Major Appliance Repair: What to Do When You Hear the Word “Obsolete” Applied to One of Your Appliances

If you bought a house that came with appliances, years could go by before you realize that something is not quite right with your refrigerator, your stove, or even your central air unit. When you place a service call for major appliance repair and the technician says that what you have is "obsolete," you might be wondering just how that applies to your dysfunctional appliance and what your options are. Here is a clearer definition of your possible situations and some options to explore.

"Obsolete" Just Means Really Old

When the technician says that your appliance is "obsolete," be sure to press him or her for details. Sometimes "obsolete" just means that the appliance in question is really old, so finding parts for it may take some extra time or cost a little more money. If you would rather keep your old appliance running, be sure that doing so is cost effective. For example, if the appliance happens to be your central air unit, you may be looking at a few hundred dollars for parts replacement or refrigerant versus a few thousand dollars for a totally new unit. However, you could also just buy a couple of window units for air conditioning; these units could cost you even less if you buy them secondhand or from a thrift or pawn shop. If you only need cooling comfort for a couple of months, the window units may be a better option than replacing your obsolete central air unit.

"Obsolete" Means Nothing Is Available to Replace What You Need

This is the more dreaded meaning of the word "obsolete"—the appliance you have is so old and outdated it either cannot be repaired because there is no way to get parts for it or the government has actually banned the appliance from use. Examples of the latter type of obsolete appliances are refrigerators that use freon and outdated cooling equipment, which the government no longer permits companies to use. In that case, your technician may not be able to complete repairs not because he or she does not know how but because doing so would be a violation of law.

Options for You to Consider

If your obsolete appliance does not violate any government rules or regulations, you may be able to repair the appliance and continue to use it as you have been. However, doing so may cost you more than buying a brand-new or updated, secondhand model of the same appliance would, so you'll want to compare prices. There are also alternatives for some appliances that work just as well. For example, microwaves, toaster ovens and slow cookers can work in place of your range oven, and portable air conditioners, window air conditioners and fans can work in place of central air units. Your repair technician can show you some alternatives and prices to help you make the best choice.