make a difference - an appliance that would last 15 years would be $X more expensive, but buying 5 appliances that each last 3 years would cost 5*$X. If $X is meaningfully large, it becomes a strong motivation to prefer things that last longer.

It would make some difference, but it's only doing half the job. The tax would remove the manufacturer's incentive to sell additional units through planned obsolescence (or at least, to the degree that the government has the ability to calculate this).

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.

So is your argument that there should never be any taxes of any kind (anarcho-primitivism)?

If that's not your argument, then what is unique about landfill taxes that make them more likely to be "gifted to special interests"?

So is your argument that there should never be any taxes of any kind (anarcho-primitivism)?

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.

Also, what other tools could we have made if we had optimal tools for the existing ones?

Time to stop thinking about profits and start thinking about sustainable developments.

And that will happen when money stops being useful. If you want sustainable solutions, realistically companies need to be charged for their externalities. Expecting altruistic behavior on a massive scale just won't work.

> Of course this site is dedicated to the idea he expressed

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.

I can understand where he is coming from. As a community we do spend a lot of time talking about companies and products that are definitely not going to last. If building to last is a priority it's not very high on the list.

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.

Yeah, I downvoted the comment solely based on this. It's absurd.

I don't think it's a conscious, malicious strategy. Just a reality of manufacturing.

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.

So this is why Dyson no longer sells vacuums and Apple No longer sells phones. Sorry for the sarcasm

Premium products can command premium prices. They just don't move the same volume.

The parent was talking about premium reliability, not all kinds of premium.

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

> "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"

> 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 experienced nearly the exact same thing except it was from a guy that worked for a heating and cooling manufacturer. He specifically talked about how they tested their products to last 2 times longer than the warranty. If they lasted longer then they looked for cost saving opportunities. This was in 2001.

That's not so different from software service level agreements.

I spent years designing electronics and motors for GE, including the washing machines. I never once heard anyone in any department make the slightest mention of designing a product to fail. That was a side effect of something like "design for 20 years" but "prove reliability for 10 years". The purchase price set by the market was just too low to prove reliability longer. I'm not sure if the following was true, but I did hear the discussion of "for every $1 we add to the product cost, it will cost the customer $5". People move every 7-10 years and moving appliances is a pain, so I think that's just where the market landed when accounting for reliability vs price.

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. :)





If engineers are taught this, I imagine orgs like NASA, SpaceX, Boeing etc. must surely hire individuals who do not subscribe to this idea. Reliability IS important in these areas.

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.

Making engineering tradeoffs between cost and reliability or performance and reliability is very much a part of many engineering situations.

Engineering something so that it is reliable JUST ENOUGH so you can make more money from it failing sooner is not a trade off between cost of producing it and its performance.

I don't understand this if you have any competitors. Whenever I have a product fail, I don't buy any products from that same company again if at all possible. I had a Maytag dishwasher fail. I won't buy (and haven't bought) Maytag dishwashers since.

As the author notes, there is very little real competition in appliance manufacturing, with a few companies making the vast majority of brands out today. If you stop buying a Maytag dishwasher, there is a good chance you'll end up with another brand that happens to be owned by Whirlpool Corporation.

Yeah, I'm aware that Maytag is owned by Whirlpool. For this reason I most recently purchased a Bosch.

Except its rare to see actual documented proof that this is a real practice in reputable industry. Sure it must happen (or seem to happen as a unintended effect), but from a rational perspective if Samsung does this then I'll switch to LG, thus costing Samsung business and reputation. I have no brand loyalty so it doesn't make sense to make unreliable products. I, like any consumer, get pissed off and I switch to other brands at the drop of a hat. I'll also address the article point by point:

> 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.

> 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.

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.

It still doesn't matter. GE is run by its own management and engineers. It doesn't matter that its all owned by one Chinese conglomerate or NBC or whoever. They're not re-badging Shenzhen #1 Super Fast Machine with the GE tag. Corporate ownership is, generally, an abstract that shouldn't matter in most cases. Unless they're purposely cutting lines or just rebadging stuff, then reading reviews is still the solution here.

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.

>Unless they're purposely cutting lines or just rebadging stuff

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

Kenmore is not representative of the appliance industry. Kenmore has been nothing more than a rebadger for probably its entire existence, and certainly more than my lifetime. It's not a secret, and never has been. The advantage to buying Kenmore was that you could buy it at your local Sears, and you could always get parts for it at your local Sears, as that was part of the deal Sears made with the manufacturer. These days, since Sears seems to be swirling the drain, there's no advantage to buying a Kenmore versus getting the same non-rebadged model from the OEM.

> more efficient [electric motor] designs are simply more delicate

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)

I'm probably wrong on the technical reasons specifically (my motor experience is limited to robotics and rc cars), but its only recently you could buy 29-35 watt ceiling fans due to the use of DC motors:



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!


Sure, fans have become more energy optimized. That doesn't support the implication that the lightness was required to get the modern lower energy usage, nor that a better built (heavier) motor wouldn't be more efficient and last longer. That lack of longevity is what the "motor weighers" are lamenting - a major reason this whole topic is important is that we're currently unable to buy new more efficient appliances that will also last long.

> 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.

This anecdote seems to be crafted to imply that exchange is why you didn't major in engineering, but it doesn't outright say that.

Did you really not major in engineering over that exchange with your class?

He mentions it in the article:

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!

I'd love to see a store that sells buy-it-for-life style products that are probably more expensive up front but also built to last, all with robust warranties so you know the claims are backed up. A place you could go into and know everything in there was good. If you wanted the cheapest you'd go somewhere else but man, I'd shop there.

