Monday, June 25, 2012

End Of A Refrigerator

In 1985, my wife and I bought a Sears refrigerator for the apartment we had in Irvine.  That refrigerator has followed us ever since.  When we had our current house built, we had all new appliances--but that refrigerator ended up in the garage.  When my daughter and son-in-law rented our house in Boise, it went to them, and when they bought their first house, it followed along.  It finally has some sort of leaking problem, so my daughter recycled it, and bought a new refrigerator.  

I think we have had one minor repair on that appliance during that whole time--which is pretty impressive.  Think about it: I think it cost us less than $500, and it worked well for 27 years.  The salescritter who sold my daughter its replacement said not to expect new ones that last anywhere near that long.  His claim is that the EnergyStar requirements shorten their life, and not to expect more than 5-7 years from new ones.

Perhaps he was just trying to sell an extended warranty--but if he is right, then perhaps the EnergyStar requirement is just one more environmental idiocy.  How much energy did we save by having the same appliance operating for 27 years?


  1. But at least some one feels better, right?

  2. The Freon replacement is much more corrosive than the original stuff.
    Shortening life of components in appliances.
    Of coarse there is No basis for the banning of CFCs. Bacterial decomposition of CFCs and Hydrocarbons has more than accounted for removal of those that leak out.
    Invalidating all those fanciful explanation of how heavier than air molecules migrate to the stratosphere.

  3. It's true that generally anything we buy these days just won't last as long as it used to, but I don't believe that it is because of EnergyStar per se (my 1990's vintage Energy star units are still running). More likely just a general lowering of the quality of components being used in things probably so that manufacturers can sell more product over the life of the consumer.

    Chinese/lower quality/cheaper parts are more likely the cause of the short life than Energy Star. One would expect the cheapest model units to be the worse, though of course buying a $1,000 unit doesn't guarantee the bean counters still didn't buy the lowest quality parts for manufacturing.

    It's also true that the extended warranty racket is big business!

    A big killer of fridges/freezers by the way is failing to blow out/vacuum the coils, compressor, etc off frequently enough thereby inhibiting heat dissipation which will shorten the life of the compressor. Of course depends on how dirty the house is and that determines the frequency of cleaning needed!

    BTW, I'm guessing the leaking problem was corrosion of copper lines so that the refrigerant leaked out--most likely R12 with a 1985 unit. The coils should be cleaned if corrosion is observed so that it doesn't go thru the line---that usually does take a lot of years to happen though! Basically it's condensation on the lines corroding.

    Of course a modern unit uses less power than even a 10-15 year old unit and a lot less than a 20+ year old unit. Replacing a unit less than 10 years old and having to recycle it would probably be less energy efficient! Repairing an old unit probably doesn't make sense in most cases because of that (especially if it needs charging with R12 as that is now way too expensive and also probably not practical to convert to R134 either). Replacing a really old unit that is working with a modern unit can also make sense depending on power consumption of the old unit.

    Doesn't hurt to at least check consumer reports for their ratings on repair issues before buying....

    Oh and I've seen 60+ year old fridges still running!

    I hope their unit lasts a lot longer than 5-7 years!

  4. On the up side, a long-life refrigerator (with few maintenance needs) means that the manufacturer doesn't spend much energy/resources making new refrigerators to replace less-than-10-year-old refrigerators.

    On the down side, I've been told that older refrigerators tend to have a higher average-wattage-used-per-day than a newer, high-efficiency item.

    Does the difference balance out?

    Does the lower-wattage-use-model have a design that is inherently less robust?

    (I actually suspect that most appliances are designed to not last much longer than 7-10 years. Imagine Maytag & friends figuring out that with a 25-year-life for appliances; most customers would have either 1 or 2 chances to purchase a particular appliance. However, if the appliance has a 7-to-10-year lifespan, each customer will have between 3 and 5 chances to purchase a particular appliance.)

  5. I doubt that federal regulators, or environmentalists in general, take into account the energy, landfill space, and what-not of replacing an appliance every five to seven years.

    And it is also likely the case that they haven't taken into account the total cost of ownership: how much it takes to repair an appliance, before you send it off to the recycler or landfill.

    Just these past couple of years, my wife and I went through two washing machines. Big, complex front-loader things, that have special electronics that are supposed to "ensure" that clothes are washed the most energy-efficient way possible. When things broke down, we weren't able to afford fixing it, and they were a bit too complex to attempt to fix we purchased new washers.

    Recently, we bought a twenty-two year old machine that is rather simple; in theory, it would be easy to fix if it broke down, but actually doing so may be difficult due to lack of parts. So far, we haven't had problems with it!

    While it can be impressive what we can do with computers and intelligence, there's also a certain elegance that comes from simplicity, that shouldn't be ignored. Indeed, sometimes we outsmart ourselves, and use more energy than we otherwise would have, because we don't see the whole picture!