Recently I met Neil Gershenfeld from MIT, who advocates for research and development in to universal machinery that can assemble itself, perform its duties, and then disassemble itself back in to parts when complete.  As he says, “there is no trash with LEGO, and there is no trash in a forest.” It’s a far off idea it seems, but intriguing nonetheless.
In the near term, we as consumers can help avoid this waste by refusing to buy proprietary materials that will eventually become landfill waste. Don’t buy cheap Halloween decorations at the dollar store that will fill up the dump. Don’t buy cheap Christmas presents for the short term amusement they provide. We can point fingers at manufacturers for producing goods they know will become trash, but we are just as complicit for buying those things from them. Support producers who believe in repair and you will be doing the earth and all its future inhabitants a favor.
It's more a concerted effort to make repair expensive, unexpected, unfashionable and gratuitously difficult across as many industries as possible.
30 or 40 years ago nearly all simple products were repairable, easily and cheaply. You went to any major retailer and they'd have a spares section along with aisles of new product. All of them. You could buy a new element for your toaster, kettle, heater or coffee machine. They'd keep seals and limescale filters and so on. Some of these were standard enough that they'd fit a wide range of manufacturer's products. They'd still be there years after the particular model was discontinued. There'd be a few third party offerings that were rarely as long lasting but perhaps £1 or £2 instead of £3 or £4.
Now? Nowhere sells spares, nor are they an expected part of most products. A kettle manufacturer might condescend to carry a few consumables like a limescale filter for a year or two. Then charge you around £10 with £2 p&p for a simple piece of plastic. Want a replacement element? That's basically never a spare part any more, though they don't last any longer. A fridge manufacturer might charge £18 with £4.95 p&p for a thermistor and a little heat shrink tube, but no longer have the one of the three that fails most often available at all. For a few year old refrigerator. (recent actual examples)
For larger products manufacturers are combining parts and modules into indivisible units that might ease manufacture a microscopic amount, but absolutely make many simple repairs no longer possible. So what was recently a £20 simple repair to your fridge or cooker is now a £200 major component and more labour than it's probably worth.
> Support producers who believe in repair
I've spent years, decades, trying to. There are effectively none left. Even the most expensive brands are aiming to have you throw it away and buy another as soon as they can get away with. Which leaves who?
I think this is a large part of the problem. Our goods have become so cheap to produce that they're cheaper to buy new than to repair. For example, I'm rebuilding a small motorcycle engine for a Honda. I can rebuild the engine, paying the machine-work labor cost and a small amount of parts, and it's actually just a bit more expensive than to buy a brand-new Chinese clone that's been in production for over a decade.
Labour costs for repairs have gone up, while consumer goods have gotten cheaper. In a lot of cases it's simply more cost-effective to replace than to rebuild. No mechanic rebuilds water pumps in the shop anymore than a home appliance tech would fix a coffee maker.
DIY is largely the one holdout for repairs, and it's unreasonable to think that every person can have the aptitude to fix any device that may break in their lives.
It's not unreasonable at all. Every time you swap out the filter on your coffee machine, you are effectively DIY repairing it. The same idea applies to longer life components. If they are designed to be easily swapped out, the repair requires no skill at all. Now, we simply swap out the entire product.
The problem is ultimately economic and behavioral,though. People simply can't allocate the necessary attentional resources to prefer repairable products below a certain price point. Meaning, you probably consider repairability when making a large purchase like a car by looking at cost of ownership. But it's simply impractical to be as thorough when making purchase decisions for relatively cheap items like a coffee maker or even a fridge. Good luck finding cost of ownership info for those products. So unless cost of ownership starts factoring into people's decisions at the time of purchase, and/or externalities like waste disposal are priced in at that time, repairable goods just aren't going to be competitive.
I think a lot of this is because we can choose to not factor in a lot of additional costs that will show up in other forms. E.g., unsustainable disposal leadss to environmental problems and hazardous living conditions, while the cheap chinese labour only works with far weaker labor protections than we have here.
I should say instinctively this still seems kind of wrong and wasteful to me, but then on the other hand when so much time has been invested in processes it kind of makes sense to take advantage of that efficiency. I should also say that this still leaves manufacturers with no excuse for taking the decision to deliberately stop making consumables, which is the kind of thing I would like to see legislation against.
Also note that a lot of "ingenuity" is production is just shipping parts across the world from wherever human labor is cheapest.
Did you miss above? I'm saying that IF devices can be recycled effectively at end of life, it may be more effective in economic terms to do away with the idea of making the thing repairable (beyond consumables) in life.
> Also note that a lot of "ingenuity" is production is just shipping parts across the world from wherever human labor is cheapest.
I think that's a little too cynical - take the car industry as an example - are you really going to argue that outsourcing to reduce labour costs has played a more significant role than technology and quality shifts? If so perhaps you should warn Germany, who still seem to be cranking out millions of cars every year, paying German wages, and turning a profit..
Require durable goods like fridges to be warrantied for 10 years at no cost to the owner. Develop standards that promote cost effective repairs and make following them a condition of selling your goods in the US/Europe.
People that don't like this can go peddle their junk in whatever markets will have them.
Not just an individual choice but a social choice too, therefore the State has a role to play.
