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Repair or upgrade before you replace

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Think twice before pulling out your wallet for that new computer or washing machine. Does it make sense to repair or upgrade it? If the answer’s yes, you’ll be on your way to saving money and reducing your consumption of new materials.

How to repair before you replace

Before rushing out to replace something that's broken or outdated, check to see if it can be fixed or upgraded first. This’ll drastically reduce the amount of garbage you produce and resources you use. And since many of today’s products contain toxic chemicals, repairing and recycling ensures these substances are kept out of the ground and water, too.

Repairs and maintenance

When something is busted or poorly maintained, it'll perform poorly or not at all. But in many cases, with regular TLC, a simple tweak here, and a little patch there, it can be used again.

  • Maintain your air conditioner to keep it humming efficiently instead of tossing it for a new one.
  • Hear water running? It may be that you've got a leaky faucet, pipes, or toilet. Seal them up before looking for new fixtures.
  • You may not need a new fridge. Clean the coils on your current one to boost its efficiency by 30 percent.
  • Same goes for your dryer. Dryers vary little in their energy performance, so keeping and maintaining your old machine will eliminate the necessity of disposing of the old unit prematurely and make it 30 percent more efficient.
  • Determine whether your current heating system simply needs a tune up to boost efficiency before you rush out for a new boiler or furnace.
  • Keep your mower in top condition to avoid the need for a costly new one by setting and sharpening your mower blade correctly.
  • If a new, more energy-efficient car isn't in the budget, maintain the one you have and keep your tires properly inflated to ensure peak gas efficiency.
  • Repair your jeans the next time they rip instead of buying a new pair.

Upgrades

That ol' thing may have lost a bit of luster, but instead of buying new, give it some spit 'n polish to get it functioning more greenly.

  • Rather than opt for a new water heater try dressing up the one you've got with an insulation blanket and improve its efficiency by 10 percent.
  • Update your computer instead of heading to the electronics store to reduce the e-waste you’re sending to landfills every year.
  • No need to redo your faucets. Outfit your tap with an aerator to keep water and energy from going down the drain.
  • Upgrade your current toilet instead of opting for a new one by installing a dual flush system.

Recommended replacements

In some cases, it’s best not to repair or upgrade. The eco-advantages of outright replacing certain household goods outweigh the problems associated with disposing of them.

A good rule of thumb: if it’s going to cost you more than half the purchase price of a new product to repair your old unit, it makes more sense to replace it. Just remember, when it comes time, be sure to recycle used appliances. You don’t want their useful materials and potentially toxic ingredients to end up in landfills.

  • Regardless of age, if your washing machine is a top loader, replace your old unit with a front-loading washer. The water and power savings make this switch worth it.
  • If your fridge was manufactured before 2001, replace it with an ENERGY STAR model. These old units aren’t really even fit for giving away since they’re so much less efficient than newer models.
  • Dishwashers that were made prior to 1994 should also be replaced rather than repaired. Choose an ENERGY STAR dishwasher to ensure the most efficient water- and energy-use.
  • If your air conditioner’s reached its tenth birthday, haul it to a recycler and buy a new ENERYG STAR model.
  • Water heaters (both gas and electric) older than 10 years should be replaced with high-efficiency heaters.

Repairing or upgrading before you replace helps you go green because…

  • Unlike purchasing new, these options require little or no infusions of new resources and less energy and water, too.
  • You’ll keep functional products from being dumped in landfills.

By simply purchasing an inexpensive upgrade kit, visiting a repair shop, or applying a dab of glue, many products could be given new life. This reduces the need for buying new, thereby cutting new resource extraction and energy consumption necessary to manufacture from scratch. Unfortunately, many useful products are retired before they’ve outlived their usefulness.[1][2] In fact, 16 percent fewer products are being repaired in the US than in previous years. Both appliance-repair and electronics-repair shops have seen significant declines in the last 15 years.[3]

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