/ 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

It is always reported that under the Consumer Rights Act claims can be made within six years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but within five years in Scotland, but I believe there is a subtle distinction that more or less equalises the period: In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the starting date is the day of purchase whereas in Scotland I think it is the day when the fault is discovered [but I have not been able to find confirmation of that].

This Convo has been provided by @mknight, who has various articles on vacuum cleaners on the Which? website. I don’t know how long vacuum cleaners normally last but I have only bought two since 1980 and both are still working, though the old one has long been consigned to the garage/workshop and mainly gets used to clean the car.

Having moved from a bungalow to a house I am tempted to buy one of the lightweight cordless vacuum cleaners that use lithium batteries and will run for long enough to be be a useful second cleaner. A Best Buy cordless vac can cost nearly £400 – which is even more than most full size upright and cylinder cleaners.

My biggest concern is how long the battery will last before it needs to be replaced. Lithium batteries can usually be recharged rapidly and are extremely good at retaining their charge, but often don’t last more than five years, irrespective of the amount of use. Batteries are generally excluded from guarantees and except in power tools are not easily replaceable.

If cordless vacuum cleaners are going to be long lasting products they need to have batteries that can be replaced by the user and remain available for a decent length of time.

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Thanks Duncan. What I’m concerned about is the long term availability of spare batteries because most cordless items become worthless within a few years when the battery fails. At least cordless cleaners seem to come with user-replaceable batteries and spares for your cleaner are available from the Gtech website.

I’m going to wait a bit longer until cordless cleaners are better established. Lightweight lithium batteries have allowed manufacturers to make effective cleaners – much better than the earlier models based on NiCd and NiMH batteries. Unfortunately it is not practical to store a lithium battery for future use because they have a limited life, whether used or not.

” I am pleased we agree on giving consumers more information that is relevant. If I am told that my washing machine cannot be repaired if a bearing fails, or no replacement pump is possible, for example, and that its likely life is no more than 3 years of normal use, i know where I stand. ”

I was mulling the idiocies whereby heavier consumer goods cost more by way of a tax for subsequent disposal.

Seems to me that surely a tax levied on the claimed life of a product would be a better way of encouraging quality products, and reducing landfill, and frequency of product replacement.

EBAC have three ages of guarantee on the washers . If there is a tax of 50% on the purchase price for machine that are rated for three years, 30% for 5 years, and nil for machines guaranteed for a decade we will reward durability.

At the moment there is no penalties for building tat. You may like to consider that the Govt has been busy in pollution control by taxing auto emissions so the principal is not new. If we are truly concerned about global warming we might like to consider the embedded production costs in a 3 year and a 10 year washing machine are probably pretty similar.

I like the suggestion of having different taxation according to the length of guarantee, Patrick. It would be necessary for guarantees to be standardised to prevent companies adding to the list of parts that are not covered by their guarantees. Another problem with guarantees is that companies can insist that repairs are done by their service engineers or only make spare parts available to their engineers. If these problems can be overcome then we have a sensible way forward.

Your initial quotation betrays a lack of understanding of the reasons why products fail. Sometimes products fail and are beyond economic repair because an essential bit of plastic breaks or a component on an expensive circuit board fails. The availability or otherwise of spares is another unpredicatable factor. You might think that a two items of the same make and model will be identical but manufacturers may use different components according to price and availability. That’s one reason why safety recalls can affect only models within a range of serial numbers.

A long guarantee provides consumers from the unexpected cost of premature failure. I expect there would be an outcry from industry if they were taxed according to the length of the guarantee but it would help to raise awareness of the problem of cheap shoddy goods.

I wonder if current EU law would prevent differential taxation?

As far as manufacturers’ guarantees requiring the use of specified repairers, providing the repair includes all parts and labour and can be promptly achieved I don’t see this matters, as it involves no cost to the consumer. It can also assure the manufacturer that the repair is done properly in case of a future problem developing otherwise. Where long guarantees only on parts are offered without labour, and only if you use their repairer, the consumer needs information on both what a repair cost might be, and how a repair might refused. The consumer should be allowed a legitimate repairer of their own choosing, but without any further guarantee on supplying future parts.

I don’t see that Patrick’s comment “betrays a lack of understanding”. It is for manufacturers to design products to avoid weaknesses, and to ensure spares are either available or interchangeable for a reasonable period.

Thanks guys for pointing out the potential pitfalls.

I think the easiest way to legislate for it is to get test.de to carry out the 6/7 month testing regime on all washing machine the manufacturers wish to sell to EU consumers.

They can pay for the exercise. Whay they want pay for is a rolling program of re-tests during the life-time of the product. This of course might be very light on most machines but statistically some may be of interest out of cycle.

Withdrawing the certificatio to sell would be a downer.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/19/waste-not-want-not-sweden-tax-breaks-repairs

“Sweden’s ruling Social Democrat and Green party coalition is set to submit proposals to parliament on Tuesday to slash the VAT rate on repairs to bicycles, clothes and shoes from 25% to 12%.

It will also submit a proposal that would allow people to claim back from income tax half of the labour cost on repairs to appliances such as fridges, ovens, dishwashers and washing machines.”

I wonder if the Council of the Consumers’ Association [which owns Which? Ltd] are allowed to consider such matters of policy .

Perhaps repairs could be zero-rated rather than requiring people to make claims. It would be simpler and help the many people who are not required to do tax returns.

I presume that bicycles are still repairable but what about all the electrical goods that cannot be economically repaired by virtue of their design?

The answer to the latter point is to design products with economic repairability as one of the criteria.

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Are you suggesting new legislation, Malcolm? Often the reason why goods cannot be repaired cost effectively is because the companies have minimised the assembly costs. I cannot see any alternative to legislation. Requiring companies to hold spare parts for an appropriate period is perhaps the most obvious way forward but I doubt it will happen.

Legislation would have to apply to all products and, as I have said earlier, I respect freedom of choice so it should also allow people to buy throwaway appliances if they so wish. The same applies to guarantees of course – how do you introduce long guarantees without legislation? Competition might be the answer of course and that would apply to repairability and durability also if sufficient consumers deem it worthwhile.

Rather than imposing a build requirement on everything, which I think would be wrong, it might be legislating for a requirement to declare, for example, the expected life of a product under standard conditions, the degree of reairability and cost and the length of time spares would remain available from the manufacturer. I’d also like to see some appreciation that interchangeability of standard components would be advantageous.

I think publicity of repairability, durability, guarantees from information properly researched by consumer groups and others might help consumers realise the consequences of their purchasing decision and make more appropriate choices.

@kennethwatt – As you know, some of us are concerned about premature failure of goods and the increasing problem of products that cannot be repaired cost effectively. You have pointed out why some of the solutions suggested would not work and said that attempts to seek a remedy under the Consumer Rights Act are likely to fail.

Should we just roll over and let business run the show or, if not, what approach would you suggest we take? I am looking for a solution that will help everyone and not just those of us who are prepared to stand up if they feel they have a valid case.

Isn’t this what Consumers’ Associations should be doing on our behalf?

Supporting consumers is the main reason I became a subscriber, Malcolm.

