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When Should You Replace Your Major Home Appliances?


You probably replace something when it breaks down and no longer works (or repair it if the costs aren’t too high). However, that’s usually not a good strategy for large, expensive appliances in your home that you rely on every single day. Here’s what you should know about the lifespan of most appliances and when they should be replaced.

The Lifespan of Most Major Appliances

When it comes down to it, most appliances last for however long they decide to last—lifespan is mostly an enigma. However, manufacturers build their appliances with a set lifespan in mind. From there, these appliances could last longer than expected, or less than expected.

With that said, most major home appliances last anywhere from 10-20 years, give or take. This includes your HVAC system, water heater, kitchen appliances, laundry machines, and more.

Granted, I’ve seen a water heater last 30 years without any issues with the proper maintenance, so the above year range isn’t a hard and fast rule. But it’s a good number to keep in mind—if you’re having problems with your furnace and notice that it’s 15 years old, it might be time for a new one.

How to Find Out How Old Your Appliances Are

Unfortunately, there’s no one standardized way to tell you how old an appliance is in your house, but there are a few things you can do to try and find out.

First off, look through the paperwork that you signed when you bought your house or see if you can find the original listing. It’s possible that the previous owner jotted down the age of all the major appliances. The previous owner might have also left behind the original paperwork for the appliances themselves when they were installed, which would mostly likely have the date of installation written down somewhere.

If that’s no dice, then it’s time to get a flashlight and start looking at labels on the appliances themselves. There’s almost always a date printed on the label, either as an actual date with a month and year, or coded into the serial number somehow. As an example, the above image shows that the water heater was built in 1997 and was likely installed shortly thereafter.

Repair or Replace?

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This is probably one of the toughest questions you’ll ask yourself when one of your major appliances breaks down. It’s a question only you can answer, but there are usually two sub-questions that I ask myself when deciding whether to repair or replace an appliance:

  • How often does it need repaired? If it feels like I’m constantly having to fix things on it just to keep it running for a couple more years, it’s probably a good idea to just send it out to pasture and replace it.
  • If it does break down, how much would it cost to repair? If the repair is going to cost a lot of money, then I’ll consider replacing it instead of repairing it. The rule of thumb is that if the repair will cost over half of what a new appliance would cost, it’s a good idea to just replace it.

Of course, sometimes you may not have the money to buy a whole new appliance and can only afford the repair. That’s completely okay and it’s something that’s out of your control. However, if you can swing it, you’ll likely be better off replacing an appliance that keeps getting sunk in expensive repairs.

Should You Let It Die First?

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What if your reliable appliances have been chugging along nicely for 15 years now, but they’re getting old and worn? Should you just let them die first, or replace them before that happens? It depends what appliance it is and if you could handle the inconvenience caused.

Some major appliances are highly recommended to be replaced before they fail. An old water heater, for instance, can rust out, which will bust a hole in the tank and pour water all over your garage or basement floor (or wherever your water heater is), creating even more of a headache.

Other major appliances are good to replace before they officially die, but it’s obviously not completely necessary. It may cause some inconvenience (like having to wash dishes by hand instead of being able to use the dishwasher), but overall it’s something that’s not a huge deal. And of course, it depends whether or not you can even afford a replacement in the first place.

However, if your furnace or A/C is pretty old and could use replacing soon, it might be a good idea to start saving now, or else when it finally does quit, you’ll end up with some uncomfortable indoor temperatures while you scramble to replace it.

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He’s also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.


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