This is the kind of post that I’m always hesitant to write, because without fail, it’s going to make someone feel bad. So please let me preface my words by saying this – I’m simply sharing our views, I’m not trying to cause guilt, nor am I judging anyone. Everyone’s situation is different and we all make the decisions which best suit our lives and our families.
. . . . .
So…what happens when the dishwasher breaks?
At what point does it become “uneconomic” to fix it?
Our machines work hard for us – the Smeg oven has had almost commercial usage for the past eleven years, and the Miele dishwasher runs daily, and up to three or four times a day on weekends. And in that time, they’ve both performed brilliantly, but both are now getting older and starting to fail.
If this had happened a decade ago, we’d have replaced them by now. But over that time, our thinking has changed, and we’ve become acutely aware of the true cost of purchasing a new appliance. It’s no longer just an issue of dollars, but also the environmental cost involved – what happens to the old dishwasher? Is it simply dumped? Stripped for parts? What does it cost in terms of energy and raw materials to make a new dishwasher?
It’s a very hard thing to do, but so far we’ve put our money where our mouths are. The dishwasher has had its second major repair in three months (I won’t tell you the total cost or you’ll faint, but it’s about 60% of a new machine). The lovely technician who came out last week has replaced all the worn bits he could find, which will hopefully ensure trouble-free running for the next couple of years. It’s an expensive exercise, and we will eventually have to buy a new machine, but we’re determined to delay that process as long as we can.
Our oven has had the fan elements replaced three times (like light bulbs, they wear out with extended use) and the fan motor twice. Last year we also had to replace the door seal. Thankfully we have an electrician in the family who can provide us with free labour, so we’re only up for the cost of the parts.
We treat our cars in the same way – our last car was eleven years old and had smoke coming out of the steering wheel before we finally traded it in. The toaster was used until it became a safety hazard, and the food processor was gerry-rigged to operate with a chopstick for an extra three years before the motor finally packed it in.
Apart from cars, most machinery these days seems to be designed to be disposable. For example, our microwave has a broken light which can’t be fixed – the bulb appears to be hardwired into the device. And certainly the cost of a service call actively encourages folks to discard and buy new rather than repair.
Energy and water efficiency are considerations – newer appliances are always better than older ones – but we’ve yet to be convinced that that justifies the environmental cost of building a new machine.
Having said all of this, it’s a hard line to toe. I’m an extrovert, I like new things. I desperately want a replacement vacuum sealer, but the $60 one I bought five years ago refuses to break, and I refuse to buy a new one until it does. It no longer automatically seals, but that’s not a good enough reason to replace it while it’s still working.
Going back to the large appliances – we’ll continue to buy the very best quality we can afford, and then try to use them for as long as we can. Wish us luck!