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Nothing lasts forever. Even your big-ticket home purchases like refrigerators and furnaces need to be replaced at some point. But then again, lots of those items can be repaired instead. So how do you know when it’s time to call the handyman and when it’s time to give up and move on? Here are some general life-expectancy guidelines for household features and appliances to help you make the right decision for your dollar.
Water heater: The standard tank model generally lasts around 10 years. Tankless models, while more expensive, claim to last up to 20 years. The biggest problems with water heaters are rust and mineral buildup, which can be minimized with a porcelain casing and also by flushing it properly. Hard water is also hard on your water heater. Repair rather than replace up to about year eight; after that, if you experience problems fairly frequently or they become more complicated, it’s time for a new one.
Refrigerator: The average life for a single-door, top-freezer model is around 14 years. Make it last longer (some claim up to 20 years) by cleaning off the condenser coils on the back of the fridge, which get super dusty. Do this twice a year and it should perform more efficiently as well. But if it’s the compressor that fails, cut your losses and get a new one.
Washing machine: Apparently it doesn’t make a difference whether you have a top-load or a front-load washer; newer models of either type generally last about 11-13 years, if you’re doing a load a day. Overloading your washer makes all the moving parts work harder and will shorten the life of your machine. If it’s the belt that’s gone wrong, or the seals or pump, it can be worth repairing, but problems with the motor probably warrant a new machine.
Dishwasher: You’ll probably only get six to10 years out of your dishwasher. These days dishwashers are fairly inexpensive, so it’s almost always better to replace rather than repair. To make your current appliance last a bit longer, pre-rinse dishes to remove hardened food, load the racks properly, and clean the filter regularly.
Carpet: Standard household carpeting will only stay looking fresh for about eight to 10 years. Using a hot-water “extraction” method for cleaning your carpet can help it last more toward the 10-year mark, but highly trafficked carpeting is going to start looking worn after eight years anyway. If you're seeing wrinkles or it feels less springy (like the padding is losing its mojo) then it’s time to get new floor covering.
Most of these items can be covered with a home warranty, which can make your life easier (and less expensive to maintain). However, it is extremely important to read the materials about any home warranty you plan to purchase so you are aware of deductibles, the subcontractors the provider uses, and exactly what the warranty does and does not cover.
Gone are the days of home appliances lasting as long as your home does. As the items in our homes continue to take on more features and do more things (talking dishwasher, anyone?), there are more things that can go wrong. Planning for replacements for your big-ticket items is a smart idea so you’re not hit with a bill for hundreds of dollars that you weren’t expecting and aren't ready for.