Open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

How long should your major purchases last

What are your thoughts?

It’s probably time for me to proactively replace my laptop and dishwasher.  Even though they’re both still working, I’d prefer not to deal with an unexpected breakdown.


130 thoughts on “Open thread

  1. Depends on usage. My washer and dryer have lasted 14 years, but it’s just DH and me. Someone like WCE with four active kids is going to wear through the washer much faster.

  2. “If you merely skip oil changes and keep it topped off

    Ah AHHHH!!! I’m getting heart palpitation!!! Shudder…

  3. Decided to keep our 2013 SUV a few more years, after some mechanical work and a new paint job. DH is happy, as he loves the truck.

  4. They left out the single most useful preventive appliance replacement. The hot water heater which will almost always fail within a year of the warranty expiring. They must live in a location where it is routinely in a utility room or raw basement or garage and failure will not cause flood damage.

  5. I think it’s ridiculous that fridges are only supposed to last 10 years. Arr!

    I am expecting to have to replace our MDX in 2-3 years. It is 10 years old now (2008 model) and has 128K miles. We already had the timer belt and water pump replaced and the rear part of the AWD system – anyone else have one who can comment on any other longevity repairs we should be doing?

  6. Phones should last 3 years? HA! Mine always starts to slow down to the point of being unusable after 2. That’s been the case since the first iPhone,and it was true for my Samsung work phones too.

    Our desktop is 5 years old and desperately in need of replacement. We keep talking about it, but never get around to it.

    My parents’ microwave has got to be 30 years old. It’s probably emitting crazy amounts of radiation or something. And the cooktop & wall oven came with the house in the mid-80’s.

    I hope my washer/dryer last a lot longer than 10 years. They are 10 years old now. We’ve never had issues though. *knockonwood*

  7. @Meme – we just preemptively replaced our HWH this fall. It was 17 years old, not heating as well as it used to, and we did not want to deal with a flood and no hot water in a midwestern winter. It was quite possibly the most boring and unsatisfying thing I have ever spent 4 figures on in my life.

  8. L, I am surprised your MDX has needed so much work. Houston, we consider our 2013 SUV, bought on the very last day of the year, still new.

    Our laptop is more than 5 years old and maybe should have been replaced buy a thanksgiving deal. And our TV is now 10 years old. Still going strong.We had to replace our microwave and washer after 12 years.

  9. Electronic device obsolescence is one thing. Necessary Appliance replacement after 7 years as a result of motherboard failure is just wrong, IMHO.

    Of course, everything needs proper maintenance and cleaning, even a 30 dollar coffee maker. White vinegar is useful for many things. Glisten brand is inexpensive for the dishwasher disposal washer. Descal Powder I buy bulk size for small appliances and humidifiers. A small tube of food grade lubricant lasts forever and prevents rust and allies good washing to remove gunk.

  10. We bought our house 14 years ago. At that time – fridge, washer, dryer, stove/oven and microwave were new. Dishwasher we brought with us and put a new, not as fancy one in before we put the old place on the market. We have replaced the microwave and dishwasher since then.

    We had the stove/oven repaired fairly recently. It has a glitch and the internal light no longer turns on and due to its age cannot be fixed. The other issue was it just needed a new igniter for the oven. The repair person was shocked when I told him it was more than 13 years old. He said it looked and worked great for a unit that age. The washer has had a couple of repairs (one mechanical, but several door handle replacements). The door handle is a design flaw and all the models starting two years after ours have a different design. While it is going strong, I have my eye on it. The dryer has never had an issue. The fridge – well, no issues, but given the layout, we have to have a side-by-side, which I hate. I would like to have the french door on top and bottom freezer. Or, go back to a single door, but then we have to get a “counter depth” unit which is more expensive and smaller. But, with soon to be just two of us (with in the next 2.5 years) that wouldn’t be too bad.

    The older TV is roughly 10 years only and the newer one, I’d guess 5 years old. We are likely good on that front for quite some time. Especially since we had a long period through middle school where there was no TV Monday-Thursday.

    My big concern is the computer. My desktop died a while back. My partner took out the hard drives, had them recovered as best as possible and rebuilt it. It has been quirky ever since. I also have my work-issued computer, which is a laptop with an external monitor and keyboard. I am thinking of replacing my destop with a similar set up after DD#1 gets settled in college early next fall. I have a good monitor and love my keyboard even though most of the letters are worn off.

    And, her laptop lasted 3 years. I was really bummed when I had to get her a new one for senior year of HS not knowing if it will be what is needed for college. It may become mine next August.

  11. We replaced our 15+ year old water heater last summer because we figured it was only a matter of time. I found it satisfying because it was one less thing I needed to worry about. I’m pretty sure our W&D don’t have much time left. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that our 10 year old dishwasher lasts until our remodel (in 2019).

  12. Oh, sorry, I meant our 2003 MDX. Not 2013. It’s 14 years old.

    L: Our MDX needed a fair amount of work, too, but most of it was longevity related. Still expensive though. We just couldn’t find a car we liked as much, so we put another $5-6K into it (more than the car was worth) and are still driving it.

