How Long Do Refrigerators Last? The Life Span of Kitchen Appliances

If you’re asking “How long do refrigerators last?” you’re probably either planning a remodel or you’re the owner of a really old kitchen appliance. Reality check: It’s unheard of for people to stand in line to purchase the newest model of an appliance, as so many do for the latest iPhone. Reality check: While most people trip over themselves to buy a new gadget the day it comes out on the market, they are likely to hold on to their appliances for as long as possible.

But is it actually cost-effective to keep appliances until they break down? What is the average life span of your kitchen appliances?

How durable are kitchen appliances?

A variety of factors determine how long kitchen appliances will last, including how often you use them, which brand you selected, and how well you maintain them.

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Estimates of the life cycle of kitchen appliances vary. For example, refrigerators can last anywhere from 14 to 27 years, according to Phoebe Knight of It is Fixed Appliance Repair in Sandy Springs, GA.

Freezers tend to last for a little less long, from 12 to 20 years. Your oven and your range will likely go out on a similar timeframe—with an oven lasting from 12 to 15 years and a range from 15 to 17 years.

Microwaves clock in for the least amount of time, around seven to nine years. And a dishwasher should be functional for about nine to 11 years.

Should you keep older appliances?
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So now that we’ve established roughly how long kitchen appliances last, is it inefficient to keep your older kitchen appliances if they still work? That depends.

“Older refrigerators will use a little more energy, but the same does not apply for dishwashers, ovens, ranges, etc.,” says Scott McConnell, owner of Lake Appliance Repair in Fair Oaks, CA. “Newer refrigerators are much more energy efficient, but with other kitchen appliances, you still have to use a heating element, so energy consumption is the same.”

Knight agrees that newer refrigerators are much more energy efficient. “An older refrigerator that uses Freon can use up to 75% more energy than a modern, energy-efficient model,” she says. “Plus, if there is a sealed-system leak, the refrigerator may need to have its Freon periodically recharged. Since this substance is hazardous to humans, it should only be handled by a licensed professional.”

However, upgrading other kitchen appliances probably isn’t worth it. For many people, the cost savings don’t justify a new purchase. “In general, you may save $30 to $100 a year on your electricity bill by upgrading,” Knight explains.

What can you do to make each appliance last longer?

One simple way to extend the life of your kitchen appliances is to do your homework before making a purchase. Some brands and models have been subject to recalls or are notorious for being defective and undependable. So besides doing the research to try to avoid a lemon, here are some ways to keep your older appliances working well for years.

Refrigerator/freezer

Check the door gasket to ensure that the cold air is not escaping, says McConnell. This is the molded rubber inside the door or lid of the refrigerator/freezer. If the gasket is moldy, brittle, or you notice condensation, it’s probably time to replace it.

Also, Knight recommends keeping your refrigerator and freezer full. Why? A full freezer is easier to keep cool than an empty one, because the frozen items inside will help maintain the temperature. “But don’t pack them so full that the airflow is blocked, since this can cause frost buildup, and the appliances may stop cooling.”

Oven

Knight warns against using the self-cleaning feature on your oven. “Manufacturers add this feature because it is hard to sell an oven that doesn’t have it, but this feature is responsible for generating a lot of service calls,” she says. “Most ovens are not able to withstand the sustained high heat of a self-cleaning cycle.”

Stove

“The most important part of stove maintenance is keeping it clean,” Knight says. “This is true for all types of stoves, including gas ranges, glass-top, and metal coil stovetops.” She recommends using nonabrasive cleaners on all parts of a stove.

Dishwasher

Use your dishwasher on a daily basis, or at least once every other day, says McConnell. “Components start to fail from a lack of use,” he says. “The motor assembly that builds up water pressure will seize up.” Even if you have to run the appliance empty on a shorter cycle, McConnell says it’s important to use the dishwasher on a routine basis.

Knight adds that it’s important to keep the inside of the dishwasher clean. “If there is food buildup in the bottom of the dishwasher or in the filter, it should be cleaned out immediately,” she says.

Microwave

While microwaves are extremely convenient, McConnell warns against relying on them too much. “Microwaves are not designed for long-term cooking; they’re best used for three minutes or less, but when routinely used to cook a meal, they usually fail between four and eight years, because of the magnetron, which does all the heating.” And when that component fails, McConnell says, it calls for an in-depth repair. Or more typically, a full replacement.

Knight also advises consumers to make sure they use only microwave-safe dishes. “Most people know not to put metal in a microwave, but other types of dishware can also be a problem,” she says. “Certain types of plastics will melt in a microwave, and untempered glass may shatter at high heats.”

One final tip: According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 150,000 residential fires are caused by appliances—so always make sure that you’re following the manufacturer’s guidelines for safely operating appliances.

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