Then should we not be pressing them and, through BEUC, the other European associations, to do much more in addressing this topic? It can only be approached as an EU issue.

Hopefully it will be. Whether BEUC will be interested in our input when we leave the EU remains to be seen. I hope so.

Roll over, not at all.

Unimpeded business is a bad thing, there has to be some framework to operate within. You need it for open, free and fair competition.

Currently they’ve got some safety and standards and, errr, that’s about it really. They’ve got some flaky targets on energy use but they’re largely set by lobbying in the EU by, guess who.

We (UKW/WTA) had pressed for the removal or reduction of VAT on repairs and spares to encourage repair rather than replacement for a decade, it’s fallen on deaf ears.

But in order to do that and, prevent some from taking opportunistic advantage of it you’d need to have a free and fair secondary market (like cars) that isn’t peppered with micro-monopolies as it presently is so, you need to solve that problem first.

As was said in one post here although I’m likely paraphrasing it, there’s little point in more durable machines if you can’t get parts when they fail, people to repair them and so on. And as we have discussed previously, it is the Wild West, there is no protection in law whatsoever that protects you over obsolescence, even after as little as 18 months. I know this, I’ve seen it first hand and had people crying on the phone as they can’t afford a replacement machine and, can’t fix the one they have.

This I find disgusting, disgraceful for the UK and it is an environmental crime in my view.

It’s also desperately frustrating to say the least that we cannot help people that find themselves in a situation like that.

But the law is not on the consumer’s side here at all.

What needs done is the core problems addressed first, there’s no point in doing anything else until everyone is on a level playing field.

In my own personal opinion the first things that need done are:

– Publish the MTTF figures on info labels, forced by law
– Publish the actual manufacturer, not just the brand for clarity to the consumer
– Remove restrictions on spare parts supplies
– Ensure spare parts are available for a sensible time
– Ensure freedom of technical information/tools/software
– Ensure no one component can cost say greater than 25-30% the OPP

After that you can start looking at VAT reductions etc but until those are in place savings I suspect would be eaten up by parties profiteering from it. Not all would I can assure you as there are far more honest and decent businesses than bad ones but, some would I expect.

There’d also need to be some mechanism to enforce things.

It’s complex and you’re right, probably would need to be pan-European but, not necessarily.

For example Apple just mothballed some old MacBook models that are five years out of production from memory and support is discontinued in the US, UK, EU but not in Turkey and somewhere else I can’t recall as local legislation prevents that. Apple must and is supporting them for another two years where local regulation demands it.

So, it can be done.

K.

Thanks for the positive input, Kenneth. I support your proposals, though have no idea how we make any progress.

I am familiar with withdrawal of support for Apple products, which also includes phones and tablets. I’m less concerned because these products will still work (I use old Apple computers when I need to use obsolete software), whereas not being able to get a part for a washing machine is likely to mean a new machine. I believe that the government paid Microsoft a small fortune to continue support for Windows XP.

By the way, do you know of companies that offer their own extended warranties – either included in the price or an add-on – or is it always done via companies such as D&G?

Progress on this can only be made at a governmental level, voluntary agreement by manufacturers is highly unlikely to work.

The warranty market is again more complex than you might first imagine. Most manufacturer warranty is by the manufacturer themselves but there are and have been an increasing number of those that are underwritten by third parties. This allows longer warranties that are used as a sales tool, which I expect some on here could easily fall prey to but, they are not the responsibility of the manufacturer or brand owner at all.

K.

I will assume that our government has other things on its mind at the moment but maybe pressure could be applied through Europe.

I appreciate the problem, but which manufacturers don’t currently rely on third parties for extended cover?

I imagine so long as Which? pay the subscription there will be no problem.

As the sort pf products we are mainly concerned with are from international manufacturers and sold throughout Europe I presume that a European agreement is the only way forward. The UK is too small a market to deal with this on its own.

You’d never know which and did not use third party cover without either knowing the service arrangements and working that back or, being privy to very confidential agreements.

Most have an arrangement with DAG for out of warranty cover though which many in the repair industry feels is not in the interest of fair competition as, the owner thinks they’re calling the manufacturer for help and, they’re not. They’re calling a DAG call centre who’s mission it is to sell a warranty known as Cover +1.

Some off the tactics to do this I have had reported would give rise to there being “questionable tactics” employed to accomplish that.

There was an investigation by the OFT and CC a while back into it all but that yielded no result.

K.

January Which? (why does it come out in December?) has a brand reliability guide. For washing machines on p.17 it shows the reliability and test scores for different brands. Miele is twice as expensive as the cheaper brands, but much more reliable and with a much better performance. It is a pity they show reliability as a % – what does that really mean? I’d like to see “years before fault” to make sense of the reality of reliability.

That’s an old chestnut Malcolm and one that’s impossible to crack.

Many people have a preconceived notion of how long many products should last, for appliances normally in X, Y, Z years before it goes wrong or is terminally ill.

However that is a very poor measure as there are far too many variables to consider in there.

For one, how much use does it get? What sort of use is it subjected to? How well is it cared for and maintained? You get the idea, there simply isn’t a “one size fits all”.

Most appliances are, in one way or another, primarily electro-mechanical devices and as such are subject to wear and tear, they will all fail without any doubt, the only question being how long they will trundle on until they do. Obviously that can vary massively from one home to another, one user to another and so on with all the variables in play.

Therefore every time I see anything with X, Y or Z years before failure or even with warranties I roll my eyes and think, here we go again as there’s no way you can specify a timescale reliably.

This is why the like of Miele will have a 10 year warranty or XXX cycles or hours of use limitation in the conditions, it really wouldn’t be reasonable not to have that. In just the same way as you get a car with a warranty for however many years or a mileage limit on it.

The problem I am familiar seeing is that a machine breaks, the person has that preconception of longevity (often irrespective of the price, quality etc) and tries to claim under the five/six year rule or claims not fit for purpose even though it’s been working just fine, often for years. Thing is, it’s just a breakdown, not an inherent defect or anything sinister at all. All machines will break. Any can suffer an issue for a myriad of reasons and to say that’s on the manufacturer you need to be able to demonstrate why that is.

You can of course give that sort of number so long as you have certain data.

If you know the MTTF for the machine is the first thing you need.

Then you need to know the level of use and with only those two you can calculate a rough idea of an anticipated lifespan.

For example, if you get an A-typical washer with a 2000 duty cycle rating going into a home with four people you know that the average person generates 117 loads per annum so, the household will wash approximately 468 loads a year. Allowing some slack then that machine will or should run for about 4-5 years or a little more.

But if the home has say a person in it that runs, plays football or rugby etc then the load count will rise and, it will run more long wash cycles as a general rule so that can have a huge negative impact on how long the machine will run for before failure.

Wash more regularly same effect.

There are many more but I think the point is made.

Like I said, too many variables to offer a reliable rating and the danger also being that people take that as being literal without consideration of the various factors.

K.

But there can be enough information to make sensible predictions. Simply describing it as a little complicated does not stop it being dealt with, particularly these days. However, the simple way is for a manufacturer to back up their product with support if it goes wrong in a declared time – as they currently do with guarantees that are generally unrealistically short. They can include devices in appliances to help point to misuse, and to assess usage through timers, cycle counters, for example.