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.

You're describing Sears, no? Sarcasm doesn't read so well on the internet but yeah my parents still have a washing machine from probably 1970 in their house. The matching dryer finally gave up on them about 5 years back... that thing was still to this day the best dryer I ever used. Run it 30 minutes, even the heaviest towels were crispy dry and almost too hot to handle when you took them out.

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

Some of the blame for appliance quality rot (though certainly not all of it) can be laid at the feet of the government. With new efficiency and safety regulations it becomes impossible to legally sell a dryer that can get your towels crispy dry in 30 minutes.

Sears is a lost cause. The only thing keeping them afloat is the value tied up in their real estate holdings.

> With new efficiency and safety regulations it becomes impossible to legally sell a dryer that can get your towels crispy dry in 30 minutes.

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.

This is why in a lot of European countries you can only get condenser dryers now, rather than vented dryers. I guess there's a fire safety aspect too (i.e. vents blocked up with highly flammable lint, static electricity and heat), but I think it's mainly because of energy efficiency.

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?

I thought washing dishes was often less efficient when done by hand? (Depends on the amount of dishes and a lot of other factors though, I suppose.)

My house is about 70 years old. When I bough it in 2008, there were several old appliances (probably on the order of 25-30 years old) and they worked like champs, until the washing machine failed. I replaced it with a used old washing machine.

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.

Heh, our house is 20 years old too but the appliances they put in are terrible! Got a cheap warped Westinghouse oven that we have to prop closed with a guitar stand.

Yes! I absolutely agree. The store could also offer repair services. (Gasp!) I wonder where a market for such a store would exist, though.

I'd pay a monthly payment for having a washer that I can always expect to work and get serviced if it doesn't, along with regular service.

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.

Anytime I do anything around appliance shopping, the ability to get information about what is actually quality is near zero. It's SEO'd, spammed, paid-reviewed, and marketed into the ground.

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.

> appliance shopping, the ability to get information about what is actually quality is near zero

Do you know about Consumer Reports?[1]

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 :-)

[1] http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/index.htm

> The downsides of Consumer Reports are as follows:

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.

Part of it is brand reputation stripping. 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. This happens far too often to be mere coincidence.

It's not a coincidence. But that doesn't mean it's a global conspiracy.

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.

When appliances are out of date in ten years because new electronics provide better features, why should customers or makers spend extra to get them to last longer?

Depends on the device. Both our fridge and washing machine are 20 years old, and still going strong. New models offer nothing that we value - I don't want to attach either of them to the internet.

Companies could offer a 20 year warranty to signal that their products are intended to last a long time.

quality will not determine what they buy

BS. It's my #1 criteria when buying something.

Along the same lines, probably the easiest way to get quality in almost every type of product is to buy the commercial version. The people using these products are very familiar with them, so nobody sells garbage.

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.

>more conservative in future projections and less price sensitive than consumers.

Which means that if you need some replacement part in the future it's going to cost even more.

Perhaps, but they'll be available at all, and the device will be repairable.

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)

What's a good one of these marketplaces?

Neat idea.

But they're cheaper, by something like 75% (and even more when you take energy efficiency into account). [1]

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.

[1] http://www.aei.org/publication/the-good-old-days-are-now-tod...

Less expensive can be desirable. And perhaps the market could even find an equilibrium where some people would pay a bit more for appliances to be capital goods with longevity and serviceability and others would prefer the cell phone model.

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).

Household appliances have become much cheaper (inflation-adjusted and also in terms of hours worked to buy them) in the last 50 years so people are actually saving money. I don't see how you tie any Federal reserve/Central banks policy to the longevity of products.

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.

This is so I don't see why people ignore. I bet you can go buy high end appliances that will last 50 years. But would anyone want to be using it in 50 years?

> But would anyone want to be using it in 50 years?

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.

Newer fridges have drastically better energy efficiency. It literally takes less resources to make and throw away 5 fridges over these 50 years than to produce the electricity that this old monster wastes uselessly over the same time.

Eh. When I moved from an apartment with a ~30 year old dishwasher to one with a new one, I was pretty startled by how much cleaner it got my dishes when I didn't pre-rinse them as much as I used to have to.

Which in and of itself is not a problem until the refrigerator finally needs to be disposed of.

Isn't this largely driven by consumer demand?

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.

Around 40%[1] of the population rents, which means 40% doesn't make the purchasing decision for many appliances. We can sanity-check your argument with this: That reasoning should predict no change in the quality of commercial appliances used in apartment complexes and laundromats, since these customers are used to making spreadsheets with a capital expenditures budget that they pay into for 30 years.

[1] http://www.citylab.com/housing/2016/02/the-rise-of-renting-i...

My perceptions in most coin-op laundries has been that they use different brands to consumers!

Additionally, at least in Australia, my perception has been that most renters are required to bring or purchase their own washing machines and refrigerators.

Around 40%[1] of the population rents, which means 40% doesn't make the purchasing decision for many appliances.

Do all rental properties come with appliances in the US? Here in NZ that's the exception rather than the rule.

Kitchen appliances are usually included. If the house/apartment has washer/dryer hookups it's usually up to the renter to buy them.

Here in Australia, my apartment came with a dryer (required by law), a dishwasher and an oven. We had to buy the washing machine and the fridge, though.

A dryer is required by law!? I almost never use dryers in NZ. I couldn't imagine using one in Australia - even Melbourne is an arid desert wasteland by my standards.

I don't have a source other than to say this is what my real estate agent mentioned to me if I recall correctly, but at least in the ACT in an apartment block it's a requirement to provide a dryer if you don't provide a proper area for a clothesline.