  13. I find myself replacing my computer every ~4 years. They just slow down around that point. Same for phones.

  14. We replaced a water heater a year or so ago. This house where everything was redone in a renovation in 2017, always needs something not fun to spend money on. In our first house (a 1940s bungalow) I don’t think we spent a dime on the HVAC or water heater, even though they were well past their prime, and this house it’s something every single year. Also, I hate my energy efficient washing machine that we bought 6 years ago and almost hope it dies so I can replace it with a machine that will actually get stains out.

    Dh’s car is 9 years old but only has about 40K miles on it so I’m hoping to keep it for a few more years (although I suspect he is not hoping the same thing).

  15. DD in many regions there are no basements. the hot water heater is often in a closet. And if there are two water heaters one might be upstairs. Ours is in the laundry utility room on the lower level which is finished and right next to the finished walkout rec room8 where DD lives, so a flood from that would be very bad. Same with an overflow from the dehumidifier pump.

  16. All these WH replacement stories are giving me anxiety. Ours is about 14 years old too, so are the dishwasher and refrigerator.

  17. Our water heater is in a closet that is technically in the garage, but if it were full, it would also flood the half bath downstairs and likely go into our bedroom. That is one thing I don’t know the age of, but Meme has raised it on my to do list.

    Cars – DD#1 is driving her grandmother’s car (2005 Camry with still under 50K miles after she has been driving it regularly for 18 months. SO’s car is a 2008 CRV, not sure of the mileage, but it hasn’t needed much other than the routine maintenance. His prior vehicle was 1995 pick up and was both fairly high mileage and needed some major repairs. He also wanted better gas mileage and didn’t need the hauling capacity of the truck any longer. I am the one that tends to trade vehicles more often. Various reasons from once one was stolen, damaged and repaired, it never really drove the same to not willing to put in repair cost greater than the value of the vehicle to needed a vehicle that could fit car seats safely to just how annoying some of the interior layout was.

  18. My CRV is still chugging alone nicely, now at 212k miles. I’d like to take it past 300k.

    We replaced the dishwasher this year, but all the other appliances are about 11 years old. The estimates in the article seemed a little pessimistic. Perhaps it depends on what they mean, statistically, when they say that you can “expect” something to last X years or Y thousand miles. Expect it as in that’s the median, or expect it with a 90% confidence interval? Do they even know the difference?

    What’s disappointing about our throwaway society is that there’s so little attention paid to regular maintenance. I believe it was Finn who mentioned that water heaters could last a lot longer if people were accustomed to periodically replacing their sacrificial anodes. That was something I’d never considered.

    For all the recent efforts to promote everything “STEM,” this seems like a ripe area that’s been largely ignored.

  19. It’s so weird to realize we are in replacement zone, given that we just did the remodel . . . about 10 years ago, gah. Biggest annoyance has been the microwave, which we have just replaced for the second time since the reno. Luckily, the HWHs that we installed when we moved in c. 2004 are still going strong, and the roof (which was @8 yrs old at the time) seems fine as well, except for one annoying flat spot. The stove has had some igniters go, which DH easily replaced with online parts, and now we need to figure out why it didn’t maintain temp on T-day. I suspect a new computer is in our near future, as this one is wheel-of-deathing various apps with a disturbing frequency, but it’s got to be @5 yrs old now, which in DH-land is positively stone-age.

    @Ivy: ITA. My office replaces my phone every 2 years, and that last several months is always so annoyingly slow. . . .

    Cars: we are set until DS starts driving. DH is going to keep the behemoth probably until kids are out of the house, unless something major goes wrong; we looked at new things a year ago when he was angry because the AC unit blew up and he discovered the pending timing belt replacement will run about $3K (because the $%!&#!% idiots designed it so that you have to remove the whole engine to access the belt), but prices have shot up so much for the kind of vehicles he likes that it just didn’t seem remotely worth it. So now we’ll suck up the timing belt and just hope this one lasts until we don’t need as much space any more.

  20. Add the water heater to the appliances I should replace soon. Before it leaks. BTDT and it’s not fun.

    I’m letting the dealer service department guide me on recommended oil changes and other maintenance. We’ve driven our 2-year old car less than 4,000 miles so far.

  21. Ugh, have to deal with a plagiarism case. This is the second of the semester. This one involved the final project in a database course. Two students handed in the identical database schema (right down to some weird misspellings and table names) and queries. One has already told me that it was his project work but he gave it to his buddy who was desperate. Did they think I wouldn’t notice? I have to meet with them later. Both will get 0’s but it won’t be fun.

  22. Speaking of, DH just called to say he saw water leaking on the garage walls. Hope its not a big issue.

  23. I believe water heater failures are typically due to the tank rusting out from the inside. Heaters come with a sacrificial anode rod with corrodes instead of the tank, and once that rod is gone, the tank starts corroding. The length of the heater warranty is related to the size of the anode rod. The anode rod is replaceable; my brother has replaced his multiple times.

    If you are on top of things enough to preemptively replace your water heater, you might consider just replacing the anode rod instead.

  24. ” I found it satisfying because it was one less thing I needed to worry about.”

    @Lemon – I should borrow your attitude about it. We woke up with hot water, had some guys come in and put in a new big metal tank in the utility area, and then still had hot water. But it would have been much worse if we waited until there was failure. Even the HVAC replacements have been more satisfying. A/C because the performance improvement was immediate and large. Heat because we were actually without heat for 24 hours, so there was relief to have it back.