My objective is simply to find ways to give consumers more useful information on which to base a decision, and to get a fair balance between manufacturer and customer rights when things seem to go wrong. When a product, properly used, fails too early that is down to the product, not the customer, and the product is the responsibility of the manufacturer who set out to profit from its sale. If they want the rewards they need to accept the responsibility. Accepting the current situation as being beyond improvement doesn’t cut it with me.

I’m not saying that nothing can be done what I’m saying is that you need a number of things in play before you can do much of anything.

But let me demonstrate just how hard this is.

Somewhere on MSE I think there’s a chap with a Miele that was a little over five years old IIRC with a ten year warranty.

It needed a new motor or bearings but in any event an expensive repair but the hours of use had exceeded the limit on the warranty. Clearly in a high use environment or commercial, who knows but the upshot was Miele disowned it and would charge the customer for the repair.

This guy went nuts, calling Miele for everything, demanding remedy under the SoGA and all the rest of it. He was adamant that the machine should last the ten years or more.

When really he had nothing to complain about, he had the use he’d paid for from it.

Miele can pull off the use numbers with their laptops, that nobody else can as Miele do not play nice with others and even owners can’t see it.

I am unaware of any other machines that you can do that with on sale in the UK today. Therefore the first step would be back to what I mooted before, you need the MTTF figures then you need to mandate that all machines have an odometer in effect.

Currently there is no obligation for them to be there and most certainly no requirement.

To make it so they are there would probably require a legislative requirement for it and for the MTTF figures or, you can’t even start out down that path.

And, buyers need to accept that there would be a cost to make that happen also.

They also need to understand and accept the caveats in it.

I get where you’re coming from totally but it’s not just a straightforward to implement such things as outlining a rough plan and then saying, make it so.

Meanwhile manufacturers will be most resistant to these changes and would lobby to have any legislation forcing such measures quashed before it even got out the gates and, I suspect, it would only work on a European level.

So simple in theory for sure but in practice, this is not simple at all.

K.

Exactly, Ken. I have never said it was simple but unless we make the effort to start the process, nothing will happen. and that has to happen at European level.

I can see little chance of achieving what needs to be done any time soon, so perhaps the best way forward is to start by identifying where the quick wins might be and focusing the effort there. But where will the effort come from?

We’ve been pushing for changes for years and there really isn’t all that much interest. It’s not a huge problem, it’s not in the headlines so nobody seems to care.

I have written a number of reports for government, worked with DERFA/WRAP and others and to date, they’ve done nothing. If anything things have gotten worse.

Couple that with how hard it is to get any meaningful change to come about and it really is an uphill struggle.

Aside the obvious detrimental effects to people in general and the glaringly obvious environmental problem this creates a real fear now is that we lose the repair side just as happened with a lot of electronics and, that is a real concern. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

In that same period I spoke of doubling the use of washing machines in the UK we’ve gone from around 6K repair companies in the UK to less than 2.5K.

The stark reality is, we consumer more, repair less and everyone seems just fine with it.

I’m not but then, I’m just one opinionated guy and I do not have the power to do much about it.

K.

With expensive integrated components becoming more common, I’m not surprised that there is less need for repair companies. It can’t be much fun telling owners that their washing machine is beyond economical repair.

Many don’t understand the value of environmental legislation and sometime see it as leading to a restriction of their freedom of choice. I wonder if TV documentaries might help raise awareness of what the manufacturers are doing to bring us products that are less durable and less repairable.

I guess my problem with integrated components becoming more commonplace is that it is often needless and appears deliberate and detrimental to owners.

The classic example is the sealed tank.

You can’t split it to change the bearings, the part/s that will actually wear out in the unit obviously so it’s a £200-£300 assembly for what is a £15 set of bearings. That’s not good, people get angry about it and I can understand that completely.

Worse, in hard water areas these assemblies are regularly changed due to limescale build up in the integrated pressure system. That to me is just madness but, it’s not an issue in Turkey where they built them.

Or where the like of LG deliberately seal their electronic boars with resin so they cannot be reconditioned or repaired. You can still split their tubs though to be fair to them.

There are countless similar examples where, there really is no need for that.

On tanks though, this will wind you up probably but heh ho…

Scuttlebutt is that as you remove the screws that hold it together you lose weight, about 1-1.5kg per tank as well as saving a few cents on the screws themselves and the tank seal.

So the manufacturer saves a little, has less components to worry about but the kicker is that, as WEEE is measured as the weight you sell into market if you save weight, you save money.

Win – Win!!!

Legislation designed to deal with the problem of waste has actually had the net effect of, creating yet more waste! Meanwhile hampering people being able to repair these products.

When people go to buy a machine they’ve not the first clue about this then gets really angry when they find out, far too late to do anything about it by that stage.

Which is why I said earlier, any machine with a sealed tank is effectively rendered more or less unserviceable and is a throw away item so, how can they be a best buy? Or is Which? supporting the throw away culture?

It really is maddening, disheartening and just plain crazy that this stuff goes on.

K.

I presume that ease of assembly is a factor driving increased use of integrated components. It certainly is in smaller items where the housing has just clipped together but can be near impossible to separate without breaking something. If it’s not clips its adhesive. Sometimes this leads to recalls when the adhesive comes unstuck. I have seen two recalls for things I own in little more than a year. There might be little that can be repaired inside, but I would like to have the opportunity to try.

Decent circuit boards using well specified components and spike protection (washing machine motors are just one source of mains spikes) should last the life of the machine if protected from water and vibration.

Having a washing machine drum supported at one end is not the best bit of engineering, not helped by the increasing drum size and spin speeds of modern machines. Bearing in mind what you said earlier about the need to get rid of components that would cost more than a certain percentage of the machine cost, perhaps this would be an issue to tackle the industry on. It’s also something that the public could relate to.

It keeps the assembly time down, and requires less skilled labour, saving cost. But no reason, if done properly with quality components, that it should reduce durability. Buying in pre-built assemblies of components from specialist suppliers can lead to better quality control and fewer defects during manufacture.

Exactly the point Ken. We can have these appliances, but Which? should be telling us exactly what the features are of what we are buying, and the consequences. We can then make a choice (Australia has this as an apt name for their consumers’ organisation; I wonder if they give all this useful information?) As it is Christmas – nearly – I won’t ask Which? why they don’t.

Assembled components can certainly improve durability. A properly made circuit board is much better than the hand-soldered designs we had in days gone by. I can’t recall when I last resoldered a dry joint on a circuit board, but dry joints were common with discrete components and early hand-soldered circuit boards. The early circuit boards could be repaired but modern double-sided ones with surface-mounting components make this impractical.

The problem with assembled components is that they limit or prevent repair that is economically viable.

If we look at the total cost of parts in a washing machine, they are probably a relatively low proportion – I must guess in the region of 25% – compared to the total price paid which includes labour, manufacturers overheads and profit, shipping, distributors and retailers profits, and taxes.. So the cost of spares should not be prohibitive. My knowledge of spares was that many manufacturers treat them as “cash cows” – ways to make large profits. They do, of course, have to invest in stocks. So it need not be an insuperable problem and would be helped if EU required stocks of key spares to be kept for a specified number of years, if generic parts were used in appropriate places, and if pattern parts arrived as in cars. If we really want repairable appliances then it is not a fundamentally unachievable issue.

