A Hard Rule Of Life: No Appliance Lives Forever

Your workhorse microwave, a priceless gift from your beloved Aunt Edna from Christmas 2003.

Your trusty General Electric dryer, whose motto could be “getting your clothes comfy dry since 1997.”

Your reliable Whirpool refrigerator, running 24/7 whether it’s hot or cold, rain or shine, wet or dry since, well, “Hey, honey, how long have we had the refrigerator?”

Our dependable household appliances save us invaluable time and bring us remarkable convenience on a daily basis. However, as sure as death and taxes, no household appliance lives forever. Alas, even the greatest household appliances have an expiration date.

For homeowners considering remodeling their kitchens or bathroom, a major decision is what appliances to keep and replace. The deciding factor to this difficult renovation question is actually a simple question: How old is your appliance?

Age Isn’t Just A Number For Appliances

Forgetting asking a Magic 8-Ball or guessing. The answer lies in the serial number, the 100 percent accurate indicator of an appliance’s age. The serial number tag is often located inside the door of an appliance, on the back, or under an easily removable panel. If you can’t locate your date of purchase, decode the serial number to determine the appliance’s age. A model’s age is also commonly available at the manufacturer’s web site.

The National Association of Home Builders estimates the average lifespan of today’s major household components at slightly above 10 years. Here’s The Spruce’s and This Old House’s breakdowns of the average lifespan of America’s most popular and important household appliances:

  • Gas Range: 15 Years
  • Electric Range: 13 Years
  • Range & Oven Hoods: 14 Years
  • Dryers (Electric & Gas): 13 Years
  • Refrigerators: 13 Years
  • Garbage Disposals: 12 Years
  • Freezers: 11 Years
  • Washing Machines: 10 Years
  • Microwaves: 9 Years
  • Dishwashers: 9 Years
  • Dehumidifiers: 8 Years
  • Compactors: 6 Years
  • Kitchen Cabinets and Storage: 50 Years
  • Marble Kitchen Countertops: 20 Years
  • Faucets & Fixtures: 15 Years
  • Shower Doors: 20 Years

Remember, these life expectancies are just a general performance timeline. For Consumer Reports notes, the days of the Maytag Repairman being the “loneliest guy in town” in his commercials because he never got any calls are, well, yesterday. As Consumer Reports notes, the lifespan of appliances can vary greatly depending on the model, wear and tear from use, and care given. The NAHB states the true longevity of any household material depends on maintenance, use, quality of installation; and climate conditions.

No Appliance Is One-And-Done These Days

One-and-done appliances, the Hartford (Conn.) Courant’s Sarah Wesley Lemire notes, “are extinct.” Today’s average lifespans of home appliances are not what they used to be.

“A lot of people expect them to last as long as older appliances did,” Scott Garrett, a Connecticut-based appliance technician, told the Courant. “You’d buy it once and it last forever.

“What I like to see (appliances last) is 10 years. But that isn’t every appliance, not every time. I’m seeing some last three to four years depending on what it is, what brand it is; some brands last longer than others.

“The life expectancy isn’t there anymore.”

The good news: Today’s appliances are more energy-efficient and cheaper to operate than yesterday’s. For example, 20th century dishwashers used nine gallons of water per load. Today, Contractors Home Appliances president Brian Zippin notes, “it’s down to three, four or five.” Yesterday’s washing machine used up to 50 gallons of water per load. Today’s high efficiency models, Zippin says, use only 12 to 15 gallons.

Replace or Repair?

The $64,000 question comes down to the warranty. If your aging appliance is under warranty, look into repairing it. If not, call in the Grim Appliance Reaper and replace. Call a repair service to be 100 percent certain.

“It’s worth it,” Garrett said. “You don’t want to throw it away over something very simple (to repair).”

Also, research your appliance’s model performance history to see if a manufacturer’s or government recall has been issued due to the appliance needing immediate repair or part replacement to prevent failure, injury, or fire.

Remember, no appliance lives forever. But knowing exactly about much life your appliance likely has left in it will let you know if can live to serve your home and family tomorrow, or if it’s time to send it off into a well-deserved retirement.

“It’s easier to make a “fix or replace” decision when you know the life expectancy of major appliances,” The Spruce’s June Lawrence notes.

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