In trading lower upfront cost for shorter life, consumers produce externalities such as pollution and raw materials depletion. The State must reinternalize those externalities and the mechanism to do that is either regulatory (mandatory 10 year warranty) or fiscal (recycling tax).
The only time a warranty is worth anything to me is when it's so costly to the manufacturer to honor it that they have a compelling incentive to make a quality product that won't break. Warranties in this class are usually for a good long period, 10 years or more.
Cheaper, sulfur-ladden diesel fuel is sold there too.
Already a requirement in Australia, thanks to our Consumer Rights laws.
Unfortunately, its had no appreciable effect on being cheaper to replace than repair on most consumer items. The manufacturer just becomes the one doing the replacing.
I could give it another 4 years of life easily by putting a faster SSD in. Since I built that computer I have had bought and sold 4 or 5 laptops for a comparison.
For a number of years I have used 350USD phones instead of upgrading every 2 years to the flagship. Life is good!
If you buy a 10 year old Toyota you can run that thing for decades and there'll always be parts!
It's amazing how much longevity it has!
It's smaller than an xbox. The only major limting factor is the TDP on the CPU, because it can only house a small cooler (so went for a 65w instead of 95w TDP).
And, it's modular, so if a bit dies we can replace it. If he wants to get a GPU 2 years from now we don't have to trash the whole build.
I’ll probably opt for software rendering for everything though.
Just trying to assess this vs something like a NUC Hades Canyon.
I'm also hanging onto a 2015 after a horrible experience with a 2016. When it eventually dies I think the only viable option will be a Thinkpad, though I'd prefer to stay on MacOS.
Some mobile phones do this by making the batteries non removable so once the battery life deteriorates people will buy a new phone rather than a cheaper replacement battery.
Some laptops solder the ram onto motherboard so you cannot upgrade.
Other companies use things like non standard screws to make it hard for people to replace parts themselves.
In my engineering classes at university this was referred to as planned obsolescence.
1. as you said, these things are planned obsolescence, done
when a company's business model requires constant new purchases for growth and continued existence. If you make a product that lasts for 50 years without ever needing repair, then you go out of business as soon as everyone has bought one, and there's no need to make very many of the new things.
2. Suppose you go a notch down and you make a product that needs repairs. Human labour, especially in the presence of unions, is extremely expensive, and individual repairs can only be potentially profitable to the repair shops. If it's first party repairs, warranty repairs very quickly eat into whatever original profits you had. My partner once worked at a shop that did air conditioning repairs (like Harry Tuttle in Brazil), They would absolutely refuse to install Samsung air conditioners, since they would always require warranty repairs, and each time you do one of those, you lose money.
3. You get your manufacturing and supply chain so efficient, with economies of scale, and offshoring, you can get the cost of making a new thing way way below the cost of even one repair. One replacement part. The inefficient amount of time spent on diagnostics and maintenance work. Viewed in this light, soldering the ram onto the mother board isn't as much about planned obsolescence as it is about getting the cost of manufacture just a bit cheaper. Your BOM is down now, because you're not paying for the ram connector pieces.
And so, even this is oversimplifying things, but still I believe it's more complicated than evil apple planning obsolescence. And it's more complicated than consumers creating a market that is biased against repairability. It's about the economies of scale enabled by increased industrialisation.
When microchips first came out, computer maintenance people, who were used to working with discrete components, either transistors or vacuum tubes asked "If the circuits are microscopic, how do we repair it?", not quite grasping that repairing a microchip would be a waste of time when you can just replace it with a new one.
Can you imagine socks being expensive enough that sewing the holes in them, rather than buying new ones, was worth your time?
Our Kenmore Trio fridge, also from 2004, I've kept alive. I had to replace the freezer fan and the air diverter motor each once. The water valve needs to be replaced every 3-4 years.
We have a GE washer & dryer from 2003 or so. Those too I've managed to keep alive. The washer needs a new timer, for now we just use the permanent press cycle all the time because my wife is patient, a replacement timer is ridiculously overpriced, and I haven't tried to repair the existing timer. :-( The dryer needed a new drive belt at some point, and I've jury-rigged a bearing for it as well.
Last year I had to replace the microswitches in our GE microwave. Fortunately, they've used pretty much exactly the same switches for decades and still do so these are easily available.
Our 2004 Wayne Dalton garage door openers were damaged by lighting a couple years ago. Was able to find the parts I needed to repair them on eBay.
So, I don't know, around my house I've had pretty good luck sourcing parts.
I notice a lot of neighbors don't even bother thinking to call a repair man and just replace appliances when they fail. I wonder how many of these things are actually repairable, but it isn't cost-effective if you can't do it yourself.
From an economic perspective, the amount of effort spent in researching, diagnosing, ordering and fixing any one device far exceeds the effort being good at one's core job and trading dollars for someone else's experience.
However, considering where I am originally from(Poland), repairman labour won't cost more than 50PLN/hour(£10), so actually, fixing a "cheap" £180/900PLN fridge is completely worth it. It's even more worth it to actually repair it yourself, as the average hourly wage in Poland is about 10-15PLN(£2-3), so even though having it repaired is "cheap" by western standards, doing it yourself still saves you money.
This is closer to minimum wage now. The average (post-tax) is more likely to be around 20 PLN.
