Repair It or Replace It – What’s the Most Energy-Efficient Choice?

We’ve all been there—gazing woefully at a washing machine that’s stopped spinning, or a refrigerator that’s lost its cool. But, how do you decide whether to repair it or replace it? Here are some crucial things to consider.

We’ve all been there—gazing woefully at a washing machine that’s stopped spinning, or a refrigerator that’s lost its cool. You dutifully call your repair shop and wait for the verdict. And when the estimate comes in, you have to make the expensive choice of whether you are throwing good money after bad by paying to fix the appliance, or whether it’s time to cut your losses and buy a new one.

Here are four questions to ask to help you answer the Repair or Replace conundrum:

How old is the appliance  

This is the key factor for two reasons:

  • What is the expected life of the appliance? In other words, how long can your existing piece realistically be expected to last after the repair, and
  • An even more important factor: how energy efficient is it? Energy savings alone can help justify replacing some appliances that aren’t working as they should. As just one example, if all refrigerators sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR certified, the energy cost savings would top $400 million each year, and prevent eight billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions—equivalent to the emissions from 750,000 vehicles.

Is it a quick fix?

It’s surprising how many repairs can be diagnosed and fixed easily by doing some research and watching a how-to video. is a great source for DIY-ers, and you’d be surprised how much intel you can find on YouTube as well.

What is the incremental cost of the repair?

Spending $600 to repair the motherboard of a refrigerator that would cost $1,000 to replace might not be the best use of money. It’s painful, but if spending $400 dollars will extend the life of the appliance by 10 years, rather than two, it will be money well saved. A good rule of thumb is not to spend more than 50 percent of the cost of a new product on repairing the old one. And, if this is a subsequent repair, think twice before repairing at all.

What will happen to your existing appliance?

Don’t just tote it to the landfill – when you purchase a new appliance, the store typically will take your old one away and recycle it in an environmentally friendly way. They often reuse many of the parts, so you know that your piece is being repurposed. Thinking about sticking your old fridge in the garage? You might not want to – [C1] energy hogs have no place in your home. Another option for recycling is to search the database on  which will offer environmentally friendly options based on your zip code.

If you do need to replace, this is your chance to make a wise choice: do your research and consider energy usage as a top factor when you purchase your new appliance. Also, only buy what you need – the more bells and whistles on a piece, the more opportunity for things to break.

Then, once you get it home, ensure that your new appliances perform at their peak by using them in the most energy-efficient manner possible. Conservation is everyone’s job!


Brought to you by