Back in February, we asked you to share your experiences - both good and bad - of your appliances. We received around 100 stories of treasured household appliances, most with plenty of sentimental value. We also heard a few horror stories of appliances that fail within minutes of being used for the first time.
Vicki Batty is the third generation to use her grandmother's 1950s Sunbeam Mixmaster to make Easter marshmallow bunny rabbits. The Pryor family still use an STC fridge purchased second-hand, also in the ‘50s. A little bruised and battered, it’s been running continuously in their garage since it was passed down to them in 1972.
The oldest of the lot is Susan Campbell-Wright’s 1936 telephone (pictured below). She has been told by numerous technicians that it cannot work with the new system, and while it may not feature caller ID or redial, after three quarters of a century it still performs perfectly with a clear sound and loud ringer.
Some might ask why people keep their old appliances when they could upgrade to something more stylish and economical? Alice Papademetriou sums it up perfectly, when speaking of her 23-yearold Goldair juicer, by saying, “It still works perfectly and we keep it for that very reason”.
They don’t make ‘em like they used to
Fifty years ago production of appliances wasn’t as highly automated as it is today. Advances in technology, globalisation, lifestyle trends and improved communication have been the driving forces behind manufacturing changes over the years. These days, consumers have more choice between appliances that are easier to use, and also more sustainable and energy efficient.
Modern international standards ensure products are manufactured to strict criteria, but this also means that some aren’t always as tailored to Australian conditions as they used to be.
Manufacturers say that people with old appliances like fridges, dishwashers and washing machines could save money by replacing them with a modern version that uses less energy and water. And they make a valid point. The major appliances in your home account for a large portion of your energy bill, and if these main items are more than a decade old, chances are you’ll be spending more than you need to on your energy bill.
Today’s appliances need to meet strict criteria and energy efficiency standards, so that new appliances will generally use less energy than the model you’re replacing. Also keep in mind that energy efficient appliances won’t only save you money, but they’re also better for the environment.
In Australia, the Energy Rating Label allows consumers to quickly compare the energy efficiency and energy consumption (in kilowatt hours/year) of main ticket items. Values are measured according to test procedures outlined in Australian Standards and appliances must first meet the criteria before they can be given an Energy Rating Label. This system was first introduced in 1986 only for NSW and Victoria. Since then, it has been made mandatory in all states for fridges/freezers, clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers and single phase air-conditioners to carry the label.
Take fridges and freezers for example, we all need one, and a national baseline study on residential energy use commissioned by the Australian Government shows that since the early 1990s the average energy consumption of fridges and freezers has improved significantly. Specifically there has been a 40% reduction from 1993-2006, largely due to the introduction of the energy labelling program and MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Standards) requirements which allow for more energy efficient products. However, some people find it hard to let go of their old fridge that still works and often you hear of them keeping it in their garage as their “drinks fridge.”
Consider the idea that letting go of your old fridge could save you over $100 a year.
What about disposal, if I decided to let go of my old appliance?
Some people are concerned about how these large appliances are disposed of, and take into consideration the landfill created by disposing these. Not every old appliance in your home needs to be replaced. There’s no need to replace smaller kitchen appliances like a toaster or food processor that are still working perfectly, as they're not as energy draining as larger items. But consider the potential savings if you replace your fridge and freezer or washing machine or other large whitegood items. While energy is used to manufacture these new and improved efficient appliances; the energy used to create will be quickly outweighed by the savings from purchasing a truly efficient appliance.
Councils have programs in place to allow for the safe and responsible disposal of large household appliances. Check your local council’s website for more information; each council tends to vary in the services provided. However, generally there is a free kerbside collection of whitegoods, which you need to book for pick up. The items are then picked up and taken away and parts are recycled.
Another service, called e-waste can also be organised through most councils. Alternatively, you can visit www.ewaste.com.au (or 1800 392 783) an independent waste collection and recycling service. Once waste is collected, it is transported to the appropriate recycling facility. Currently 95-98% (by weight) of the waste collected can be fully recycled.
Further, you may find that some manufacturers have a program whereby they recycle or capture components such as refrigerant gas, from old appliances. Parts which are of no use get compacted to reduce landfill. Electrolux, for example offers this service.