But fixing the microwave? That they can see and understand. It gives me great enjoyment building and repairing physical things. So call it my hobby.
How do you decide when to pay someone and what to do yourself?
I could also change the oil in my car and rotate the tires myself, but I decided long ago I was tired of dealing with that mess/hassle, so that I pay someone else to do. (Annoyingly I have to mark the tires to make sure they rotate them correctly. Sometimes I do things myself because it’s so hard to find competent people these days it seems.)
Fortunately the online Sears parts outlet has a great DIY video section that helped me use my very rudimentary multimeter skills to pinpoint the issue to a bad heating element. $50 later and we have a working dryer again (and I'm not so mystified by my dryer anymore :) )!
Th belt on mine is going but replacing it seems to be well within my comfort zone. For $30 I can probably get several more years out of it at least. I'm hoping by then someone like dyson will come out with a much more efficient dryer anyway, surely they could tumble at a much slower rate and waste less electricity.
Tumbling uses a fraction of energy heating does. The motor used for rotating the drum will use about 20-30W, while the heating element will be rated at 2000-3000W.
I suppose it could use less heat for longer, but then I'm not sure if it actually works out favourably(as in - if you just use 1000W of heat, is the process 2x as long, or longer? Because if it's longer or the same then it's more efficient to use full 2000W of power for heating).
I would expect the full load current to be considerably higher, as the dryer's drum rides on friction pads and not ball bearings.
What is left? Pleasure to learn new things, do something with own hands and see the accomplished quickly, same day or week. Not like those Agile coding periods...
I don't mind trading dollars for someone else's experience -- unless that "experience" consists in knowing a parts supplier, ordering, and adding 30% margin when billing me.
Guess what, more and more of these parts suppliers sell to end users just as well, and some even give a very good advise on compatibility etc.
When I compare working to earn an extra $2000 to have $1000 left after marginal taxes to buy a new appliance vs a 1-3 hour repair (half hour google/YouTube and the rest with tools in hand), a DIY repair often makes more sense, even if your success rate is only 50%. My success rate is over 90%. Only substantial failure was a washer of ours that I couldn’t get the bearings removed to replace. They’d failed and spun and chewed up the shaft too much, leading the parts required to be prohibitive compared to a new washer.
I upvoted you because I agree with your overall comment, but on this one point I disagree. I think it's not a concerted effort, just a gentle gradient caused by economics. Meaning, all the companies that made traditionally repairable items (e.g. straight razors) were less profitable in the long run than companies that made disposable/irreparable items, so they eventually went under. Because disposable items are cheaper to manufacture, they could be sold for much lower prices in the marketplace and produced in much greater numbers, reaping much more profit. That expands markets and keeps them producing demand by the need for replacement. While consumers should be the counterpressure to that, consumers generally don't consider TCO, so traditional producers lost to the market and humanity irrationality.
 I mean honestly, who adds up the cost of all the razors they'll use in their life?
The way humans used to live two hundred years ago was definitely "waste not, want not". Things were durable because making them took human effort. People were poor and closer to the things that they made and used. Supply chains were not something optimized by logistics companies; shoes were made by people in the same town. In that setting, you better believe they made stuff to last.
In short, all of this is because of the techno-industrial marketplace.
Whether it's prevailing economic school, or what they're teaching MBAs the last few decades but there is clear intent to a) remove maintenance and repair options, and b) ensure products are not built to last, but built to last "just long enough".
Now, profits are not so knife edge that adding 50p on a connector to permit a part to be changed in a fridge or kettle would cause them to go under. The market for kettles spans £10 to well over £100 for stupid gimmicks. Plenty of space for more ethical options alongside internet connectivity, LCD displays and LEDs that light up the water. Even the ethical extra water saving environmentally gimmicked options don't permit repair. In single blade razors the smallest change could make or break profitability. Even that is a different proposition now thanks to the ever rising blade count and added gimmicks.
Many of the companies that made traditionally repairable items are still around. It's just they all started phasing out at roughly the same time.
Were lighting a 21st century invention there would be no lightbulbs or bayonet and Edison screw fittings. We'd all be replacing the light fitting every time, and people would be explaining why it was unavoidable.
So I suspect it's something more than simple economics, though I don't think there's been a repetition of the 1,000 hour lightbulb cartel. :)
I don't think this is true. This latest phase in the last N decades is just an acceleration of a constant ecosystem dynamic since industrialization. There are tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of manufacturers over the last 200 years that have gone under, gone bankrupt, been gobbled up, pivoted to new markets, etc. Sometimes you can get a picture into this if you watch Antiques Roadshow and an expert explains that this or that chair was made by this company at that time and it's rare because, and so on. There is a huge history underlying almost any old or rare item. Super interesting, too!
A major factor is continued development. Any product under active development is in this cycle. Consumers see a 10 yr old washing machine as almost archaic vs the newest ones. So they don't see as much value in the old device -- not enough to repair when a new one is 40% off for the labor day sale.
For items that aren't under active development -- like a coffee maker, an iron, a lawn mower -- they care about its total lifetime and the costs of repairing it.
