How long should appliances last?

Written on September 19, 2017 by

If you’re a landlord striving to keep your rental operations in the black, you can’t plan on luck. It’s better to base your financial projections on average appliance lifetime.

For most appliances, the life expectancy is between 8-10 years, although some, such as freezers and furnaces, last twice as long.

New appliances usually carry a three-month to one-year warranty, and most manufacturers sell extended warranties that last from three to five years.

Appliance service lives vary

The thermostat is the longest-lasting home appliance. It does its job for 35 years, on average, while the furnace it controls usually needs replacing after 15 or 20 years, depending on the fuel it uses. Gas appliances tend to last longer than electric ones.

You can find a complete list of life expectancy for most appliances below. This list can help you make good financial decisions when equipping your rental.

ApplianceLife Expectancy (years)
Air Conditioners (room)10
Air Conditioners (central)15
Boilers (electric)13
Boilers (gas)21
Dryers (electric and gas)13
Furnaces (electric warm air)15
Furnaces (gas warm air)18
Furnaces (oil warm air)20
Garbage Disposers12
Microwave Ovens9
Range/Oven Hoods14
Ranges (electric)13
Ranges (gas)15
Refrigerators (compact)9
Washing Machines10
Water Heaters (electric)11
Water Heaters (gas)10
Water Heaters (tankless)20+

Get rid of the trash compactor

Trash compactors have the shortest life expectancies of all appliances—only six years. If you have purchased a rental with one of these semi-useful units already installed, it may already be nonfunctional. Instead of replacing it, it might make more sense to remove it and increase storage space by adding a cabinet. Every kitchen can use more storage. Even if the compactor is working, it’s probably a good idea to remove it before offering the rental. That way, you won’t be contractually obligated to replace it when it fails in a few years.

Forget the compact refrigerator

Providing tenants with a compact refrigerator instead of a full-sized one may seem like a money-saving strategy, but the reality is just the opposite. Full-size refrigerators typically last four to five years longer than compact ones, and they use less energy.

Beating the odds

Nothing is perfect. The average dishwasher, refrigerator, washer, and dryer are full of small parts that can fail at any time, and some of them inevitably do. Whether or not a part failure leads to a chain reaction that necessitates replacement of the appliance is partly a matter of luck. You can minimize the luck factor by good shopping and maintenance practices.

Related: The ultimate guide to normal wear and tear

Go with reliable brands

Appliances are like cars: some are notoriously unreliable while others have a reputation for going the distance and then some. A little research can help you get the best value when you’re buying appliances for a rental unit. For example, one appliance repair service identifies Whirlpool as the most reliable manufacturer of kitchen and laundry appliances.

Home Energy Pros gives top kudos to Amana for reliability and efficiency when it comes to gas furnaces. Local appliance pros are great sources of information, recommendations, and warnings. Use them.

Perform regular tune-ups

Just as a regular tune-up adds extra miles to your car, regular maintenance can add years of service to certain appliances. A refrigerator or freezer might be able to handle a certain amount of neglect, but appliances with moving parts, such as washing machines, dryers, and furnace blowers, can suffer damage if not properly maintained. A maintenance checklist for landlords and property managers should include the following:

  • Clean or replace the furnace filters yearly. When the filters are dirty, the furnace blower has to work harder and may wear out prematurely.
  • Clean the dryer vents twice a year. Lint buildup in the dryer overheats the motor and can overworks it. The dryer takes longer to do its job, giving the appearance that it’s on its last legs. More important, lint buildup can cause a fire.
  • Re-level the washing machine periodically. Washing machines tend to move around during the spin cycle and can go off level. When this happens, the agitator works harder, and the motor and belts wear out.
  • Clean the refrigerator coils yearly. Dust buildup on the condenser coils overheats the condenser motor and causes poor performance and premature failure.
  • Check the gaskets on the refrigerator, freezer, and dishwasher. Worn gaskets can raise the temperature in the refrigerator or freezer, making the condenser work harder. They can also cause leaks from the dishwasher.

Learn how to repair your appliances

Appliance failures are often due to simple problems that landlords and property managers can handle in an hour or two when they have a basic set of tools, a manual, and a relevant YouTube video.

Blown fuses, control panels, and worn belts are the most common problems. Whether you do the repair yourself or get a pro to do it, you could add three to five years of service life to an appliance. It’s an easy way to save on the cost of a new appliance.

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