Businesses may prefer to sell a new washing machine to selling a spare part, even if the mark-up on the latter is high. With cars, brand loyalty is common and I suspect the same applies with cars. My guess is that the demand for car spares is there because cars are so expensive and repair is a more affordable option.

One advantage of badge engineering is that it cuts down the number of spares needed.

One manufacturer who will remain nameless states exactly that wavechange. That sealed assemblies are more reliable as they use less as of these items as spare parts.

Of course they use less, they’re so flamin’ expensive nobody in their right mind would ever buy one as most are 90% or more of the cost of a replacement machine, complete!

So, if they are that much cheaper to produce, how come they’re so expensive as spare parts?

It doesn’t matter what way you slice that the argument doesn’t really hold and, it’s not good for buyers.

I’m actually astonished insurers haven’t kicked off about as they face increased costs through expensive repair or replacement product costs if that’s in the policy but there again, multi million pound deals and all that…

K.

I’m not surprised Kenneth. Presumably the only reason that the spares are produced is for warranty repairs. Without competition, companies can charge the trade and the public what they like for spares. The customer might vow never to buy that brand again but perhaps they will buy a different brand owned by the same company.

I wonder how many people think about the cost of repairs when buying a new machine or how long spares will be available for. That information is not readily available.

Exactly.

Out of warranty people will be charged often ludicrous amounts for parts and with no transparency in it there is little competition or drive to keep the pricing sensible.

And you are bang on with buying the same machine in another guise, we see it all the time as the customer moves from one brand to another in the same price bracket as they will often be fixated on the price. As in, they think that whatever machine ti is should cost £XXX and will buy in the same sector, often a rebadged version of what they just sent to the tip.

Hence the call for clarity on who makes the things as, at least that give people a chance to avoid a repetition of the same error. Currently, while it can be done, it is not easy and why I always advise people to research and ask if required before parting with money.

In answer to the last question, not many. Not many at all.

Again correct, the information is not available but we do try to offer some insight based on historic behaviour by brands, current events and so forth as best possible. It isn’t infallible by any means I realise but, it’s better than no information at all.

So we (I) can tell you that for example, Samsung spares are limited and often expensive. Whirlpool are generally more expensive. The Koreans and Chinese producers will drop all support after 2-8 years. Turks will drop support after about the same, depending on what machine and what parts.

You get the idea, there’s common threads with each. We can’t account for brands going bust etc but, it’s as much as can be done with things the way they are.

K.

Thanks. If we accept that there is not much chance that most of us will do much research before parting with our money, particularly with panic purchases, where do we go from here.

My policy has always been to avoid paying for extended warranties and I don’t like the way that some sales assistants frighten people into paying by exaggerating the risk of breakdown. Knowing a little about the increasing difficulty of carrying out repairs and other problems, it seems the best option is to look for longer guarantees or ‘free’ warranties included in the price. I also suspect that an extended warranty might be useful for someone buying a more expensive product and using it heavily, perhaps because they have a large family. Maybe I have been lucky but I have not regretted not paying for extended cover. Of course past performance is not necessarily a good guide to the future.

I don’t think the assumption that “most of us won’t do much research” is the point. Many of us will do research on important purchases, but we need as much relevant information as possible to do that. So where do we go? We need BEUC to press for the necessary information, and we need products more thoroughly tested – as the Germans appear to do fairly helpfully on washing machines. Simply accepting the status quo means we don’t really care enough to put the effort in. We should care.

That is the question, how do you change things?

I gave some ideas earlier but some of that does depend on buyers doing their bit as well. I do not think you’d ever get away from that to one degree or another.

Extended warranties or maintenance have their place, they are de facto in the commercial space but they like most things have pros and cons. Some are better than others also.

Longer manufacturer warranties we’re seeing but, there’s a bunch of caveats with many.

What you will often find is that year one or year one and two are covered by OEM warranty then it’s passed off to a third party. And/or there will very often be restrictions on what is or isn’t covered and if it switches like that, that can also change.

Most of that sort of warranty will not cover wear and tear and that’s a really, really important point I cannot stress enough and often it won’t cover accidental damage, plastics, non-essential components. Because things will wear, the most common stuff to break most often will fall into these categories.

If that is the case, worn out bearings, carbon brushes, broken door plastics and tons more can be excluded easily.

You can see likewise in the aftermarket warranties as well.

Whilst I know you see longer warranties as a catch-all answer, it is not depending on the conditions and, they will not be universal and will not and cannot be forced to be such. No warranty covers everything, it would be unreasonable to ask that of manufacturers and warranty companies unless it came at great cost.

K.

We use bearings as an example elsewhere; if they are of sub-standard quality and cause early failure then they could well be regarded as a failure to meet the contract requirement of durability. Whether that is wear and tear is debatable.

Warranties / guarantees / judgements need to be fair to both parties, however. A major barrier to the consumer is getting an independent report to support (or otherwise) a claim when the report cost may be significant in terms of the product cost. Maybe appliance insurance also covers the cost of obtaining a report, if the insurer believes a claim needs validating? Maybe the insurer can then pass a valid claim back to the retailer/manufacturer – effectively acting on their clients behalf? Making more legitimate claims for recompense on retailers / manufacturers might eventually cause a rethink of manufacturing quality. But whatever we do can only be successful if carried out at European level so it would need a concerted effort. As we have around 30 consumer groups under the BEUC umbrella there is available a large resource if only someone sets it in motion.

I would, however, start by taking action on products that fail just after the guarantee has expired. More likely these could be resolved more easily. Which? could tackle this on its own by helping affected members.

Warranties or guarantees do not need to be fair to both parties at all, manufacturers, retailers and anyone else can set whatever conditions they so please so long as they stay within the SoGA, CRA and Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 as they are a commercial offering.

The terms and conditions on offer are not enshrined in law outside of that.

Just as you can have a 2 year warranty on your Bosch sir but, if you don’t register it, you’ve only got one year.

Or many a five year warranty etc that have exactly the same kind of terms.

Then there’s warranties that cover some things, not others, individual components and so on.

If you ask me it’s all desperately confusing and, that’s me, I understand a good deal more about this than most people would ever wish to know. So, what chance have buyers with no knowledge of the intricacies got?

The more you complicate it with some of the suggestions above, the worse that gets if you ask me.

K.

Kenneth – I see looking for longer guarantees/warranties as the most practical solution for the average customer and obviously they would need to make sure that they are not paying through the nose and are aware of the exclusions.

We share concerns about the environmental impact of appliances that get thrown away. A mobile phone soon becomes outdated but replacing my 34 year old washing machine with a new one has not left me feeling silly for not doing it years ago.

Another concern is the number of people who replace working products just because they are old. I have noticed that mobiles are often sold or passed on to parents and grandparents but what happens to white goods? Just a few doors away there was a large refit of a kitchen and utility room. All the white goods were left in the rain for days until they were collected. I’m no expert but it all looked recent and may well have been usable. Many people seem to be incapable of thinking about waste and seem to care only about themselves.

