They don’t build home appliances like they used to. New appliances have more features, more parts, more computers, cheaper construction, less reliability, major design changes every year and obsolete parts after 3-5 years. Home appliances are gradually becoming disposable machines. Every brand–even the “high-end” expensive brands–are going in this direction. In 5-10 years home appliance repair service will sound as antiquated as asking the local cobbler to outfit your shoes with new soles.
Is that what we want? To stuff our landfills with washers and dryers and refrigerators, constantly mining more and more raw materials to build new machines? Planned obsolescence might have motivated us to replace our 1990’s energy hogs, but now we’re buying new machines that are no more efficient than the old ones.
A 20-year-old appliance should be a minimum. We’ve done it before and there’s no reason we can’t do it again. Given the surprising developments in materials and engineering, your next fridge or dishwasher could be in your home for as long as you want it. And when it’s time to remodel, your half-lived machines can be refurbished, re-sold and reused for decades after.
Besides saving the planet, long-lived machines that rarely break down also mean a lower cost of ownership for homeowners, landlords, property management companies, hotels and laundromats. We will design the machines with reliable, inexpensive, modular, off-the-shelf components that are consistent across the brand and across the years. Any future efficiency upgrades will be retro-compatible. By using fewer distinct parts, a repair technician will be more likely to have replacement parts on the first visit; this means your fridge or dishwasher gets fixed sooner and less expensively, and you will not need to take extra days off work to meet your technician.
Twenty-seven years ago Maytag built my washing machine. Last week I replaced the motor for $85.00. This is the first time my washer needed a repair. I received the washer 15 years ago when I was an unemployed single dad. My washer has seen the inside of five homes, and the family who gave it to me has replaced their new washer already.
So here’s what we’re going to do:
Manufacture a million machines a month to initiate a change in the home appliance industry.
And here’s how we’re going to get there:
Step 1: Run a Kickstarter campaign, where we will pre-sell new machines for $500 each (and accept donations as well). The machines are designed to have an indefinite lifespan, where repairs are always cost-effective, no matter what the age of the machine.
Step 2: We will hire engineers to design the machines to our specifications, with the key metric being the lowest cost of ownership. Then we get the machines UL listed and begin manufacturing immediately. Initially, contract manufacturing will be used to get the machines in customers’ homes as soon as possible. The estimated timeline is 24 months after the Kickstarter campaign is finished.
Step 3: As early as possible, we’ll assemble a manufacturing facility in Southeastern Wisconsin capable of producing a million machines each month.
Why so many? Currently six million home appliances are sold each month in the U.S. One million per month is enough to cut into the profits of the other manufacturers, with the intention of inspiring them to change their business model. Changing the industry is the goal. Appliances that never need to be replaced is a side-effect.
Click here to drive a nail in the coffin of planned obsolescence.