USA is notorious for having fully equipped kitchens.

In Europe it varies by country. From the same, to having only a bare sink with a tube for the gaz.

Have you never rented or something? Landlords don't expect tenants to take care of the appliances and buy the cheapest crap out there.

This is the big difference between "luxury" apartments and "lower income" apartments. The Luxury buildings slap in high end appliances and some granite countertenors and BAM it costs 500 dollars more a month.

I rented a "luxury" apartment for a while and despite the faux-granite countertops the appliances were still pretty low-end. They were newer but still about the cheapest models you could get of everything.

Yeah, somewhat related when we purchased our first tractor we were shocked that a 30hp tractor can go well north of $30,000. A large part of the reason is they will run for 50 years with minimal maintenance. We ended up picking up a '81 29hp tractor that was still ~6k.

Sure there's planned obsolescence but there's also the cost factor as well.

If consumers are price-sensitive, then companies locked in a race to the bottom will end up producing utter crap, that honestly shouldn't even exist in the civilized society. I don't think we can keep blaming consumers; the goal here is to ensure a minimum quality standard.

I don't really intend to blame consumers more than I want to blame a society where people are forced to make compromises to survive to the next paycheck!

Completely agree. There are niches were quality is paid for, where appliances no not self-destroy after a couple of years. Cases in point: Kitchenette, Thermomix.

But outside these niches, it is a race to the bottom.

part of the issue, and I'm surprised the author didnt mention it, is that in the last 10 years most devices have switched from mechanical to electronic.

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.

Why's mechanical better? Mechanics stick, break, become worn out. A circuit generally doesn't, does it? I know capacitors burst but they're easy enough to change. Do components like ICs ever just stop working? I would have thought solid-state would be better for endurance.

For some functions, such as simple timers, one advantage mechanical might have is that it might be easier or cheaper to obtain repair parts.

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.

Yes, ICs age. Fissures in the subtrate expand with each thermal cycle. Delamination is a similar effect. That's how manufacturers prematurely age their parts -- by endless cycles in the oven.

The biggest culprit is flash memory. It's in almost everything, and has a much shorter life than the 10 years most manufacturers claim.

touch pads have high failure rates. if they don't go, the control board does. and if neither, the connection between them.

as for easy to change, replacing the mother board on my refrigerator would cost 600$ without installation fees. guess who bought a new refrigerator? :(

I know it happens, but how does a mother board just die? I mean it's a piece of plastic with durable metal channels on it. The channels don't wear or burn out. Everything's just inert. I know some components like capacitors do die, but they can be tested and replaced. How can a mother board just stop working?

1. Corrosion 2. Electrolytic caps. 3. Vibration. 4. Flexing due to thermal cycling. 5. Electronic designs operating near their limits, resulting in increased failure rates.

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).

some kind of short? kitchens are damp places, the door is opened and closed many times a day, huge power fluctuations, etc. I dont know why for certain, its not my field. I do know that it happens a lot, as I started googling what could be wrong with my fridge when it went haywire.

as for touch pads, contacts fail all the time.

I’ve bought and sold refrigerators and freezers from the 1950’s that still work perfectly fine. I’ve come across washers and dryers from the 1960’s and 1970’s that were still working like the day they were made.

Isn't there an element of survivorship bias to these statements? What about all the 1950's fridges that didn't last until today?

> 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 think survivorship bias could very well be a part of it, but very rarely is there a "root cause" to something like this.

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.

Fridges have come a long way in efficiency. I cannot believe that operating a fridge from the 80s or before is not a ridiculous waste of money, no matter how inexpensive your electricity is.

They don't make [foo] like they used to. Lamentations like these have been going around in western culture since at least the time of iron age Greece, which people felt was a regression from the bronze age.

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.

I seriously doubt a real study of appliance reliability over the past 70 years would show that the stuff sold in the 50s is actually more reliable or longer-lasting than the stuff sold today. Sure, you can find appliances that old that still work fine, but you don't see the ones that broke down after a year or two--they were junked decades ago and forgotten about. Since you can't grow the supply of working 50-year-old fridges, you are tautologically going to see far, far more appliances that are 10 years old or less failing, because there are far more such appliances.

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.

I think that's what is called survivor bias, no?


Could be, but apparently isn't. Five-year failure rates due to defects are up 5% over just the last decade.


In the URSS the appliances had a mandatory 25 year warranty. So, it makes sense to me...

In Europe it's 3 years minimum for electronics - conflicting with a lot of electronics' manufacturers who want to do 1 year at best. It's not a lot, but better than nothing. I'm reading on an official site that it's two years, which I guess is for all products, not just electronics.

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.

Right, no one would ever make products intentionally worse as part of creeping modernism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoebus_cartel

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 http://www.metrohome.us/information_kit_files/life.pdf

2007 NAHB results https://www.interstatebrick.com/sites/default/files/library/...

My experience, which is not anecdotical and is shared with friends, say the same. I just change a refrigerator bought less than 12 years ago and I am changing a washing machine with the same age. My family is using the same refrigerator for more than 30 years.

I just changed a refrigerator, stove is basically dead, both 8 years old, Whirlpool brand. My Mom is still using the same appliances from when I was a kid. Nearly every family member I have says the same thing, new stuff lasts about 8 - 10 years and why can't we just get one like Mom's that will last 35+ years. My bosh dishwasher runs like new and is 8 years old.

Counter-anecdote: my Bosch dishwasher lasted barely six years before the impeller motor failed.

My grandfather has a beer refrigerator in his basement that was my uncle's college dorm refrigerator back in the 1980s. It has been in near constant operation for all of that time.