Which is why we need consumer groups – whether associations or otherwise – to look at the possibilities and put working proposals together.

It’s a fair enough position and a reasonable assumption that longer warranties would achieve that end but I remain unconvinced that the outcome would be to increase quality.

For a manufacturer it’s easier just to hike the price a bit and take the hit or, pass it off to a third party insurer and let them take the risk.

That’s a whole heap cheaper than re-engineering stuff and altering production.

Throw in restrictions and you can keep the costs down.

You need to keep in mind that the appliance industry is not hugely profitable, quite the reverse in fact so, these people will do everything possible to mitigate any additional costs. That can be as little as a cent on a component, if it can be saved, they’ll save it.

If you wanted that to work the way I think you’d like, you’d need an awful lot of restrictions in place, rules and enforcement which probably would never happen.

Yes, the environmental consequences in all of this are bleak indeed. That’s the frustrating thing for me in a way in respect to nobody caring about what will be most likely millions of tonnes of waste needlessly produced every year. Never mind the energy and raw material waste.

Most LDAs that are sold second hand end up on Gumtree, Ebay and the like as private sales.

To do so commercially, rework them and offer a warranty really simply isn’t economically viable as a business now, even the charities have pretty much given it up now as even they couldn’t make money at it.

Worse the old machines are worth more in scrap value for weight offset due to the WEEE Directive than they are as a purchase to rework. Remember, when it comes to that it’s all about weight and cost, not doing the right thing despite what may be advertised.

It’s madness I know but that’s what happens when you throw good intentions to the wolves without looking at the potential consequences.

K.

malcolm r : “Which is why we need consumer groups – whether associations or otherwise – to look at the possibilities and put working proposals together.”

Don’t see them doing much on it though, do you?

K.

No, and if you look back at this and other Convos, that is a recurring criticism. Consumers need a reliable, informed and dedicated voice. I fear that we lack that – unless headlines can be made.

Consumers’ Association Council has the option to form sub-cttees that could really look at this major matter and actually try to drive it.

As I have reported before the French consumer Group I belong to Que Choisir was quoting a French report on a few cents more on components adds to life-span.

The idea that if you build cheaply with limited life span you pay a higher tax I do believe has legs. However to cut to the nitty-gritty of Which? carried out the 6 month test and this was a major feature in the Reviews I am convinced that this could be a great help in changing buying habits.

Quite possibly do the standard BB and an additional FREE logo for meeting the ten year test. I am happy that manufacturers can supply machines as simply testing a single machine of a type does provide unsafe outcomes.

If no one bites the bullet on these major appliance matters shift from 10 years , to current seven year reliability/replacement , will become even worse.

I do have a suspicion that ovens are the next area for declining lifespans. And I am not talking gas. Both my combi oven and my main oven are dying and this in the sixth year. Electrolux via IKEA with a 5 year guarantee.

Hi Patrick,

I’ve been at this for over a decade, trying to change things and I can assure it, it ain’t easy.

Adding a few cents here and there on production can make a difference for sure but whilst making the machines more reliable is one aspect, another is to make them repairable when they do break as all inevitably will. But do you spend on reliability at the cost of repairability, the other way round or try to strike a compromise between them?

This applies not only to the LDA sector but to any number of others also as, if products are made to be less repairable in the quest of the design alone, to make them thinner, faster, lighter, cheaper or merely to have a “feature” merely serves to encourage a throw away mentality.

There are countless sources that will demonstrate this to be the case in many areas. Tech sector especially.

To test durability takes a lot of time, I’ve seen them do it and to test a ten year lifespan that equates to about 10,000 hours or more of use means having a machine running for going on for two years solid, no breaks at all. I don’t see that as practical to do cross a myriad of brands and models, the cost to do it alone would be horrific for Which?.

The current seven year *average* in my opinion makes it look better than it actually is and, those numbers are only based on surveys by the like of GfK or whoever normally so, it’s based on a 1-2000 sample usually. Statistically viable certainly but I don’t know that it gives a good picture in some regards.

An important thing to keep in mind in anything using an average is that at least 50% is below average depending on how you tweak the numbers or, what mix was in your sample to get the data.

If you use Which? subscribers to do it then the respondents are representative but will favour higher earners and people that will likely look after stuff more than many will and I would fully expect to spend a little more, research more thereby quite likely getting better products. So that skews the sample to a degree.

Recently I happened to be dumping some stuff at the local tip and looked at the machines sat there awaiting their ultimate fate. About three out of five washing machines were probably under four years old, I didn’t inspect them fully.

Fridges, dishwashers and cookers fared better but you’d expect that as they are less of workhorses and so forth.

The way things are now, the way the market is predicted to move going forward I can only see this getting worse as I said way back when I started UKW and it has done just that, year on year.

What you have is a declining value of product that is less repairable and as they have become more affordable people replace rather than repair often for little reason other than they can’t be bothered with the inconvenience and the financial penalty of replacement is low. Off the back of that you see a decline in repairers across the world, not just in the UK, this is a global problem or most certainly the so called developed world where incomes are higher.

To change the direction is truly Herculean task and one that would require a lot of thought and strategic implementation of policy and/or legislation.

In order to change buying habits you’d need to reach far beyond the comparatively small Which? readership as Which? have what, 330,000 subscribers or thereabouts that in the grand scheme of things is comparatively small from 27 million households.

Manufacturers use the BB badge as a seal of honour, a status symbol that they’re great and build great products which is I guess what the BB badge was intended for. However, to find on a cursory glance two machines listed with the likelihood of more similar that have sealed components, are not user serviceable even to clean the filter doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence on the validity let alone the likely thought a buyer might have that product wearing that badge has when they learn of this.

The fear of course being that it dilutes the value of the BB badge. After all, if such poorly designed products can achieve it, what’s the point of it?

What Which? do have is some clout with UK government but whether that’s enough or not to get anything meaningful done I really don’t know.

In the meantime, the more that some of this stuff is exposed the better so far as I’m concerned.

K.

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I know we’ve gone over this before, Duncan, but the UK still produces some of the finest Engineers in the world. They’re valued very highly and paid a great deal of money. But when you say “most males in the UK were engineers” I don’t believe that’s true by any measure. Firstly, an Engineer is educated to the same level as a Doctor or Solicitor; the best courses are a minimum of four years with an extra two to five years in work, ascending the ladder to Chartership and beyond. There have never been the number of University places available to fulfil your assertion.

But I suspect you mean technician, when you say Engineer. There are still many of them around, and far, far more than there are Engineers. We have two extremely highly qualified Engineers as Son and DIL, and I can assure you that their skills do not in any way extend to checking the new washing machine or stripping down a car engine. That’s not what they do.

And you’re continuing to be utterly wrong about schools not encouraging females into engineering. That number is rising year on year – unsurprising given girls’ natural attention to detail, an important not to say vital aspect of engineering.

