Planned obsolescence: urban legend, conspiracy theory or reality? The debate continues. Classic obsolescence of your household appliances, your everyday allies, can be fought using some maintenance and shopping tips.
Extending the life of your devices isn’t complicated
Here are 5 tips to help you avoid the quick obsolescence of your devices. An appliance or tool will last longer if:
- You use it in the way in which it was meant to be used. A small espresso machine works well for a small household but will quickly breakdown in an office of 15 heavy coffee drinkers. A good household appliance salesperson will advise you based on how you intend on using your equipment.
- You take care of your device, meaning you use it without rushing. Especially storing it in a place that’s neither too dusty nor too humid. Ideally, keep rarely used devices in their original box or packaging. One last tip: when you unplug your toaster, for example, pull on the plug instead of on the cord.
- You perform preventive maintenance. Take the time to read the manual (yes, we know this is a hassle) following your purchase and listen to the salesperson’s advice. It’s worth it. Example of maintenance for a washing machine: it’s advised that you empty the filter at least once every 4 months, to run a load at 90 degrees every 50 washes (to remove any bacteria), to use something to prevent limescale buildup after every cycle, etc.
- You carry out corrective maintenance: the latest household appliances sold on the market will inform you when maintenance is required. For example, some irons or coffee machines have a warning light that indicate to you that it’s time for a cleaning. It’s safe to say that, when your device “tells you” that something is wrong, you should listen to it. A light comes on, it starts making a weird noise… don’t push it, repair it!
- At the time of purchase, you’re looking for a device whose spare parts are readily available and for which repair is possible. In this case, opt for more well-known brands. They have a catalogue of spare parts. It’s your environmental responsibility, but there’s also nothing more annoying than an item that breaks after just a few months. Can we hope to see the launch of a reparability index imposed in Belgium as it will be in France in 2020?
Making repairs and the right purchases is an environmental responsibility
One of the ways to prevent breakdowns is to purchase quality goods.
Generally you will be told to avoid anything cheap or “made in China.” However this is becoming more difficult to avoid. Good to know: many appliance manufacturers are now back in Europe. Give priority to these European manufacturers, even just to reduce the carbon footprint.
When it comes to quality, other sources of information are useful. Including your friends, who have their experiences with certain purchases. More objectively, consumer associations members of Consumers International can also point you to a better quality purchase.
Whatever the case, there is unfortunately no way to predict when equipment will fail or have a manufacturing defect. So, when your device breaks down, have it repaired!
The first impulse after a purchase is, of course, to keep the warranty and the receipt, which should be photocopied since the thermal ink used quickly fades (in this French-speaking video you’ll find a trick to bring your receipt “back to life”).
Luckily, the guarantee may most likely still be applicable. If not, find an authorized repairman or visit a Repair Café. Basically, don’t throw it out if it only has one small problem.
Household appliances: an industry for which the 4 R’s apply
In your fight against planned or natural obsolescence and on your journey to increase your environmental consciousness, the 4 R principle should be your guide of choice.
What is the 4 R principle?
- R for Refuse: By refusing, one intends to avoid buying what one doesn’t need. France Gall sang, “Resisting is proof that you exist.”
- R for Reduce: It’s about reducing your purchases, especially of new products! If you need something, consider buying it secondhand or refurbished instead. It also means reducing your waste (each item and its packaging are short- or long-term waste products).
- R for Reuse: Small appliances and computer equipment can be refurbished. Refurbishing initiatives like Cyreo (small electronics) or Comex and CF2D (laptop computers) exist for this. And for ideas about how to reuse appliances, see what you can do with an old fridge or how to use recycled materials to make lighting fixtures.
- R for Repair: Oxfam and Les Petits Riens will repair large appliances and computers. Or even buy from them, because a device that has already been repaired once can be repaired throughout the rest of its useful life! If you’re thinking of repairing it yourself, try a Repair Café.
At Usitoo, as a company that is aware of our impact on the planet, we’ll add an M for the word “Maintain” (maintain your devices and follow the instructions to prolong their life) and an R for “Rent” (rent anything that you only occasionally need).
The psychological obsolescence of household appliances
Ever heard of aesthetic or psychological obsolescence? Maybe you’re doing it without even knowing it! This is when you buy a new product before the one you already own stops working. For example: you give in and get a new smartphone because its design looks better than yours. Even though yours works perfectly fine. Obviously, advertising and marketing contribute to this by promoting the replacement of items before their end of life.
And for appliances? No less than 40% of major household appliances that are replaced still work or are serviceable.
A short moment of self-reflection is needed before throwing something out: are you tossing it in the bin because it’s irreparably damaged or just because it’s outdated?
Are you going to throw away the white coffee machine that has become yellowish over time but still makes good coffee? Keep it or, at least, donate it!
Do you really need to own all types of household appliances?
Ads will make you want to buy a new vacuum, bread machine, a larger fondue machine, etc. Soon enough, your house will end up looking like an appliance store!
A few seconds of thought will quickly help you realize that you don’t need to buy and ultimately store away equipment that will only be rarely used.
Give this new trend a shot: you no longer need to own everything. Ownership is outdated: let’s focus more on “usage” than possession.
- There are devices that aren’t often used (a cotton candy machine, waffle iron, ice cream maker). How many times are they used per year? Enough to just rent them.
- There are appliances that are temporarily needed in large quantity. Say you need 2 8-person fondue machines for a large family dinner.
Don’t clutter yourself with items, rent them! With Usitoo, you can rent appliances for as many days as you like for just a few Euros. Renting means you won’t throw money down the drain or contribute to pollution. Need a device for an upcoming event? Try Usitoo!