I don't think anyone honestly expects that an inexpensive appliance bought today might still be working 35 years from now.

Or in 2002 when DRAM manufactures did the same thing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DRAM_price_fixing

And if I read your comment I'm led to believe there is a mass conspiracy by every single manufacturer on earth to deliberately make their products worse. If you make a product, you MUST be trying to make it worse so you can sell more, right? Isn't that exactly what you saying here. After all, if any single manufacturer does this, then all of them must, because they are all obviously in collusion.

The world isn't big enough for two things to be true at the same time.

>> Isn't that exactly what you saying here.

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?

The thing about the lightbulb collusion is that it's exceptional for being one of the only examples of such collusion that's verified.

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.

This is incorrect... there are many examples, the light bulb is just the best documented, partly because of it's historical timing.

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.

>Technology is always getting better!

>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.

Except for the part where they specifically researched this

   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.
That is quite a significant difference in reliability.

I presented data that appliance lifespans are getting shorter, and you're somehow convinced its because people are throwing them away before their time. Okay, why?

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?

The salary of blue collar workers adjusted to inflation have stagnated. But when compared with the price of the appliances themselves, it is much higher than it was in the 50s. A washing machine was an investment and something the family planned and financed though an easy payment plan, not something you piked up at the supermarket with grocery money. The appliances themselves were designed and expected to be repaired, just like a car or is today.

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.

Your point about lower real prices is a good one. I found some data on this http://seekingalpha.com/article/1726772-when-it-comes-to-aff....

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.

Exhaust Fans have gone from 20 years to 10 years. I wonder what caused this ;)

I have a complaint letter written by my father-in-law back in the 50s about his car, which had seized up three times. The manufacturer wrote back to say it was his fault for driving at the same speed all the time, and he should vary his speed to prevent this happening.

Well counter top appliances are more likely to have survived, there is a decent number of them popping up on ebay. from toasters to blenders. my 1b16 toastmaster toaster can be found there (its over fifty years old and runs like a champ).

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.

Re: bed mattresses, see http://sleeplikethedead.com

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 found it useful! Thanks for posting. Don't worry about downvotes too much - they often normalize after awhile.

Companies have a staff for each area that goes around repairing the appliances and those people get jobs and the companies sell more appliances.

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.

This isn't the first piece to claim that new appliances, and cars, and other manufactured goods, are made to lower standards as a conspiracy to sell more.

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.

Will the $5000 fridge last 20 years? How do I know the manufactor isn't lying?

Another reason to buy a $500 fridge.

While planned obsolescence is probably a factor I'd also consider the desire for more complicated features, efficiency requirements, and high (upfront) price sensitivity on the part of consumers. To the last point in particular I think you will find that a refrigerator was way more expensive in real dollars in 1950.

I think many people won't mind paying a higher price for a longer-lasting product. But there's just no way to know it will really be longer-lasting.

If a manufacturer is confident that their product will last, they can convey this to the buyer by providing a really good warranty.

You can purchase an additional warranty for decent money. Handling repairs is still a huge mess and burden - even if you're not paying for them. I read a couple of "four weeks without refrigerator" horror stories. That they happend on the warranty time did not make them any better.

I don't want a good warranty, I want a well working equipment.

A good warranty from the manufacturer is different, since it incentivizes them to make a product they don't have to repair in the first place. Once you're paying for a warranty, that goes out the window.

Those are pretty much worthless. They usually exclude all the most common reasons the thing would break.

We cleaned up by buying the extended warranty on our dreadful dishwasher. For a modest charge upfront, Sears sent out technicians 5 or 6 times, replaced the electronic control panel, a valve, and the entire washer motor. It took months and months of angry phone calls, but the damned thing works now.

A really long warranty only helps if the company remains solvent.

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 always had this dream of starting a company where my disruption to whatever industry, say home appliances, or cars, isn't that I'm doing something new, per say, its that I'm engineering everything the company would sell with DIY easy access fixes in mind, and actually publish (and ship with the product) the repair manual so people can just order the parts (with some margin, nothing crazy i'd think) and be on their way. Sell it to the self reliant, tinkers, and generally just people who hate to pay the high cost of repairs on things.

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.

Many cars are largely DIY-friendly already. I do all of the work on our cars except tires, exhaust, bodywork/paint, and manufacturer recalls.

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.

True, but even this trend is slowly changing sadly. Remember when fuel filters used to be inline? Sure, it's still DIY, but it's now no longer safe or easy to change them yourself without relatively expensive equipment, and a prayer you don't break a bolt or strap. Ever tried to change a battery on the reintroduced Beetle? As time goes on, drive by wire becomes more prevalent, etc...cars are slowly becoming harder to repair for the shadetree mechanic. Even the things that are still possible have become, in general, more cumbersome.

Perhaps. However I don't think they were built in mind for maximum owner repairability. I suspect they wouldn't be fighting the right to repair so hard otherwise

Most people never open up their cars though.

This is how a lot of Sears products worked. When I was a kid we had a little Craftsman tractor, and the entire repair manual and parts were available online. This was also true of their vacuums, and was how I got a $200 vacuum for $20 in college(a belt was broken). You could even buy parts in Sears.

I don't think you need to make it easy enough for an average person, but easy enough for a repair person to do repairs in about 30 minutes, so the service call is kind of reasonable.

Combine that with trying to keep parts compatible over years and you would develop a following.

I'm willing to bet manufacturers actually went and did market research, and found out the opposite. As if there was a market demand, they would have build and market such products.

Thats always the assumption isn't it? That they already did the research and found no demand for x.

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?

