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Were older products built better?

Old radio

Most of us have at least one old, trusty appliance that’s faithfully serving us after many years. So here’s your chance to sing its praises and give it a little love back as we search for the nation’s oldest appliance.

Like many sleepy-eyed commuters, I greeted Metro’s story of a 58 year-old fridge that’s still going strong with a wry smile on my journey to work on Monday.

But possibly with less surprise than others, as here at Which? we often hear similar stories from our readers.

Your trusty old appliances

In recent years, we’ve been told of a Hotpoint dishwasher from 1984 whose only breakdown was caused by an escaped hamster chewing through its wiring. It survived (the dishwasher, that is) and the last we heard, was still running.

And only recently, Dave D posted here on Which? Convo about still using his grandparents’ Hoover, originally bought in 1957. Sophie Gilbert echoed the trend, celebrating the sterling service of her relatively juvenile AEG old vac, still working well after 20 years and destined to stay in action until its eventual death.

I’ve worked in product testing at Which? for nearly 10 years and, while I’m always excited to find out about new home products being released, the romantic in me loves to hear about these valiant old workhorses still in regular service.

I don’t think I’m alone. What really shines through when people tell us about their geriatric appliances is the massive affection in which they’re held. This is sometimes coupled with a dose of scepticism about all things new, but the uniting feeling seems to be if it ain’t broke why bother replacing?

Are older products better?

What’s even more amazing is that none of these appliances – unlike the legendary Trigger’s Broom from a classic Only Fools and Horses episode – seem to have needed much repair. Which begs the question – were old products built better?

We’ll be publishing the results of our latest brand reliability survey soon and revealing if your newer washing machines, dishwashers and vacs are likely to break.

But meanwhile, we’d love to know of any prehistoric appliances that are still in use at your home. It looks like Dave D holds the record at the moment with his 53 year-old vac. Can you beat this? And how long do you expect your new appliances – large or small – to last?


Maybe I’ll add a couple more points about unvented systems
I’ll bet few of the readers with such a system will have had user advice or been presented with any info on their system.
And those who have will most likely have shoved it in a drawer.
If you have the proper info on your system go and get it and read it. You never know the day.

The installation and any further maintenance has to be carried out by a qualified plumber with a proper ticket for unvented systems.
This is way more important than anything electrical. Do not let just anyone near an unvented system no matter how short on money you are, DO NOT.

Unvented systems should be fairly reliable and robust but they can be dangerous especially if someone decides that “the little leaky pipe” needs blocked which it does not need.
Please search for video’s on unvented cylinder explosions. This even should never happen and most such events have been traced back to faulty installation or more often bad maintenance so for near everyone it should be a case of no worries
There is a prv, pressure relief valve on the bottom feed into the cylinder.
If the pressure gets too high the valve will leak mostly cool or slightly warm water into a tun-dish which should be in a visible position and in turn is supposed to be directed to a safe place. A drain nearby outside is not unusual.
There is another combined pressure relief and temperature relief valve at or near the top of the cylinder.
If either the pressure or temperature gets too high this also lets off water but this time it is very likely to be very hot given the location and intended purpose of the valve
This valves spill has to be directed in a much more careful manner and is unlikely to be visible to the eye unless you notice steam somewhere.
In all sealed systems there has to be an accumulator. A little metal pressure vessel with a rubber bladder. They look like mini compressor tanks or mini gas bottles
The vessel has to be pressurised before any pressure is brought to the system.
It is done through a schraeder type valve on the end.
Normal could be around 2 to 3 bar according to the system.
The pressure is placed on the outside of the rubber bladder and as your water system comes up to pressure it remains it its current state of near that state
Once the water begins to heat and if no water is drawn off the water expands and the bladder in the accumulator needs to expand.
That expansion will then cause the rubber bladder to expand into the pre pressurised void avoiding operation of an expansion/pressure relief valve.
Your heating circuit if sealed will also have an accumulator for the same reason. To allow for expansion.
Back to the domestic tank
These accumulator vessels will need their pressure checked as best I am advised at least annually.
This involves turning off the incoming water supply and opening taps to relieve the pressure in the system.
Then and only then can the accumulator vessel have its pressure checked
Similar for the sealed heating circuit except that circuit needs to be in a cool state as it is not advisable to simply let the pressure off of a hot system as the water has already expanded.
Note not everyone adheres to this and it can cause a depression in the system afterwards when the water cools down.
A depression can and does cause a cavity which is not desirable in or around a boiler.
Note. These accumulators will need replaced some day sooner or later. they do not last forever.
If the bladder in an accumulator becomes damaged it will loose its air pressure to the water and there will be nowhere for the cool water to expand to as it warms up.
Water heats and cools almost endlessly so there is almost no time that these devices are not needed
If there is nowhere for the expansion to go easily as planned then the only way out is the expansion valve/pressure relieve valve.
The one at the lower/cooler bottom inlet should be a lower operating pressure than the top one so water will start to drop from the top of the tun-dish into the lower part of the tun-dish and on out to the outside world fairly harmlessly which all sounds okay but water is money and a perhaps 50% of the time dripping can really add to the water bill unless you are fortunate enough to have perfectly clean water run into your house from an endless supply.
Even I dont have that. My water is costing about 15p per c/metre in electric alone before any maintenance or filter costs so its not free to any of us really.
This dripping should not be ignored.
You should contact your plumber and get him to check your unvented system out for a fault.
DO NOT mess around with it yourself.
This is one job I’ll not be telling anyone to do as a diy thing. Stay the ***** away from it.
The plumber will check it out and if it just requires pressure he’ll do that or if it needs a new accumulator he’ll sort that also.
The incoming pressure reducer can also begin to fail and that can also make for the drip and needs attended to by a plumber.
If the tank becomes even more pressurised the the top valve will start to let off pressure or if the cylinder starts to become too hot the same will happen.
If you find steam from a drain or if you see steam from anywhere turn all means of heating OFF including electrical and boiler and call a plumber pronto.
DO NOT touch anything if you have seen steam . This event should never happen.
These valves are in place to protect you and in 99.99% of cases these events will never happen but no one knows, no one reads the conditions/instruction etc right.
The sealed heating circuit also has and accumulator.
This accumulator also needs servicing because there was nothing ever made that didnt leak. Fact it will leak air even if its perfect. It will need re-pressurised sooner or later.
If it looses pressure you will begin to get radiators going cold
If there is a water/heat medium leak the leak will quickly overcome the system and you’ll have one radiator after the other start to go cold.
You will need to contact a plumber again as this is not a diy job and should not be attempted as such.
Hope that that may help someone on the future.
One last word.

This Conversation seems to have lost all continuity and chronological order in some places. I don’t know why but it is becoming very difficult to navigate and follow the thread.

Not sure threaded comments is the way to go, really.

If anything there need to be more indented threads 😉 Let’s keep website feedback for this conversation though please: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/welcome-to-the-new-which-conversation/