They used to serve 50 years


Today, refrigerators work for 8-10 years, if you're lucky. How did it happen that our home appliances have passed so hard over the past few decades? I buy and sell refrigerators and freezers made in the 1950s, which still work well. I met washing machines and dryers from the 1960s and 1970s, which still worked the same way as they did on the day they were made. And now household appliances are breaking down and need servicing in 2-3 years, and as a whole, new appliances serve one-third or one-quarter of the time the equipment made decades ago served. It breaks more often and faster than before. It rusts and collapses faster than in the past. Why does this happen and what happens at all? I have been tormented by these questions for years, selling thousands of pieces of equipment, and more recently, along with sellers of used equipment and repairmen from all over the country. And that's what I discovered.

1950s Hotpoint fridge that I bought a few years ago. He worked perfectly, and the paint he was factory. He is almost 60 years old.

1. Not enough competition

In the world there are only four major manufacturers of household appliances, and before they were more than a dozen. Due to the competition between the companies, it appeared that the equipment served for decades before it had to be repaired or changed. Over time, they were all bought by Whirlpool and Electrolux. Here's the current deal about who owns whom.

Whirlpool (USA) owns and manufactures Admiral, Jenn Air, Magic Chef, Maytag, Amana, Estate, Inglis, KitchenAid, Kirkland, Roper, and a bunch of lesser-known brands. Whirlpool is the world's largest manufacturer of home appliances. Whirlpool also manufactures equipment for other brands - such as Ikea, Crosley, Kenmore, etc.

Electrolux (Sweden) produces Electrolux, Frigidaire, Gallery, Gibson, Adora, Americana, Eterna, Hotpoint, Profile, RCA, Tappan, White Westinghouse, and other lesser-known brands. Until June 2016, owned GE (now owned by Haier). It is the second largest producer of household appliances in the world.

Recently, LG and Samsung entered the home appliance industry - these are two more major manufacturers. They sell appliances under their own brand, and both produce small household appliances, such as air conditioners and microwaves, for other companies.

Haier (China): GE and Haier

Reduced competition adversely affects consumers. Manufacturers can easily maintain high prices for equipment and spare parts, and lower the standards. Since they own all the brands, they can produce several types of poor-quality equipment, and this will not adversely affect the main brand. If one of the subordinate brands starts failing, they can make it disappear and start promoting any other.

Vertical modular washing machine with LEDs under the timer.

2. More parts make them refuse

The quality, or lifetime of parts, gradually decreases over the last 10-15 years. Example: for top-loading washing machines and dryers, the two most expensive parts of the machines are the motor and the timer. For decades, there have been very few problems with them, but over the past 10 years there has simply been an epidemic of failures of timers and motors in washing machines and dryers - they refuse, and they have to be changed. In the home appliance industry there was a rollback. If suddenly a person pays a repairman, and he finds the cause of a breakdown, it turns out that a spare part will cost $ 100, and the entire repair will cost several hundred. When people find out about it, they usually change the car. The faster the part breaks, the faster the consumer buys new equipment. Motors work a third or a quarter of the period during which they worked before. The switches are glued together and eventually break up and break (the solution is simple - to strengthen them with a coupler, but although this problem is already 20 years old, no one has done anything). Refrigerator door seals glue, but do not fasten with screws, because of which they gradually begin to lag behind the doors, curl and refuse - which, as you guessed, leads to their replacement. All these problems have already been identified decades ago, and for their appearance today there is absolutely no apology, unless these companies do it on purpose. More it does not explain.

And the matter is not only in spare parts, but also in the whole design of the machines. For example, one of the most popular models of washing machines for all time were direct-driven Whirlpool machines. These washers were made just over 30 years. Then a few years ago they replaced the direct drive with a “vertical modular washing machine.” New cars can be recognized by LEDs under the timer, as in the photo, and they can often be found at the nearest landfill. These are machines with one of the worst designs of all that have ever been made, and you will face serious problems in their work in 1-3 years. They replaced the most reliable car with the most unreliable.

Another example is the Frigidaire dishwasher. In retail you can find them for $ 300, but they usually break in 2-3 years. I talked to people repairing household appliances, traveling to hundreds of houses with broken dishwashers, and they joked that they called this equipment "disposable dishwashers" among themselves. Dishwashers can be found in almost any home [USA] since the 1970s — and how can they be made 40 years from now so that they break down after a couple of years of use? This is either incompetence, or, more likely, planned obsolescence.

3. The theme of the production of high-quality technology is too complicated

Who produces the best washing machine? Previously, it was Maytag, then for some reason the quality of their washers fell, and the top-loaded steel Whirlpool. Whirlpool has been producing Kenmore washers for over 20 years. Then, suddenly, Whirlpool stopped producing these amazing direct-drive cars a few years ago. Now LG makes the best top-loaded cars. That's what's strange: those wonderful machines from Whirlpool, released under the brands mentioned above, left a good impression in the minds of consumers, but now they all get a bad reputation because all new cars are of disgusting quality. What was the best was the worst, and millions don't know it.