I don't believe this. In Germany, "built-in" home apliances are standard for a modern kitchen. Replacing a built-in refrigerator if it failed would probably cost around 400-600€ (only replacement costs, not talking about the price of the refrigerator).

OMG, the "features". My stove is relatively simple except for 1 part, the one that sets the oven temperature (and the time, but who the hell needs a third clock in their kitchen). That part is a 300 dollar, proprietary circuit board. Of course it's the first thing to go. I'm sure the board doesn't cost the maker anywhere near $300 but I'm sure it's a lot more than an industry standard knob. If they want to cut a few bucks off the price, there's a good place to start. Put a standard knob only stove on the showroom floor and it might not be the first appliance everyone purchases but it will the be second of anyone that realizes how stupid it is to have a computer where single function piece of hardware belongs.

I don't know about that particular example, but refrigerators with ice makers are an obvious case of people buying appliances way more likely to break down.

Yes, but I replaced my ice maker for $36 and about 30 minutes of my time (10 minutes to figure out what to order; 20 minutes to put it in).


In my case it wasn't the ice maker itself, but the plumbing leading up to it within the refrigerator. I finally ended up turning off the water supply after my DIY repair broke a second time.

You can save a lot of money on almost anything if you're willing to get your hands dirty and do the work yourself. I don't think it invalidates the argument.

You're totally right. I was trying to weigh the convenience and time savings of automatic ice for 12 years vs the low cost in time and money to keep it working, but I only cited the latter in my response.

Your observation is spot-on.

And this is a very interesting point. How good is a similarly priced 2017 fridge compared to a 1950's when price is measured in real dollars.

I thought the same thing. This is by no means really trustworthy sources, just top Google results, but still:

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.

I wasn't able to find anything about a fridge, but some searching found a Sears catalog from 1959:


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...

And that modern washer would use less energy, water, and need less detergent, reducing the cost-per-load.

Modern washers use the same amount of water, except now you have to manually run the extra rinse program to remove all the detergent.

I'm from the US, bought some appliances a few years ago, and can confirm that $500 is about what you would expect to pay for a decent washer or dryer.

Pretty damn good. You can still buy refrigerators built like a tank, intended for commercial environments, if you're willing to spend 4 figures.



That household refrigerator that was $329 in 1952? $3024 in 2017 dollars.

And you will save a lot on heating. People forget that old tech is not known for being efficient be it electric appliances or cars.

I agree and think that this article needs an inflation-adjusted comparison of the cost of different models so we can see how much of the decline might be caused by a race to the bottom in terms of price.

Do many people actually have a "desire for more features" or are most features just being crammed in in a bid to differentiate refrigerator A from refrigerator B?

Personally I usually perfer the least features possible mainly because more features = more stuff to break.

HN users are not typical users of technology.

There's a subreddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/BuyItForLife/) trying to track objects that don't suffer from planned obsolescence. Not a lot of appliances there, though.

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.

Bosch and Siemens (and Neff) are owned by BSH, most of the european brands are also parts of conglomerates and have stratified low/medium/high end. Except for Miele, but who wants to spend 1000 quid on a washer?

> but who wants to spend 1000 quid on a washer

If it means less repair bills and downtime and not having to replace for 25+ years, why the hell not?

Knowing how crappy brands are, I do. If it weren't for the fact that I'm renting a place with no space for a washer or dryer, I'd most definitely get a Miele, no question.

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.

You've got it the wrong way around. BSH is a subsidiary of Bosch. It used to be jointly owned by Bosch and Siemens until Bosch bought out Siemens's share.

Look for a brand called "Speed Queen". They generally make commercial washers, but have a few home units they sell as well. They're all built like tanks, and some still have old mechanical controls. I have a mechanical set, and love it.


Yep. Bought the washer and dryer and they are nice. Went with the electronic controls though. And also top loading washer to avoid moisture/mold issues if door left closed.

I love my speed queen. Made in Wisconsin, I believe.

Another reason: some very durable materials are no longer legal. For example, beryllium copper and leaded solder.

I don't get why you're being downvoted. Anyone remembers the years after RoHS went into effect and e.g. NVidia's mobile GPUs started failing left and right due to no one having experience with lead-free solder?

Because most of the failures I see are simply a product of bad design/cost cutting.

Otherwise we would have plenty of other devices based on the same technology fail.

I just went through this with a refrigerator and I was amazed that I had to spend hours reading reviews of innumerable brands (most of which are really the same, as mentioned in the article) before coming up with even a handful that seemed reasonable. This should have been a simple task but virtually all of them have several got-completely-screwed-a-few-months-after-purchase comments.

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.

> 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.

If these observations are correct, it seems like all the other issues are just fallout from the first, "not enough competition."

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.

My anecdotal experience (and my parents and grandparents) tells me that:

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.

tl;dr 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.

>c) they didn't have any modern electronics. All failures were mechanical, while today they are electronic (and usually non-reparable, only replaceable).

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.

HP recently started a new program where you can buy a printer subscription. You no longer have to pay for any ink -- the printer phones homes and orders new ink whenever it gets low.

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.

Adding my experience to the chorus, my 'fridge is a GE TA-12S that I have owned for 34 years. It was 'old' when I bought the place, so my guess is that it is approaching 40 years of age.

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!

I guess much of the reason is that appliances are dirt cheap now, compared to what they used to be. That cost savings obviously does something to the build quality.

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.)

I knew a guy who was a "reliability engineer". His gig was to make things predictably reliable. (Or break on schedule)

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.

One thing that shouldn't be discounted is survivorship bias. The machines from the 1960s that broke early on aren't around anymore. The only machines from the 1960s that are left are those which last a long time.

