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How to Increase the Lifespan of 10 Common Household Appliances

Catherine Miller
Studies show evidence that the lifespan of today’s appliances is growing shorter
There’s a good chance that the ancient refrigerator in your parents’ basement is still running strong, while the one you purchased 10 years ago is already sputtering towards its end. And no—it’s not because those freezer-burned TV dinners are somehow sustaining its life.

Studies show that the lifespan of modern appliances is getting shorter. Given the costs involved, it’s important to understand how to get the most out of everyday appliances. If an appliance stops working, you will need to decide whether to repair or replace it, especially if you don’t have home warranty cover to reduce the cost.

Here, we look at 10 common household appliances, their average market prices based on a comparison of leading retailers, and their estimated lifespans according to Consumer Reports. We also give you our top tips on increasing their longevity to save you money.

1. Dishwasher

Average lifespan: 9 years

Average cost: $700

Tips for keeping it running: Clean out blockages regularly to keep your dishwasher running smoothly. Try to check the moving parts, and remove any food waste before it accumulates. Keep drains, screens, and gaskets clean, and scrub the detergent compartment regularly. Finally, try not to overload the dishwasher—this can help keep the machine from overworking.

Replace or repair? You can replace some of the parts quite easily (e.g., racks, seals, or valves). If it’s an electronic fault, this can be more difficult to repair. If your machine is over 10 years old, it might be worth an upgrade. 

2. Microwave oven

Average lifespan: 9 years

Average cost: $100

Tips for keeping it running: As with all appliances, it’s important to keep your microwave clean, so wipe it down regularly. You also need to use microwavable dishware and avoid microwaving when empty, as this causes strain on the glass and magnets. Be careful not to damage the door, which is particularly vulnerable.

Replace or repair? Broken doors should be easily repaired. However, if the magnetron is broken, this is expensive to replace, especially if you don’t have warranty cover. In this case, you’ll probably have to replace the whole microwave.

3. Washing machine

Average lifespan: 10 years

Average cost: $400 for top-loading, $700 for front-loading

Tips for keeping it running: To keep your washing machine in top condition, clean it by running an empty load every few months, perhaps with a cleaning solution. When you do your normal wash, try not to overload the machine, and use the right detergent to avoid clogging.

Replace or repair? You can repair pumps and seals and remove any blockages easily. But if you have a motor or drive-belt fault or electronic issue, this will be expensive to fix, especially if you don’t have a home warranty. 

4. Air conditioner (window unit)

Average lifespan: 10 years

Average cost: $200-$500

Tips for keeping it running: It’s important to check your air conditioning system for the accumulation of debris. You need to clean or replace the filter regularly, and you should clear away dirt around the evaporator and condenser coils. This is especially important outside, where soil and leaves can collect around the machinery.

Replace or repair? Usually, the cost of replacement is prohibitive. If you have frequent problems, it could be time to upgrade. If you have an air conditioning unit over 10 years old, it may use R-22 Freon refrigerant, which can’t be legally produced in the U.S. It’s expensive to refill and environmentally harmful. So, upgrading to a new air conditioning system could be the right call.

5. Garbage disposal

Average lifespan: 12 years

Average cost: $150

Tips for keeping it running: Try using cold water when running your garbage disposal; hot water softens food material and makes it tougher to flush. Starches and sugary foods are more likely to clog the blades, so limit the amount that you put into the disposal unit.

Replace or repair? A clogged or jammed unit can usually be repaired, either by yourself or by a plumber. However, if the unit’s interior workings are breaking down, you may need to replace the unit.

6. Refrigerator

Average lifespan: 13 years

Average cost: $800

Tips for keeping it running: Clean your refrigerator regularly, paying attention to the condenser coils. Clean and check seals. Don’t put extremely hot food inside or leave the doors open, as this can cause the refrigerator to overwork as it tries to cool the air.

Replace or repair? It’s straightforward to repair a thermostat or door seal. If there’s a major problem with the internal workings, you may want to replace the refrigerator, especially since new models tend to be more efficient.

7.  Dryer

Average lifespan: 13 years

Average cost: $500

Tips for keeping it running: Keeping your dryer level can extend the life of your appliance. The vibrations can make it move across the floor, damaging the exterior. Cleaning your dryer is also important, especially regularly removing lint and wiping down the surface, gaskets, and door.

Replace or repair? You can easily replace certain components, like the drive belt or thermal fuse, or external elements, like door catches or lint filters.

8. Oven range

Average lifespan: 13 years (electric), 15 years (gas)

Average cost: $500

Tips for keeping it running: Cleaning your oven is incredibly important! Wipe off residue and food after every use, but avoid corrosive sprays and cleaning agents that can damage the electrics. Check door seals and replace them if damaged.

Replace or repair? A broken door or seal can be easily replaced, as can broken thermostats or heating elements. Broken fans and electronics can be fixed, but it’s more costly and difficult.

9. Boiler 

Average lifespan: 13 years (electric), 21 years (gas)

Average cost: $7,000 (including installation)

Tips for keeping it running: Boilers are expensive appliances, so it’s worth investing in keeping yours in top condition. A yearly service is the best way to find and solve problems early. Extended disuse can lead to deterioration, so try to run your boiler a bit in the summer to keep it ticking.

Replace or repair? It’s best to consult a professional to make sure your boiler can be safely repaired—the last thing that you want is a carbon monoxide leak! They may recommend a full replacement, especially if your boiler is older.

10.  Water heater

Average lifespan: 10 years (gas,) 11 years (electric), 20 years (tankless)

Average cost: $700-$1,000

Tips for keeping it running:  Check your heater regularly, especially the magnesium anode rod that prevents the tank from rusting. You should also try to flush your water heater each year to remove built-up sediment.

Replace or repair? It’s possible to replace small parts of a water heater for a relatively low cost—for example, the pilot light, heating element, or thermostat. A leaking tank, on the other hand, will most likely require a full replacement.

Simple Care Can Extend the Life of Your Appliances 

Researchers and repair technicians alike have noticed a steady decline in the longevity of household appliances. Whether due to the quality of production, materials, or maintenance habits of users, this pattern is a matter of concern for any homeowner trying to limit expenses. 

Of course, it’s not only a matter of money: there’s something sentimental and reassuring about a childhood fridge or familiar oven. Though products may not be as resilient as they were even one generation ago, savvy homeowners can easily avert premature degradation and keep their appliances in tip-top shape up to, and maybe even beyond, their expected lifespans. 

Another solid option is to consider a home warranty plan, which can further reduce homeowner costs. Click here to see our list of the best home warranty companies.

Catherine Miller
Catherine Miller is a lead member of personal finance and pension innovator Maji, where’s she’s responsible for content creation and running Maji’s personal finance masterclass, among others. Miller also holds degrees in English and education, and worked as a teacher before moving into finance. Today, she combines aspects of education and personal finance to help readers make better decisions in finance and beyond.