When I watch the actions of major manufacturers of home appliances, I remember the industry of mattresses. Which mattress will be good? How much should it cost? Where to buy it? You probably don’t know this, like most people, because there are so many brands and models in the mattress industry that it’s hard to imagine. It seems that every year they come up with a dozen new models of beds, and in addition in different stores the same mattresses are sold under different names! This is great for producers, because consumers are not able to make them responsible for quality and create an adequate system of reviews and ratings. And the home appliance industry is no better. Whirlpool makes the same washers and sells them under different names, like other manufacturers do with other appliances. It seems that manufacturers do not want users to prefer one brand over another, but instead produce equipment that needs to be replaced as soon as possible in order to increase sales.

4. Household appliances are made to rust quickly.

One of the main differences of modern household appliances from the one that was made 40 years ago is the quality of coloring. New technology begins to rust after a year or two, although I saw washers and dryers 40 years ago, which have not yet rusted. How can it be? I identified several main reasons for this.

Rusty cover in modern washing Whirlpool

A. Changing technology coloring. For a long time, the covers of the styralok were dipped into the paint, so that each surface, all the corners and little corners could receive an adequate amount of paint to prevent rust. It was very effective, often the parts did not rust for decades. Now the covers of the cars are sprayed. The problem with this approach is that it is physically impossible to paint some parts of the lid because of the corners and bends, so they do not get paint. Can you guess what part of the top loading machine rusts first? Cap! I have seen new covers start to rust for a year. Over time, the rust spreads and irritates the eyes, and then flakes of rust begin to fall from the lid into the car.

B. The quality and thickness of paint has changed. Previously, household appliances were painted in several layers to keep the paint for a long time. The appearance of scratches is inevitable, but when painting in several layers, the likelihood of rust decreases. Many new cars have very fine dyeing, the minimum amount that a manufacturer can afford. As a result, household appliances rust over the entire surface.

B. The thickness of the metal has changed. Previously, manufacturers used the metal much thicker. The structural support of the paint was naturally better, the thick metal prevented the paint from peeling off and resisted rust longer. Now the metal is so thin that at the first contact with water it rusts through - before this and never heard of. This can be judged by the difference in weight in old and new cars. Older cars often weigh 10–20 kg more than new ones simply because of the thickness of the metal. This metal rusts and collapses much faster, and dents in it appear easier.

Appliances like the 30-year freezer were smoother and the metal was thicker

G. The metal surface has changed. Almost all cars had flat, smooth surfaces. They were easier to paint and clean, and they did not save so much extra dust and moisture. New cars often have a raised surface - sometimes over the entire surface, sometimes from the sides. This is the worst possible surface - it accumulates dirt and moisture, accelerating rusting. I live in Hawaii, and you will be terribly surprised how quickly refrigerators with such a raised surface rust here.

When home appliances rust, people quickly change it. Rusty cars harm both people and the environment, and one would expect manufacturers to make machines with paint that hasn't been coming down from them for decades. But manufacturers earn only on the sale of new technology, and producing fast rusting machines, they sell more new ones.

What to do with rust? Buy equipment with a flat surface. Clean it so that it does not get dusty and does not accumulate moisture on the surface. Do not scratch the equipment, especially the top of the washers and dryers, placing baskets of linen on them. After scratching begins the process of rusting. Use water-repellent coatings, especially if you live in wet areas. After the appearance of rust, you can sand it down to metal with the help of a skin, and paint it with epoxy paint (I recommend Krylon paint, it only takes 10 minutes for it to dry).

5. We need to start producing long-playing equipment.

What is happening today in the home appliance industry is quite funny. Everyone shouts about ecology and energy efficiency. But what about the life time of home appliances, at the end of which she ends up in a landfill? If the old refrigerator or freezer lived for 40-50 years before the shift, and the new live on the strength of 10-15 years, this means that we produce 3-4 times more equipment. At a very conservative estimate, we throw out 2-3 times more equipment than before. What is the best way for the environment in general?

6. What we are doing to make a difference

The situation needs to be changed in two areas: the quality of the new technology and the purchase of a used one. Ilon Musk would already start working on an improved version of household appliances that work on batteries and solar energy. But personally, you can only change the world a little bit; and start with something you need. We and partner Bobby Henderson created the ApplianceSwap project, where we describe all the steps for buying used equipment. We help people search for used equipment in the vicinity of their place of residence and buy it. Also, the site offers courses for those who want to organize their business, buying the failed equipment, repairing and selling the restored.

We look forward to the future of the home appliance industry. The situation may change, and it changes. When such new startups start asking questions about what is best for the customer, good things can and will happen.

Did you observe how the quality of household appliances changes throughout your life?


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