MWM Exclusive: “Manufacturers Tell NAHB: Our Appliances, HVAC Equipment Have Short Lives”

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So how long should a new major appliance last before it needs replacement?

Not very long, if you believe statistics offered to the media by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). But even so, those statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, the NAHB admits.

When contacted in May by John Matarese, consumer reporter with WCPO in Cincinnati, NAHB supplied the following lifespan statistics for major appliances:

  • Refrigerator:  13 years
  • Dishwasher: 9 years
  • Microwave oven:  9 years
  • Water heater:  11 years
  • Central air conditioner: 15 years
  • Gas furnace: 18 years
  • Front-load washing machine: 10 years

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Retail Appliances

After reciting these lifespan statistics, Matarese was able to shout his catchphrase “Doesn’t that stink?” and let the cartoon skunk bounced across the screen. He did blame the short lifespans on modern appliances containing more electronics, being built of less expensive materials and PC boards that break down in humidity.

But how accurate are the NAHB statistics? Where does the group get its information?

“Every two years or so, we contact the manufacturers and ask them how long buyers can expect them to last. It is a very small sample,” said Rose Quint, assistant communications manager at NAHB.

Were any other sources contacted, such as consumers who know how long they’ve had their appliances, or repair professionals who see them in homes? No, Quint said. Nor was anything asked about whether the appliances being taken out of use could have been repaired. However it is common at appliance service dealer meetings to hear complaints of lost jobs resulting from customers seeking second opinions from the manufacturers and being told that they should replace as other components will soon fail. And on products newer than the NAHB lifespan statistics indicate.

The only source polled by NAHB was the one most interested in new sales through replacement.

Despite Matarese’s explanation that the advanced technologies in modern appliances shorten their lifespans, the current NAHB statistics are not much different from those offered annually by the trade journal Appliance Magazine from the 1970s until its demise as a print publication in 2005.

“We offer appliance lifespan data for informative purposes only, not strictly factual due to our small sampling of sources,” Quint said.

Matarese made no mention of the repair option in his report, which is unfortunate as EW Scripps, owner of WCPO, distributed the report to the other TV stations in owns across the U.S.

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