How to Make a Kitchen Appliance Last As Long As Possible

How to Make a Kitchen Appliance Last As Long As Possible

Your kitchen should have the right tools. Welcome to A Guide to Gearing Up Your Kitchen, a series where I help you outfit the space with all the small appliances you need (and ditch the ones you don’t).

Major kitchen appliances, like a new refrigerator or stove, can cost a small fortune. It’s not unreasonable to expect these things to last a couple decades after dropping a few Gs, but is that even a realistic time frame? The last thing you want is to budget for a long-lasting appliance and unexpectedly need a brand new one 10 years ahead of schedule. Here’s how long you can expect some common kitchen appliances to last, and what to consider when buying a new one.

On my most recent visit to Bangkok, I expected to eat my favorite foods, enjoy time with family, and bask in the ridiculous humidity. What I didn’t expect was to have a major moment of reflection on sustainability in the U.S. I noticed in Thailand that home appliances, carts, and motorcycles were old, but they were functioning well because the parts had been replaced and the machines were looked after. There, things are built to be cared for, unlike in the U.S. where I feel more and more like things are built to be disposable. It wasn’t always this way, and the shift is reflected in the lifetime of many kitchen appliances.

It’s not just you—appliances don’t last as long as they used to

I reached out via email to The Repair Association and learned that, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the average lifespan of large appliances used to be 20 years, but the average is now down to 12—and things aren’t looking up.

This change is primarily due to computer electronics embedded into the appliance’s system (cars aren’t the only things that rely on computer chips now), which can lead to big hurdles if anything goes wrong. If you have a “smart” fridge and the computer has glitchy software, you may not be able to fix or update it without breaching warranty or copyright rules. Some companies will only issue specialty equipment to do these fixes and updates to authorized repair people, narrowing down your list of repair options, increasing your wait time, or making the unit so hard to fix that it’s easier for you to just buy a new one.

When it comes to smaller appliances, like coffee makers, blenders, and stand mixers, some companies will sell replacement parts. Not just accessories like a new carafe or paddle attachment, but real parts, like couplers, mounting equipment, and internal replacement water tubes. Other companies don’t. Which means just one busted part can make your entire appliance poop-out ahead of schedule.

Consider these things when you buy new appliances

If you’ve recently had an appliance that quit, look on the bright side—now you have an opportunity to make a smarter choice for a longer-lasting machine. Here are some questions to ask (yourself and the makers) so you can try and get your full 20 years-worth.

Does the company sell replacement parts? 

You should be able to find the answer with some quick research. Companies that are open and forthright about repairs and parts will have a tab for service and repairs. KitchenAid even has a section on their website for self repair and replacement parts. If it’s difficult to find anything more than simple accessories on a company’s website, it’s worth calling them to get some answers, or considering a different brand.

Does the appliance rely heavily on computer software?

If you’re considering an appliance that is wifi enabled or otherwise relies on a computer component, check if there’s an authorized service facility near you. In the event of an electronics issue, they will be much more likely to get a repair person to you. Before buying, it’s also worth contacting the maker to inquire how they handle software issues and updates.

Cleaning kits can be a boon for preventative care:

Does the company make it easy for you to take care of the appliance?

Part of extending an appliance’s life is preventative care. Keep up with regular cleaning practices suggested by the company. I tend to favor appliances with mechanisms that are easy to disassemble for cleaning or de-griming and have equally easy reassembly. Check to see if the company makes cleaning kits, or if there are knock-off cleaning kits available. If you can’t seem to get a lot of answers from the official website, you can always hit up Reddit and see if anyone has had experience and advice.

Newer electronics don’t necessarily mean your appliances will quit prematurely, and there are a number of other factors that go into how much wear yours will end up with over time. “Average use” can be subjective to how often the appliance runs, and how many people it serves. The best thing you can do is try and make sure you have options when the time comes for a bit of maintenance.

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