Even the cheapest tat domestic appliance brands used to let you replace an element etc for a fraction the cost of new. When it was designed in and a screwdriver-free sub 3 minute job I'm not sure time or hassle really entered into it. A new model often used the same filters or elements. Now the time and hassle is designed in as almost nothing is intended to be replaced, opened or disassembled so it becomes an afternoon's work (eg phone battery replacement).
One example of many. Frost free fridge freezers need a small heating element to defrost the coils. That was a simple plug in component for a few pounds, and lowest callout fee from your local repairer. Now they're mostly being combined indivisibly with the coil and that becomes a replacement of a major, mostly working, module and a re-gas that costs half the cost of the damn fridge. Even on the fancy £1k Samsung fridge freezers. Actually I think Samsung were one of the first to do this. Heating elements, of course, still fail with roughly the same regularity. That's an awful lot of metal, plastic, refrigerant and climate CO2 deliberately turned into a disposable.
If we can't go back to the old view, at least partially, resolving climate change is going to remain challenging.
If there was a big name player out there who offered this service to me, I'd sign up.
Why not look at the life of a fridge and say the median current ownership period is now the free, transferable guarantee/warranty period; companies have to buy insurance against bankruptcy to maintain forward ability to repair (stops companies closing in order to clear liabilities, then restarting).
Rinse and repeat, minimum 2 year warranty for material and workmanship on all goods. Increase warranty to maintain medians.
Perhaps then we can start curing 'designed to fail' goods.
I've heard good things about these folks, although I haven't got any direct experience:
On a side note, I like that they're seen as classically British but like other classically British things e.g. Dr Marten's boots, the original Mini car or fish and chips they were all designed by foreign born Brits.
Knowing how a Mac is connected and what parts are used is a long way away from being able to make one for most people.
I don't think there are actual terrorists in Brazil. All their crap is breaking down, and terrorists are a convenient scapegoat that government there I'm sure internally thinks exist. A sort of systemic hallucination.
It doesn't quite make sense to me though. If you take the explosions literally, ventilation systems don't tend to do that sort of thing, and if/when they do fail, it tends to be by suffocating everyone with freeon or carbon monoxide, not with explosive fireballs. Boilers can explode, but those are usually in basements, not at the floor level of a restaurant. Restaurant kitchens can and do regularly catch fire, as a result of failing to clean the grease out of cooktop exhaust filters. But again, this usually isn't an explosion.
I suppose the explosions could be a kind of visual metaphor, for the way a small clerical error snowballed into a rolling deadly disaster due to the inhumane and inflexible nature of the bureaucracy.
I'll have to watch the film again to see where all the explosions are- but while I think the explosions are evocative of societal failures, I'm not convinced they're purely metaphorical, or purely meant to be mechanical failures. The film was made in the historical context of the IRA bombing places in real life regularly, and the film would have been stupid to imply, in effect, that the IRA's bombings were government fiction.
Edit: Just had another quick search around and it seems possible that the restaurant explosion scene, character reaction to it, and news rhetoric depicted around terrorism in general could have been inspired by this contemporary event (notably, Thatcher, like the characters in the film, attempted to carry on with the conference as if nothing had happened):
Are you sure it's like that in Brazil or are you just assuming from where boilers typically are in your location? I for one have never seen a basement in my life, and have never seen a boiler anywhere else but at the floor level.
If you have a basement, you may as well put the boiler or furnace down there, freeing up space on the main floor.
Notable is the lack of any visible fire.
AFAIK all the other versions are effectively the same except for a sutble difference. In one the background of the scene is the inside of a dark tower. In the other that tower fades to clouds. in both cases the main character is smiling so I'm not sure there much difference in meaning. I prefer the cloud version and have always wished for a large hi-res poster to frame of that image.
PS: one of my favorite movies. Saw it in the theater original release in the 80s. Owned VHS, then laserdisc, then DVD, then Bluray
Companies not wanting things to be repaired is a major inhibitor of repair. Those companies push for those laws, but they often do other things too to make it hard.
Think of it in IT terms. Making and supporting a single high performance monolith is easier than taking care of a zoo of interoperable and interchangeable micro services...
Or was it supposed to be the other way round ? ;-)
This is point of governments. To change the incentives for individuals so markets optimize for global good. This is not a hard concept.
The reason the current approach is a failure is that everyone who doesn't care about efficiency can skirt the whole mandate by buying a truck/suv that gets a whopping 15mpg in town. The popularity of trucks in the US speaks to how bone-headed the approach of mandating efficiency in cars is.
The even worse part about not correctly taxing the actual externality is that people think they are doing good things for the environment by buying new high gas mileage cars and then unwinding that whole thing with a cheap flight to Paris or by constantly having things shipped across the country for them.
>To change the incentives for individuals so markets optimize for global good. This is not a hard concept.
Yep, not a hard concept but the implementation is where everything went completely to shit.
This makes assumptions about one's ability to even make such a decision given their environment/situation. There's a theoretical vs practical difference in taxing consumers for otherwise cheap yet harmful products. Theoretically you'd be right, but practically it's regressive.
Huh, this whole time I thought the point of governments was to protect individual rights. TIL /s
People make decisions along more than one axis. I'd say there's a demand, it's just that it's not prioritized the most highly.
