They just don’t make ’em like they used to, do they? Remember the Maytag repairman who was always waiting around for an appliance to break so he could have some work to do? Well, he’s long gone and the repairmen today are probably on first-name basis with their clients. The Escape Home’s Angelina Nelson explains why. 

Appliances aren’t as durable as they used to be.

Large appliances have undergone numerous changes throughout the last few decades. Today, you can control your washing machine using an app on your smartphone. Your refrigerator can order groceries for you when something runs out, with some boasting built-in tablets. The use of a motor drive has made it possible to add more features to refrigerators and make them more energy efficient. 

Although all of those extra features are convenient, they do come at a cost.

“In the 1980s, only a few refrigerators had something called a motor drive in them. It’s basically a small power unit that controls the spinning of the motor. And with that small unit you can gain a lot,” says Fan Ye, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Stony Brook University in New York. “You’re saving almost 30% of the energy, especially when you start and stop the machine. You have much better control over the temperatures and everything.”

A Samsung smart fridge.

Conserving energy isn’t the only result of having modern appliances. Consumers need to keep the instruction manuals handy in order to understand how to use the number of new features that are being included in their dishwashers or dryers. Manufacturers are constantly changing their models to keep up with their competitors, but this can mean for less reliability in appliances

“In general, things are getting more complicated because manufacturers want to build things that are better, that can do more things, but at the same time how you can manage that complexity while ensuring reliability. I think that’s still a very big challenge,” says Fang Luo, an electrical engineering professor at Stony Brook University. 

Manufacturers have not been able to overcome this challenge. Eli Nevi, the owner of Global Appliances Repair, has experienced firsthand how large appliances have evolved — and declined in durability — over the years. 

In appliances like dishwashers or refrigerators, it used to be common for them to be made mechanically, with a thermostat. Now, these appliances are made using a circuit board, which makes it possible for refrigerators to have a digital display. However, the switch from mechanical systems to a circuit board isn’t all it is made out to be. Throughout the years, circuit boards have become less reliable. 

“The mechanical, if it’s made properly, with very good parts. It can last a long, long time. If you go the other way and into digital, you have to rely on a circuit board. The old ones, talking about 20, 30 years ago were really durable,” Nevi says. “These days, they’re a lot more susceptible to everything. Moisture, average temperature, a voltage, basically anything can easily malfunction and then break much more than the mechanical counterpart, which is the thermostat.”

Another reason that the quality of appliances has changed may be because the ownership of different appliance brands has changed. An example of this is GE Appliances. GE Appliances was purchased by Haier in 2016. This leaves the door open to design changes that may not have the most desirable outcome for consumers in the long run. 

“You have Amana, KitchenAid, Maytag, Magic Chef, and Whirlpool owns all of them. They own 50% of the market, but then you have GE. Haier owns them now, which is a Chinese company. So there is a huge difference in GE dishwashers, the old ones versus the new ones. It’s like a whole different machine. Different company, different factories, they just put their GE sticker on them,” Nevi says. 

In Nevi’s experience, it is best to buy a dryer with a vent as opposed to a ventless dryer. Ventless dryers are much more common in cities because most apartments do not have a vent for the dryer but a lot of people find problems with these dryers. It often takes much longer for clothes to dry which makes people think that their dryer is broken.

“I don’t like vented dryers. I tell them, listen, this is how the technology is. It’s not only this one. Doesn’t matter if it’s Bosch, Frigidaire, or Whirlpool, they all make the same technology, but it takes twice as long to dry the clothes. And it’s always a bit moist at the end.”

The most common tip has been to only buy what you need. You don’t always need the fridge with a touchscreen door, or the washing machine with wifi. It is better to buy an appliance with only the features that you need to avoid repairs in the future.

“Don’t buy the most expensive one. It’s like a car — the more gimmicks and electronics you put inside, the more it’s gonna cost. It’s going to break much faster. It’s going to cost you more to fix it. And also you have to maintain everything a certain way. So it takes a lot more time from you. And it isn’t really worth it unless you can afford it.”

Here are some  tips from Nevi to get the most out of your appliances:

  • Never wash shoes or pillows in your washing machine. Shoes can break your washing machine if they tumble too much. 
  • When buying a dishwasher, look into Whirlpool. “It’s very user-friendly.”
  • No one has been able to put the ice maker in the refrigerator door without encountering a problem. Make sure the ice maker is located in the freezer.
  • If you can afford it, Speed Queen has very durable washers and dryers.
  • GE or Frigidaire are both great options if you are looking for a lower price on a fridge. 
  • If you are buying a vented dryer, then you should look into GE. If you are buying one without a vent, then go with Bosch. 
  • If you are looking for a more upscale refrigerator, then Sub Zero is a good place to start. 
  • Always run your freezer at 0 degrees and fridge at 37 degrees to avoid future repairs.
  • Hire a company to clean your dryer’s vent. This will make it work more efficiently.
  • Try to always use the normal setting on your dishwasher. Setting the water to a higher temperature doesn’t help and will actually make the washer break faster.

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