Appliances

Guns are, in a manner of speaking, an appliance. They have a function, and they do it well, for a very long time under most usage rates. The technology is pretty straightforward, the cost is competitive, the technology generally improves with time, and they are easy to operate.

Major home appliances? Not so much.

All the appliances in my home were new when we moved in ~18 years ago. Roughly last year we have replaced the upright freezer in the garage and the microwave. In the last couple of months the fridge, the dishwasher, and the water-heater have all been replaced for various reasons. The replacements have all been more expensive, less functional, and/or slower than the older ones they replaced. The old dish washer did a decent job in roughly half an hour, the new one takes more than two hours! One cycle setting even says it expects to take more than 7 (seven!) hours to finish. The appliance repair guy I talked to said (paraphrased) “the new ones are all crap, will 90% die in 5-7 years MAX regardless of how much you pay. Buy a cheap one an expect to replace it every five. They are designed to be expendable, not repairable.” I’m not optimistic about the newer clothes washing machines I’ve been reading about, either. They tout all the water savings and energy efficiency they can, but not how clean they get things or how fast they operate, or how well they rinse the soap out.

One salesman said that the average person moved every seven years, so no manufacturers design for longer than that because when someone buys a new house they get new appliances, but I call baloney on that. I think it’s backwards; people want long-lasting, trouble-free appliances, but they get new appliances when they move because they know the existing ones are crap and are likely to die soon if they are not new. The result is that people that plan on staying put for a while get screwed.

If you have to replace it in five years rather than 18, and you need to run it two or three times for the same cleaning as the old model, is it really more efficient? Of course, the reason for the falling functional quality is government “efficiency” mandates. Why can’t they just let the market decide?

And why should something as simple and well understood as a dishwasher cost over a thousand dollars? I spent a lot less than that on my new one, but a surprising number of them are >$1k, more when you include tax and delivery/haul-away. Some more than $1600 sticker price. And on top of that, WA state law now requires that anyone installing a new dishwasher (unless you are the home-owner installing your own) be a licensed electrician AND plumber! Which means there are few people that can do it legally, it’s hard to schedule, and it’s more expensive. Because REGULATION!

Bah.

13 thoughts on “Appliances

  1. I already told the wife that, if we can afford it, we are going with an under the counter Restaurant Dishwasher. Yes, they are expensive ($3K) but 1) they clean pretty damned good , 2) They heat the water on demand and 3) most of them will clean a rack of dirty stuff under a minute with a gallon of water. I figure that the savings will offset the initial investment.

    • Now THAT looks like a killer idea. Didn’t even think of that. When the current one dies, I’ll look into it. Thanks.

      • Nice idea, indeed. I remember watching the dishwasher (countertop half-cylinder lid, Hobart brand?) at Dunkin Donuts many years ago. It turned a load of plates shiny clean and gave off a big cloud of steam when opened. Total run time, a minute or three.

  2. There’s something else going on too. On top of the stupid greenie BS that’s making them use insufficient water with ineffective soap.

    The price people are willing to pay for durable goods has remained relatively static while inflation marches on.

    • I wouldn’t mind paying more if I thought I was getting a something-like-proportionally better product. But that doesn’t appear to be even remotely the case.

    • This. It’s pure speculation on my part, given I am not exactly a dishwasher engineer, but I cannot imagine that trying to achieve the same level of cleanliness using less water and demonstrably less-effective detergent is going to achieve a roaring success.

      And, in any case, as Joe mentioned, the less water seems to be at the price of more electricity in the form of more time… not sure where the cost-benefit analysis works out on that.

  3. Our rather expensive dishwasher cleans pretty well, but it takes nearly two hours to do so. Given our usage, that’s acceptable, but it certainly is a change from the old days.
    The same problem, only more so, appears in our clothes washer. It’s a front loader, since conventional agitator type washers don’t seem to exist anymore. It uses hardly any water, but it takes a very long time as a result. And who the h*** cares about the water? We have a well, it’s MY water, it’s MY decision how much I will use. We still have an old washer which still works somewhat, in the basement for washing nasty things.
    The one thing the new washer has going for it is that it does an awesome job spinning the clothes dry.

  4. When we bought for the new house, the salesman gave me a truth about dishwashers. All dishwashers suck, the expensive ones just suck quietly…

  5. Companies don’t make money selling things that will last forever. They make money when you are forced to replace things that were supposed to last forever. Planned obsolescence.

    I used to work for a company that made something (you could call it an appliance) where their claim to fame was that you would always be able to get replacement parts and the item would last forever. The problem was, the item would always last forever — so a lot of people wanted to buy the old models. Eventually, they saturated the market and very few people were purchasing the new products. The company ended up going out of business.

    Apple is very good at this planned obsolescence thing. So is Microsoft.

    • Also, my first microwave lasted for at least 10 years. The last three I’ve bought have lasted about a year or two at the most.

    • If someone offered a “last a life-time” appliance series, with replaceable parts, I’d buy it. If they offered a significant upgrade, I’d buy that. The idea that things should be expendable/replaceable, AND expensive and low-utility, is really, REALLY galling.
      I see your point about saturating the market, but doing the opposite the way we are seems like the cobbler’s planet in Hitchhiker’s Guide.

  6. I’ve also wondered what the environmental cost of mining/recycling materials every five to seven years, and whether this is taken into account when creating the environmental impact of these regulations. I have a funny feeling that they aren’t.

    Additionally, I have wondered about what it might take to design and build a simple but robust washing machine, dryer and dishwasher set. This is inspired in part by the “Open Ecology Project” which is trying to open-source design fifty machines they consider to be crucial for civilization; I cannot help but notice that simple machines like washing machines and refridgerators aren’t considered essential. I would beg to differ on that point, though.

    (Even so, I appreciate the audacity of the project, to try to design and build simple but robust machinery!)

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