How Does Extra Time at Home Affect the Life of Your Appliances?

Staying home 24/7 may be stressful for you — and your home's appliances.

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Stay-at-home orders concentrate the wear and tear of daily living on your home, instead of dispersing it among schools and workplaces. Unfortunately, many of your appliances bear the brunt. We talked to Brent Wasieleski, lead technician at Watson Appliance in Stillwater, Minn., about how the extra time at home affects each appliance’s lifespan.

Refrigerator

Opening, closing. Opening, closing. Opening, closing. All the extra in-and-outs allows more cool air to escape, and your refrigerator must work harder to compensate, potentially shortening its projected seven-year lifespan. Just do your best to open the refrigerator only when necessary. When you do, close it again as soon as possible.

Dishwasher

Like a refrigerator, dishwashers tend to last about seven years on average. More meals at home translate to more work for the dishwasher.

Now more than ever, wait to run it until it’s full. Keep soap use to the manufacturer’s recommendation of about one tablespoon. And when scraping dishes, focus on the chunky stuff and leave the rest. The detergent needs something to act on during the cycle or it causes more wear on the seals and gaskets.

Microwave

As an electronic appliance, your microwave will last about six years, and that doesn’t change much based on use. Of course, anyone can push things far beyond reasonable limits. But in general, unless you’re suddenly and regularly cooking entire meals in the microwave, the additional workload shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

Range

Ranges, ovens and cooktops tend to last 10 years or more and usually ugly out before they wear out. As with the microwave, your range should be able to handle the additional use without it affecting its overall lifespan. Whew!

Washing Machine

A washing machine, which typically lasts five to seven years, is probably the appliance most affected by additional use, which stresses the bearings, seals and motor. If your workwear is largely dry-cleaned, and now you’re wearing jeans and other home-washables daily, this may well be the case.

On the other hand, you may be using it less if you’re repeating outfits more than usual, or if the kids tend to stay in their jammies all day. Save your washer from the extra wear by using towels more than once and wearing jeans and pullovers a second time before washing. As with the dishwasher, clean full loads rather than partials.

Dryer

A typical dryer tends to last a little longer than a washing machine, often seven to 10 years, and any extra washer time probably comes with extra dryer time, too. The constant heat generated by the appliance is its worst enemy. Avoid additional stress on the machine by cleaning the lint trap after every load, using cool air to dry when possible, and taking advantage of fresh air and sunshine to do the job.

Water Heater

Although it’s hidden away from daily sight, extra use from additional piles of dirty dishes and excessive-but-necessary hand washing takes a toll on your water heater. Believe it or not, water is a corrosive material. The more water through the tank, the more it affects the tank and heating element.

Do your best to limit its load. Run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads; wash as many clothes as possible in cold (always rinse in cold, too); and keep shower length to seven minutes or fewer.