That may be true, but it's doesn't qualify as planned obsolescence by
my definition. My definition of planned obsolescence is a product
deliberately built to only last X years and then require replacement,
when it could have been built for the same cost to last longer.
Perhaps you should share exactly what you mean by planned
The idea that manufacturers seek to maximize profits is nothing new.
It's one of the basic principles of micro-economics. In free
markets, everyone tries to maximize profits. It's been going on for
thousands of years. When you put something up on EBay, what do you
do? How about when you are selling a used car or renting out a
Again, my point, is that this process of taking all the market factors
into account, and maximizing profits is nothing new, which is what
SomeGuy implied. All through history, manufacturers have had to
take into account many factors. Those include how much it costs to
make, what they can sell it for, and how much people are willing to
pay. And how technology may change in an uncertain future, so it may
mean that people would prefer to have a less expensive product that
can be cost justified in a shorter time frame and then replaced with
something newer and better, rather than have a more costly 50 year old
product built to last forever.
So, I'd say the fact that today's HVAC systems don't last as long is a
reaction to market expectations and consumer preferences, not a focus
on planned obsolescence. I wouldn't pay much more for a system that
was gonna last 30 yrs or 50 yrs. If you bought a system in 1985 that
only lasted 15 years, you may have been better off than if you bought
one that lasted 25, because of the energy savings of going to a new
unit. Some people might call that planned obsolescene, but I think
it's a poor choice of words.
I would agree with the above definition.
In the case of, say, a furnace, there is a complicating factor that
the owner is not usually the one that makes the decision that the item
needs replacing. He is being coerced into that decision on the advice
of someone who has an interest in selling you a replacement.
In other situations, the complete failure of a product is more clearly
visible to the owner, and he or she can go remove and replace it
without relying on a third party.
But getting back to furnaces,
If 30 years ago you had one part in a furnace who's mtbf was 20 years,
and when that part failed then the most practical recourse was to
replace the furnace, well in some cases you will get 15 years before
failure and in others you will get 25, even 30 years before failure.
Today, if you have 3 or 4 critical parts, each with an MTBF of 20
years, then the odds are higher that the furnace will fail at 10 years
because you have 3 or 4 critical parts and the failure of ANY ONE of
them means the failure of the furnace.
A 20-year warranty on the heat exchanger is meaningless if you will
still have to pay $1000 for labor to replace it, and the contractor or
repair guy is telling you he'll sell you a new furnace for $2000. Is
that a situation that a homeowner wants to face? Will he feel good
about making the decision?
Wouldn't it just be easier to add a few more oz. of stainless steel to
the heat exchanger design and have an exchanger with an mtbf of 50
And besides, with houses better insulated today, you don't need a
million BTU output furnace. With constant (or near constant) run
times, furnaces can put out lower BTU's constantly and are avoiding
hot/cold cycling. Our knowledge of metalurgy and alloys is better
today, the demands on a furnace are less today than they were 30+
years ago. So it's practically criminal that a heat exchanger is only
warranted for 20 years these days.
The furnace that does in the typical new house is not chosen by the
first owner - it's chosen by the builder.
The first owner of a new home, if given the opportunity, is more
likely to pay attention to ANYTHING going into the house's
construction vs any future owner of the house.
It would be nice if there was, or could be, some sort of
communications channel directly between a new home owner and a furnace
manufacturer, such that the home owner knew that he had the option of
paying $500 more for a furnace that would last 35 years vs maybe 20
years, and if the home owner could convey that decision to the home
builder, and if the builder didn't gouge the owner and charge him
$1500 extra for that furnace.
In the case of a furnace, the market has no expectations because the
market has such little exposure to or life-experience with the
product. It's hidden down in some dark corner of the house, mostly
Look at cars. People become intimately familliar with their cars.
Cars are vastly more complicated, and put to more demanding use than
furnaces. Cars today easily last 15 years - most of that time the car
is no longer under any warranty so repair costs must always make
economic sense vs buying a new car.
