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Ken's Weekly E-Tip: Is It Time To Replace My Refrigerator

Is It Time To Replace My Refrigerator?

Your refrigerator operates when you're at home, sleeping or away at work. A good refrigerator can last for years, but at some point all refrigerators begin to break down. Many factors go into deciding whether to repair or replace.

 

Age

Most refrigerators can last 10 to 20 years. Consider repair if it is less than 8 years old. If the refrigerator is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it. If the fridge is between eight and 15 years old, you must take other factors into consideration such as type of refrigerator and efficiency. 

 

Type of Refrigerator  

Some types of refrigerators are more difficult and costly to repair than others. For instance, built-in refrigerators are usually less expensive to repair, according to Consumer Reports, but side-by-side refrigerators may be good candidates for replacement if they are well over 5 years old. Faulty bottom freezers should be repaired within seven years and considered for replacement after that. Faulty top freezers should usually be replaced if more than 7 years old.

 

Energy Efficiency

Your refrigerator can cost you money in more ways than just repairs. You could be sucking up unnecessary power and facing high electric bills. A 10-year-old fridge uses twice the energy of an Energy Star-related fridge, according to the Energy Star website. If you have an old refrigerator, you may want to invest in an Energy Star rated refrigerator just to cut back on electricity usage and costs. This can benefit your wallet and the environment. The type of fridge also makes a difference in terms of energy usage. For instance, manual defrost units use less energy than automatic defrost units, if properly maintained, and units with top-mounted freezers typically use less energy than units with bottom freezers or side freezers.

 

Overall Assessment

The amount of damage to your current unit must also be considered. Does the freezer keep ice cream frozen? Do the door gaskets leak? If you have multiple faulty parts or if the unit is just very old, it's time to replace. If you still have an extended service plan or warranty in effect, always try to make a claim before throwing out the fridge, but if you have had the unit for close to a decade or more, you most likely have no active warranties. If you still can't decide, contact an appliance repair expert for an estimate. You can then determine whether the cost of repair would justify keeping your current unit or investing in a new one.

 

Buying A New Fridge

Here are some ideas to ponder if you decide it is better to retire "Old Betsy" (remember that moving the old unit to the garage or hunting camp will only continue the cycle of high energy bills):

How do you use the fridge - If you use the freezer at least as much as the fridge, a top-freezer arrangement may work better. Otherwise, a bottom freezer puts fresh foods in a more easy-to-reach location.

Useful features - Do you want an ice maker or water dispenser? Although quite handy, they will eventually have service issues down the road.

Well-lit interior - Some models have additional lights in the freezer or produce bins.

Durable construction - Look for a well-balanced and sturdy feel to the doors.  Shelving should not be flimsy.

An Energy Star Rating - Energy Star rated models use 20 percent less than standard models. Always check the yellow energy guide label attached to all units for operating costs. You may save money upfront on a cheaper model, but life-time operating costs can take away your initial savings.The lifetime cost of a fridge includes not just the price you pay upfront, but also the cost of the energy it uses. To compare the energy costs of different models, check their yellow energy guide label. Don't go by the Energy Star certification alone; Energy Star standards vary depending on the type and size of the refrigerator. Thus, a large side-by-side model with an Energy Star rating might actually use more energy than a smaller top-freezer fridge without one. The energy guide label, by contrast, estimates energy usage in both kilowatt-hours per year and dollars per year. 

Straightforward controls - Operating controls located up front make it easier to use. Controls in the rear may call for rearranging food just to reach them.

Easy-to-clean surfaces - Glass shelves, as opposed to wire ones, makes spills easier to clean.

Stylish looks - Most refrigerators come in a wide range of colors from basic white to stainless steel.

Measure your space carefully - Shop with a tape measure and check height, width, depth, and door-swing clearance. Check the direction of the door swing, too, and make sure the refrigerator you choose opens in the direction that works best for your space (or has a reversible door). Don't forget to measure the path to and from your kitchen to make sure your chosen fridge can make it through the doorway.

Bigger is not always better - The larger the fridge , the more it costs to operate. Usually 25 cubic feet or less will cover most family needs.

Skip the extended warranty - Most products are unlikely to break during the extended warranty period.

Now is a good time to purchase a new refrigerator with any tax refunds you may be receiving. Don't be afraid to negotiate prices when shopping. Here is a link to some of the best buys out there. Happy shopping!

 

Earn $25 Bill Credit

Let CEC install a load control device on your electric water heater and earn a $25 one-time bill credit and a monthly $2.50 bill credit. Load management helps stabilize future power costs. Over $350,000 was saved in 2013 by member participation in this program. It also improves reliability by taking demand stress off of our distribution system at critical times. Call 800-521-0570 x2195 to learn more. Members having a water heater installed by the cooperative are not eligible for the credits. 

 

Twitter and Load Control 

Participants in our load control program for electric heat and water heaters can find out when and how long control periods are predicted by logging onto www.central.coop and clicking our Twitter logo. Please remember that these are only predictions and actual times may vary.

 

Ideas?

If you have any ideas for future E-Tip topics, email me at kmaleski@central.coop.

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