And I don't think this can be blamed on consumers. Have you seen any marketing that touts repairability? Companies have judged that they profit by selling products that are less reliable and less reparable, since that means they can make more sales. I can't find the link now, but I read an article that explained that Whirlpool has a cleverly designed racket to sell unreliable, unrepairable products and keep customers coming back: they own almost all the washing machine brands. If you hate your Whirlpool because it broke down after a couple years, you vow never to buy that brand again. So you buy a Maytag and it's the exact same machine from the exact same factory, just with different markings and styling.
Well then, I guess we'll have to watch as this problem will remain unsolved. If you want an unregulated market, people will do what they want, and they happen to want to give money to corporations whose only motivation is profit, because they get direct benefit from those transactions. Like cheap disposable halloween costumes, to take your own example.
Government has addressed economic externalities countless times with laws restricting various types of pollution, funding public transit, public health, education, etc. It is most definitely the government's job to fix such externalities by adjusting incentives on third party effects. No one else can achieve that.
Maybe you think this disposable-products externality is somehow special, but I don't really see a case for that.
That sounds very nice, but I see a few practical implementation problems that reinforce each other:
1) Market demand for a product that doesn't exist is an undefined value, and estimating its hypothetical value ranges in reliability from back-of-the-envelope to astrology
2) Economies of scale often require that total demand reach a threshold for a product to even have a chance to be profitable/competitive, i.e. there is some demand below which vendors are effectively forced to round it down to zero.
3) For high-tech products especially, a handful of big vendors agreeing on the way things are done can create massive network effects among suppliers that make it unduly expensive or outright infeasible for an erstwhile competitor to do things any other way. For example, good luck building a smartphone with leaded chip packages instead of leadless (a decision having a great deal to do with concerns about reliability, repairability, and component reuse).
We get what we are willing to accept and so far we keep buying unrepairable materials that quickly become trash. I made that statement in my original comment.
We must be willing to pay niche creators more for doing work that reduces our impact on the world, and so far people haven’t been willing to do much of that. Sadly though the corporations control our communication mediums and everyone is taught to blindly consume. It’s hard to fight the programming.
 and natural gas tends to be cheaper than electric heat pumps, especially nowadays
Here's their top of the line current offering in the USA: https://www.mieleusa.com/domestic/tumble-dryers-1575.htm?mat...
Natural gas dryer I never even heard of, but I am not surprised - when I visited Pennsylvania I saw quite a lot of clever uses of natural gas.
I stand corrected. I'd be curious if it's actually any more efficient, especially if the heat it's pumping comes from gas, oil, or resistive heating (in the winter, assuming cold climate). It can appear more efficient, of course, if one only measures the dryer itself, but that wouldn't be apples-to-apples.
> Here's their top of the line current offering in the USA
$1800 is an eye-watering price. That'd buy me 3750 hours of 4kW  dryer usage, so buying it for long-term savings alone is hardly an obvious choice.
> clever uses of natural gas
Raising temperature by burning it seems like the least clever use of natural gas (or any combustible).
 I figure the least efficient resistive heating dryer is 5kW and that Miele is 1kW.
For my case, I figure it has in recent years started to give a return. I had to repair it (myself) with parts for $40 once. It has certainly been running for much more than 4000 hours.
Looking at the greater picture, the power mix here is about 50% nuclear and hydro, the rest from burning garbage in combined heat (heats the whole town) and power.
You can tell it's not using as much power as our previous dryer, the bathroom would get sauna hot if you closed the bathroom door and also the clothes would take longer to dry - with the Miele there isn't much difference with the door open or closed either in drying time or room temperature. It's also less wear and tear on the clothes. The clothes come out consistently "dry" instead of between "humid" and "extra crisp" with the old dryer.
Stepping away even further from the picture, I actually prefer hanging to dry (clothes don't wear out as fast and I actually enjoy the slight stiffness of textiles hung to dry, a childhood thing I guess) but my (soon to be ex-, thank God) wife swears by the dryer, so... a dryer it was. And I have to admit, it's damn useful at times.
And for the record, the heat pump is used to dehumidify the processing air. The air is still heated using electricity. It just doesn't waste as much heat.
Again, this is not necessarily a fair comparison, if what's being pumped actually costs something that can't be measured at the dryer's plug.
$500 would likely be worth it, even at $.12/kWh, but the market may not think so if they're not available for that price in places with cheap electricity (and/or cheap enough natural gas, which can be much cheaper, ranging between $.04/kWh and $.06/kWh, equivalent, on my last bill).
> the heat pump is used to dehumidify the processing air.
This seems a bit strange to me, but it makes sense, especially if there's recirculation going on.
> The air is still heated using electricity. It just doesn't waste as much heat.
This is pretty clear from the efficiency only being 2:1, which is much worse than what I'd expect from a heat pump being used for heating.
However, I'm getting the impression that the heat pump in this case is entirely internal to the machine, which is not what I had in mind when mentioning heat pumps (thinking of their coefficient of performance of 3-4) . Were I aware of these machines, I would have specified:
It's not as if modern dryers are using a heat pump with an outdoor source to raise the temperature of the clothing instead of burning gas or "burning" electricity with resistive heating.