    Our car is 11 years old, and I would like to replace it for all the new features. But then I think about the actual cost of a new car, the fact that we have had zero issues beyond maintenance, and the fact that we don’t drive a whole lot. And I change my mind.

    Our major kitchen appliances are 7 years old, I think. We’ve replaced the icemaker 3 times, but besides that – nothing. We now know how to do it ourselves & can order a new one online if we need to replace it a 4th time.

  25. I was really bummed when I had to get her a new one for senior year of HS not knowing if it will be what is needed for college.

    Unleass she is going into engineering/computer science or such, or graphic design or such, everything is online. You can use google docs to write papers so you don’t even need Word.

  26. Mooshi, I can understand giving both zeros if the one who did it willingly handed it over to the other.

    What’s your or your school’s policy of the student who actually did the work did not consent to sharing that work, e.g., the work was stolen?

  27. If replacing a water heater, consider getting a drain pan to catch any leaks before they cause damage, and a leak detector.

  28. On the water heater, unless it’s outside, anywhere it floods would be bad, even in the garage or the basement (especially a finished basement). It would never occur to me to put one on an upper floor because that’s just asking for a complete disaster if it floods.

  29. On our old HWH, we replaced the rods several times. The first time we got another year out of it. But after that, the times between the HWH failing and us having to call the plumber to replace the rods was closer and closer together, so it’s temporary solution. And, unless you just decide to do it every 6 months, to the tune of $100/pop, you have the inconvenience of the unpredictability of when you won’t have hot water and scheduling the plumber.

    I can’t recommend the tankless HWH enough.

  30. Most HWHs where we are are in the attic (no basements in the low country). I know 2 people whose flooded and caused extensive damage recently.

  31. “Mooshi, I can understand giving both zeros if the one who did it willingly handed it over to the other. ”

    Considering the one student who handed it over, is it not reasonable to show your work to another student as an example of how you decided to solve the problem or write the code? Why does he need to get a zero?

  32. In this case, the kid who did the work has already admitted to giving it to the other guy. I am actually violating the school policy by giving them 0’s. I am supposed to give them F’s for the semester. No one ever does that though.

    I am not sure right now if I can give this kid a 0 because I forgot to put into the syllabus the page and a half detailing every possible permutation of plagiarism in a computer science course. I always have that in the programming course syllabi because otherwise they whine “I didn’t know that counted as cheating”. This is why course syllabi routinely run 6 to 8 pages these days.

  33. ” I know 2 people whose flooded and caused extensive damage recently.”

    Why aren’t they located inside a small bermed area that would drain?

    Sometimes it seems as though such little thought goes into the design of homebuilding.

  34. Lark, pray tell more about your tankless water heater. What makes it so wonderful? IIRC last time I considered changing over to tankless the plumbing/labor costs deterred me.

    I have a drain pad and leak detector for my HWH, but tbh I don’t even know it it still works.

  35. I second the tankless HWH. We got ours in 2008 and love it. The only issue we had was when we put a low flow shower head on. There wasn’t enough pressure to get hot water. Once we switched back to a regular shower head, we’ve had no problems. We finished our basement in 2008 and needed more space, which is the reason we went with tankless and not for the dollar savings. We did have to put in a bigger gas line in for it. I love that we can run the dishwasher, washing machine, and shower all at the same time with no issues.

  36. I’ve had to replace two washers since we moved here, and that shouldn’t be necessary since we are a small family. The appliance guys keep telling me that appliances are only made to last five or six years. I don’t think that is true, but we don’t have issues with other appliances. I’ve had the same dryer for at least ten years. The kitchen appliances are almost since six years since they got replaced in the reno.

    We have our a/cs and heaters serviced once a year. During the vista for the heating units, they check the water heater. It also has a sticker on it with the number of years that we have left before it should be replaced. It is just a reminder from my HVAC guy so that we discuss it before we have a mess if it fails.

  37. Sometimes it seems as though such little thought goes into the design of homebuilding.

    A water heater catch pan is $13 at Home Depot. I’m not sure why they aren’t standard. You’d think insurance companies would insist on it.

  38. “I’ve had to replace two washers since we moved here, and that shouldn’t be necessary since we are a small family. The appliance guys keep telling me that appliances are only made to last five or six years.”


  39. We were mostly doing preemptive repairs on the timing belt/water pump – it was only 2K (IIRC) so seemed worth it to get a bunch more years out of the car.

    DH’s new car is already annoying me. I hate the new automatic wiper systems that “sense” rain. I like the pre-determined time intervals, darn it! Also the cupholders are not big enough for my Costco seltzer bottles.

    Our oven is going to fail soon (I posted about this before – one already did). It is 20 years old, the temp is super uneven and it either runs hot or cold but with no apparent rhyme or reason. I think the thing that will fail first is the temp selector – on a knob but digital readout, so the temp jumps randomly around and you have to spend 5 minutes fiddling with the knob to get it to settle on 350 rather than broil or 145.

  40. Has anyone bought an appliance bundle for their kitchen? My dishwasher needs replacing soonish. I have a GE profile and haven’t been pleased with it from the get go.

