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How to extend the life of your appliances this winter

·4-min read

As a cold winter approaches and fuel bills continue to stretch household finances, it is important to ensure we are getting our money's worth out of our appliances.

Brits will spend almost £26million ($34m) replacing broken appliances in the next five years, according to research by Oust.

Here's some advice about how long should a machine last for and what can you do to extend its life.

Maintenance

Keeping appliances in good condition will help them to last a reasonable lifetime so it's important to stay on top of maintenance. This can be as simple as descaling appliances at regular intervals.

More than 60% of British homes suffer from hard water which leads to limescale build up in household appliances. This can affect kettles and coffee machines but also pipes, taps, showerheads, irons and washing machines, making them less energy efficient and more costly to run.

Using a descaler product every three months will solve the problem in a matter of minutes and should extend the lifespan of current appliances.

YouTube advice

If an appliance appears to be broken then YouTube can be an easy and free way to find a solution as long as you take any necessary safety measures to avoid getting injured.

Whether the computer is showing a random error code or you want to reset the clock on the oven, there is always a plethora of self-help videos online.

Watching how other people have solved the same problem can be more effective than using a vague troubleshooting section of a manual. Videos by the manufacturer may identify the problem, but are unlikely to give a solution other than to call out a repair engineer for around £120.

However, homemade videos can walk you through the problem and solution step by step, using everyday language.

Artist Donnacha Cahill with his Electrical Maze created with 400 repurposed washing machines at the Electric Picnic Press Launch 2013.   (Photo by Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images)
Artist Donnacha Cahill with his Electrical Maze created with 400 repurposed washing machines. Photo by Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images

Repair it

Not all problems can be solved by an online video so sometimes it is necessary to call an expert. Try a local repair company rather than the manufacturer's engineer as this will usually be half the price. If the problem is really small they will often fix it for little or no cost.

For more mobile items, a local Repair Café can be an excellent place to get an appliance fixed for free.

Volunteers with tools, materials and specialist knowledge will tinker with your appliance to avoid sending it to landfill.

Lifespan

Knowing how long an appliance should last is tricky as most manufacturers do not give their products a lifespan, although manufacturers Miele and ISE are among the exceptions.

According to the White Goods Trade Association, ‘there is no guarantee of durability in law.’

This means there is no way to say how long a machine should operate for without breaking down, and what the anticipated lifespan should be.

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Most appliances are usually designed with a Mean Time to Failure (MTFF). This states the average time a machine will work, although appliance manufacturers rarely publish these figures.

For example, some televisions have an average lifespan of up to 100,000 hours of use before failure.

The quality of a machine, and the price, will be a major factor in how long it will last. For instance, a low-grade washing machine will have a MTTF of 600 hours, while the highest-grade appliance may exceed 10,000 hours of use.

Generally, lower prices have also led to shorter lifespans meaning cheaper products are not built to the same quality, performance or longevity.

Consumer rights

There will be times when a machine or device ceases to work and you feel it is just too soon. Even if you have not bought a warranty or extended warranty, it may be reasonable to expect an appliance to last more than a year.

This, in theory, is supported by consumer law, which states that goods should last a ‘reasonable amount of time.’

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states if a product is defective from new, then you can make a claim to the retailer for up to six years (five in Scotland) from the date of purchase.

If the item was bought before 2015, you can refer to the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

Unfortunately, this doesn't give you carte blanche to demand a repair or replacement if a machine breaks down within six years, and retailers are very savvy at dealing with complaints quoting consumer law. They may expect you to provide an engineer's report that demonstrates the appliance had an inherent fault at the time of purchase.

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From July this year manufacturers have been legally required to make spare parts available to people buying electrical appliances, although they have a two-year grace period to conform.

The aim of the new rules is to extend the lifespan of products by up to 10 years benefitting both customers and the environment.

So it's always worth checking to see if a new part is available before throwing an appliance away.

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