That said, a 2x efficiency gain, by whatever method, is more than I expected, though still falling into what I would categorize as "not much room", especially if the gain comparison always assumes the oldest, least-efficient 5kW model only ever running at its highest setting. The other key assumption in all these comparisons is that all these dryers can finish the same sized load in the same amount of time, which can't possibly be true in the real world.
If my $40-to-repair machine already has some efficiency tweaks such that its worst-case is only 4kW, the $500 machine's worst-case is 2.5kW, but my actual behavior averages out to running them at 70% power, I'm saving barely over a kilowatt per hour, and I'm back up to 3500 hours to break-even at $.12/kWh electric rates. $1800-for-1kW is nearly 14k hours, or nearly 18 hours a week over fifteen years, and I don't do that much laundry.
 If this is so, it strikes me as odd to call it that, just as it would strike me as odd to call out a free-standing dehumidifier having a "heat pump", even though that's the crucial to the device functioning.
And the town's buses are running on biogas but are on schedule to be replaced with electric buses.
That's usually only if the gas is natural gas, and that's not available. Even then, "far more" can be misleading.
My experience in California is that it's on the order of 4x cheaper than using resistive heating in a residence (i.e. buying naively from the utility at retail rates).
My latest PG&E bill shows "procurement" costs (which I assume are the wholesale energy-only part of the bill ) of $.009-$.01/kWh , and, IIUC, wholesale electricity is about 4x that.
This is to say that an efficient enough electric heat pump (which I believe is plausible for whole-house heating, not high-temperature use cases like a dryer) could at least get close to gas in operating cost.
 only about 1/7th of the retail total, something which would likely surprise most consumers. This seems true for electricity, too, where, IIRC, the energy costs $.04/kWh, but PG&E charges upward of $.24/kWh at the highest residential "tier".
 converted from $/therm using 29.300111111111 kWh/therm
Think of it akin to fees for externalised costs such as pollution (ie carbon fee/tax) but applied to all products.
They also want a few 30+ year old cars (nothing in between!) to show how long their cars last. This is just enough that everybody sees such a car, but not enough that many people have such a car.
Notice that this is only a problem as a result of excessive copyright terms and patent thickets/evergreening. If you buy a product halfway through its twenty year patent term and then have to repair it after ten years, no problem, by then the patent is expired and anyone can make parts.
Unless by then the manufacturer has stopped making new software/firmware for the device and the old version has security vulnerabilities or isn't compatible with modern systems, yet no one can fix it because the old unsupported software still has an unexpired copyright even though the vendor has abandoned it.
I tend to buy and repair scientific and lab equipment and repair it. I also do/try for consumer stuff sometimes, it’s usually not economical.
Tried to repair a microwave for example, but couldn’t find a replacement magnetron. That part isn’t covered by patents, it’s just not available... if there was more interest, I think there would be more stripped parts on eBay too.
Coming back to your situation, a magnetron might not be patented but that could just be one of the many components that renders a microwave non-functional and a lot of those other components might be patented. A microwave repair shop cannot possibly be profitable if it only fixes magnetron issues. It would want to fix most, if not all, issues with customers' microwaves. But it can't as companies legally prohibit 3rd party repairs. Sure, people still reverse engineer and fix things by themselves but these laws are major blockers for 3rd party repair markets to flourish. Despite the laws, there are pockets where this still occurs (e.g. China). And should the ban on 3rd party repair be lifted, it's going to be a different ball game and opportunities could bring us a lot more big businesses like iFixit.
But if DRM was meant I can see how there are cases where this could be a problem (I don’t think it is yet a very common problem however, or one that prevents the majority of goods from being repaired).
There are other items where this kind of thing makes a lot of sense though. My 3D printer is extremely easy to pull apart and replace parts for. I have a full manual for how every single bit goes together and the parts are usually generic things I can buy off ebay for a few $.
*Note: these are likely my peeps btw.
In general humans get really excited about building new and transformative things, and we have a big blind spot to ongoing maintenance. In particular we've come to utterly depend on the things that were "shiny and new" back in first generation of suburbanization (50s - 70s), while many of those things have been poorly maintained, and in many cases the economic returns on that infrastructure don't actually justify the ongoing maintenance cost.
It's a dangerous drag on the economy, but we're stuck with it now, and the lesson learned is we should prioritize maintenance in our thought process and make sure we're getting a positive return out of the infrastructure liabilities we already have before creating new ones.
The IT industry mirrors this exactly, where we need a constant churn of new shiny tech for new projects. It means that many projects are done while still learning some tech rather that using well understood because it is unfashionable.
If your maintenance regime is done properly, over the long haul, you save a fortune. Do your normal maintenance, refurbish at the correct times and replace with new when the % maintenance cost has reached the trigger point.
This means that every asset lasts longer (on the whole) costing you less and you get some return on that asset in the end. The one thing that generally gets in the way of proper maintenance are the accountants. They have a penchant for not understanding maintenance and future costs.
I have seen them willing to spend up to 80% of the cost of replacement for an item on repairing an item year on year, when it would be better to simply replace the item in question. They also seem to have the general attitude of "It's working therefore we do not need to spend any money on maintenance for it." This attitude seems to ensure that all sorts of organisations have a continually degrading asset base instead of a maintained asset base.