  41. DD – DD#1 is going to be studying electrical engineering/computer science, which is exactly why this pains me. One out of state school suggests you buy the computer through the school. It looks like its about the same price, but the benefits are (1) they set it up with all the programs and connectivity you need, (2) if yours has problems, you take it to their “shop” on campus and they give you a loaner for free while yours is being fixed/replaced, (4) the “insurance” comes in that price and (4) when you have no vehicle and you are out of state, finding and getting to a repair shop can be more challenging.

  42. Wanted to post this here, but posted in political thread.

    Going anon for this. Hypothetically speaking, if you had about 30K lying around, beyond your emergency fund, would you invest it in the market right now? I am afraid that I will end up buying high and selling low when the market inevitably crashes. I feel like a crash is around the corner. Or is it? Also, is the housing market on the bubble again? Wish I had bough in 2012 when the pricing was just right for the picking.

  43. I will end up buying high and selling low when the market inevitably crashes.

    Will you need the money in the next 5-10 years?

  44. Wish I had bough in 2012 when the pricing was just right for the picking.

    Sure, and I wish I’d bought bitcoin five years ago. You have to buy when you have the money.

  45. “A water heater catch pan is $13 at Home Depot. I’m not sure why they aren’t standard. You’d think insurance companies would insist on it.”

    I thought that they were, but maybe it depends on building code. When we bought our place, the lack of drip pan came up in the inspection, and we made the seller put one in before closing. We were told it was code to have one.

  46. Off topic – it looks like Amex, Discover and Mastercard (I’m sure Visa will follow) have announced they are ending the signature requirement. You will no longer need to sign the slip.

  47. In many multi-unit buildings, the water heater and furnace are in a utility closet within each unit.

  48. “Has anyone bought an appliance bundle for their kitchen?”

    We replaced them all at once, and we used the fact that we were buying everything to negotiate with the store – discount plus free installation/haul-away, etc. But we did not buy all the same brand or corporate family – we have a mix of brands.

  49. SNOW,

    In that case I’d keep it in cash. Alternatively, if your risk tolerance is higher you could put say 25% in the market. In that case a crash (down 50%) would mean you’ve lost 12.5% of your money.

  50. I google water heater drain pan, and it is a little thing on the bottom that prevents damage to a floor from drips and slow leaks or from high temperature. That is useless if the heater actually bursts. I got a commercial grade lifetime guarantee steel lined water heater, because we need a large one for the big tub and that size is only available for residences in a heat exchanger format that requires a lot more space around it than we have. Tankless did not work for us, and I am not entirely sure why. And Ivy is right, in modern condos each unit has its own water heater and sometimes its own furnace.

    I have been told that modern washing machines fail because of complexity and the electronics. My mom years Maytag was bought used (12 yrs old) and the family of six (and we used cloth diapers) kept it for 18 more. My post kid Kenmore with dials and old school agitator is going on 15 right now, but we don’t do much wash.

  51. “I feel like a crash is around the corner.”

    A crash is always around the corner. It’s only a question of how far away the corner is.

    That said, if you need it in 5 years, just put it in cash (CD/money market) or a very short-term bond fund. I would not go with longer bonds given the still-pretty-historically low interest rates.

  52. “I hate my energy efficient washing machine that we bought 6 years ago and almost hope it dies so I can replace it with a machine that will actually get stains out.”

    We’ve switched to always selecting “extra water” and “extra rinse cycle.” It might significantly negate the HE water savings, but it cleans much more effectively.

  53. SNOW – If Rhett advises you to leave it in cash, I would listen. He is Mr. Leverage. You could ladder some fully insured CDs – you can buy them from Fidelity or another retail brokerage house with a higher interest rate than your local bank, and they can be sold (no guarantee on getting full face price) if an emergency means you can’t hold them to maturity. Brokerage houses are giving more than 1 percent on Money Market funds, too.

  54. “You will no longer need to sign the slip”

    Does this mean the USPS can stop the stupid requirement that I have a signed credit card? Mine say “See ID”, so I have to pay cash the few times a year I’m there.

  55. I assume the connection drains into a drain or the sump pump. The problem isn’t primarily the surge when it bursts, it’s the constant flow of water into the tank then out through the hole into the basement. How do water heaters typically fail – is it a several inch gash all at once with an initial high flow rate? Or is the gash usually small enough that the flow rate can be more of less handled by the diameter of pipe at the outlet of the pan shown above.

  56. We’ve switched to always selecting “extra water” and “extra rinse cycle.”

    I never use anything other than full blast. I know people who don’t believe in the heated dry function on the dishwasher. Ewwwww….

  57. ” How do water heaters typically fail – is it a several inch gash all at once with an initial high flow rate?”

    My experience, and what I’ve heard, is that it is often a slow leak. Thus the pan and leak detector will often catch the problem before anything else is damaged.

    We don’t have a leak detector, but we do have a pan, and when our heater started leaking we noticed small amounts of rusty water in the pan.

  58. Well, Rhett, where in heavens name would I put a sump pump or a drain? The folks who have ground floor utility rooms near the garage could probably work something up cheaply. I suppose I could hire a contractor to jackhammer the slab on which my townhouse is sitting IF it is is permitted by the condo docs and a plumber to hook it all up, just as I did when I had a shower installed, but it would be a lot cheaper just to replace the water heater pro actively every ten years or do as I did and pay twice as much one time for a lifetime heater.