I enjoy cooking, as do many of my friends, and that had nothing whatsoever to do with school. (Actually, it probably had more to do with me trying to see if anything could improve on my mother’s lamentable attempts to cook – she managed to burn cornflakes…). But that aside, girls at schools often see motor mechanic as a dirty and smelly job, which is why they often shy away from doing it. But schools can and do teach both skills to pupils, and the disappointing fact is that fewer girls than boys choose STEM subjects, and that may well be cultural. We don’t know for sure but please stop blaming schools when you don’t know the facts.

Finally, I wouldn’t use the egregious Trump to support any part of your argument. He’s backtracked on almost every ‘promise’ he made during the campaign.

If only engineers were highly valued and highly paid. They are not in general – it is still the marketing/sales/finance/ people who generally rake in the money. Different in Germany. It is a pity because without decent engineers (the real ones I mean) the aforementioned would have nothing to sell, constructions wouldn’t happen, and the innovations that made, and still can make, our country stand above the rest of the world might fizzle out.

We should encourage girls into engineering and science as they possibly have more innovative brains than many men – the ability to think outside the box.

When I was a much younger engineer, in my first proper job at an offshoot of NEI Parsons, it was conventional for myself and very many of my colleagues to carry out quite extensive work on the cars we owned.

Both technicians and graduates engaged in this and to a large extent we tended to favour the purchase of first Hillman Avengers and later on, Vauxhall Astras, so we could share tools and know how.

Today, I see far less of this kind of activity going on. I no longer enjoy the privilege of working directly alongside a large crew of technician engineers, but I think there are other factors involved too. These include the complexity of modern cars and the tendency to purchase new or nearly new examples which then have to be dealer serviced to keep up the warranty.

On the plus side, there are very many more female engineers where I now work – but the percentage is still a lot less than 50%.

I suspect the role of Engineers has changed. Through our two I tend to discover what today’s top Engineers are doing and it seems to be primarily management and realisation. There’s more about pushing pencils than using tools in the job, now, and it’s mainly mechanics / technicians who get down to the nitty gritty of nuts and bolts, it would seem.

That correlates with other Engineers tell me: it’s design and realisation and, when the projects are large, it’s management and realisation.

I was involved with teaching in the biological sciences where the majority of the students were women on most of our degrees. They got on fine. In chemistry, maths and physics there are generally fewer women. When I studied chemistry as an undergraduate our class of 30 was all male. That might have helped us focus and everyone graduated.

While thinking about the stereotypical differences between the sexes, I well recall a run-in with my rather overconfident (male, of course) games and PE teacher when I was going into the sixth form at school. He said that I must attend classes or I would have to do cookery, something that only girls do and would be seen as a punishment. Fortunately a friend was there at the time and offered to join me. We enjoyed baking while the rest of the kids were playing football.

I must have missed the class about the value of people being related to their income or wealth. 🙁

Engineers, in my view, are practically-minded innovators and designers. They have a an appreciation of what is, and what can be, achievable, are able to innovate and apply science and technology for things that work – whether structures or machines, and are able to keep cost as a priority.

Those who “use tools” without the training to design and innovate are valuable, and I’d call technicians.

They are not properly rewarded in our society, neither financially not for their opinion. How many engineers (or scientists for that matter) get into local or national government to help keep things real. Indeed perhaps Which? could tell us how many engineers and scientists they have on the staff, or the governing council.

Just a passing thought. When these days so many seem to focus on the variety, and degree, of “genders”, I wonder why we only refer to males and females when discussing these matters. 🙂 Where do the in betweeners fit into this?

Wave: you might already be aware that the attitude of the PE teacher was from from atypical. Certainly, right through until the mid ’80s male PE teachers were, by and large, fairly misogynistic, bigoted inbreds – and they were the better ones.

🙂 Mine was not very clever, being caught out by a smart alec schoolboy.

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Thankfully they don’t buy washing machines or other short-lived products of the 21st century. I’m not sure how to engineer a return to the topic.

Not biologically, duncan, but mentally (if that is the right word to use).

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Duncan: it’s not happening, and what you’re saying is verging on the libellous. You’re also venturing into a field (gender identity) about which you clearly know almost nothing. Making unfounded assertions such as you’re making is damaging and can have ;long lasting consequences for those attempting to educate and care for children in the area of sexual orientation. If you can produce firm evidence of 2 year old toddlers in Scotland being interrogated to determine their sexual persuasion then please do so, otherwise say nothing further on the matter.

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Good morning all, it would appear that this discussion has veered somewhat off-topic. So it would be good to get back to discussing whether or not you think your home appliances can stand the test of time…

I have a timely tale for you this morning, my parents’ dishwasher has given up the ghost after nine years. In that nine year period it has been repaired twice and each time the part has been fairly pricey, after considering yet another repair they’ve decided to buy a new one as the cost of the repairs to date will far outweigh a new machine. The worst thing is that this nine year old integrated dishwasher was only purchased to replace a 25 year old dishwasher that didn’t fit with the new kitchen. The 25 year old dishwasher worked perfectly, despite the watercress that grew out of the bottom of it 🙂

My granny’s mangle lasted all her life, but then she was an extremely durable woman.

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Perhaps we should go back to wash tubs, dollies, washboards and mangles. Low tech repairable items but bl***y hard work. We pay for progress in other ways. I remember being warned as a little m-r to keep my hand away from the rollers.

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Mangles and vintage washing machines provide easy to understand examples of why long term testing is not necessarily a good indication that an appliance will be durable. A mangle might survive continuous use for six months but in normal household use the rollers could crack once they have been allowed to dry out a few times between use. A rubber hose might survive the long term test, from which it might be assumed that it would last for years. Probably not, because rubber perishes.

I am certainly not against long-term testing but believe that it is over-rated. I have seen many household items scrapped because of failure of plastics that have deteriorated or not been suitable for the job.

Accelerated testing is a well researched science which, if applied correctly, can predict the long term durability of products. No reason why it cannot be applied – as it is – to domestic appliances. We know the characteristics of materials, can predict life of electronic circuits, and so on.

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Accelerated testing is fine for simple products but something like a washing machine contains numerous components and in many cases a single failure will result in a machine that is unusable. A statistician would be able to explain this better than me.

Well-made electronic circuits should be the strongest link in the chain if properly designed and built with components used well within their ratings. You might find this with Hi-Fi separates but not much else in the home.

It is partly statistical analysis that allows for such information. In the scheme of things washing machines are not particularly complex.

OK, we cannot agree on that. Here is another problem worthy of consideration.

If you buy a car or a computer, a particular make and model may not always be assembled from the same parts. I remember that my first car had Lockheed brakes and having to take back a set of pads for Girling disc brakes. The hard disk in a computer and the RAM boards are often of different makes. I have no idea to what extent this happens in appliance manufacture and if it can make a significant difference in durability of the product, but maybe Kenneth will be able to give us an insight.

In days of yore a model was largely the same throughout the life of the availability.

Now, not so much.

Things get changed all the time, different parts get used, swapped about and you will often end up when looking for parts requiring not only the model number but also the serial or a a production number to be able to get the correct part.

On some there can easily be 20-30 versions of one model. Are all the components the same or not, who knows other than trawling through them all checking each component.

So to answer the question I think is being asked, using stats could prove to be very fallible as it will almost for sure be changed at some stage.

