When a major home appliance breaks down, you need to act quickly to either repair or replace it, especially when it’s an absolutely essential piece of equipment like a furnace or refrigerator. Moments like these can be very stressful, since there’s a lot of money on the line and you don’t have much time to decide if you want to attempt to repair your appliance, or replace it with a new model.
When Should You Replace Old Appliances?
One guideline that is often mentioned is to consider replacing your dishwasher, dryer, refrigerator, washer or other equipment if they suffer a breakdown and are more than eight years old. Your individual circumstances may vary, however, so it’s important to make a careful evaluation before you shell out a lot of money one way or another to repair or replace the appliance.
Weigh the Variables of Repair vs. Replacement
There’s no one single formula that will provide a definitive answer for you, but you need to make a similar calculation as you would with other big-ticket items such as a car. Ask yourself questions such as the following to guide you toward the best path forward:
- How old is the appliance in question?
- How much will it cost to repair the item vs. what the replacement cost would be?
- How long would you expect the proposed repair to extend the life of the equipment?
- Has this item broken down or otherwise given you trouble before?
- How necessary is it that the appliance be up and running immediately, with only as much downtime as is absolutely unavoidable?
- What is the difference in energy consumption and cost between your current equipment and a potential replacement?
- How handy are you with disassembling appliances and diagnosing problems yourself?
- Is your appliance still under warranty?
Your decision to repair or replace home appliances should look very different for a brand new dryer that blew a $5 thermal fuse when compared to, say, a 20-year-old furnace that requires extensive remediation work every year just to function.
Calculate the Difference in Energy Consumption
Energy consumption should also play a role in your calculations. While energy-efficient habits can help you save on energy costs and increase the lifespan of your appliances, you could still rake in more savings with a new appliance depending on the state of your old one. If your appliance is a decade or more old, you can likely take a major chunk out of your utility bills by upgrading to a new, high efficiency Energy Star approved model. Thanks to better technology, the average American household spends $500 less on utilities each year than they did 30 years ago. Hopefully your house isn’t full of 30-year-old equipment – but efficiency continues to improve, so you’ll still see savings even if your gear isn’t quite that ancient. While the savings in electricity, gas and water might not be enough on their own to compel an upgrade for a single functioning appliance, they might be sufficient to swing the difference if you are looking at a costly repair to keep an old piece of equipment chugging along.
You can perform an energy cost analysis by looking at the wattage of the appliance and multiplying it by the number of hours it runs per day. Next, multiply that figure by the number of days you use the equipment in a year, and finally multiply by the rate you pay per kWh to your utility provider to discover how much the item costs you to run each year. For comparison, run the same formula using the wattage of your proposed replacement appliance and the difference will amount to your yearly savings on your electricity bill.
Learning to Live With Uncertainty
There is a certain amount of embracing the unknown that comes into play when deciding when to replace old appliances – you could make a successful, cost-conscious repair and the item could break down a week later for other reasons, necessitating a replacement anyway. If you make the best decision you can with the information that you have, however, you can generally plot a cost-effective chart forward for maintaining and replacing your household appliances.