What we have in cars is a setup whereby we have a repair
infrastructure (parts stores, independent mechanics, etc) who have an
interest in you keeping and repairing your old car. They have no
interest in you buying a new car every time one of your tires goes
flat. When it comes to furnaces, we don't have that situation. Any
third party who repairs furnaces is also most likely to benefit MORE
by selling you a new furnace. Most likely you won't complain or
question their recommendation because you have a general awareness
that furnaces are important and 10 or 15 years is a long time for
anything mechanical to keep working and furnaces are generally a
mysterious black box to you so you'd better leave it to the "experts"
to tell you what to do.
I generally get the opposite impression, both from my experience
remodeling, and from people who have built homes.
You get overwhelmed with details and choices that have to be made, often in
abstract ways over 2D drawings or worse, over long lists of material
choices. The builders want quick, up-front decisions since there's a
supply chain delay as the materials are ordered and they want to be able to
schedule projects as efficiently as possible without having to stop and
wait for stuff to come in.
HVAC is way outside of nearly everyone's area of expertise and the sources
for consumer education are few and far between. Among the zillion other
choices being made by people building a home, HVAC is the last thing they
want to make decisions about and chances are the builder isn't giving them
the choice and often has just told the HVAC sub to get whatever is
absolutely cheapest, meets new-home code and will last just long enough
that the builder can avoid having to warranty it.
I like to think I'm much better informed than most, but HVAC I find deeply
frustrating -- there's no good information and when I chat up commercial
HVAC guys when I do work in a large data center, they usually laugh at my
problems and tell me how bad I'm being raped by the residential contractors
-- which I suspect all along, but I love air conditioning too much, and
thanks to Minnesota's winters, I *need* heat too much to complain, so I
just pay. And pay.
On Dec 22, 9:42 am, email@example.com wrote:
What you're doing is arguing that planned obsolescence isn't planned.
As I've said, it isn't necessarily a concious descision, but that
doesn't make it something benevolent, the end result is equivalent and
thus it is you who are playing on words. Planned obsolescence isn't
defined as a deliberate scam, although the latter does qualify as a
subset of the former.
Planned obsolescence isn't a thing, it's a group of practices all of
which have the end result that the lifetime of a product is
effectively reduced. There can be many reasons for this, as the wiki
Right save 60$ a year, spend 600 for a motor,, 1000 for the board, get
a 1-2 year warranty on a motor that has a record of lasting 6, and if
you ruin tv reception on your hack freeze when you watch tv this
winter and fry in the summer. it all makes so much sense.
Like I said, it isn't practical. There will be no payback with that
sort of retrofit. And even the greenies who have one installed because
their looking at the environmental aspect (less energy), they should
take into account that the old motor becomes trash in the landfill,
which is also an environmental concern. The only reasonable time to
even contemplate such a retrofit would be when the old motor dies, in
which case it has to be replaced anyway. For those who simply "want"
an ECM, it can certainly be done, but there is no practical advantage
in this case, nor is there any benifit to the environment because
eventually it will die too, and it contains more than scrap steel and
copper in it. Moreover more energy and waste is involved in their
manufacture. And to top it all off, it won't last half as long as
another PSC motor.
Would it kill you guys to trim your posts and not full-quote?
Full-quoter hvacrmedic wrote:
Again, what is the over-the-counter cost for an ECM motor?
You won't need to spend $1000 for a controller either.
Look. An ECM retrofit probably doesn't make sense now that I've done
the math. But don't add to the hyperbole by saying that $1600 is the
price of admission for an ECM motor.
Wrong. The old motor would be set aside, and used as a backup when
(or if) the ECM motor dies. In fact, if the ECM motor does indeed die
after only 3 to 6 to 10 years, then most probably the old motor would
go back in and never again be replaced with an ECM motor.
Again it all depends on what the over-the-counter cost is of an ECM
The only price we've heard so far is $600, which if I understand the
context was a HVAC contractor repair price, which represents a markup
of at least 100%.
If you can obtain one wholesale than that would be an advantage for
you. If you could install it yourself that would mean even more
savings. People do this, and even though they've bypassed me (the
contractor) I don't care. More often than not they screw something up
and that means I get to charge them even more for the repairs when
they finally do call. Some get it right the first time. Good for them.