  59. Leaking is most common, and homeowners who are like Finn and keep an eye on things can probably catch it early. The pan helps to prevent the sort of slow damage that can cause mold in floors and drywall. But bursting and 50 gallons flooding overnight occurs often enough that I would prefer my alternative.

  60. “But bursting and 50 gallons flooding overnight occurs often enough that I would prefer my alternative.”

    Why not do both? The drain pan is cheap and will prevent or minimize damage in certain circumstances.

    I recently bought a leak detector that I installed under our fridge. We got home from visiting DS a couple months ago and were greeted by water on our kitchen floor. It took a little while to figure out that it was caused by a leaking valve in the water supply to the ice maker/water dispenser, and that water caused some damage to our nearly new cabinets.

    Fortunately, the damage is hidden by the fridge. I replaced the leaking valve, but also installed the cheap leak detector I got from Amazon, IIRC, ~$13/3 detectors. I haven’t installed the other two yet, but will put them in upstairs bathrooms, where damage from a water leak would be most severe.

    Downside to these detectors is they are battery powered and I’ll need to replace or recharge the batteries every 6 months or so. But better than nothing.

  61. Dell, it could certainly have been done as an original matter, or when I redid the bathroom that abuts the utility room, but there isn’t much available floor space so we would be stuck with placement of the drain without knowing what might happen in the future with water heater dimensions (and modern energy standards have changed everything). It never occurred to me during the reno (just like I never thought of heated floors in the upstairs bathroom), and probably would have added $2K to the bill, with high 3 figures every 10 years to replace the water heater. The forever “leak proof” water heater installed last year was $2K.

    Most modern townhomes have a bottom floor of the garage and a utility room on the side, with stairs up to the living area, and I expect that the furnace and water heater would be set in a well of some sort with a drain. We wanted one with a full walk out finished basement and have no garage.

  62. Meme,

    They sell drain pan pumps. Presumably they would snake a hose through the ceiling and tap into an existing drain.

    However, there is a better way. There is a system you can buy where you have sensors you can place around the house and if any one of them detect water, it sends a signal to the main water shutoff valve telling it to close.

  63. Finn – I like the idea of leak detectors. I will add that to my homeowner’s arsenal. We don’t have plumbing to the fridge, and the upstairs bath was completely redone with new plumbing ten years ago – just about the right time to start worrying.

  64. We are remodeling and replacing the cooktop, oven and microwave with a range and microwave. Hot water heater failure depends on the ions in your water as well as time. We have river water, so I need minimal laundry soap and water heater anodes last a long time. Flushing your hot water heater annually minimizes crud buildup that contributes to ions that deplete the anode. Ours is in the garage so flushing it isn’t a problem. We considered tankless when replacing but that would have required an expensive new gas line so retained gas water heater.

    On other appliances:
    refrigerator going strong at age 17
    dishwasher going OK at age 11: will replace when it fails/when its performance gets bad enough
    microwave: I plan to replace my new GE over-the-range microwave when its magnetron gets tired. I hope this microwave feeds my teenage boys during their upcoming growth spurts but if it gets tired of feeding them in a few years, I won’t be too upset with it. I get tired of feeding them too.
    whole house surge protector: we are subject to power blips and brown outs that are hard on electronics so we paid an extra ~$200 for a whole house surge protector as part of this remodel
    hot water heater: in the garage; when this one dies, we’ll buy and install another one from Home Depot, probably.
    furnace: no problems at age 17, will likely replace when it fails and is not cost effective to repair
    heat pump with dehumidifier: new for family room, we’ll see how it works
    washer: Speedqueen all the way baby, for people who play soccer on fields with 3″ of standing water over 3″ of existing mud
    dryer: it works and gets its vent to outside cleaned twice annually
    towel drying rack: now we have an alternative to letting the stuff that shouldn’t go in the dryer just mildew
    shoe/boot/glove/mitten dryer: next to the towel drying rack
    upright full-size freezer: the self-defrosting feature doesn’t work well so ~monthly I have to take out the bottom drawer and blowdry its ice. If I were convinced a new freezer would have any better defrosting performance, I would consider replacing it. It has had its gasket replaced at least once and it spent 3 days on life support during a startup capacitor failure but is currently working well. (freezer life support= wiring across the startup capacitor and running it for an hour every 3-8 hr to keep stuff frozen while we awaited a new startup capacitor)
    blow dryer: used solely to defrost the freezer, now that we have a dedicated shoe/boot dryer
    computers: we have them and they are getting old. 2010 iMac got new memory a year or so ago. We actually like having multiple computers just capable enough for homework but will be buying a new computer soon
    TV: we have one. It’s on about 5 hr/week so should have good longevity.
    router: we got a new one a year or so ago and it seems to hang up less often than our previous, decade-old one

  65. Dell, in our case there’s no easy place to run the line from the drain pan. Our heater is at the lowest part of our house. I just capped the outlet from the pan.