That and you definitely wont find anecdotes of appliances that are 2 years old as of today lasting for 50 years.

You could say 'tortoises! they don't make them like they used to' for example.

Great article, absolutely the wrong conclusion and solution.

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.

> [T]he 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.)

It is hard to do, and it is harder for these folks to understand that paying for quality is cheaper than going for the lowest price. A $500 washing machine that lasts 50 years "costs" $10/year (after 50 years you'll have to replace it with another one). A $300 Washing Machine that lasts 10 years costs $30/year. Or conversely a $300 machine that lasts 10 years will be re-bought 5 times over a 50 year period ($1,500), but a $500 machine that lasts 50 years will be bought once ($500) over a 50 year period.

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.

You have to have a savings in order to amortize. Most people might have a few-hundred dollars that they need to feed a family and drive to work on until their next paycheck. This is the demographic that will pay $300 every ten years instead of $500 every 50, because they would have to choose not to eat for two weeks.

I agree with you that is the choice they would make, but stand by my point that it hurts them rather than helps. I think you would find the book "Scarcity: Why having to little means so much" by Sendhil Mullainathan an interesting read.

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.

[1] http://scholar.harvard.edu/sendhil/scarcity

I am 29, my parents stove+oven already existed when I was born.

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. Programmable calculators.

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).

Consumer Reports[1] has reported reliability figures on all its articles about appliances. It would be interesting to go into its archives and see what the shifts are in brands over the years.

[1] http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/index.htm

A good rule is just to buy Miele or high-end Bosch. Make sure it's made in Germany and sold in the German market. They have higher standards. I don't know if this is true for ovens, but with other appliances it's a good rule to follow.

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.

It's all talk. This is why you should never ask someone "would you buy this?" When you're demoing your startup idea. Everyone will say yes. Say "I'll sell this to you for twenty bucks." And see the different song.

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.

How could Trump do anything about that?

This is a very un-republican thing to do, but as another poster mentioned, you could apply a tax/penalty/whatever to companies when their products are accepted into landfill sites. That would get passed on to consumers until it was cheaper to simply keep them out of landfills. Presumably your quality would go up in order to keep more of the profits of selling the units in the first place.

Not sure it would work in reality, but an interesting idea that is actionable by the government.

EDIT: typo

He's going to Make Appliances Great Again!

Don't ask for a plan though..

I doubt if he is, but it would be great if he did. What with his focus on manufacturing.

+1 to this.

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.

Numatic[1] has always been my vacuum of choice.

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.


Yeah, I forgot about the Henry and George. A good choice if you're in the UK (made in UK). Hotels and office cleaners use them a lot - which is a sure mark of reliability.

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.

I see two objections here.

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.

A legally enforced 10 year rule would be great. Works for 10 years or your money back!

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.

I don't know if it's the case elsewhere, but for example in France there is a law enforcing a 10 year warranty for every building or repair on buildings. https://www.french-property.com/news/build_renovation_france...

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.

Miele, Neff, Liebherr, this is my go to when I plan to keep stuff for a decade or more. There's even a few more smaller high end brands from Germany. I bought a used Miele Toploader from the 90s. Miele says new ones will be good for about 20 years. So I probably have some more years with that one. Plus timeless, simple design, exceptional quality and very good cleaning performance. Note that I live in Germany. When I looked at Miele vacuum prices in a Macy's in California I had to choke a little.


Especially when he seems to be removing such rules from auto manufacture.

Here is a guess: the fridge that lasted 50 years cost a months salary, while the fridge that lasts 10 years costs 1/5 a months salary. So you get exactly what you pay for, and you pay exactly as much for "having a fridge" today as you did when they lasted 50 years.

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.

Perhaps it would be better if people buy refrigeration as a service. Then the service provider can worry about such things as lifetime, maintenance, replacement, and selling old refrigerators.

And there would be no incentive for "planned obsolescence".

I think this will very much be the case of a lot of things. People will "own" less things and instead lease. It's a trend in cars, and I think more and more things will go this way. I don't want to make big investments and I don't want to maintain things (which means they own me more than I own them). Repainting the house or worrying about the lifetime of my boiler is exactly the kind of stuff I'd happily pay a big premium to let someone else do - and most importantly - worry about.

My furnace is supposed to have a useful life of 15 years. Every once in a while, it breaks and I call the repairman. I watch him work, and there isn't anything complicated about it. It's just figure out which part broke, and replace it.

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.

One of the reasons for the limited life would be the longevity of the actual heat exchanger - they will eventually corrode due to the corrosive nature of the exhaust gases passing through them.

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.

> corrode

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.

Newer high-efficiency heat exchangers are much thinner than they were in the past, and failure there means carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you prefer O2 to CO, you'll care about corrosion.

Are you sure about that? I did some research on this on the internet, and the house air in the exchanger is at a higher pressure than the exhaust gas, and so house air goes into the exhaust if there's a crack, not the other way around.

Possibly not the heat exchanger as a most likely cause, when all is functioning well (having just performed my own brief online research).

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.

I have a theory that this is also being done with cars sold specifically in the United States. I spent some time abroad in South America a few years ago and I'm convinced our crappy cars wouldn't hold up a year driving on the unpaved roads and rocky desert terrain the resident's down there are used to. Meanwhile, my Argentine friend's 1980s Peugeot, missing electric windows and cd player had been on the road there for DECADES. This got me so intersted I looked up the most popular vehicle I saw thinking that would be my next car here. Well guess what? The Toyota Hilux isn't available here. They claim the Tacoma is the same truck just engineered for American emission's standards. I'm not buying it.