If you were to look at each state government in any country, you will find that most of the state assets are ill-maintained and that to get them to the correct maintenance level would be more than the current state budgets.
The other side of this is that accountants have a skewed point of view as to what is an asset and what is not. As such they will spend plenty of money on smaller item with replacement rather than refurbish or repair those items. Hence, office furniture, phones, computers, etc, are treated as consumable items and not worth repairing. So why would suppliers and manufacturers be bothered to make these items repairable?
Change the mindset of those whose responsibility is the finance and your will see a change in what supplier and manufacturers do in terms of repairability of their products. The small scale consumer such as us would then then benefit from this.
It effect, the mentality of not repairing items has a number of interconnected causes that feed the problem, from the basic tax law and attitudes of accountants "protecting" the bottom line, to companies using this attitude to make it cheaper to not design products that are repairable, to patent law and copyright law, to that simple staple called greed and the other stable called politics.
Usually, you find that kind of "accountant" (a good one is worth his weight in gold in these cases) in the supporting bureaucracy. Actual user tend to understand the need for spare part availability and sound maintenance. Bureaucrats care about formalities, usually sitting in an office they have no incentive to be any different.
Which tax laws in particular?
In the UK they're referred to as "Listed Buildings" and are protected by law.
We also have a strong heritage cultures e.g. things like classic car clubs, historical farm displays, etc.
I can't comment on Japanese homes but I can tell you it would be pretty easy to find examples of a 500-1000 year old houses or pubs still in daily use through out the UK .
It used to be the case that Japanese cars were bought new with vehicles exported after only a few years of use, although I believe that this has lessened somewhat now.
That being said, the extension of maintenance, supply chain and logistics, is even more often ignored. I think modularization is a potential solution in the future, at least foe the defense sector. In civil aerospace the maintenance problem is under tight control, an aircraft that is not flying is just a cost factor. But then there is a lot of competition for civil aircraft maintenance, so single aource suppliers are rarer than for defence.
Net domestic product is an interesting concept that I haven't considered before.
The Fed appears to track it somehow, despite the difficulty in measuring it, as the article mentions. Here is a graph I configured on the St Louis Fed site that compares GDP to NDP:
In general, it seems to track GDP pretty well, although recently it appears to have gotten closer to GDP, though I don't have any idea why.
The article's comparison of "wear and tear" as a % of countries' GDP is interesting.
Since lower income countries (China, India) often have a lower standards for acceptable maintenance level in both the public and private realm than wealthier ones, it kind of makes sense that they spend less of their GDP on wear and tear.
Also, a lot of the expensive modern infrastructure (airports, freeways, etc) in those countries is relatively new, so a big repair bill might just be further down the road (no pun intended).
Britain in this view is an anomaly, being a high income country with low maintenance spend as a % of GDP.
1) Compared to France and Germany the climate and environment is a lot simpler. We don't have lots of mountains with tunnels, the temperature barely dips below freezing. Even though we have roughly the same population size, we have roughly half the length of motorways .
2) In the 80s a lot of public infrastructure was privatised. Taking the railways as an example, First Group is a company listed on the London Stock Exchange which owns a large majority of train and local bus services across the country . Infrastructure projects are still funded by the government, but they are often funded in the way of loans, that at some point they expect to be repaid, so don't impact the GDP.
3) After the financial crisis, fixed capital spending was greatly cut (as well as public spending in general), but as a % of GDP it still hasn't returned to its 2008 levels . I suspect a lot of what was cut was really improvements and new projects that have been shelved. If we were to compare it to other countries over a greater timeframe, I'd expect to see the spending closer to that of France and Germany.
It'll be interesting to see what happens after Brexit as a large percentage of both the construction labour force and building supplies are imported from Europe.
Patently untrue. More here: https://www.wired.com/story/john-deere-farmers-right-to-repa.... At least for CA farmers [..] a big California farmers’ lobbying group just blithely signed away farmers’ right to access or modify the source code of any farm equipment software. As an organization representing 2.5 million California agriculture jobs, the California Farm Bureau gave up the right to purchase repair parts without going through a dealer. Farmers can’t change engine settings, can’t retrofit old equipment with new features, and can’t modify their tractors to meet new environmental standards on their own. Worse, the lobbyists are calling it a victory.[..]
"Technically correct" is something best left to lawyers, whose job entails just that, by its very nature. Everybody else, especially those whose job is to inform people, don't get to use a "technically correct" free pass. They're either telling the truth or lying.
In this case, the unnamed coward journalist is lying.
It is actually capable because it is extremely effective at logistics and maintenance.
A lot of that was originally about shipping in basic stuff like rations and equipment, but maintaining an inventory and supply chain of spare parts is I'm sure a huge part of it, especially nowadays.
* IRST on MIG-29 and helmet-targeting for infrared missiles
* Titanium welding for high-speed submarines
* Super-cavitating torpedoes
* Stealth theory
* Air dropped vehicles
* Urban tank support vehicles (BMPT)
* Radar targeting for individual machine guns
* Reactive armor
* Lots of other stuff I can't think of right now.
It's also questionable whether the US military efficiency over opponents scales with budget over opponents.
So its both questionable that it leads in innovation and that this leads to superiority.