    Our heater is in a closet that has some space in front of the heater that we use to store some cleaning stuff (e.g., vacuum cleaner hose, Swiffer). We don’t use those as much as we should, but at least it means that closet does get accessed regularly, which is how I noticed the small amount of water in the pan when our tank started leaking.

    I thought about raising the tank a few inches, then putting a hole in the nearest exterior wall to run a pipe out of the house (cutting a hole in the wall), but it’s under the stairs and there isn’t much room above it.

  66. . I believe it was Finn who mentioned that water heaters could last a lot longer if people were accustomed to periodically replacing their sacrificial anodes.

    Are anodes required in a glass lined tank? I assume no but I don’t know. What are the pros and cons to glass lined vs. not.

  67. Rhett, I’ve read that the glass lining eventually cracks, so most heaters still have the anode rod to minimize rusting once that happens.

  68. “Hot water heater failure depends on the ions in your water as well as time.”

    It also depends on energy available, so if you have your heater on a timer that lets it stay cold during times of day when you don’t need hot water, that will also, in theory, extend the life of your heater. IDK whether the amount it extends it is appreciable.

  69. My ad today on here: LLBean. I’m so excited, I’ve been waiting for a promo code to order some slippers. Sometimes it’s the small things☺️

  70. “dryer: it works and gets its vent to outside cleaned twice annually”

    How often do others have their dryer vent cleaned? Ours is shared with another unit, and we have gotten it done every 4 years or so.

  71. We replaced our heater and a/c last year; they were both 26yrs old. The heater definitely needed it and the a/c probably would have gone for a couple more years, but I didn’t want the headache of a possible failure or having to do the pricing, etc. $9k after rebates and 1% cash discount I asked for. A More satisfying purchase than I would have expected. G&E costs seem to have gone down ~20% with the new units, but so much of that is weather-related and also driven by when we’re gone for vacations, etc.

    Water heater is now prob 4 yrs old; we definitely got 20+ years from the original and it just gave out. No bursting. $850.

    Our original kitchen appliances (micro, wall oven, fridge, cooktop, dishwasher) were all replaced/upgraded after we’d been here 10 yrs. The wall oven was replaced again earlier this year when it’s motherboard failed and that part was no longer available. The second dishwasher lasted maybe 10 years before we had to swap it out. We really need to replace the fridge as it gets too cold, below freezing even when we set it at 41f, if it’s not opened often enough. We know how to manage it and so we keep avoiding spending $2k on a new one.

    Washer/dryer are at least 10 yrs old and working great. Since the amount of laundry done is now dramatically reduced I expect them to keep going for a while yet.

    I though we needed a new mattress. The current one is 7yrs old and before my hip replacement (all is going great!) I woke up every morning with an aching back. Not now, but maybe that’s also the impact of the oxycodone I take far less often than the 6x/day the doc ok’d for me.

  72. Birdie, what do you mean by, “no power?”

    If you mean, no means to deliver electrical energy, then the answer is yes, you can use gas.

  73. We’ve had good luck with top loading machines recently – when our front loader had a problem, the repair guy says he only gets top loader and they almost never need repairs. I got a second washer and dryer this year (we had unused hookups in the basement, everyone was tromping into my closet to use the ones on the second floor.) . I told DH that this felt a little over-indulgent and he laughed and said, “Really? This is where you draw the line?” I suppose he thinks there are a hundred other things I do that waste more money. In any case, I think it takes a lot more machinery to make something spin on a horizontal axis than a vertical axis, and a lot more opportunity for failure.

    Almost everything in our house is new from our remodel 2 years ago. No problems, except I think our kenmore dishawasher needs a lot more pre-washing than is appropriate. I did buy the stove used. We had space for a 36in stove – it turns out a cheap, bottom of the line 36in is $1000+. The mid-range options are 3-6k. I found a 10-year old Dacor (convection oven and gas) for 1k on craigslist. It was an awkward comedy of errors to get it home (newsflash: random craigslist movers are not reliable), but it works well and is nicer than anything we’ve ever had. I didn’t know I was supposed to be frightened of how old it was.

  74. If you mean, no means to deliver electrical energy, then the answer is yes, you can use gas.

    So there is a mechanical switch that kicks it on when flow is detected and it has a pilot light?

  75. “I clean out our dryer vent to the best of my ability 2-3x/yr.”

    I vacuum out the dryer itself, but calling someone in with the huge power vac to hit the whole building vent is more like every 4 years.

  76. “No electricity. Like is there a pilot or backup battery or something.”

    From what I’m reading, there’s no pilot light, and the control board is electrically operated. So the answer would be no, you won’t have hot water without electrical power.

  77. The circuit board and controller for a tankless hot water heater typically rely on 120 V AC so with a typical unit, you wouldn’t have hot water during a power outage, from what I remember/read.

  78. I never had my dryer vent cleaned (professionally cleaned/vacuumed the entire hose) and when I replaced my dryer last year I expected to see lint build-up but it was clean as a whistle. Now I just use a long brush to reach into the hose from the dryer about once a month.

  79. I’m curious how the energy costs of a tankless hot water heater compare with other options.

    The big advantage of a tankless in this respect would seem to be not expending energy keeping water hot when not needed. (I believe tankless sytems are common in Asia largely because they take so much less space.)

