Mechanical vs. Electronic Appliances
What Exactly Do I Mean?
Over the last ten plus years, the appliance industry has moved toward a more cost effective, digital way of manufacturing the controlling systems of household appliances. In the past, you would rotate a dial on your dishwasher to a desired setting such as "normal wash" or "heavy wash". Then you might have moved a fairly large latch from left to right, locking the door shut, and the unit would start the washing process. That rotating dial that you would move to "normal wash" is considered a mechanical timer. Mechanical timers were and still are fairly void of high failure rates. It was surely not the most high tech, quiet, or easy way to start a home appliance, but it has served the industry well to utilize the mechanical timer since the earliest years of the household appliance itself.
Now fast forward to the present: electronic timing has almost completely pushed the mechanical age out of the picture all together. I'll bet if you went to your dishwasher right now (or your refrigerator, washer, or even your dryer for that matter) you would find green or blue lights and buttons you push to choose that same "normal wash" or "heavy wash" cycle. You're probably thinking "of course I have buttons, we don't live in the 80's anymore, my stuff is the newest, latest, and greatest." I would agree that the newest style is far more appealing to the eye, and who doesn't want flashing blue or green lights? I do. The issue lies in the phrase I used earlier in this article: The failure rate.
What's the Difference?
With an electronic timing device you normally have two components. A main control board and some sort of touch pad that speaks to the main control board via cables, or a ribbon (a ribbon is a super fine set of wires about as thin as a credit card meant to minimize space usage). Today's most common failure is unequivocally the touch pad, which is where you actually would find that "normal wash" button. Eventually you push the "start" button too many times and the contacts inside stop working. All of a sudden you have a dishwasher that does not respond, but for what reason? You probably would not know and so you call for service.
The second most common failure is that main control board we talked about and it too can give the same symptoms. Again, the dishwasher just doesn't seem to respond. Now there are a host of reasons an appliance might not respond such as a tripped circuit breaker (house breaker). The main point is the rate of failure for the electronic control and or touch pad is leagues higher than that old mechanical timer mechanism we all used to have. I can remember doing work for a particular manufacturer (who shall remain nameless) where I would replace a touch pad on a dishwasher at least once a day and sometimes three a day. These appliances weren't even a year old yet the manufacturer was footing the bill. I can count on one hand, however, how many mechanical timers I have replaced in the last ten years.
Where is This Going?
What does all this mean to you and I, you ask? Well, it means things are being made to last a much shorter time, often requiring a repair and/or a replacement. Is this intentional? I don't think it's 100% intentional. No business model could survive a downright decision to make junk or a product that has a fraction of the life your past products would get. Additionally, why would the entire industry move in the exact same direction at the exact same time? There are a number of reasons for this change. For one, it's more profitable to make the electronic parts because the machinery to make the control board is far easier to maintain and replace. Two things stand out here as the key to the entire story: 1) The electronics can be returned and refurbished for pennies and then resold back to the public for a sizable profit. 2) The entire civilized world is advancing towards a technology-based way of life. Has anyone seen the refrigerator with an embedded micro-television in its doors? What's that about? This is the direction the appliance industry is going and why the days of the clunky mechanical timers are nearly history.
In conclusion, the main point I wanted to make on the subject was the need to hang onto those appliances with mechanical timing devices or mechanical controls. You can still buy a dryer, washer, and even a dishwasher with a mechanical timer. The only reason those are still available is that people still buy them. If you are looking for a longer life and lower annual costs of having any appliance, buy mechanical. It may not look as pretty as the neighbor's blinking, blue light smart washer, but when your neighbor's breaks they will be waiting ten plus days for the part to come from Korea. Since your machine is still running with no issues to speak of, you might very well be that neighbors next best friend.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.