There’s no universal life expectancy for a home’s major appliances. Most will last between seven and 15 years. But even with regular maintenance, most appliances won’t function as they should past their lifespan. If you’ve noticed an appliance acting up, be it in the kitchen, laundry or lounge, it could be time to replace it.
So how long can we expect appliances to last? New Zealand’s Consumer Guarantees Act says products must be durable and last a reasonable length of time.
The life of an appliance can depend on a number of factors:
- If it’s a quality product or brand
- How often it’s used
- How it’s maintained and looked after.
You’ll need to look at the manufacturer’s instructions to see how to use and care for your appliance, which can help it last longer. If something breaks after the manufacturer’s warranty expires, you might still have the right to get it fixed under the Consumer Guarantees Act.
There are no hard and fast rules, according to Consumer Protection NZ, but generally:
- Ovens and fridges stand up better to wear and tear
- Smaller appliances, like toasters and kettles, wear out more quickly
- Mobiles phones and computers become obsolete as newer models become available.
Signs it’s time to replace…
The average fridge can last for more than a decade, but as it’s a necessity in a home, if it starts showing any of these signs it could be time to start looking for a new one:
- The back is noticeably hot: Feeling excessive amounts of heat from the back of your fridge is an obvious sign that something is not right. The coils in the back of a fridge are insulated, which should keep you from feeling too much heat.
- Your food is going off: A telltale sign that a fridge could be near breaking point is if you notice your food starting to smell or spoil days before it should.
- It’s more than 10 years old: Older fridges tend to be energy-guzzlers and could be a contributor to higher power bills.
- You need to defrost the freezer constantly: Yes, obviously you want your freezer to keep your food frozen, but not to the point that it’s started to resemble a scene from Antarctica. It’s a sign something isn’t quite right if you’re chiselling away ice just to reach your ice cream.
- It’s noisy: It’s normal for fridges to hum and make a little noise, but if it’s loud to the point where it’s annoying for you, it could be a sign it needs replacing.
- The seals aren’t working: A tight fridge door seal works to keep cool air in and warm air out. You can test your fridge’s door seal by taking a dollar bill and closing the fridge door on it. If it falls out, then the seals are shot. Ideally you should feel tension as you pull it out.
Dishwashers are household appliances that don’t get the credit they should. Washing dishes is not an easy job, especially after a big family gathering!
- The door isn’t latching: It might be a simple case of the latch not working, which is a fairly quick fix. But worst-case scenario, your machine has warped to the point that the latch will not work correctly, and you’ll need to start hunting for a new dishwasher.
- Dishes are stone cold when the cycle is finished: You may have issues with the heating element. Replacing that can be expensive, so it might be best to replace the whole appliance once you weigh up the costs.
- Water is leaking out: Some leaks are an easy fix, but others can be expensive, especially if it damages other parts of your kitchen. If your washer is getting old, it’s worth pulling it out from your cabinetry every few months to check for leaks that you might not otherwise notice.
There are numerous parts worth repairing before you replace an oven. These include fans and electronic panels, thermostats and broken doors. But there are signs it might be time to replace it altogether:
- It’s consistently making strange noises: Generally, a properly functioning oven shouldn’t make noise. If you start to hear an abnormal whirring, whirling or buzzing, it’s usually an indication something’s wrong with the oven.
- It’s emitting strange odours: Any odours other than the delicious smell of cooking food aren’t good. It could be due to a warped wire that could catch fire, so be careful.
- Your food keeps burning: It could be a result of a dodgy thermostat or other faulty part.
- Its pre-heating is taking an age: If it’s taking longer than it normally would to reach temperature, the temperature sensor probe may need to be repaired or replaced. This can be an easy fix, but if it’s an older oven, it might be more economical to replace the whole thing.
- Heat keeps escaping out of the oven: Check the seals around the door for wear and tear.
Your washing machine
Is your washing machine producing strange noises or are your clothes appearing from its depths still dirty? Some common signs your washing machine might be on its last legs:
- It’s noisy: It could be making excessively loud noise during its cycles, which isn’t normal. It could be due to a problem with the motor or drum.
- Water’s leaking: If there’s water leaking on the floor of your laundry, that’s obviously a bad sign, too. It can mean your machine isn’t draining properly or there’s a leak.