I can't criticize because I've never once taken one of my vehicles to
a shop for repairs, I've always managed to repair them myself. If I
ever do cause an engine to blow up I suppose that'll make the repair
shop owner happy. I don't expect that'll happen though, since I could
have just as well walked into an auto shop and filled out an
application as into an hvac shop. The only difference between most
auto mechanics an me is that they did walk in and fill out that
The bottom line is, when in doubt don't. It's those that ignore this
advise that tend to make things worse for themselves.
full-quoter hvacrmedic wrote:
All you've said was that you can either buy it yourself, install it
yourself, and maybe do it right or maybe do it wrong. Wow.
And if I flip a coin, it will land heads up or tails up.
Why don't you tell us what the wholesale price is of an ECM motor?
That would be a useful piece of information to this thread that you
This isn't about whether you care or not. This thread isin't about
I asked my lennox installer what it would cost to retrofit to vsdc, he
said about 1600, the electric savings are mimimal, without the low
speed option it whats the point, GE vsdc were at one point lasting
only 6 or so years, buy a new furnace if you have to have one and get
the 10 yr warranty and all the benefits
ECM motors have a broader and flatter efficiency profile across their
load range vs fractional HP PSC motors. While it is true that
multi-speed PSC motors are very inefficient at low speeds, PSC motors
are not. Then again, many older furnaces have PSC motors with only 1
speed, so replacing them with single-speed ECM motors would make no
difference on apparent furnace functionality or comfort, but would
make a difference on running cost.
This document is very interesting:
They go so far as to measure the amount of ADDITIONAL gas needed to
heat a home with an ECM motor vs PSC. Why does an ECM furnace use
more gas? Because the PSC motor generates more heat, and a furnace
with an ECM motor must use slightly more gas to make up for the
missing heat source.
In fact, everything else being equal, a furnace with an ECM motor
needed to use 14% more natural gas vs a furnace with a PSC motor.
A furnace with an ECM motor being used during the cooling season will
clearly result in a cooler house because of less heat being dumped
into the house from the motor.
"During the space heating test period, the ECM reduced the
average furnace electrical consumption from 9.29 kWh/day
to 2.38 k Wh/day, a savings of 74 %."
"energy from daily gas consumption rose 14 %, from an
average of 213.7 to 243.3 MJ/day."
Cooling Period Results:
"Using the ECM saved 48 % of the energy to propel the fan,
4 % of the energy for the compressor, 21 % of the energy
for the air conditioner (fan plus compressor), and 14 %
of the electricity used by the entire house.
Actually it is known as, "Americans want cheap." When the cost to
manufacture a product rises, the logical reaction would be to raise
prices to cover those increased costs, so the company can remain viable
to provide income for all concerned and to continue to provide a quality
product for the consumer.
But the "Wal Mart" syndrome has taken us all in.
The manufacturer can't raise prices because the customer won't pay. The
first to cut costs, mostly by removing jobs from America and using
inferior materials, gets the sale. The price and quality are forced
down, so we now get people complaining about, "planned obsolescence".
But, you probably aren't willing to pay more for real quality, are you?
This is a very simplified example but I hope you all get the point.
On Sat, 22 Dec 2007 06:33:57 -0800 (PST), firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
It is not planned obsolecence that is in the design as much as the
choice of price vs mean time between failures. If it costs another
buck to make something last forever and the product itself will
probably be replaced for other reasons in "X" years anyway, they save
the buck. The advantage of using a high MTBF part is the number that
fail in the first couple percent of the mean and cause a warranty
call. Manufacturers try to thread that fine line between a majority of
failures happening after the warranty expires and price of the
The problem is that nothing purchased by *anybody* will be kept for 20
years. That time-frame is too long.
It doesn't matter if it's a car, or roofing shingles, or furnaces, or
cell phones or TV's.
Once you get beyond 5 years, it's irrelevant if you could design it to
last 10 years or 20 years. It won't matter.
Most home owners putting a new furnace in a house today will not be
the same people living in the same house 10 years from now when the
furnace breaks down.
The HVAC industry is, and has been, working toward a goal of making
sure that just as each owner of a given house will probably have to
replace the roof once during the ownership of the house, he will also
have to replace the furnace too.
