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KBzine: the original kitchen and bathroom industry e-newssince 2002
28th January 2021


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This leader has nothing to do with the last two, in which I commented on the problems caused by appliances that are giving up the ghost in the most spectacular way, by exploding or catching fire…A newly published report claims that the lifetime of electrical appliances is shortening and the writers are calling for a minimum period of service life, greater transparency in terms of life-expectancy and ease of repair.

The report, by the Oeko-Institut e.V. and Bonn University commissioned by the German Environment Agency (UBA), says:

“Many appliances have much too short a life-span. This is ecologically unacceptable. It is time to think about minimum requirements of product lifetime and quality. Many appliances are replaced despite being in good working order.”

The report finds that technological innovations and the desire for a new device are often the reason for early replacement. For three-quarters of those surveyed, the desire for a better device is pivotal. The proportion of large household appliances which were replaced within five years due to a defect increased from 3.5% to 8.3% between 2004 and 2013. A consumer survey conducted for the study revealed that about one third of those polled are not satisfied with the service life of their appliances.

“Short-lived products place a far greater burden on our environment than appliances with a longer service life,” notes the report. “Take washing machines: the energy demand and global warming potential during a lifetime of five years is about 40% higher compared to a washing machine with a lifetime of 20 years. These figures already take potential improvement of energy efficiency into account.”

The study could not find evidence of planned shortening of product lifetime (obsolescence) on the manufacturers’ part, but found that lack of transparency is a problem for consumers, who cannot tell by looking at a product how long it was designed to last. Price is not a reliable indicator either. The writers call for a labelling system which expresses the typical life expectancy of an appliance in hours of use.

“As concerns serviceability, appliances must be readily repaired which thereby lengthens their lifetime,” it argues. “This means, among others, easy-repair design and the availability of spare parts – also to non-proprietary shops and merchants.”

This report makes good sense, but if its suggestions are implemented, where does it leave an industry that thrives on sales?



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Jan Hobbs



19th February 2016

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