Appliances that last

Not everything is disposable these days.
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01 .Introduction


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.

OldApps_50s-SunbeamMixmasteVicki 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

OldApp_SusanCampbell-WrightFifty 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 dryersdishwashers 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 (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.  


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The good...

Circa 1960s – Sunbeam Radiant Control Toastermatic

OldApps_TOASTERMATICWe had a few readers write in about their Sunbeam Toastermatics, introduced as Australia’s first pop-toaster. Margaret Howe, Ross Barry and John and Susan Balint all received theirs as engagement or wedding presents and praise the resilience of this Australian-made appliance. Trina Phuah remembers being fascinated by the appliance as a child and Vivian Eyers still remembers how her children would occupy themselves by toasting loads of bread at a time, amazed by the automatic rising of the bread.

Circa 1960 – Kenwood Chef mixer 

OldApp_1HeatherVanHaeringenAfter seeing the Kenwood Chef Mixer at a Brisbane exhibition in 1961, Heather Van Haeringen bought her own for Christmas that year for £40 (she says this was equivalent to a few weeks wages then). As a home economics teacher she was impressed - it had planetary action: the bowl stays stationary while the beater moves in one direction and the drive shaft moves the other. The unit still works perfectly, she still has the original glass bowl and liquidiser attachment and it has only needed minor repairs.

50 years later the design of the Kenwood Chef KM300 (a What to Buy in our 2009 test of benchtop mixers) is similar to its iconic predecessor. These days, the mixer will set you back $449 - less than half an average weekly wage.

1974 – Kelvinator refrigerator

OldAppLenBarbaraGrundyfrKelvinator fridges scoreed well in our lab tests and scored very well in our appliance reliability survey. Len and Barbara Grundy report their two Kelvinators haven’t missed a beat.

In 1974 they paid $50 for a second-hand Kelvinator which now serves as their drinks fridge. They bought a second Kelvinator, a 480 frost-free, in 1985. Neither has had any major problems and while the Grundys have been tempted to upgrade to a more economical model, they’ve been told newer ones won’t last as long.



1976 – Phillips dishwasher

Carolyn Koger purchased her Philips dishwasher in 1976. She loves the fact that there’s plenty of space to fit large pots and tall stemmed glasses. She reports it's always run on a maximum load and cleans everything very well. The door seal recently needed replacing, however Carolyn says, “I can count on one hand the number of breakages over the last 35 years.” Sadly, Philips no longer makes dishwashers, and Carolyn is yet to see another model she thinks is as good.

Circa 1980 – Simpson oven

OldApp_BrianWinch_ovenThis is just one of the long-lived household appliances owned by Brian Winch. In its early days this fan-forced oven was put through its paces regularly, often running for six to eight hours non-stop. In 31 years, only a fan and an element have been replaced.

Other pieces in his collection include a 1986 Hoover 920 Elite washing machine, 1970 Kelvinator air conditioner, circa 1963 Breville hair clippers and a milkshake mixer. His policy for products reliability is: “buy right and maintain, and you won’t buy often.”

 1984 – Maytag washing machine



Merinda and Don Welsford purchased their washing machine for $961 in the mid-80s and since then they’ve washed more than 10,000 loads, cleaning up after kids, pets, gardening and fishing. After 19 years it was given a major service, costing $650 for parts and labour. While they realise it may not be the most energy efficient washing machine, Merinda and Don are pleased that it’s still going strong, 27 years later.




The bad

2010 - Breville ikon Baker’s Oven BBM100

Michael Plutte purchased this bread maker less than a year ago after reading CHOICE’s test results on bread makers. Michael’s unit broke down after making only two loaves. He had it replaced, only for the replacement to fail after three loaves. In each case, the program selected would change without warning and the baking would stop. The store took both units back; but Michael didn’t give Breville a third chance. He spent an extra $50 for a Sunbeam model that’s worked perfectly since.

2011 – Russell Hobbs irons

After a iron broke down after only 14 months, Elizabeth Trudgeon bought a Russel Hobbs Slip Stream Steam iron RHC903 early this year. Although receiving a good score, this model performed towards the bottom of the group in our recent test of irons. After only 20 days the iron wouldn’t start. Honouring the extra 2 year warranty Elizabeth had paid for her initial iron, the shop simply told her to bring it in and choose another two to the same value. She chose the same Russell Hobbs and a Philips GC4856. The second Russell Hobbs also broke down after a month.     

2011 - Cross trainer

Georgia V bought her elliptical cross trainer from an online site on 1 January 2011. After having it delivered and assembled she uses it for the first time. Just nine minutes later, the magnetic flywheel broke. Georgia contacted the store for a return and refund, and was told she needed to disassemble and then repackage the 54kg piece of gym equipment! Not helpful at all for something that lasted less than 10 minutes. Before lodging a complaint to Fair Trading she made a final attempt to get a refund. The company agreed to send a courier (as long as Georgia removed the arms of the unit) and give her a full refund for the unit.

See our cross trainer buying guide for some tips if you're looking to buy one.

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