March 21, 2012

Make It Last: Appliances/Electronics

Endless upgrades means endless waste
We aren't upgraders. The latest new and improved gadgets don't entice us to part with our cash. That is because the rule in our house is that things can't be replaced until they are broken or worn out.

Our 'make it last' approach has been like a lab experiment on product longevity. It has become a fun challenge to see how long we can stretch the usable life of our things.

Over the years we have been amazed how long things can last, like appliances and electronics. Many things, if cared for and used gently, can provide decades of faithful service.

Our old things do what we want, and only what we want, unlike newer products that load on multiple features of dubious value that rarely get used. It could be because the features are frivolous, or because they are too complicated for the average user to figure out. Either way, I don't need all the dazzling technology.

I'm no neo-Luddite, it's just that what I have is enough. I don't need to upgrade yet, and when I do, it will be to the simplest, most efficient model available. Until then, I introduce my collection of well-used 'make it last' items.

My Make It Last Appliances/Electronics

I don't need a microwave oven that rotates and stirs with 150 convenient pre-programmed settings. I just want heat. My old unit still provides that.

I have an 11 year old first-generation ipod that plays music perfectly, and could not be easier to use. There are no features beyond just playing music which is ok because all I want it to do is play music. You can't buy that kind of simplicity today.

Our kitchen blender, second hand from Linda's mom, is about 4 decades old. It is a functional antique, like a museum piece that still works fine. We use it almost daily for smoothies. It works well for creating creamy soups and chowders. I grind nuts and spices with it, and it matches our retro 70's kitchen.

A friend gave us his toaster oven 12 years ago before leaving for international travel. He never came back for it, and it has toasted thousands of pieces of bread successfully since then. The handle broke off a few years ago, which I replaced with a heavy duty paper clip.

Even the computer I am writing on is an ancient machine still faithfully providing service. It is now 7 years old, which is almost 100 (or is that 1000?) in computer years. It does everything I need it to do, although it is slowing down. But then, so am I. Speed is over-rated - slow and steady, as they say.

Can be seen in the Apple Museum, or my living room
By avoiding endless upgrades and making our stuff last, we have prevented useful items from ending up in landfills leaking toxic waste. We have also saved a lot of money.

We can afford to replace all of these items with brand new, shiny ones if we wanted to. But can the planet afford it? We don't think so.

To the average consumer, 'make it last' may look like extreme deprivation and poverty. It is not. It is the way to freedom. Less things to buy, less money to spend, less work to be done. Less maintenance, less life energy. Less waste.

We are living on a small planet with limited resources and an exploding population. Considering this, we think it is a good idea to use resources as efficiently as possible.

If it ain't broke, don't replace it.

Make it last.


  1. My favorite line in this post:

    "We can afford to replace all of these items with brand new, shiny ones if we wanted to. But can the planet can afford it? We don't think so."

    Agreed. I really don't get the appeal of standing in line to buy the latest ithing as soon as a new version hits the shelves. Is it really THAT much better than your 6-month old one?

    My washer and dryer are from the 90s at least. The old homeowner was going to throw them out, unless I happened to want them? Heck yeah I did, they work perfectly well 7 years later and are a lovely shade of gold. ;) My iPod nano (I don't know what gen it is, second maybe) still plays music even though it has the white screen of death. So I'm keeping it until it truly dies.

    1. It is great to rescue perfectly usable items from people intending on throwing them away, then have them last for years.

      I think that a big part of the problem is people have too much money (or access to cheap loans), and it causes them to make unskillful decisions.

  2. Glad not everyone out there gives in to shiny new toys! I'm especially tired of hearing about the new iPad that just came out. Most people I know that got/want one already have computers and "smart" phones. What a waste of money!

    My husband and I rescued a perfectly good (albeit "old") television set from friends of ours 6 years ago - they upgraded to a flat-screen plasma TV to the tune of $1,500 (YIKES) - and it's still going strong. We don't plan to get a new TV until this one dies.

    Most of our small kitchen appliances have lasted for quite a long time (I think the toaster is at least 15 years old), except for the microwave. My husband's monster microwave from his bachelor days finally had to be replaced last year. My laptop is 5 years old and it's slowing down. I use it A LOT so I'm considering replacing it with a newer model and giving this one to my husband to use as a media computer (or whatever he needs it for :-)). Cell phone is a prepaid "dumb" phone that is about 5 years old now.

    Have you seen The Lightbulb Conspiracy? It's a documentary about planned obsolescence. I watched it on YouTube and it's quite an interesting (and somewhat angering) film.


    P.S. Sorry for the long-winded comment! I've been a lurker for awhile, but finally glad to de-lurk and tell you that I really like reading your blog!

