Feature Induced Failure: Understanding Why Modern Feature-Rich Appliances Fail

Jason Nobles April 29, 2021

A combination of pressures has aligned over the past 50 years to redesign appliances. The media fed us wholesale propaganda about energy efficiency and innovation. We believed the lies because they were so compelling. We were captivated by the shiny fools-gold illusion of added value. But, in actuality, these feature-rich-internet-connected appliances are falling flat on the scales of logic and sound judgment.

The appliance industry has eliminated most competition and has long ago done away with the burden of oversight thanks to regulatory capture. Because of this, appliance manufacturers are now in a unique position. They no longer need to make a better product to compete in the marketplace. They need to sell you on features.

Excessive un-needed features are now the main selling points and the only advertised opinion given to the consumer to consider. But, as you will see in this article, many of these new-fangled features can damage the appliance and even shorten its lifespan. If you want to learn why this is happening and what you can do to prevent your appliances from what I call: "feature induced failure," then you are in the right place.

I have a tough job to do. I have to convince you that you shouldn't use certain features that convinced you to purchase your modern, energy-efficient, feature-rich home appliance. From the fast boil to the steam clean on your oven, appliance purchase decisions are now often based on these features alone. Consider the ultra-high-speed spin on your washer or the rapid sensor dry on your clothes dryer, and you will see the endless marketing of features. Now take a look at the preferred low energy setting, fast ice, and quick cool buttons on your refrigerator. All of these features may lead to early mechanical failure of the appliance.

Please take a moment to consider my premise. Stay with it for a couple of minutes and find out for yourself if what I am saying is trustworthy and honest. I have nothing to gain from you believing what I say. If you implement these changes in your appliance use, there will be less chance to become my customer.

Let's look at the rapid boil or fast boil feature on electric stoves. How does this feature work? Conventional ranges operate on infinite switches that allow that natural flow of electrical potential into the stove-top element. A stove-top element is a big resistor. A resistor captures electrical energy. It slows and absorbs electron movement converting it into heat.

Fast boil elements require a computer to alter the oscillation frequency of the electricity, thereby allowing more electricity into the component than it would naturally receive from a conventional circuit. Indeed, then, they must have redesigned the elements. Actually, no, they didn't. But, not only that, to make the feature work properly, they had to alter the element's heat control sensor to allow it to get the glass and element hotter than it should be. These illogical changes to the design have led inexorably to weakened glass tops prone to cracking and breaking and the premature failure of the stove element itself.

To avoid these problems, you should use fast boil controls at less than maximum settings. If the dial goes to ten, I will set it to eight at the highest. The setting number eight is the equivalent of setting ten of previous generations of stoves. It will help to preserve your appliance and prevent its premature feature-induced failure.

Finally, let's talk about laundry appliances. The industry redesigned washers and dryers to be larger with severe agitation, ultra-fast spin cycles, and rapid drying. We are told that you can launder massive comforters in these fantastic machines without a problem. Salesmen have told us that the modern home laundry appliance that costs $800 can handle a king-size comforter and we believed it. But it can't. Well, it won't work for long.

When I was in college, I used to go to a seedy laundry mat every weekend. The horrible place had a sign on the wall with a severe bold font statement backed up by a black and white photo of a Colt revolver. The placard said verbatim: " If you try to wash a comforter in anything but the three big boy washers, then you will be shot on site." I never tested the veracity of that statement. But, what they were saying is that comforters damage even the best commercial washers.

The big boy washer was an eight thousand dollar washing machine twenty years ago. So, despite what the salesman said, you can't wash a kingsize comforter in an $800 machine. It will lead to a rapid and early demise of the appliance, which might be the point in the first place.

When it comes to laundry appliances, gentler, longer cycles with more water in the tub are better for your clothes, better for the environment, and better for the appliance. In my house, we only use the manual settings. We select deep water wash, light soil, and low-speed spin on the washing machine. We like timed dry on the lowest temperature setting on the clothes dryer.

I also recommend avoiding the use of liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets. Using gentler settings will prevent unnecessary damage to your fabrics and negate the need for softeners.

PS. Please avoid using any feature that has an adjective or adverb describing its function. Super, massive, ultra, or mega are not words describing a benefit but are linguistic weapons to trick you into using a feature that may damage the appliance. Yet, forewarned is forearmed.