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The laundry industry is in a spin to save water (bbc.co.uk)
17 points by open-source-ux 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments

how about washing machines that don't fall apart after a few years? Surely that has a larger impact on the environment


I've read that before, and he neglects to mention that appliances used to cost a lot more. It's a bit hard to find pricing, but here's one reference I found with fridges in 1968 at prices between $350-450: https://www.automatice.org/cgi-bin/index.cgi?showdoc~657~~

In 2018 dollars, that's around $3000. You can get a low-end fridge today for under $400. When a product's price hasn't changed over 50 years, that's achieved by technology, and by cutting materials costs.

The price drop is probably because your fridge is built in China or Mexico instead of a neighboring city.

That, and it’s made with more plastic. Compare the weight of an old fridge to a new one and you can see where the savings came from.

The price has changed though if you're including the cost of the longevity. Also comparing low end fridge to what was high end or standard at the time I don't think is a fair comparison. Granted price wise its the 'same' but if modern stuff lasts half to a 1/3 as long then the new appliances are far more expansive.

I've been shocked by how many of my home appliances I've had to fix in the past 20 or so years. I think that I've fixed or replaced every single appliance in my house, some of them more than once. And I have to pay 35 bucks to dispose of an appliance.

On the other hand, it could be perception. My parents had to fix appliances too. (I grew up in a fix-it family). And we have more appliances now. For instance home computers didn't exist when I was a kid.

And there is a balancing force. While stuff breaks, the ability to find repair instructions online has been a godsend. I swear that whenever I experience a problem with technology, someone else has already had the same problem, fixed it, and blogged or YouTube'd about it.

While they didn't have a home computer, your parents likely did have to replace tubes, perhaps using a grocery-store tube-tester - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tube_tester#Self-service_tube_... .

'My parents had to fix appliances too.'

True, TVs would break down regularly and other appliances had basic design flaws which required constant attention. It was uncommon to see stuff like washing machines and fridges being disposed of though.

At least newer fridges are usually so much more efficient that it can be worth replacing them every few decades.

At least it’s easy to find a YouTube video on virtually every problem these days.

I’ve been able to fix a washing machine (why is the filter cleanout behind an access panel with 3 difficult to remove screws?), a flat panel TV (flex cable came loose), a gas water heater (just had to sand the thermocouple), another water heater in a hard water area (thank you SharkBites!) and a garage door opener (you should open them up and re-grease them every 10 years).

You can still buy a long lasting washer dryer.


They build their home washers to the same quality as the commercial ones, and they're american made.

I have a 20 year old Miele at home (manufacture date is June 1998). It's dead simpel to repair end even includes the scmeatics of its circuit board on the inside!

I've never owned a new machine. For me it's always used machines that use mechanical timers and relays and dumb electronics. If there's a circuit board, it's usually beige and the traces are likely to be hand-drawn.

These things are stupid easy to maintain. But I'm afraid of the coming shortage of replacement parts. (How long can Sears go on?)

Bonus: No mold problems with traditional top loaders. And I can throw a last-minute item into the mix if I forgot it.

I think that is something people take for granted and misunderstand. The manufacturing process & transporting takes a large amount of energy and resources. It's far more eco friendly for an appliance to last years vs some small savings on less water usage or energy bills. I think we'd all like both, but if I had to pick I'd rather it last longer so I don't have to worry about it.

I just had to buy a new fridge a few months back and this is another thing that makes me angry. Why is it that the standard sizes always seem to change as well? My house was made in the 1980s and most kitchen appliances we've replaced had to be 'custom orders' because the standard sizes have changed. Do they expect us to also upgrade our cabinets every time these appliances break and they decide to add an inch to the height or width.

The sad thing is even the top end machines and brands are made no better, just more features.

While we're here. How about appliances that don't combine every simple part into modules that make many simple repairs uneconomic?