Well that could be due to the different markets.

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 Toyota Hilux isn't available here. They claim the Tacoma is the same truck just engineered for American emission's standards. I'm not buying it.

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.

On a related note, I accidentally cracked the touch screen of my 8 year old Ford Radio/AC control unit. Cost to replace 4,500 GBP, which is more than the entire value of the car currently. Insane, because it basically means if you crack the touch screen, you have to scrap the car, if you want to claim via insurance.

Managed to get it replaced with a second hand one for £300, including labour.

can you imagine cracking LCDs in this car? (not a concept btw)


Skip to 0:30

Looks like a nightmare for trying to adjust anything while driving as well. At least it's got a couple of real control knobs I guess.

I'd love to replace my nearly 20-year-old fridge, but there is literally no fridge on the market with anything approaching its build quality, not even for thousands of dollars. Everything is pot metal & cheap plastic, and I know that even if I spend quite a bit of money, I'm going to end up with something which breaks in just a few years.

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?

I hope the "Increvable" ("Indestructable") washing machine project will end up being commercialized. "L'increvable meets precise specifications in order serve its user over a fifty-year period while guaranteeing a purchase price similar to or lower than that of a conventional washing machine." http://www.jamesdysonaward.org/en-GB/projects/lincrevable/

Which startups are working on this problem?

Just in Amsterdam, I know of two [1], so undoubtly there are more out there?

[1] https://www.bundles.nl/ and https://www.peerby.com/

I think but owning a washing machine can be indeed a good approach.

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.

The German appliance manufacturer Miele has been making quality long-lasting products for decades. They are rather in the upper price segment, but not without reason in Germany they say, if some appliance breaks down: "Next time you better buy it from Miele.".

Looks like a prime opportunity for whoever is manufacturing AK-47 these days to come in and disrupt the market with a washer dryer.

I can't help but draw tons of similarities to technology/software and especially the armies of "DevOps" that "smart" companies now seem happy to employ to keep a rickety pile of cascading ill-understanding be semi-reliable on whole.

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.

On the other hand cars have gotten way better. I wonder why?

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.

Non-US cars lasted.

Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Honda, Toyota, especially.

American mid-to-low market passenger cars, not so much.

(Pickup trucks somewhat moreso.)

1990s cars have a nice mixture of simplicity and modern engineering practices. Cars nowadays are more complicated due to safety/emissions/efficiency goals and buyer preference for electronic gadgets. I'm not sure we'll see as many 2010s cars on the road in the 2030s.

Resale value is part of it. People buy Car Brand A because they know they can sell it in 5-6 years at a decent price.

People generally don't look at resale value when shopping for appliances.

If you were willing to pay the modern-dollar equivalent of the cost of old appliances, you could maybe get appliances that would last decades.

If this website is accurate: http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/50selectrical.html

A washer and dryer set in 1950 would cost the equivalent of $5000, and a refrigerator from 1950 would cost $3400

It's just like every other company that shares an oligopoly over an industry; they keep diluting the quality of their product over time but they do it slowly enough that nobody notices.

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.

I distinctly remember when McDonalds reduced the size of the buns. I don't remember the exact time (early 00s perhaps?), but I do remember being pissed off. A typical corporate "reduce costs" manoeuvre, but I guess you couldn't expect any less of McDonalds.

Many things have gone down in quality in favor of being cheaper and/or more widely available:

- sound quality is worse: cds >> mp3s

- flying is slower: concorde >> easyjet

- articles more errorful: newsrooms >> bloggers

- etc.

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.

If talking about motors, they used to use copper for the windings.

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.

Got a source for that?

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.

My source for the explanation of motors in household appliances wearing out, is from people who are in the commodity metals recycling industry (i.e. metals like steel/copper/alu sold for scrap and recycled). So it is based on what they are seeing - there might be some bias, as obviously they are only seeing those units that have been sent off for scrap.

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.

I must say that this is one of my primary use cases for ibGib. The point is to have a review system (and advertising) that is not superficial but rather the "review" lasts the lifetime of the product. When you buy an appliance, you ibGib it. This means you take pics of the machine, the model number, the guarantees, manuals, etc. Then periodically (or at the very least when it dies or has a failure) you ibGib _that_. It is basically big (& open) data with tamper resistant integrity (no deletes, hashed content, public identity, more).

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.)

What is ibGib? What does the name represent?

> What is ibGib?

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. :-)

That tells me much of what I need to know, thank you.


Branding is the real enemy of quality, as it makes consumers lazy.

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?

Planned obsolescence is a myth, ever seen a leaked memo where people discuss planned obsolescence?

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.

This Christmas just gone, we stayed with some friends in their holiday cabin that their father had hand built back in the 1960's. It had a refrigerator (cannot remember the brand) that had been there since 1961, and it still worked perfectly.

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?

Self-defrosting freezers are usually (or can be) remarkably simple in implementation. A mechanical timer, driving a DPDT switch (to cut out the compressor and power the defrost mechanism), a snap switch (to regulate the temperature of the defrost), and resistive heating element(s).

I wouldn't want to give up that convenience in exchange for troubleshooting the system once a decade when something goes wrong.

Older refrigerators tended to be power hogs (though not always).

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.

A while ago I read the biography of Anton Philips. He described a board meeting where they decided to make the lifetime of a light bulb 1000 hours instead of 5000. So they actually decided to make their product less good, only to get more (short term?) profit.

(some) people are never satisfied, always want more more more...

Wouldn't the free market solve this automatically?

Basically, that question is irrelevant.

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.

