Other than houses and cars, home appliances are among the top purchases a consumer makes over the course of a lifetime.
And, while talking about these types of machinery is often not a desirable, fun subject, doesn’t make it less important. When an appliance is old and not working efficiently, it’s a costly, but also no-brainer, decision to replace it with a bright, shiny new model. However, depending on a plethora of unforeseen situations, appliances break before their time.
If you are like most of our nation’s homeowners who don’t have thousands of dollars available to drop at a moment’s notice, the only choice could be crossing your fingers and going with the more affordable option of repairs. Luckily, there are a few tricks that can give insight into any future appliance dilemmas. Here’s a list of common household appliances, how to determine their age and whether or not it’s time for an upgrade, or much-needed maintenance.
Experts say a general rule of thumb is to replace your air conditioner every 15 years.
Of course, this all depends on your unit, the climate you live in and how often you use it. That is, a regularly serviced air conditioner will last much longer than one that is not.
Both central and room air conditioners are well known to suck energy in the summer. Even if your central air conditioner is less than 10 years old, it could suck up to twice the electricity. That’s because it operates at or below 10 SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.
This number determines the amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Until 2006, 10 SEER was standard. Today, the minimum allowed by federal law is 13 SEER. These numbers are typically found in your manual, or a side-sticker on your unit. Or, if both of these are long gone, search the manufacturer’s sites.
If you find your unit is outdated, or showing any of the tell-tale signs of needed replacement, the average cost of an air conditioning replacement averages $3,400 with installation. However, replacing filters, cleaning coils, and managing ducts will all help to decrease your bill.
Does the little door to the dishwasher’s dispenser really constitute a need to replace the entire appliance? It’s expensive, and technically, you do keep the dishwasher drain and filter clean.
If it’s over nine years old, unfortunately yes.
For one, older dishwashers use as much as 10 gallons of water per cycle. That’s nearly twice as much as a modern dishwasher, which uses on average 5.8 gallons of water.
There are also five tell-tale signs it’s time for a replacement. This includes a broken door latch, rust, cracked body shell and the water isn’t draining and/or heating.
There are a few measures you can take to preserve the life-span of your appliance. Cleaning the screens and filters can help the cleaning process a lot.
Increase its efficiency by not using the delay cycle, running full loads only and making sure your water temperature is at 130 degrees. You can also try running hot water in the kitchen sink for a minute before running the dishwasher.
Dishwashers cost between $250 and $2,200, and some were excellent at cleaning and drying while others disappointed. Price doesn’t necessarily track with overall performance, but dishwashers under $500 are often noisier.
Winter is here. So is the need to keep the freezing temps outside. And, if your furnace is more than 20 years old, you could return to a frosty house.
Typically an average furnace can survive up to 30 years. To determine the actual age, the simple answer is to check the original owner’s manual—if you still have it. If not, check the side of the furnace for a sticker containing the unit’s model number. You can usually call the manufacturer who can give you the age of your unit.
Sometimes, it requires a bit more investigating. Energy efficiency is another way to determine the age of your furnace. Newer energy-qualified gas furnaces are typically 15 percent more efficient than an older, conventional gas furnace. Compare your current average bill to what is considered the average cost in your area. This is also shown if your energy bill shows a continuously climb despite usage remaining the same.
Can maintenance prolong the longevity of the unit?
It can serve as a way to save a buck or two. But it’s less about the furnace itself, and more about the ducts that distribute the heat. Sealing the ducts could potentially get up to 20 percent of efficiency out of an older furnace. Still, this isn’t even close to the levels of a newer, higher-efficient model.
The cost of a standard efficiency natural gas furnace ranges from $2,250 to $3,800. You may incur higher costs, depending on the complexity of the install or if you choose a higher efficiency unit.
Replacing could be worth high cost. Most homeowners receive a potential yearly emerging savings up to $100 a year. This all depends on the poor conditions of your older model or the insulation of your ducts.
Is your refrigerator running? If it’s over 13 years old, it won’t be for long.
This is even if you keep up with maintenance such as vacuuming your refrigerator coils. Since 2000, refrigerators have seen a big efficiency bump. And, the standard fridge these days currently uses 40 to 60 percent less energy than models sold previously. So, the kind with the freezer on the top are more efficient than the side-by-side models that were popular nearly 20 years ago.
The best you can do is ensure your current refrigerator is kept between 37 and 40 degrees. You can also make sure all foods and liquids are covered, because uncovered foods release moisture, which cause the compressor to kick on more often.
The average cost of a new refrigerator is $1,100. If your fridge was originally made before or in the 1990’s, you could save up to $100-$200 a year by upgrading, If was purchased less than 15 years ago, and doesn’t show any major signs of needed pricey repairs, a replacement will only save you$5-$20 a year.
If repair estimates have you considering a new washing machine, you might consider investing.
This is especially true if your appliance is over 10 years old. The more shiny and new, the better it will operate. Not only in terms of longevity, but also operating factors include electricity, water and types of detergent.
Besides age, it’s also important to factor in the types of repairs needed for functionality. If a washer does not spin, it is more than likely a goner. Why? The repair, which includes a complete dismantle of the appliance, can be just as costly as buying a new one.
Would maintenance accomplish the same goal? No. Despite efforts to not overload the washer, there’s not much on the maintenance angle you can do to make it a more efficient machine.
And, while they usually have a higher price range than a standard model, investing in a machine designed to use less water and energy is the better investment. Front-loading washing machines have become more popular household choices because they use less water and detergent than top-loading washers. If you’re a frequent washer, these savings add up pretty quickly. Not to mention tax credits and rebates attached to these purchases.
If your washer is more than 10 years old, or a top-loader, you could see a savings of up to $135 a year on water and electricity.
Typically stored out of sight, bulky water heaters also tend to also be out of mind. That is, until an ice storm lands you a flooded basement.
If it’s been more than 20 years since your last replacement, it’s probably time to look into investing in a new appliance. A conventional storage-tank water heater tends to last up to 13 years. Replacing it is pretty obvious if it falls into the older age range. Why? For one, new models are up to 20 percent more efficient. This means, a savings of up to $700 in energy costs over the unit’s life span.
And, despite maintenance, over time, water minerals react with steel. This corrodes the water heater tanks, leading to a leak. When this happens, repairs are no longer an option.
Other types of repairs needed that could spare a few years for replacement include pilot light, circuit breaker, burners, thermostat, valve and other issues. Repairing or replacing any of those parts is relatively inexpensive. A plumber can do the job for $150 to $300.
On the bright side, modern water heaters are far more energy-efficient than older models. They typically sell between $500 to $1,500 including purchase and installation. The more high-efficiency models tend to also be more costly. However, are more cost-efficient when it comes to up to 20 percent energy-cost savings.
To Repair or Replace?
Even if you have a different problem, there’s a general rule of thumb that can help lessen the pain. That is, if a repair costs more than 50 percent of the price of replacing the appliance, get a new one.
But what if your appliance is still reliable? And, even though over the age limit, is still chugging along just fine? Should you let it die? Or replace it before it happens? The answer is: it depends on the appliance. If it is a major appliance, such as your furnace, it might be a good idea to start saving immediately. You don’t want to risk the type of discomfort that comes from unwanted temperatures.
Whatever you choose, remember to check your warranty first. That way, you can determine what is covered, which will help you weigh the pro’s and con’s of your options. Any additional tips and tricks for your home appliances? Feel free to leave them for us in the comment section below!