Now you can debate till the cows come home the reasons for this but I’d imaging changing suppliers, stocks of components and solving issues on the fly in production are the most likely reasons.

The reason that the model numbers are not altered most often or stepped with for example, W123 to W123/2, W123/3 etc is so as not to upset retailer POS systems, websites, literature and so on. It’s simply another way to save money in some regard.

And, if you’ve got awards for the machine or good reviews, you don’t lose that even if the machine is only 10% the same as the reviewed model.

This before you even get into rebranding and so on.

A funny tale from a laundry plant in Italy…

When I asked why all the wires were black (nero) in a model that should have a spectrum of colours installed I was told: “That’s all the wiring they had left in the factory that day”

Same sort of thing, I spent weeks trying to track down an oddball set of carbons used in a motor only to be told, “Oh we don’t know how you got that those motors were only in one production batch and none were for the UK”, only, it was in the UK!

Aside the Italian reputation for wiring stuff, it sort of demonstrates the mentality and that guaranteeing that what should be there against what is can often be a foolish error.

K.

Presumably they had run out of wiring markers as well as coloured wire.

No chance they’d have those!

K.

🙂
A bit off topic, but do you know what work is involved in modifying the tumble dryers that Whirlpool is now responsible for? I’m particularly interested to know if any of this work is being done by independent service engineers and if not, why not since maybe this could get the job done more quickly. Maybe boring and repetitive but it might help keep people in jobs.

It would also be interesting to know if the machines that are traded-in for a new one are being modified and sold secondhand or just being sent for recycling.

Replacement back panel. Rivet fitted to drum. Some a new drum.

Mostly that’s about it in essence but each one will take 40 mins to an hour depending on what needs done, circumstances etc.

The reason that they’ve not been put out to third parties in quantity I couldn’t say for sure, some have been but not a lot.

What I can tell you is that there isn’t enough capacity at all, there’s no repairers sat about with nothing to do so it will eat into other work and, that’s work that will be around much longer than a recall. Why would you sacrifice good long term work or contracts for what is a flash in the pan?

Atop that the rates would not justify working extended hours or weekends to do a mod and help out a company that has spurned the independent repairers time and time again and, that’s Whirlpool and Indesit and Hotpoint!

They withhold technical information, charge to even lookup spares and so on.

I think a lot of the guys would just think it’s not their problem and why should they help. And I could understand that completely.

With low rates as they’d expect that done probably for a low guarantee fee rate, no ongoing benefit in any way then to get dumped at the end and you can perhaps understand it as well.

The machines that come back will go to recycling I imagine. Probably you’ve as much chance of finding that out as you have finding out what Samsung are doing with returned Note 7’s. 😉

K.

And do you know what these modifications actually do?

Not officially no.

Unofficially…

The problem is caused by poor user maintenance, failure to maintain the filters as it’s the only way fluff can build up in there. I could explain that but I’ve written loads on it over the past year already. However in essence, there’s really nothing to go on fire in a tumble dryer other than what people put in them.

As that builds it can reach the heater as, air *must* flow over the heater and has to be in the same path as the fluff would take if you see what I mean. Normally this isn’t a big problem other than in extreme cases where on any dryer it can ignite in the right conditions and you have an instant bonfire.

It goes quick as it’s tinder dry and has a rush of air blowing over it from the fan.

I stress and stress again, this can happen to *ANY* dryer. Th only type you’ve a better chance with is a heat pump one.

On these it looks like the fluff can build up around the heater out into the drum more than they would like. If it’s not maintained well then the danger increases obviously.

The solution that they appear to have come up with is to move the heater back a little, since the new rear panel and to fit this rivet on the drum (that has to be precisely fitted in position) to help clear away any build up.

K.

Thanks for the information about the modifications and availability of engineers. It might explain why people are still waiting for their machine to be modified. 🙁

All of the Which? campaigns are about issues that affect large numbers of people and easy to relate to even if you have not been affected. If we are going to engage with Which? about shorter lifetime of appliances then I think we need to start with those issues that many can identify with, so perhaps it would be worth focusing on cheaper products that may not last long and are unlikely to be economically repairable unless it is a minor problem. Money features strongly in many of the Which? campaigns, so there is plenty of opportunity to obtain real examples of how people have been let down. Perhaps that was the intended purpose of this Convo, but a few people hijacked it to look deeper. 🙂 I have not seen much evidence of Which? focusing on environmental issues so that would be a dead duck, but it would obviously add weight to a campaign. Anyway, these are my thoughts and maybe others have different ideas.

I don’t now own a tumble dryer and the only type I would buy is the heat-pump variety, simply because there is no high temperature heater that could cause problems.

Moving back on topic, if the engineers now into the “design and realisation” of washing machines haven’t spent their early years learning that you can replace the camshaft bearings on an SR500 but not on a CB400, how likely is it that they will give a stuff about maintainability in their designs?

Good Engineers would be anxious to ensure their designs could be serviced easily, I would imagine. But they, like all Engineers, work beneath the cost-benefit strictures imposed from above.

@kennethwatt – Washing machine manufacturers provide us with information about energy consumption, water use, etc. I presume this is as a result of European legislation. You would like MTTF figures provided as a legal requirement – and there is little doubt that this would be useful to those consumers who bothered to look at it – but might it be easier to persuade manufacturers to give a rating like the A – D energy rating until the legislation is in place.

I’d prefer real figures. I doubt many people properly understand the energy rating system. No more than the rather meaningless star system Which? give to such measures as reliability.

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Yes it’s part of the EU labelling system so, a legal requirement.

It is not monitored or verified however manufacturers self test and publish, much the way car manufacturers such as Volkswagen would, I am sure you will get the point made.

The MTTF figures unless verified may go the same way.

There may be ways by which to combat that to a degree from the manufacturer side but also protects consumers, depends on how it was to be implemented really.

As usual the devil is in the details. There has to be a system in play that is fair to all parties and both legislature and business have to be able to make it work as well as having a mechanism for enforcement. Accomplishing that whilst also protecting consumer interest and not allowing loopholes is challenging as we’ve seen with the WEEE Directive and others.

To use a rating would of course be possible but the same as above would apply and I expect that some form of independent monitoring would be required to keep it right or you’d end up with the same sort of situation we see with energy labelling. If that, a lot of it is probably somewhere between wishful thinking and complete hokum.

K.

Not everyone understands why independent testing is so important, but it is obviously essential if the public is to be given useful information. The motor industry is a good example of why self-testing is inadequate.

Malcolm – Regarding energy ratings, as well as the A-D rating for a washing machine, the energy use in kW per year is stated. Obviously that refers to some standard usage rather than yours or mine. You have real figures – but they might not be meaningful because of self-testing.

As far as I am aware the certification testing for motor vehicles is not carried out by “self testing” but in approved national test facilities such as the VCA in the UK. Other products that require national or international certification, such as the ENEC and Kite Marks (BSI) must be tested in approved test houses (independent) and the manufacturers must have approved quality systems in place and are subject to regular audits from independent bodies.

I wish our politicians were subject to the same examination and scrutiny.

