December turned into one costly month budget-wise. And what about Earth-wise? You’d think that fixing something old would be automatically better than buying something new. But, actually, when it comes to the life cycle analysis of most appliances — or their cradle-to-grave environmental impact — it turns out it’s the use of an appliance that has the biggest impact. Which means if your refrigerator is a shade of ‘70s avocado, you’ll step lighter on the planet if you embrace the energy efficiency of the 21st Century.
While there are a lot of variables to consider, here are some tips to help you decide whether to repair a broken appliance or replace it:
- Find out how much of an energy- and water-guzzler you have on your hands and compare that to a new model with online calculators from Consumer Reports Greener Choices.
- If your appliance is nearing the end of its average life expectancy (17 years for refrigerators and 14 years for dryers and hot water heaters, according to the Seattle City Light Conservation), it’s probably best to switch it out. Today’s refrigerators, for example, use half the energy of 10-year-old models.
- A simple rule of thumb: If the repair will cost more than half the price of a new, more efficient model, it may be time to do some shopping, says Green Living magazine.
- If you end up replacing an appliance, be sure to recycle the old one.
For us, the course of action was clear. The dryer had been damaging our clothes since we inherited it with the house, and it was at least 15 years old. This latest problem was just the writing on the wall that we needed to convince us to finally get a new one. We got the highest energy rating we could find on appliances within our price range. But, with the 5-year-old fridge, a $125 repair did the trick.
Hopefully our choices made the Earth — and the appliance gods — happy.
Learn more ways to green your home with Danny Seo’s Simple Steps to a Greener Home video on GaiamTV.com.