That is a different situation compared to 20 or 30 years ago, when the
original furnace installed in a new house back in 1965 - 1980 would
easily last 30+ years and the house would pass through the hands of 3
or 4 owners without needing a new furnace.
My parent's house was built in 1955 and they replaced it's original
forced-air natural gas furnace about 5 years ago. That's 45 years
with the same furnace.
My house was built in 1976 and has it's original natural gas furnace.
That's 32 years and counting.
So the HVAC industry is on target at reducing furnace lifespan down to
the time frame of the average length of home-ownership - about 7
years. Good for them.
It's a waste of energy and resources for an industry to design such a
product with an intentionally short lifespan. It runs counter to the
national interests on such scales as energy usage (to build it in the
first place) and environmental impact when it's taken to the landfill
when it's discarded.
You could make the same argument for other items, like wiring,
plumbing, fixtures, the bricks and 2x4 studs in the walls. Why do
they need to last 50+ years? Why not design the entire house and
every structural and functional element inside it so that it only
lasts 10 to 15 years? After all, I'm not going to live in the house
for more than 10 years - right?
And then watch the landfills get filled up when all those houses get
torn down and rebuilt every 15 or 20 years. That makes real good
sense - doesn't it?
That's the crock - that thinking that it costs so much more to make it
last another 5 or 10 years.
It's the electronic items that fail and become absurdly (criminally)
expensive to fix that forces the removal of a furnace - not because
it's suffered an irreparable structural or mechanical failure. And as
home owners become dumber and dumber about how things work or how to
fix things for themselves, they will be at the mercy of contractors
and repair men.
There's very little new in furnace design that wasn't known 50 years
ago. There is no constant evolution (at least not in North America).
In Japan, they have furnaces with built-in 1 kw electric generators to
provide some electrical co-generation that can supplement the
electricity supply for the house - and keep the blower running in the
case of complete power outages (like what's happening to thousands in
the central USA right now).
All of that I agree with. Which is exactly what I've been saying.
Manufacturers are simply reacting to what the market needs are.
Now that I'd like to see proof of.
I'd like to see proof that the goal is to get lifespan down to 7
What short lifespan are you referring to? 20 years for a furnace
seems like a reasonable compromise in terms of lifespan. And you
choose to totally ignore the energy usage that a 45 year old furnace
will waste compared to a new one? I'd say that will easily outweigh
the energy wasted by recycling it back to the scrap yard. Look at all
the environmental programs out there to encourage precisely this kind
of action. Utilities and govts are offering rebates for consumers to
encourage them to get a new furnace or AC system that is energy
efficient. That surely leads to more of the old ones going to the
metal scrap yard
And how many customers are going to be willing to pay significantly
more for a furnace that will last 45 years, without knowing how
improvements, energy sources, convenience features, etc will play out
over decades? I'll pay more for something if I think it's going to be
worth it and economically makes sense. And for me, 20-25 years is
the sweet spot for an HVAC system. I'm not going to shell out much,
if anything more for one that is supposed to last 45 years.
Now this is just plain silly. Historically, there haven't been a lot
of improvements or changes in 2X4's, bricks, or the basic plumbing
system. There has been in HVAC though. Nor can they be replaced
with even remotely the ease of an HVAC system. As for things like
fixtures, I'd submit that few people today expect any of them to last
for 50+ years. People are used to dishwashers, ovens, etc lasting 15
years or so. Even faucets and sinks get changed long before 50
years. I wouldn't want the same style sink or faucet I had 50 years
ago. I just replaced my own kitchen sink which was 20 years old for
convenience and changing needs.
Not an issue because it isn't happening and isn't going to.
You don't want it to last 5 more years. You keep referring to 45 or
50 years. And without knowing what it costs to manufacture specific
items, there is no way for you to know how much more anything costs to
build, it's pure speculation.
Welcome to the modern world. Try going down to the dealer and seeing
how much a new computer or similar module costs for your car. Or some
parts for a refrigerator or stove.
So, they had 95% efficient furnaces 50 years ago? I must have missed
that. Plus in many cases, people are using AC systems today as
opposed to 1957, aren't they? I suppose any old AC system that is
part of the whole picture and that is of similar age is peachy keen
There is no constant evolution (at least not in North America).
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