I cannot comment, Malcolm, but it would be interesting to know how energy ratings of appliances are tested.

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It is the EU who govern this, and they who issue directives that cover eco design and energy labeling. The regulations apply to anything to which they apply that are sold within the EU.

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Thanks for the links, Duncan. I will have a look.

From Duncan’s second link:
“How are MEPS tests carried out?
The number of stars each appliance is able to achieve is determined by a testing process. The products are tested by an independent National Association of Testing Authorities accredited laboratory under standardised conditions, to help ensure that the ratings are fair, and based on standard, repeatable conditions.”

That’s encouraging. If companies are allowed to publish their own energy figures in the UK and the rest of Europe we have no way of knowing that they have carried out the tests properly or been honest.

Do you know that “companies are allowed to publish their own energy figures” and if so that they cheat? Evidence would be useful, then the claim can be explored.

We seem to attack everyone – politicians, banks, train companies, energy suppliers, NHS, supermarkets, big business, retailers, car manufacturers, even the education system…………at any available opportunity. Perhaps it is just the British character to run everything down? We should remember that the people who make up these organisations are……..largely the inhabitants of this country. Perhaps we have Jeckyl and Hyde characters?

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Malcolm – I’m simply assuming that what Kenneth said is correct. If you have evidence to the contrary then please let us have it. I’m always happy to admit when my guesses and assumptions turn out to be wrong.

I don’t wish to rise to the bait other than to make the observation that you have said it’s OK that advertising includes misrepresentation. Not in my world. I support honesty, openness and fairness and that can be thin on the ground in the commercial world.

When allegations are made I like to see them supported. They can then be taken further. The EU requires manufacturers to submit appropriate information that is subject to scrutiny, so if we find malpractice we should do something about it. Sitting back and accepting it is not good enough. Which? could (should) explore such allegations and take them further, if they have any foundation.

We had allegations made that “all car manufacturers broke the emissions regulations” but that has gone quiet – presumably because their was little to support it. Which? did reply to that effect when I challenged them.

“you have said it’s OK that advertising includes misrepresentation”. I don’t know where you have dug this up from. Perhaps you would enlighten me, or ask the moderators to delete it. 🙂

Just Google: energy labelling self testing

First link.

If you wade through the voluminous information you will find that the energy labels are not independently tested or verified and that claims of non-compliance are dealt with by the ASA.

Quite how the ASA deals with technical stuff like that you’ve probably as much of an idea as I do.

K.

As far as I am aware, energy labels are subject to EU Directive 2010/30/EU and any discrepancy should therefore be reported to them. I don’t think the ASA is an agency appointed by the EU to act on their behalf; if anyone was, I would assume it to be Trading Standards.

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This is about energy labeling duncan. I have proposed that where there is evidence it is made public and reported to the appropriate authorities.

I could also provide a long list of untruthers, many of whom would be politicians, who appear immune from scrutiny.

Members of public would not have the equipment needed to test claims but if I was in doubt I would approach ASA in the first instance. They have had a lot to do with other energy claims. A quick search found your comment: “I’m not sure about blanket dishonesty, but being economical with the truth seems to be a way of life for many organisations (and people). You need to be somewhat cynical and have your wits about you to get by.” I may have wrongly assumed that you condone or tolerate misrepresentation. Anyway, that’s off-topic and let us get on learning and looking forward to Christmas.

“Members of public would not have the equipment needed to test claims”

Exactly. People have no clue whether the claims are indeed true or not and then atop that, no way by which to check them.

K.

Please withdraw the comment that I support misrepresentation in advertising. That has absolutely no connection with that I have said and is quite untrue

Nor do I say the general public (apart from those with the equipment and expertise) should test claims. But we have Consumers’ Association (among other bodies) that can and should test claims on behalf of consumers.

But Which? can test claims when they examine appliances. That is one reason we support a consumers’ association – to investigate and test on our behalf. Not only Which? of course but all the other BEUC members.

I withdraw the comment that you support misrepresentation.

Thank you wavechange. May your Christmas lights burn long and bright 🙂 I’ve just put up the first of ours and they all still work.

My LED ones have been put up for the fourth time. When I was a child we had a string of twelve 20V coloured lights on the tree. My father became fed-up replacing bulbs and added an extra one, so they would burn longer but not so bright. I come from a family that valued durability. Not all older products were reliable. My mother’s Hoovermatic twin-tub may have lasted many years but we were always having to fix it.

We have around 300+ sets of lights (we’ve cut down…) and what I find fails most often with LEDs is the egregious Switch Mode power supply.

I think I still have my Mum’s twin tub in the shed – must be 50 years old. I remember it was cream, but not the make. Expect the rubber hoses have perished but must dig it out sometime. I was surprised to see how many twin tubs are still on sale.

It may be your local substation that fails Ian. I thought you lived in a “dark skies” area?
Done properly, lots of lights can be very attractive, for a few days anyway. Some people get very competitive about outdoing their neighbours and why not – Christmas is about fun.

Our local town has an obsession with blue LEDs which I find rather dull. I much prefer white – warmer rather than the very ice-white – and the usual Christmassy mixed colours.

We are a ‘dark skies’ area, and most of our lights are inside 🙂 But our drive is 90m long, so I line it with twinkling white LEDs so I can pretend to be landing a ‘plane.

Blue lights are attractive, possibly because of the subconscious association with Christmas Eve. They were also the colour on tungsten lights to fail most often, since they didn’t allow much transmission of the longer wavelengths.

I wish my (white) lights (just one large set) had a switch mode power supply because the transformer gets quite warm and probably uses more power than the LEDs. Mains spikes can kill poorly designed SMPS. An uninterruptible power supply might help but perhaps that’s overkill for Christmas lights. 🙂

My immediate neighbours have been very restrained but we do have one garden full of lights that has been there since the start of December.

I’ve just finished installing two UIPS for the study. We get fluctuations, here, and in the past they’ve cost me two Hard drives. I now have 1 UPS protecting the Mac Pro (new) and another protecting the older Mac Pro and the 13 hard drives.

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Spikes can be a problem for those living in rural areas or off-grid. I have friends who suffered numerous failures of CFLs until their supply was improved. I would not be surprised if mains spikes were responsible for a significant number of premature failures of household equipment.

Duncan – I suppose I could use a high quality toroidal transformer plus power factor correction but I’ve compromised on putting the lights on a timer. 🙂

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I’m not a practising Radio Amateur but friends who are blame Switch mode power supplies for everything other than the Black Death.

That’s very true, but I believe that it depends a lot on design, much in the way that some LED bulbs cause radio interference and others are not a problem. SMPS have largely taken over in many everyday products. The first one I encountered was in our early 70s colour TV.

I don’t know about the Black Death but it is not recorded that the subsequent Great Fire of London was caused by a dangerous counterfeit SMPS that fell through a time warp.

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There were no warnings on wooden buildings that fire causes them to burn. Perhaps it was started by someone drying washing, or was it Ye Greggs?

Your innocent rat (framed by the fleas, weren’t they?) comment reminds me of a witty interchange on HIGNFY about software misinterpreting similar letters when converting documents – “linking arms on burns night” if I remember rightly.

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