When Do You Upgrade Appliances?

washer_dryer

When we bought our previous home, we were moving up from the condo and we were very excited.  Since the house was sold without any appliances we had to go out and spend some serious money on things like washer, dryer and refrigerator.  Everything was bought brand new at Lowe’s with the usual 10% off coupons, but still cost a lot of money. We thought we’d be staying in that house for a long time and wanted to “invest” into good energy efficient appliances.  With that in mind we ended up with a cutting edge Maytag washer and dryer that had lots of buttons, promising significant energy and water savings. Problem is, the washer died on us shortly after the 1 year warranty expired.

One day out of the blue the machine would get stuck trying to start the spin cycle and then cut out with “Load Imbalance” error message on its pretty LCD display.  We called a tech who came out and said that a new control board is needed to the tune of over $400.  To say that I was disappointed with this whole situation would be an understatement.

Fast forward to us looking for our current home…  When we saw a 15-20 year old Maytag washer and dryer in the laundry room we were actually excited.  Writing up an offer on the house we asked for those to be included in the sale.  The real estate agent was a bit surprised that we wanted these relics and asked us a couple of times to confirm.  The sellers were relieved that they did not have to worry about moving these appliances or (more likely) taking them to the dump.  “Washer and dryer are at the end of life-cycle and should be replaced” was noted in our home inspection report.

It’s been over 5 years since then and the washer has been running without so much as a hiccup.  The dryer, on the other hand, did require a bit of TLC.  I have never fixed a dryer before but with the help of the Internet I quickly realized that they are simple machines that can be fixed by anyone with a screwdriver and some basic DIY skills.

When we started using the dryer we noticed that it was pretty loud.  Turns out that the drum rollers were worn out so I replaced those with new aftermarket parts for under $15, which quieted things down significantly.  To my surprise, after a couple of months the noise returned.  I took the dryer apart once again and saw that the cheaper aftermarket rollers self-destructed in this short period of time.  I cleaned out the chewed up rubber that fell to the bottom of the dryer and ordered a set of OEM Maytag rollers for under $25.  Since the drum had to come out, I had to take the drive belt off and noticed that it was in bad shape.  Went ahead and ordered a new Maytag belt for under $15.

Everything was running smoothly for a while but then the clothes stopped drying.  The drum was spinning but there was no heat so the clothes would come out as damp as when they went in.  After a bit of research and troubleshooting the problem turned out to be a coil that burned out in the heating element.  Instead of buying just the heating coil and restringing it inside the heating tube I bought a whole new heating assembly for just $10 more at a total cost of around $35.  When it came in, I swapped the old one out and the dryer was happy for another year.

This week my wife called me at work and said: “You probably don’t want to hear this, but the dryer is not drying the clothes again”.  Thinking something else must be wrong now that I replaced the whole heating element, I found that in fact it was the same exact problem as before – the coil in the new heating element burned out again.  I have a suspicion that the part that I bought on eBay was made in China and it’s not up to the OEM standards – just like the rollers before.

Back to eBay to search for an OEM part this time…  Those tend to be more expensive at around double the price of the aftermarket parts.  Not wanting to drop THAT much money into the dryer, I found another option that seemed viable – an OEM part that is used but in good working condition.  I found a Maytag heating element assembly advertised for $22 with a “Make an Offer” option.  I went ahead and offered $18 with free shipping expecting to wait the usual 24 hours or so and was pleasantly surprised when my offer was accepted instantly:

ebay_offer

Bottom line is that I’ve spent around $110 in 5 years to keep the dryer alive.  It could have been less if I went with the OEM parts from the beginning instead of trying to save a few bucks with the aftermarket junk (there is a lesson in here somewhere).  So is it worth it to keep the old appliances running instead of junking it and getting a new set?  The way I look at it…

  • New appliances are not cheap.  We would spend at least $400 on a new dryer.  If we bought a new dryer, we would buy a new washer as well to have the pair so figure at least another $600 for that.  I have no desire to drop $1,000+ on a new set that will do exactly the same thing – get our clothes clean and dry.

  • New appliances can still fail at any time.  Most likely it will happen right after the warranty expires just to piss you off – see my bling-bling washing machine example.

  • When new appliances break they are not as easy to fix as the older models since they tend to be stuffed with expensive electronics.  Your $600-900 washing machine has enough computing power to launch a rocket-ship to the moon with comparable repair costs.

  • A new dryer will not save you enough money to justify the replacement cost.  A new washer will save you a bit more if you get the high efficiency model, but it’s still cheaper to run your old washer until fixing it becomes prohibitive due to an expensive repair like a dead motor.*

  • Maybe it’s just me, but I would feel really shitty about taking a fully functioning appliance to the dump just because we wanted to upgrade.  A lot of energy went into producing this machine and I don’t want to throw it out simply because it looks out of date.

  • There is something cool about being able to keep a machine running for a long time.  You become so familiar with the item that troubleshooting and fixing any issue is easy and intuitive.  It’s not that much different than keeping an old car or a motorcycle running well… I have one so I know 🙂

  • It’s nice not to have to call anyone to come fix your problems.  All you need is new parts and some DIY time.  The less you are dependent on others the better you feel about your life in general.

*I was going to finish this post saying something like “I will not pull the plug on this dryer unless its heart stops i.e. the motor gives out” but then decided to take a quick look on eBay to see how much a working motor is…  This might be the last dryer we own…

dryer_motor

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “When Do You Upgrade Appliances?

    • Way to go! Some people I know would take it as a sign that it’s time for an upgrade and replace the stove and the dishwasher instead of doing these small repairs. I had to replace the heating element in the oven at the condo as well and it’s just as easy as the dryer with just a couple of basic tools.

  1. I just had to fix our dryer as well! Fortunately it was just the belt that needed replacing. I think after three or so times of things going wrong, I’d get too annoyed to keep it any longer. I might fix it one last time and sell it as used but working.
    You’re right about one thing, the older models are way better built than the new stuff you can buy today!

    • I know it’s annoying to deal with stuff like this, but don’t give up after 3 times! My dryer would be in the trash if I did, but I just fixed the heating element for $18 and it works great once again!

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