    1. We love comments of all lengths - thanks for de-lurking and leaving yours.

      I will watch The Lightbulb Conspiracy when I am feeling calm. Thanks for the reference.

      Imagine all the perfectly good TVs that were junked when people did what your friends did, and switched to a larger, clearer distortion of reality.

      Boy, have the manufacturers and banks ever got our number. Kudos to people like you and your hubby that can resist the enticements and social pressures to conform to consumerism.

      You, like MinHus in the comment above, are an example of sensibility and self-control for those around you.

      There you go - a long-winded response to your comment. Thanks for visiting, and participating in, our little blog.

  3. Anonymous3/23/2012

    I don't like the new TVs. We had our old TV for years and it still works fine (it's at least 12 years old). We relegated that "old" TV to a back room and bought a new shiny Samsung flat screen about five years ago for about $1200. This TV still technically works, but has a problem where there are big lines in it for about fifteen minutes every time you turn it on until it warms up. Total garbage! I imagine this TV will die in the next year.

    So, it looks like TV manufacturers managed to convince us to get rid of nice old TVs that last 20 years or more and replace them with ones that we have to replace every five years or so. I feel like such a sucker!


    1. Our whole society has fallen for it. Corporations solidify future profits by making cheap products that break down prematurely.

      Nicole (in above comment) recommended "The Light Bulb Conspiracy" which is an excellent look at planned obsolescence.

      We have to call out the manufacturers that use this strategy, and quit supporting them.

      Thanks for sharing your story - it could help others avoid falling into the same trap.

  4. Anonymous3/23/2012

    I'm typing this on a desk top computer. Never found the need for a laptop. It is also used to play music and watch videos. All of our appliances are at least 15 years old. I simply am baffled by people who "need" the latest gadgets. Talk about buying into the lie!

    1. We are uncovering the truth, and it will set us free.

  5. The planned obselesence thing really bugs me. My iPhone died the other day at 2 and 3/4 years of age. The contract was for 3 years. This happened to Bill too. That seems fishy to me. Are they in on it together so that you always have to upgrade and stay with the same provider so that you don't pay a penalty? I like your blender!

    1. I have seen mentions on the web of iStuff being kind of throw-away. One of them is in the documentary, "Pyramids of Waste: The Lightbulb Conspiracy" which was recommended by an NBA reader.

      In the documentary they talk about when Apple was sued (successfully) for selling a product in which the battery (with a limited, short lifespan) could NOT be replaced. This meant a whole new unit needed to be purchased.

      The whole thing is fishy. We need things that last.

  6. Anonymous9/08/2014

    I work in Electronics R&D, I have to deal with HTOL (High Temperature Operating Life) amongst other this.

    Rule No1. Electronics ages more as it gets hotter, silicon life halves for every ~8C above 100C (and the silicon on many chips is right up there when you're using it flat out, especially in power supplies)

    Rule No2. W=I^2 x R.. resistive losses/heating is doubly significant at maximum power.

    So.. use an item on the highest power and it will degrade relatively quickly.. use it at say 80% power, and the power supply will be working at or below 80% of capacity. Now lets say it operates at a core temperature of 120C when at full blast in a 30C ambient, that's 90C above ambient, now turn down the power to 80% and that will fall to 72C above ambient, or 102c a full 18C cooler.. which for silicon means more than 4x the lifetime at least. If your supply has most of it's losses in terms of resistive losses (I2R) then a 20% drop in power translates to a 40% drop in losses, and therefore heating.

    even just a little less is a lot more.

    Equally don't mount your TV above the fire.. it's lifetime will be noticeably shorter. better still mount it in the dustbin and go do something more constructive, like make a cup of tea and listen to your family.

    1. That's awesome information that makes a lot of sense. Keep it cool - make it last.

  7. I got my first laptop computer in 2005 as a high school graduation gift and only replaced it 2 years ago when it was becoming unreliable (it would overheat and shutdown). I got a hand-me-down Blackberry Pearl phone in 2010 and used that for the next 3 years whilst everyone around me was upgrading to iPhones and Android devices; I only dropped the Blackberry because my service provider called and suggested I take their upgrade offer (I probably should have declined). They gave me Blackberry Curve and I'm still using it even though it looks thoroughly antiquated in 2015. Once this device is no longer usable, I may just get a flip phone as I'm convinced I'm not an ideal smartphone customer.

    Here's to making electronic devices last.

    1. You have done very well in extending the life of your things. That is money saved to be used for better purposes, and a whole lot less going into the waste bin. Also fewer people exposed to toxic components in the making, using, and disposal of the devices. Good work.


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