That's a good point. Apparently the US military funding accounts for 36 percent of global military funding, with 3x as much funding as the country with the second highest spend, China.
I have no idea if the US military is particularly efficient. Even if it was half as efficient as competitors, the US military could still have an advantage due to the sheer volume of resources dedicated.
Still incredibly inefficient, to be sure.
Honestly, some rudimentary technology (physical infrastructure, financial instruments, computing solutions) is rather effective and oftentimes elegant. Why not lean into these artifacts and design around repair/maintenance/continued-use?
If anything pace of tech development plateaus after technology gets commoditized.
Times have changed however, had my iPhone 7 Plus not died on me I wouldn't have bothered to upgrade to an iPhone XS (I had an extended warranty through T-Mobile and got the device swapped just to trade it in for a $300 credit) - it was still stupidly fast and I certainly wasn't missing any of the gimmicks in the newer devices. This is probably why T-Mobile is now testing 3 year financing options with the iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9.
Example: reporting a bad transfer case bearing as a service bulletin. This is normal, as customers have detected the fault and the manufacturer has identified it as a problem. What isnt normal is the manufacturer insisting the part cant be repaired, and instead of a $50 part you need to chuck the entire thing and pay $2500 for a new assembly. Sure, bearings are a hard example, but ive also encountered manufacturers who demand their brake calipers cannot be re manufactured (Porsche and BMW, im looking at you.) and instead of a $119 rebuild, you'll need to buy a one thousand dollar caliper straight from germany or the entire car will explode.
I think countries that use proportional representation rather than winner-take-all elections aren't as hijacked by such lobbyists. I know there was an effort in the EU to ensure the right to repair.
Making things repairable has real costs. They have to be designed in a modular way so they can be taken apart. Given the choice, most people want sleekness and better industrial design over the ability to repair. This is why products like the iPhone, which feature seam-less industrial design and no externally-visible screws, are so popular.
In order to make something maintainable, the design must be stable, it must be designed to be serviceable, it must be built with serviceable parts, and it must have a long enough lifetime where maintenance is worth it economically, and a buyer who cares. None of these are typically true for huge segments of what consumers buy.
Please see this Vice article about tractor repair https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/xykkkd/why-americ...
This is probably the reason why repairing is generally more common in low labor costs markets than in the developed world.
Here's a nice video from Oregon Health & Science University featuring the Tram's maintenance supervisor talking about the maintenance program and the impact it has on the Tram's performance.
I don't think all infrastructure projects require this level of maintenance, but it's nice to see what's possible when it's baked into a project from the beginning.
It seems it's more expensive to make products that are more easily repairable or can last longer, because obviously brands benefit from making products that break, although I'm curious if consumers really know how to switch brand when one break early, and if consumers can really understand why and how a product will last longer.
There should be regulations about how products are made and how their parts can break. I saw some broom vacuum cleaner's break because of a flexible plastic air canal. It requires buying a big piece. It's either intentional, or bad design. Those designs should be regulated, inspected and fined.
Tractor Hacking: The Farmers Breaking Big Tech's Repair Monopoly - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8JCh0owT4w
Lego works for reassembly because it is a one-part item: standard interface, bulky, light, strong, simple. A typical circuit board by contrast is centrally fabricated by high-end robots as an extremely high density sub-assembly including tens, hundreds or thousands of components. It's not easy to repair because it requires relatively specialist knowledge and tools to do so, and there are so many different components available. In a similar way, many products have been explicitly designed to be smaller, lighter, simpler or cheaper instead of being reassembly-capable. Injection molded plastic is a classic example, so is assembly by glue or snap-in vs. screws. These are powerful techniques and valid trade-offs.
This does not excuse, for example, companies like Canon and Nikon requiring customers to pay extortionate amounts for repairs and replacements of simpler mechanisms and refusing to supply replacement parts to independent service people.
2) join a gym,
3) get a part-time job to fill your empty hours.
Voila, no need for a toilet of your own.
(No thank-you required)
But seriously, hold your nose and fix your leaky toilet - this is one of the easiest things in your house to repair. There's such a thing as being _too_ lazy.
Robust design is a feature that doesn't do good to your business. Soviet product design, as laughable it seems to one, was really incredible and produced products that would rarely break and when they do so parts were always available. But in that market model getting rich was never the goal. Quite the contrary!
For example, my grandmother still has a radio that weights 7 kg built in 50s that works despite all things. I can listen to Radio Moscow from my kitchen 2000km away. The antenna is broken and that radio hangs near the cooker, it is already filled with a lot of dust and grease. Just like your extractor fan. That's just one example. Kalashnikov, Russian tanks, cars, soviet home electrical appliances like tvs, washing machines or vacuum cleaners etc. They all work today.
In a capitalist economy only the regulators can impose repairs as a requirement. Most humans are beyond their ability to think critically at what happens in 2-5 years time.
Would not force people into replacing/fixing. It would always favour the approach best for all of us.
Simple solution IMHO
Repair and maintenance is one of those things that is completely overlooked by neoliberal, modern capitalism. As they state in the article, GDP and economic analysis in general doesn't take into account wear and tear, amongst a number of other things. If anything, the drive away from things like interchangeable/universal parts and the ability to repair things you own in the first place is directly tied to rise of unfettered capitalism.