When Will Your Appliances Break?
Knowing when your fridge, washer or dryer may bite the dust (and how to keep them from doing so) will help you prepare for a big expense
When you shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a shiny new appliance, you expect it to last. But eventually, that fridge, stove or washing machine will go on the fritz. Is there a way to estimate when your appliances might meet their demise so you can ready your wallet for the big expense?
Normally, you can expect an appliance to last about 12 to 15 years, says Claude McGavic, executive director of the National Association of Home Inspectors.
But heavy use, lack of routine maintenance or a flaw from the factory can cause an appliance to break much sooner. In fact, a 2013 Consumer Reports survey found that 31 percent of side-by-side refrigerators with icemakers and 20 percent of dishwashers needed repairs before they were four years old. Consumer Reports recommends fixing a newer appliance if the cost of repair is less than half the cost of replacement.
Even if your appliance doesn’t kick the bucket prematurely, you’ll have to get a new one at some point. Here are the average lifespans of five common household appliances.
- Refrigerator: Your refrigerator should provide a chilly home for your milk, eggs and produce for about 13 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). One of the best ways to keep your fridge running smoothly and to extend its lifespan is to clean the coils regularly — especially if you have a dog or cat, McGavic says. “Pet hair will clog the coils and make them less efficient,” he says. To clean the coils, unplug the fridge, then use a refrigerator coil brush to remove dirt, hair and dust.
- Dishwasher: Your dishwasher should get your plates, bowls and glasses squeaky clean for almost a decade before it stops cleaning well or wears out. The average life expectancy for a dishwasher is nine years, according to the NAHB. But, with proper care, it might last five years longer than that, McGavic says. Make sure you don’t drop a heavy dish and crack the interior cabinet, he says. That could cause a leak, which can damage your floor and cause mold to grow, he warns.
- Range: If you’re cooking with gas, you can expect to get a few more years out of your range. The average life expectancy for a gas stove is 15 years, while an electric one might last you about 13, according to the NAHB. Clean gunk and grease off your range regularly to keep it running efficiently and to prevent fires, McGavic says. GE Appliances offers cleaning tips for self-clean and manual ovens.
- Washing machine: Your washer should be able to handle loads of muddy jeans and smelly socks for about 10 years, according to the NAHB. And some machines might last 15 years or longer, McGavic says. Make sure you regularly check the hoses that connect the machine to the water supply because those last only three to five years, he says. If you spot a bulge in the hose, turn off the water and replace the hose, he advises. A hose that fails while you’re washing a load could flood your home, ruining your floors and even drywall, he says. “You could be talking thousands of dollars of damage.”
- Clothes dryer: If you don’t replace your washer and dryer at the same time, you might get a few additional years of service out of your dryer. Both gas and electric dryers provide you with warm, fluffy clothes for about 13 years, according to the NAHB. Clean the lint off the lint trap before each use, McGavic says. And make sure to regularly clean lint out of your dryer’s exhaust pipe — or have a pro do it, the National Fire Protection Association recommends. “Lint is highly flammable,” McGavic says. “It could burn your whole house down.”
So, how do you know when to buy a new appliance? In general, if your appliance is more than 10 years old, you should start saving for a new one, McGavic says. Also pay attention to any changes in how well your appliance does its job and how it operates, McGavic says. Watch and listen for vibrations, squeaks and squeals that might indicate a problem.
“You know when something’s just not right,” McGavic says.