    A solar system that relies purely on solar energy would obviously have lower energy costs. But heat pumps, or heat-pump assisted, systems, and also integrated HVAC systems that capture heat being dumped from AC would seem to have an edge over tankless sytems.

  80. “you won’t have hot water without electrical power.” — Definitely a downside to a tankless HWH.

  81. Does this mean the USPS can stop the stupid requirement that I have a signed credit card? Mine say “See ID”, so I have to pay cash the few times a year I’m there.

    It’s a violation of the merchant agreement to ask for ID.

  82. “you won’t have hot water without electrical power.” — Definitely a downside to a tankless HWH.

    How often does your power go out that this would be an issue?

    And how often have people actually had a water heater burst?

  83. “How often does your power go out that this would be an issue?”

    If it does, perhaps an UPS would facilitate continued hot water delivery during such outages. My guess is the the electrical draw of a gas tankless heater is pretty low.

  84. Our power seems to go out about every other year. We have lots of trees on our street. Falling branches often hit power lines and knock power out.

    I have bad water damage karma, starting back years ago when an overflowing bathtub from the apartment above me leaked water ALL OVER my apartment and ruined my stuff, triggering a mildewy roach disaster. About 8 years ago we returned home from dinner to find our basement flooded from a burst HWH. It was still under warranty. We considered ourselves lucky because we had just returned from a 10-day trip. I have several other water leak stories from over the years, including one about three years ago.

  85. We have a Speed Queen washer and dryer – love them. The dryer lint collector is screwed down so very little lint collects. My husband checks the outside vent every so often and cleans it out as needed.

  86. Birdie, when you have an electric outage just as you’re about to take a shower, do you proceed with your shower in the dark?

  87. Finn – yes, as I have some windows in my shower so it is bright enough in the day. I have done it at night, too, in a pinch. But that isn’t ideal.

  88. Any classic road trip books to recommend to an acquaintance from India who is likely getting her first U.S. driver’s license tomorrow?

  89. We went to tankless water heater and have no issues. We are going to get a whole house generator because we are on a tiny part of a grid that loses electricity in bad weather.
    We replaced our fridge, microwave and dishwasher at around 10 years. The cooktop needs replacing as well. The dryer has needed cleaning periodically. If it
    My car didn’t have many thousands of miles but was very basic and seemed to be requiring more repairs, even though it was well maintained. I had to make my peace over trading in my car.

  90. Louise – have you started down the road of doing the generator? We were going to get one, but it was too expensive for our house (and we are already prewired for it, but that didn’t seem to save us too much money).

  91. Birdie – you can do a cheap option for a nearly whole house generator with a roughly 7kW or 8kW portable one, and feed it into the electrical breaker panel.

    It won’t auto start and transfer, but it works.

  92. Birdie – DH has looked into getting us a whole house one. You could get away with the cheaper option as Milo suggested. We were without power for a number of days post hurricane Irma. The irony was that our state not directly impacted. It gave us a good idea of what sort of generator would suit our multigenerational household.

  93. Louise and Birdie, any thought about a PV system and some Powerwall or other batteries?

    Such a system would be expensive up front, but there may still be tax credits to offset some of that cost. And once past the up front cost, such a system would save you money regularly, as opposed to a generator which will continue to be a money sink, requiring spending on fuel and maintenance.

  94. I will look into that, Milo. I am a little afraid I might blow us up or carbon monoxide us. And I really wanted one that would kick on automatically (one of my big concerns is making sure the sump pump works, especially if we are gone during an extended power outage).

    Finn – I have no idea where to even start with that.

  95. On one hand, it’s very simple. Wheel it out of the garage, plug it in. On the other hand…well, if the power goes out while I’m at work, DW waits for me to get home to start the generator. So, I’d say it depends on your personal level of comfort with engines and breakers.

    You can probably get an automatic whole-house one installed for under $10k that would be supplied by your natural gas line.

    I wouldn’t rely on solar and battery banks for emergency power, as power outages tend to correlate with non-sunny weather.

  96. Although, one setup I could imagine Finn supporting would be the solar and battery banks, plus a small, probably hand carried gasoline generator of about 2kW to keep the batteries topped off.
    Then the batteries could meet the cycling surge demands of something like a sump pump. But you’re going to be doing some active power management that way.

  97. @Finn: This was my favorite version of that:

    In fact, this was my favorite Mythbusters ever.

  98. The estimates that I was getting were $18-20k. I have no idea why. The gas line is capped off right next to the concrete slab where the generator should go. I ended up just getting some extra ins for the basement/contents in case the sump pump fails.

  99. I ended up just getting some extra ins for the basement/contents in case the sump pump fails.

    You can buy a backup battery for less than $200 that will give you 48 hours worth of pumping.

  100. We have a backup battery, but my understanding is that they don’t work very long and it will likely be dead when I need it to work.

  101. Such a system would be expensive up front, but there may still be tax credits to offset some of that cost.

    Double check this, though. I was super annoyed that the tax credits for a hybrid vehicle in 2006 didn’t apply to us because of our income level.

    We’re listening to a sales pitch from a new solar panel vendor in town. She was also talking about the tax credit, but I’m going to have to check with our accountant. Solar does make a lot of sense in Denver where we have sun so much of the time.

