Everything has an expiration date except, perhaps, plastic bottles.
We've compiled a list of typical home appliances and their average lifespans so you can keep an eye on your replacement needs and budget.
It is also a good idea to know when you could expect issues with appliances that utilize water or gas to avoid additional costly repair expenses should they fail.
If you don't know in what year your appliance was made, you can go to the manufacturer's website and check how they code their serial numbers, which, with a little effort, will tell you the month and year your appliance came off the assembly line. We've included an example in the water heater section as a reference.
Also, keep this rule of thumb in mind with all of your appliances: if the cost of a repair exceeds roughly half of the original cost of the appliance or of a replacement unit, you should skip the repair and buy a new one.
Here's a quick chart of the appliances we cover in this article and how many years you can expect to use them:
8 – 10 years
Ten years is the age at which water heater replacement is generally recommended. In fact, experts say that whether or not your unit is displaying symptoms, you should replace it once a decade has passed from the manufacture date.
Signs of a bad water heater are obvious: rust either on the tank or in the water, unusual noise, leaks, or failure to heat water. Gas water heaters have a shorter life span of 7-8 years and should be monitored toward the end of this cycle as gas leaks present even greater risk.
You can determine the age of your water heater by looking at the serial number. Let's use the serial number G061193740.
The letter at the start of the number is code for the month of the year based on where it falls numerically in the alphabet. For example, a number that begins with G would equate to 7, which is July. A letter D would equate to 4, which is April.
The first numbers that follow the letter represent the last two-digit(s) of the year. In this case, the 06 indicates the unit was made in 2006.
So this serial number indicates the unit was made in July 2006. A serial number of J15932100 would mean the appliance was manufactured in October 2015
Refrigerator and Freezer
Excessive condensation and excessive heat at the back of the unit, and food that spoils quickly are indications that your refrigerator isn’t running correctly. Condensation results from failing seals; excessive heat may mean that your motor is failing or that coils need to be replaced; spoiling food indicates the fridge cannot maintain the right temperature. If your appliance has to work harder to keep your food fresh, your energy bill and the cost of wasted food may outweigh the cost of a new refrigerator.
Range or Stove
Good everyday care will help extend the useful life of a stove. Cleaning after every use and regularly checking burners are simple steps you can take to keep your appliance in top form.
Gas ranges have a 2-year advantage over electric models and heat more evenly and efficiently.
Anything that can cause a fire should be carefully monitored. The biggest indicator that your appliance isn’t working well is that it takes too long to heat up properly. For gas stoves, if the flame isn’t blue or flickers from red to yellow, it is either time to clean the grates and burner caps or replace them. If the buttons malfunction or there is a crack in a glass top unit or door, the device isn’t safe to use.
Replacement parts on most appliances are only available for 10 years, so if your stove or range is nearing the end of its decade, it may be time to consider a replacement, so you are not inconvenienced should it suddenly fail.
Routine cleaning will help extend the life of your exhaust fans, but they won't last forever. The average life of a bathroom exhaust fan is about ten years, and kitchen hood fans tend to hang in there a little longer, at around 15 years.
Look out for fans that are slow to start or make grinding or whining noises. A simple belt replacement may be the solution, but overheating or a burning electrical smell are indications of bigger issues that need to be addressed quickly with a repair or new unit.
Between 10-13 years
Water is the number one cause of most home insurance claims and is the largest claim category at Mutual Assurance. If you have to rinse your dishes to avoid streaks and residue that didn’t appear before, your appliance may have dirty filters or is not rinsing or drying effectively.
You should monitor your machine for strange noises, overheating, overcooling, leaks, or strange smells. These are all signs that the unit is not operating as it should.
Between 10 - 12 years
If you use your microwave daily, ten to twelve years may seem like a stretch. These workhorses of the kitchen are relatively inexpensive and are being made to be more efficient every year.
Monitor your device for smoke, uneven cooking, sparks, and burning smells. Touchpads can also go bad and cause shorts or over/undercooking. It is worth it to buy a new one if it breaks down, rather than trying to repair it because of its low price point.
Washer & Dryer
Between 10 - 11 years
Leaks, broken belts, rust, noise, and frequent off-balance issues are good signs that your machine is reaching the end of its life cycle. To test the off-balance issue, run smaller loads and see if it persists. Replacing the tension feet is an easy fix, but look at the cost for parts and labor and compare it to a replacement cost if you are close to the decade figure.
A common dryer issue is a broken drum belt and can easily and quickly be replaced. Burning smells could be a vent issue or an overheating coil. Fires from clogged vents are a common dryer issue and should always be addressed quickly.
Efficiency is also a consideration with units that are close to 10 years old. Weigh the costs of power when considering repair or replacement.
If you use your coffee maker every day, several times a day, it will, of course, wear out faster. If your machine is working fine at 5 years, there is no need to replace it, but there are signs that it may be time to research a new machine. Keep an eye out for warm but not hot water, loud pump sounds, and leaks. It isn't worth it to try and repair most coffee makers unless you have a top-of-the-line Breville Barista or Technivorm Moccamaster.
8 - 12 years
Proper use and cleaning will keep your disposal lasting longer than a decade. Keeping grease, bones, pasta, eggshells, potato peels, and fibrous veggies out of it will keep the blades sharp and the gaskets moving smoothly.
Check for leaks and bad smells. Leaks will indicate a failed seal or dislocation, while smells will mean the food isn’t getting cleared sufficiently, and a thorough cleaning is in order. As the unit approaches a decade old, replacement rather than repair is be advisable as parts may be hard to find.
Furnace, Heater, Ventilator, HVAC
15 - 25 years.
With regular maintenance and proper use, most components of these systems will work well into two decades. Furnaces usually cap out at 20 years, heat pumps at 16 years, and air conditioning units at 15 years.
Tankless water heaters tied into heating systems will last more than 20 years.
Monitor your units for the time it takes to heat or cool a room, keeping in mind that you are not only cooling or heating the air but also the carpets, walls, furniture, curtains, etc. These items retain their own temperature based on the air around them, so if you have turned off your air conditioning during the day, for example, it will take longer and require more energy to cool everything off.
Leaks, freezing coils, the smell of melting plastic, and odd noises are indications that a unit is failing. Another rule of thumb for these big-ticket items is that if you have to make more than 2 repairs in one season, it is time to replace your units.
Thermostats have a life cycle of 35 years. With the improvements and technological advances being made, these are typically replaced far sooner.
Garage Door Opener
When a garage door opener goes, you know it. Seeing your door stop rising at 4 feet off the ground is a sure sign it is ready for repair or replacement. Keeping your unit’s chains oiled and clean will help prolong its life.
According to Consumer Reports, a typical vacuum lasts only 8 years. Of course, homeowners who inherited their mother's 20th Century Electrolux machines may beg to differ, but more modern vacuums have more breakable plastic parts.
The brand and personal use also determine a machine's longevity. If you live in a 1200 square foot house with no pets, your machine will last longer than your neighbor who has a 4 bedroom house with 3 dogs.
Suction issues, overheating, loud whining, and bad switches should be carefully monitored to avoid a potential fire hazard. Blockage removal and a good cleaning may rectify any issues, but carefully weigh the cost of a repair against the cost of a new machine.
Sources: AD, TOH,