Saturday 19 May 2012

Life Cycle

I have talked about engineered obsolescence before.
It's a big joke when we talk about products reaching their end at the same time as the warranty.
The truth is that market research examines the consumer in order to limit the life cycle of a product.
Products are now designed to reach consumer expectations and no further.
The products are not designed to fail.
They are designed to last only so long. 

It just seems like yesterday that we had the house raised and put a proper foundation underneath.
When that happened, we were able to relocate the house utilities downstairs.
The 5 gallon hot water heater that was under the bathroom counter was replaced by a 40 gallon tank.
It was bought brand new in the fall of 2006.
And so why am I working on it if it is just six years old?

They call this a six year tank.
I didn't know that when I bought it.
I don't remember my parents replacing the hot water tank every six years.
But here it is, leaking.
It's not leaking from any of the fittings.
It is leaking from a small hole near the welded seam.

I wouldn't mind so much if the heater had been designed for repairs of this nature.
I expect that this happens to tanks all of the time; especially because of the design.
Insulation is welcome on a hot water heater, but it is glued to everything it touches.
And though the elements and thermostats are simple to replace, any holes that form are impossible to reach without destroying some part of the unit.

I seriously considered buying a new tank today.
The source of the leak looked impossible to find.
I knew it would be a show to repair the tank.
A replacement is just over $400. Plus the fuel to drive to town.
Even then, the plumbing still needs to be redone.
I figured that even if I had to completely rebuild the tank, it would still cost me less than simply handing over the cash.

Corrosion is inevitable in these heaters. I know that.
They could use a heavier gauge of steel. That would add some longevity.
But like anything else like this, you can't make profits if you saturate your market with a quality product.

In essence, our economy is artificially driven.
Within the current design, if we attempt to reduce waste and environmental impacts,
we attack the momentum that drives the economy.
By lengthening the life cycle of manufactured goods, we could threaten the health of industry.
Of course, we wouldn't need so much industry if we didn't have to replace household items so often.

Our heater is going to stay around for a while longer.
Most of the repair time would have been the same if I had replaced the heater.
It wasn't designed to come apart, and so it didn't go back together perfectly either.
But it will heat our water.
Hopefully for another six years.

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