As consumers, growing concern regarding climate change and our own carbon footprint is making us consider some choices differently. When an appliance breaks down, deciding whether to repair it or to buy a new one is no longer just about money. Which is the more eco-responsible option? Here are some ideas to help you figure it out.

The environmental impact of discarded appliances

According to Québec Sciencemagazine, Quebecers produce approximately 170,000 tons of electrical and electronic waste every year—a total which includes appliances. The circuit boards necessary for most modern features require metals like nickel, beryllium and zinc, which are highly toxic for the environment if not disposed of properly.

Is the appliance covered by warranty?

The first thing to check is whether or not the appliance is still under warranty. If that’s the case, maybe a manufacturing defect somehow eluded quality control and after a quick repair, the equipment could work like new. Contact the manufacturer to see if replacement parts and labour are covered.

Appliances lifespan

Even though today’s appliances don’t last like they used to, their average lifespan remains around ten years.

  • Washer: 10 years
  • Dryer: 13 years
  • Refrigerator: 13 years
  • Dishwasher: 9 years
  • Cooking range: 13 to 15 years

Source : Consumer Reports

Their durability can vary depending on the brand and the level of maintenance provided. If a refrigerator breaks down after only 5 or 6 years, repairing is usually the right choice: on average, the appliance should last another 7 or 8 years.

The amount of usage can also influence this decision. A single person or a couple can generally expect their washer to last longer than a large family using it much more intensively, and could decide to go through with a repair even after 7 or 8 years.

New appliances and energy efficiency

f the equipment is an older model without Energy Star Certification, now could be a good time to replace it with a more recent one providing better energy efficiency. According to Hydro-Québec, a full range of appliances (including refrigerator, freezer, cooking range, dishwasher, washer and dryer) from 2010 requires 50% less energy than a similar bundle of 1990 appliances: the difference is huge!

Repair or replace: the 50% Rule

The choice of repairing or replacing remains personal, but the “50% Rule” can provide a starting point. From a strictly financial point of view, if an appliance have gone through 50% of its lifespan, and the cost of repairs would represent more than 50% of the price of a new model, it’s usually better to replace it entirely. But if reducing your carbon footprint is important to you, you could bend the rule and decide to switch only once past the 75% mark, for example.