  102. FIL is so concerned about basement sump pumps, they have multiple sumps with, obviously, separate pumps. And they have an automatic whole-house generator.

    Additionally, he has attachments for a portable drill that turns it into a hand-held pump. You can use a battery-powered drill, and you can charge the batteries from the 110 VAC outlet in the car.

    Given their location on the water, if/when the water comes, it comes fast (even from the ground). In fact, the basement is designed with vents above the ground level that are designed to let in surface floodwater, working on the idea that it’s better to let the water equalize pressure on both sides of the basement walls rather than have that much hydrostatic pressure only on the outside pushing the walls in.

  103. We should have solar but no one here has installed it. We do have car recharging stations, so we have some alternative energy push.
    My new office building is very green. No paper cups or plates, no plastic ware and limited paper napkins in the pantry. Also, no soda in the vending machine and no snack machines. Only water, flavored water, coconut water in the drink machine.

  104. Milo – you should see the Grand Designs house where they built on the Thames and how the house will float instead of flooding.

  105. Birdie while no one wants to be ripped off by a contractor (see my emergency hvac replacement two years ago) one of the advantages of prosperity is that you can simply choose to pay the upcharge for security and comfort. The aggravation of our basement flood and unplanned mini reno was fairly short even for displaced DD, but having it mostly covered by insurance would have had zero effect on our increased well being. If you want a full house generator, I believe your family can afford the premium pricing. And like me who also grew up modestly, you can continue to save discarded printouts for scrap paper or make stock from your Costco roast chicken carcass or whatever thriftiness offsets you have to make you feel less wanton

  106. It is concerning to me, too. At both of our houses here, I hear(d) the sump pump working fairly regularly. Compared to my parents who say in the 35+ years that they have lived in their house, it has never run and they have never had any problems. Someone told me that a high water table and type of soil here is the reason.

  107. Meme – you are probably right. It just pisses me off that they are trying to rip me off, probably because I am a woman. My husband just has no time or desire to deal with it.

  108. “probably because I am a woman”

    I’d guess it has more to do with your address. Your DH wouldn’t fare much better.

  109. Rocky, we had solar installed about 7 years ago. It’s a lease deal with no money down. It’s awesome. I have no idea about the tax credits, solar city got them whatever they were because they own the system. We pay a flat monthly fee to them and they guarantee us a certain amount of electricity and anything over that is a bonus. If it comes up short, we get a refund for deficit.

  110. We have a back up like the one Rhett mentioned. It works well. Our sump pump runs frequently and the backup float triggers the backup pump if the main pump does not lower the level of water either because the pump fails or because electricity goes out. Periodically, the battery will discharge and recharge itself. I do not have a feel for how long the pump would pump on battery alone.

  111. I went to visit some HS friends in Iowa last weekend, and we went to check out one friend’s new house currently toward the end of construction. There were a LOT of solar panels in that neighborhood. I was kind of surprised, because I don’t think of Eastern Iowa as being big into solar, but the neighborhood looked like Rocky’s with solar panels on over 50% of the houses. Of course, Iowa is huge into wind power too.

    ” And like me who also grew up modestly, you can continue to save discarded printouts for scrap paper or make stock from your Costco roast chicken carcass or whatever thriftiness offsets you have to make you feel less wanton”


  112. In my neck of the woods, they put the hot water heaters in the attic. It makes me nuts! So we try to replace them preemptively, and have not had a problem. But I know so many people whose water heaters have burst and they end up having to replace a bunch of ceiling and sheet rock, and sometimes also flooring. It seems like such a ridiculously bad design. On top of that, I seem to get repairman that are 400 pounds, so I’ve got two of those guys plus the hot water tank on those flimsy attic stairs and I’m always thinking someone’s going to break their neck.

    Our LG washer is on about its 12th year, but the rest of the appliances are new with this house. We service the air conditioning regularly in the hopes that it will last longer than the typical life.

    Blanket disclaimer: I’m using dictation on my phone, and it keeps sticking an apostrophe in before every S. If you see these regularly from me, please know that I’m not irrationally enamired of the ‘, I’m just having trouble proofreading on my phone screen

  113. “The estimates that I was getting were $18-20k.”

    If you’re willing to spend that much on a generator, I think you should take a look at PV with backup batteries, especially if you mainly need it to keep your sump pump running and to allow you to take showers during outages.

    If you’ve not had basement flooding issues without a generator, then the HD pump Rhett linked might be all you need.

    The main downsides to PV as a backup to utility-supplied electricity are its vulnerability to weather events and upfront costs, although if you get a leased system like DD, the upfront costs go away.

    Given the rationale for the backup, a leased PV/battery system might be your best option, perhaps combined with the battery powered pump in case a weather event takes out your PV. No upfront costs, no ongoing costs, and no running out of fuel if there is an extended outage.

  114. “I have no idea where to even start with that.”

    You could start by googling something like, “photovoltaic system lease birdieland.” Or leave out the lease part if you want to consider buying it (I suggest you consider both options).

    BTW, another advantage of a PV/battery system is that it should be seamless to you, as compared to Milo’s suggestion of a portable generator. That would be especially important if there’s an extended outage while you’re away, and your basement is at risk of flooding if the pump doesn’t run during that time.

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