- It’s not cleaning clothes as it should: Are you running the same load for multiple cycles? You shouldn’t need to. If it takes more than a cycle for your washing machine to work as it should, there may be a deeper problem.
There are certainly parts that you can replace in a dryer, such as doors and hinges, interior lights, thermostats and heating elements. But while your dryer might have a lengthy lifespan, older models can be big energy suckers, so investing in a new, more energy-efficient one might be a smart move. Signs it might be time for a new dryer include,
- Excessive noise during a cycle: If you hear any unusually loud noises or thumping sounds, you probably have a loose dryer belt.
- Clothes are coming out wet or damp: Make sure all lint screens are cleared and that the vent isn’t clogged, and if that doesn’t fix the issue, it could be a sign you need to replace the dryer.
- Clothes take double the time they usually do to dry: If it used to take 50 minutes for your clothes to dry and now it takes double that, something’s not right. It could be a broken sensor, an electrical problem, or a broken dryer belt.
- Burning smells: Any smell of burning is a bad sign!
Your heat pump
A heat pump isn’t cheap, so you’d expect it to last a few years. Signs it’s on its way out:
- It’s blowing hot or cold air that is inconsistent to its temperature settings: It’s a common problem in an older heat pump unit that it just doesn’t heat or cool. It may still produce regular air levels, but the air isn’t coming out hot or cold as per its settings.
- It’s emitting strange noises: If you know your unit well, you’ll be familiar with any sounds it makes as it cycles. So you’ll know if something sounds off. Minor noise changes might just mean a part needs repairing, but any screeching, grinding, grating, rattling could be a sign of a more serious problem that means you need a unit replacement.
- Your power bills have jumped up: Your heat pump system could be overworking if your power bills are higher than usual. Have it checked out, but it could just be a sign it’s on its last legs if it’s an older heat pump.
- It requires frequent repairs: Obviously if your heat pump has become more trouble than it’s worth and you’re constantly having to undertake repairs, it’s a sign to put that money elsewhere.
TV brands are constantly innovating and upgrading their models, so it’s quite common for a family to buy a new TV every few years, even if their old unit is still in good condition. But signs your TV might need to be swapped out:
- There are coloured lines across the screen: Generally this can be blamed on loose or frayed cables within the screen.
- The picture is faded or dull: Faded spots on screens aren’t uncommon with older models. Usually it points to a compromised backlight system.
- The sound quality is poor: Your sound system or internal speakers could be damaged.
How can I make my electronics last longer?
- Keep devices away from direct sunlight, overheating can permanently damage smartphones and computers.
- Make sure there’s enough airflow.
- Regularly clean them, dust can reduce their lifespan and be a safety risk.
- Dust + dirt + grime = shorter life.
- Cover gadgets you don’t use very often to stop dust getting in. Dust can cause overheating and significantly cut your appliance’s lifespan.
This goes for all appliances and not just electronics, but always check to see if your appliance is repairable before replacing it. Well-known brands are usually easier to fix. But if the cost of fixing it is going to be excessive, consider trading up for a better model.
New appliances = lower electricity bills
As we’ve already mentioned, old household appliances tend to be less energy efficient, and can burn through even more power as they deteriorate and stop working properly. When purchasing a new product it’s always worth looking at its star rating; its energy consumption over its lifetime can make a big difference to your electricity bills. For more information check out our story: Energy-efficient Appliances: the True Costs of Star Ratings Revealed!
And while you’re shopping for new appliances, take the time to also shop around for a better deal on your electricity. Check out the table below for Canstar’s ratings on the electricity providers that offer the best customer satisfaction and value for money:
Canstar Blue’s 2019 review of NZ power companies compares Powershop, Electric Kiwi, Flick Electric Co., Energy Online, Nova Energy, Pulse Energy, Meridian Energy, Mercury Energy, Genesis Energy, Contact Energy, GLOBUG and Trustpower on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.
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Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in May 2020, published in June 2020.
See Our Ratings Methodology
A note on safety
Because of the risk of an electric shock or fire, it’s important to check appliances are safe – especially if they are old. Watch for:
- Worn cables/exposed wires
- Funny smells/sparks – unplug immediately if present
- Ill-fitting batteries – especially on mobile devices
- Dust at the back of ovens and fridges
Replace higher risk appliances regularly, such as hair dryers and electric blankets, especially if they’re showing signs of wear and tear. Try not to fold cables when packing appliances away.