/ Home & Energy, Technology

Do home appliances last as long as they used to?

broken household appliances

When you buy a home appliance, you expect it to be a reasonable price, excel at its function and, most importantly, last for years.

In our latest reliability survey, we surveyed over 8,000 members to reveal the most and least reliable brands across 16 home appliance categories.

The best brands in many categories can be expected to last at least ten years without developing any kind of fault, but the worst brands have a good chance of failing in less than half that amount of time.

Built to last

As part of an investigation into how old and new products compare, we managed to get hold of a 60-year-old vacuum cleaner that was still working.

When it was purchased, it would have cost the equivalent of £450. Nowadays, you can get a new vacuum cleaner for less than £100, but it’s difficult to imagine any of the models on offer still being used in 60 years’ time.

But this is just one machine. We know from your comments on Which? Conversation that some of you have home appliances that you’ve had for years, sometimes even decades.

Take wavechange:

‘I replaced the motor and drain pump of my 1982 Philips washing machine after about ten years and it continued to work perfectly until I moved home earlier this year. I will offer it to a local museum. My Belling cooker lasted the same length of time and needed only replacement oven door springs every few years. I am still using my late 80s or early 90s Philips microwave oven, which has had one repair and a replacement lamp.

‘My oldest household appliance is a 1982 Electrolux vacuum cleaner, but that is used only for cleaning the garage/workshop and car. I replaced the centrifugal fan when it was about fifteen years old.’

But one thing is clear from your comments. While some of you may have household appliances that have latest the test of time, they have had to be repaired periodically.

Are household appliances less reliable than they used to be?

Yes (58%, 591 Votes)

No (26%, 267 Votes)

Not sure (16%, 163 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,021

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So, is an increase in appliance replacement or failure down to the fact that modern appliances are less reliable and not built to last? Or are we just less inclined to pay for an expensive repair bill when a replacement doesn’t break the bank?

Derek P says:

‘If someone who ought to spend much more than £200 for a heavy duty machine only buys a £200 machine, then they may only get 2 or 3 years use from it – but they still might prefer having a sequence of cheap new machines to the bother of getting a better made one repaired periodically.

‘In my house, I use a medium-priced Zanussi that I bought almost 30 years ago. It has only ever needed one or two very minor repairs, which I was able to do myself. When I bought it from my local Co-op, it cost £120. At the time, that was 50% more than the price of the cheapest machine that they sold.’

So, what do you think? Are products less reliable than they used to be? Or is it just that we aren’t willing to repair things as readily as we used to be?

Comments
Member

I have now looked at a rewirable connector sold by Homebase and this also is marked with Connect to mains” and “Connect to appliance” on the appropriate halves. These are claimed to comply with BS5733:2010 + A1:2014 – “General requirements for electrical accessories”. Under Section 8 “Marking” it says “When necessary for safe operation the necessary information shall be given on the accessory itself” which is what this legend does.

Member

I share John’s concern about the variety of non-compatible connectors on the market. My preference would be to scrap the lot and use 3-pin connectors, even when no Earth connection is necessary. This has the advantage of polarisation, which is important when the connected appliance has a single-pole switch.

The risk of having 2-pin connectors the wrong way round has existed for many years (I have a few brown bakelite examples), so I wonder why it has taken until the 21st century to label them to help reduce accidents.

Member

I wonder why it has taken until the 21st century

Can you tell me the basis for this comment? The standard goes back to 1979; I haven’t looked at it but it may well carry the same requirements. I simply published the latest edition – standards are continually updated.

Member

Sorry Malcolm. I should have made it clear that I was referring to the fact that manufacturers had the opportunity to provide the information without waiting for a standard to be published. I also did not realise that the standard dates from 1979. The sooner that standards that are relevant to our safety are freely accessible the better.

Member

Manufacturers may well have put the information on the product prior to the original standard, whenever that was. Standards do not necessarily dictate new things to manufacturers but look at what they already do, build on collective best practice and then lay down the minimum that all must comply with.

Member

I’m well aware of that but I think manufacturers could do a lot more to work together and agree on common designs. Look at the variety of charger connectors for mobile phones, for example.

Member

All the two-pin connectors used with my electric garden appliances have the appropriate wording on the two halves, but they were British made and bought in well-run hardware stores. I have seen connectors on sale that were not compliant and I guess many sold on-line are deficient. I think the wording is rather old-fashioned now: Who uses the terms “mains” these days? I also think “fit” is a better word than “connect” in this context. We don’t connect plugs to the power cord, we fit them. I see no reason why the two parts of a connector could not be different colours [red and black, perhaps] to emphasise the difference between them. I agree with Wavechange and think three-pin connectors would be better, but since these are things that users fit themselves proper instructions should always be provided. I have noticed that some people tape up their connectors with duct tape presumably because they have pulled apart in use, or possibly to ensure correct polarity.

Member

If I see connectors or plugs & sockets taped up, I cringe at the thought of what the tape may conceal. However, if they may be dragged through wet grass or subjected to rain, the tape may be doing a useful job.

Maybe ‘mains’ is old fashioned. It seems to be called ‘the electric’ in non-technical circles. Of course members of the IET call 230V ‘low voltage’ which is shockingly confusing in my view.

I can see the value of colour coding but suspect that users might not be keen on a red/black socket/plug combination, if only because of aesthetic considerations. Having the end of the socket brightly coloured would help identify the half of the connector to be wary of.

Member

With hindsight, I feel Orange [socket – female] and White [plug – male] might be better. With luck, the orange part might correspond with the colour of the cable or the 13A plug. Little chance of any of this happening of course.

I once tried to achieve a red/black combination which is when I discovered that the two connector sets were incompatible.