This was the Phoebus Cartel where the major light-bulb manufacturers all agreed to do this:


But I guess in the end the free market did bring about it's demise, when Scandinavians produced cheaper alternatives.

well, Philips still is a billion dollar company today :)

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.

I think people saying this is done to intentionally build low quality things which have to be replaced are wrong. I also think people who think appliances weren't better in the 50s are wrong. This is optimization, plain and simple. The appliance manufacturers have figured out EXACTLY how think metal needs to be, how well painted, etc to create a product which will sell. If you want them to change their equation, consumers will need to change how they decide what to buy.

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.

> 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.

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.

I live in switzerland and I have a liebherr fridge and Schulthess washing machines. Mine are new (I moved in 7 years ago), but I know they will last. Everything I've seen while traveling (hotels...) seems super crappy compared to that. I wonder why those brands are not exported more.

Here in Japan, the domestic brands (even ones that are struggling like Sharp) still make household appliances for the domestic market that feel a lot better built than the stuff I remember from Sweden. They also advertise higher-end models as "Made in Japan".

I'm in Estonia and have a 10 year old Liebherr fridge. Not a single thing has broken yet, not even a bulb. I don't remember the brand of my old fridge that I also had for 10 years, but it was replaced due to size as opposed to a fault.

Something should be said about repairability. Seems like manufacturers are purposely trying to make appliances unrepairable. For example recently a temperature sensor (cost USD 1$) failed in my fridge-freezer in the freezer compartment. Electrolux does not provide a way to replace it nor instructions on locating this faulty sensor so the repairs guy just tells you to replace the appliance [1] because a 1 dollar sensor failed, can you imagine? Shame on them!

[1] http://pingec.si/blog/articles/fixing-a-faulty-freezer-senso...

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.

Can't resist: my parents bought a KitchenAid dishwasher in 1970. It still operates to this day (45 years). For a fun read, find the Smithsonian magazine article about the inventor of the dishwasher. Incredible.

I like my Bosch dishwasher, even if I think it has only five more years max.

Bosch in general make some of the better products.

The only brands I ever buy are Miele and Siemens; they're both German; Miele has always been family owned; not sure about Siemens (huge conglomerate).

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?

FWIW, all Siemens appliances are manufactured by Bosch Siemens Haushaltsgeräte (now BSH Hausgeräte)[1]. Siemens sold all of their shares to Bosch in 2014.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSH_Hausger%C3%A4te

Miele is available, though not at more commodity stores like Best Buy. We replaced our awful 3-year-old waste of a dishwasher for a Miele and have been happy. In terms of cost, the original (Electrolux?) was like $800 and the Miele was maybe $1100. But the Miele has less capacity and is louder. Which I'm OK with in exchange for reliability and sound construction, but if we hadn't gotten such a lemon before I might have had a harder time justifying it to myself. When my fridge finally dies, I'm sure before its 10th birthday, I'll probably replace it with a Miele.

Miele has a rock solid reputation in Germany when it comes to washing machines. As the old folks say "Miele, Miele, sprach die Tante, die alle Waschmaschinen kannte", which means something like "Miele, Miele, said the aunt, who knew all washing machines". Not sure about other appliances from Miele. My Miele dryer lasted only 10 years (with a broken drum, beyond repair), which is far less than what you would expect from Miele.

Miele is here, but they're known for vacuums and dishwashers, mainly. The Miele laundry appliances have tiny capacities compared to everything else sold in the US. My assumption is that Europeans wash clothes more frequently, in smaller batches.

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've never seen Miele but Siemens is here, though not in the home appliance market.

Author lives in Hawaii.

I lived in Hawaii for 7 years. Everything rusts.

My experience is: they use cheap, tiny bi-metals in several places in fridge, which fail in no time at all, instead of a real relay/timer. This is a cost reduction of maybe a few dollars - for them this means a lot of money because of quantity, but for me an inexcusable corner cut; the only conclusion is planned obsolescence, or at the least pay the repair tax. On my washer I have had to keep the lid open to prevent rust, and the lid switch I had to reinforce as in the article. Among others; I have personally kept all my appliances including furnaces running for many decades and all the failures have been because of this kind of nonsense.

I have a shop vacuum that is about 35 years old. All metal, robust, solid. I bought it way back when for, if I remember correctly, $300. It has seen a lot of use and it still works like new.

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.

I tend to see this sort of thing as not a failure of competitive markets but an consequence of them working too well. With perfect competition everyone ends up with close to zero margins. One way to avoid this problem is to make a high end product for a while, gain a good reputation and then cost reduce the heck out of the product. Then you can charge for the high end product while only paying to make the absolute cheapest thing that sort of looks like the original product. You get to actually make some money for a while.

Professional marketers apparently refer to this sort of manoeuvre as "harvesting the brand".

A coworker was raving about their refrigerator from New Zealand as being against this trend: https://www.fisherpaykel.com/

I'm a New Zealander who has owned Fisher and Paykel appliances, and was interested to see if they were still independent, as they weren't mentioned in this article.

Since 2012, they've been 90% owned by Haier, one of the "big four" he lists.

I used to sell these about fifteen years ago and maybe they have changed but they were no different than any other fridge brand and their washing machines... they were one of the first brands to have led control panels which used to always break after five years. But that's a while back now.

I own two fridges, an oven and a dual dishwasher from them. The fridges are beautiful to look at but the pump is rather noisy. The oven is the best oven I've ever had in my life. The dishwasher broke down more times than I care to say and caused water damage in my house.

I've had the lot for 4 years now.

What's really good about those is the motor.

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...).

I'm in Australia and have mostly fisher paykel and that has been my experience - can recommend