Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sustainability vs. Obsolesence: the Refrigerator Saga

There is nothing I like shopping for less than appliances, especially when I liked the old ones just fine. Over our two decades in Monster House, we have replaced the dishwasher (twice), the instant hot water (3 times), the refridge and the stove top. It didn't pay to repair any of these appliances. The most infuriating was the stove top. The knob connections broke, one by one. When we only had two working burners, it got my attention, and I discovered since my stove top was SO OLD (13 years - didn't feel old to me!), the knob connections were no longer manufactured. And of course the new stove top's footprint didn't fit the contours of the old one's, so we had very little choice in replacing it. I don't even like the new one as well as the old one, and I had to pay over $1000 for it. The old one, missing $5 worth of knobs, had to go into the landfill. When I complained to the company, they said I had gotten "remarkably good performance" for the stove to last 12 years, since the industry standard is 7. That's a dirty secret, for sure.
When our original refridge died, we got the bad news: no refrigerators are manufactured that would fit the opening anymore. Go figure: American households are getting ever smaller, people eat more and more meals out, but! REFRIGERATORS ARE GETTING BIGGER. I found a very low end no-frills refridge that did fit, and I like it just fine. Now it is leaking water and has melting ice cubes, and my search shows zero options. We will either have to repair this one, probably at a cost higher than its purchase price, or redo the over-refridge cabinet. Doesn't that sound like fun, getting a carpenter to reformat cupboards.
If we go that route, though, there is one benefit - newer refrigerators are much more energy efficient. (Though I doubt we'll buy one with an internet connection as pictured above.)
My advice to anyone buying appliances is do a lot of research, online and anecdotally, and spend more to get appliances that are energy efficient and well-made. Durability is the most environmentally sound quality of all - not needing to replace it. After the 3rd time we needed to replace our instant-hot, I went with a higher end Kohler Piping Hot. So far so good.
Any advice on appliances which have been long-lived in your lives? Or brands or models to avoid?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

A local friend responded thusly:
I now own 3 Bosch appliances: a Washing Machine, a Dishwasher, and a Stove. All were purchased from Gerhardt's Appliance Shop in Glenside, PA. I have been very pleased with them. The stove was just purchased, it was sold for $999, a sale price.

The Washer came first. It's very efficient in water and energy use. I liked it so much that I bot a Bosch Dishwaster, also highly efficient.

I've found Gerhardt's to be a fine place to go for such appliances. I've had excellent salesmen, who really knew the product, and were evidently really enthused about it.
The Bosch Washing Machine & Dishwaster are energy star. I don't believe stoves are rateable.

Miranda said...

I can relate! We moved into a new house with all new kitchen appliances. On the one hand, newer appliances ARE more efficient. On the other, these are huge (microwave and fridge) and energy gulpers nonetheless -- too much for our small, 2 person family!

I would like to sell the humongo fridge and get a smaller one -- the irony being the footprint of the current fridge is enormous so we'll have to rejigger the space if we go smaller. I have to check on prices to make sure it won't cost me more to replace it.

I've had good luck so far by checking consumer reports. I comparison shopped for a washing machine I'm happy with. The irony there is that I only wash in cold water to save energy, so all the bells and whistles that are part of standard issue washers these days are not being used....

Cassidy said...

Mostly, I prefer to buy quality product for my kitchen and these are good for me...

Anonymous said...

I am also replacing my relatively new dishwasher tomorrow (9 yrs old), with a Fisher & Paykel from Gerhardt's. I was somewhat afraid to buy it with it's lousy consumer reports rating, but my "highly rated" Kenmore model has required multiple repairs and is now kaput. My repairman confirmed that the 2 drawer model I wanted, and just purchased, was more energy efficient, but expensive. He also noted that his neighbor had the same model, and they were on par with repairs for other brands & models. I'm keeping my fingers crossed! On a related note, my Kenmore fridge has been leaking water like a sieve, but we've learned to manage our basement water feed for the icemaker to hobble it along a little further. Nothing like planned obsolesence...