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Is the Lifespan of the 10 Most Common Appliances Decreasing?

Scott HirschByScott HirschFeb. 17, 2020
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 evidence that the lifespan of today’s appliances is growing shorter, and that homeowners are being forced to replace them at a higher rate than in the past. Given the high price of replacing ovens and refrigerators, it’s a benefit to homeowners to understand what to expect from their appliances and how to get the most out of them.

Below is a look at 10 common household appliances, their average market prices based on a comparison of leading appliance retailers, and their estimated lifespans according to Consumer Reports. We’ve also included tips on how to increase their longevity so you can save money by getting the most out of those expensive washers and ovens.

1. Dishwasher

Average lifespan: 9 years 

Average cost: $700

Tips for keeping it running: Cleaning out the detritus and blockage is a critical yet easy part of keeping a dishwasher in peak condition, so try to check the moving parts regularly and remove blockage and food matter before they can accumulate. Keep the drains, screens, and gaskets clean, and scrub the detergent compartment regularly to avoid buildup. Lastly, don’t overload the dishwasher—use as directed to keep it from overworking itself.

2. Microwave Oven 

Average lifespan: 9 years

Average cost: $100

Tips for keeping it running: Like a dishwasher, a microwave should be cleaned regularly of all food material. It’s also important to use the correct dishware, and to never run the microwave on empty, as that can tax the glass and magnets. Lastly, be gentle with the microwave door, as that’s typically the first part to suffer damage.  

3. Washing Machine

Average lifespan: 10 years

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

Tips for keeping it running: There are a few things the everyday homeowner can do to make sure it’s running at peak performance. These include occasionally checking the hoses for cracks and making sure the fittings are tight. It’s also helpful to give the washing machine itself a cleaning by running an empty load every few months. Lastly, avoid overloading the machine, and make sure to use the correct detergent.  

4. Air Conditioner (Window Unit)

Average lifespan: 10 years

Average cost: $200-$500 

Tips for keeping it running: The most crucial part of maintaining an air conditioner is regularly cleaning or replacing the filter. It’s also important to minimize debris collecting around the evaporator and condenser coils. Since the unit sits inside and outside, this means routinely clearing away dirt, leaves, soil, and foliage. 

5. Garbage Disposal

Average lifespan: 12 years

Average price: $150  

Tips for keeping it running: Plumbers say that using cold water while running a garbage disposal is better for the appliance and your plumbing system, since hot water softens the food material and makes it more difficult to flush away. It’s also smart to minimize disposing starches and sugary foods, since they can stick to the blades and are more likely to cause blockages. 

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6. Refrigerator 

Average lifespan: 13 years

Average cost: $800

Tips for keeping it running: Clean the condenser coils frequently. Check the gaskets on the doors to make sure all the cool air is being sealed in. Don’t overwork the fridge by keeping hot food inside or leaving the doors open for long periods of time. 

7. Dryer

Average lifespan: 13 years

Average cost: $500 

Tips for keeping it running: One easy way to extend the life of your dryer is to keep it level. The vibrations can cause the dryer to move across the floor, which can cause damage to the exterior. As for cleaning, remove lint from the inside of the machine at regular intervals and wipe down the surface as well as the gaskets and glass doors. 

8. Oven Range

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

Average price: $500

Tips for keeping it running: Scrub, scrub, scrub. Ideally you should scrub off the residue and food detritus after every use. Experts warn against using sprays or other cleaning agents that can cause corrosion and electrical shorts. Also, check the door seals and replace them whenever you notice cracks or fraying. 

9. Boiler 

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

Average price: $7,000 (including installation)

Tips for keeping it running: Boilers are easily one the more expensive appliances on this list, and well worth keeping in good shape. Having your boiler serviced once a year is the best way to catch any problems early and maintain upkeep. Some authorities say it’s good to run your boiler during the summer since extended disuse can lead to deterioration. 

10. Water Heater 

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

Average price: $700-$1,000

Tips for keeping it running: Check the anode rod and replace it when necessary. The anode rod is usually made of magnesium, and it’s what prevents the tank from rusting or corrosion. Additionally, most manufacturers recommend flushing a water heater annually to remove build-up and sediment. 

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.

Scott HirschByScott HirschFeb. 24, 2020
Scott is a content writer who has worked as a special education teacher, lifestyle writer, and researcher. He enjoys literature and travel and believes that a sense of wonder and curiosity is the key to living a fulfilled life.