I've found anything marketed as "water saving" is pretty much inferior crap to be avoided. From dishwashers to laundry machines, to shower heads, to toilets. I probably end up using more water with the "water saving" models due to having to use them twice as much/long. Combined with the designed-to-fail nature wnevets points out in his/her comment, I would steer clear of any appliance built in the last 30 years or so, particularly anything marked as "energy saving" or "water saving", which are both synonymous for junk.

I wonder why a startup doesn't popup to eat the lunch of all these shitty products.

Because building a physical object is several orders of magnitude than building an app, with a much lower rate of return.

Water saving stuff has gotten better and better, but there's only so much you can do with less water. I don't know that a startup would be able to find efficiencies that haven't already been wrung out by established players.

And they can't just produce toilets/showerheads/etc. that just use more water. Regulations won't allow it.

I used to work in a place where the toilet-flush levers went two ways: down gets you a low-water flush for #1, up gets you a high-power one for #2. I thought that was interesting. Dunno the regulatory situation around it, though.

Dual-flush toilets have been used in Europe for many years. When we moved there in 1998, we had an apartment that was kitted out with one that looked to be more than a decade old at the time, and it worked fine.

I can confirm that modern Toto toilets are also a wonder of engineering. My wife and I are planning on replacing all the old toilets in the house, now that we have a Toto downstairs. Not only does it use much less water, it can also handle way more ... material ... than anything else I have ever seen. Worth the money at ten times the price.

And yes, you can get Toto toilets that also do the dual-flush.

Nothing a drill bit and some patience can't fix for the showerheads, or just remove any flow restrictors.

The toilets can be adjusted, but the new tech works pretty well.

Sounds as though a few bad experiences have tricked you into overgeneralizing. I'm a property manager and a bit of an appliance nerd, and I deal with dozens of them. Modern toilets like the Toto 1.25 gal models have almost completely eliminated toilet clogs and overflows at my properties. This is experience is pretty universal among plumbers. Do a quick search for Toto on a big plumbing forum and you'll see what I mean. Water regulations forced toilet makers to actually design their toilets, which paid huge dividends in bowl wash and waste clearance. Toto toilets' flushways and bowl washes are designed by computer. There is simply no comparison with the old toilets that I immediately pull out and destroy whenever I acquire a new property.

Similar situation for dishwashers. New dishwashers (I have some Bosch 300 series machines) are worlds better than pre-water-saving dishwashers. I can pack mine with almost every piece of Corelle I own, with no prewashing, and get spotless clean dishes. With their turbidity meters, they actually work better if you don't prewash. A caveat though: you have to learn how to use the machine properly. For example, the Bosch machines offer a "normal" mode, which is both the worst and the default mode. Avoid it and the machine runs circles over any dishwasher from your golden youth.

I've had mixed experiences with washing machines. I have several very nice front-loading washing machines from LG, GE, and Samsung, all working flawlessly for between 6 and 10 years. Again, you have to RTFM, and perform basic maintenance like cleaning the filters. However, we used cloth diapers on our children, and found that our fancy front-loaders absolutely suck for such heavy soils. We actually bought an old-fashioned water-guzzling top load washing machine just for diapers, and it did the trick. On the other hand, we also have a new Maytag impeller-driven top loader, and it's shit. The computer pretty much constantly gets the water level wrong, and either leaves some clothes dry, or uses so much water that clothes don't circulate. I'm considering getting another old-fashioned top-loader for that property. Oldies are goodies in this case.

I like old-fashioned dryers, no doubt -- simple, robust, and thankfully still made essentially the same as they have been for decades. The newer computerized dryers are of dubious value IMO.

And don't get me started about the absolute shit durability of electronic control boards in appliances. Boards that can cost hundreds of dollars to replace. This summer I replaced a control board in a high-end Dacor stove. I had to find a used one because factory replacements cost $300. Plus, Dacor tightly restricts schematics and documentation to "authorized" (and expensive) repair shops.

In my opinion, Right to Repair laws are the best remedy for the declining quality of appliances.

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