For a lot of people, the answer to that question is easy: Only when they break down. The reality is, that’s not such a good answer. Unless you want to have a freezer full of thawed beef and chicken. Or a refrigerator full of spoiled milk and melted butter. Or an oven that only baked the top of your cake. Or a dishwasher full of smelly, dirty dishes. Because that’s what will happen if you wait for them to break before you replace them.
As a homeowner, it makes much more sense to be proactive on this kind of thing. A failed major appliance can cause a big mess and can even be a fire hazard in some cases.
The life cycles of major appliances
Experts know that even top-of-line appliances likely will lose effectiveness eventually. Here’s what you can expect to get out of the stuff in your kitchen:
- Refrigerator: 15-20 years. Here are signs that could indicate it is dying: Put a thermometer in the closed refrigerator. Leave it for five minutes. If the temperature is higher than 45 degrees, you could have problems that signal a dying refrigerator. If you have frayed or worn wires, you also should consider replacing your model.
- Freezer: 15-20 years. Warning signs: Leaking water, strange noises, running constantly.
- Range: 12-13 years. Warning signs: Bake and broil units don’t heat up, thermostat doesn’t work correctly.
- Dishwasher: 10-11 years. Banging sound (caused by the failure of the water intake valve), a noisy motor and dirty dishes.
Sometimes, of course, your appliances can be repaired. When should you repair? If the repair will be less than half the cost of a new model, it could make sense to repair your appliance instead of replace it. One side benefit of replacing these items: In many cases you’ll be replacing the old equipment with more energy-efficient models.
When you’re replacing them
Aesthetics matter. Particularly if there’s a chance you’ll be selling your house, and throwing the appliances in, during the next few years. Right now, stainless steel is the hot look for kitchen appliances. But it might not stay that way. You want something that will be attractive to buyers. Heck, even if you’re not throwing the appliances in, having the latest models can make your kitchen more appealing to buyers.
Bottom line: You can try to squeeze all the life out of your appliances that you can. But in the long run, you’ll probably benefit more from replacing your refrigerator or other appliance before it bites the dust. Remember, it will take some time – anywhere from a couple of days to a week or more – to get your new stuff delivered. Can you do without for that time?