Over the past two decades or more we've seen manufacturers strive to meet the demands on energy use on appliances, driving that down as consumers, governments and ecological movements demand it but, there's a dirty side effect to all that
When it comes to spare parts we see things in a different light.
The machines we deal with aren't sat in a shiny showroom made to look as pretty as they can with all the right boxes ticked encouraging people to buy them. We see them way down the track, when they're out of warranty, have been used and abused of years and bits are busted.
Some of those parts are no longer available, obsolete, a topic we've explored more in depth previously and explained or, tried to explain many of the driving factors that lead to parts going out of production.
What we haven't covered yet is how the drive to get more energy efficient isn't helping.
We like to think on it as "the cost of being green".
The Need For Green
The pressure on manufacturers to be the most energy efficient is mammoth. Governments around the globe have pushed incessantly to get lower energy use in order to reduce the carbon footprint. They in turn under pressure from consumers, science and green lobbyists etc.
Manufacturers do what they do and make stuff people want.
If they can get a competitive advantage by their claimed energy use being lower than others, guess what, they do that so as to sell more.
The basic fact being, the need to show that your products are "green" is a very important one to all and people buy into the idea that they will save money as they use less energy, even if that's not so in the real world.
Back in the bad old days we used what is often now percieved as clunky old electromechanical stuff.
Thermostats, motors, pumps, seals even and all manner of things were chunky and pretty standardised in some regards. They worked well enough for most people, were proven technologies and were usually easy enough to replace often having any number of alternatives, often cheaper.
The problem is that thermostats weren't all that accurate, old AC motors often inefficient and so on or, at least that's what we were all sold as the truth. To a degree, there is truth in this though although the degrees of increased efficiency are arguably not that great.
What manufacturers did was use new cheap electronic components that became viable to use. They were cheaper, more effect and more accurate so, they used them.
So you have linear compressors with inverter cards, DC motors, thermistors and a bunch more things tailored to one or a few applications.
New model, new components. Often not interchangeable.
The gain being a marginal increase in energy efficiency.
Consumers think they're saving more money, the greens think they're saving the polar bears and governments think they're reducing their carbon footprint. Everybody's happy and it's a win for all.
Longer Term Thinking
Up front then in the bright lights of the showroom and on paper perhaps all this is great but, did anyone think about what happens a few years later?
All those special parts with limited production runs, what happens when they stop being made?
Oh yeah, what your probably thinking now is exactly what happens, they go obsolete and are no longer replaceable and so the machine is now scrap.
We see this happening on machines at anything from as young as 18 months old. Junked as you can't get a part.
We ask you, how is that environmentally friendly then?
How's that even cost effective?
It's not intentional we don't feel, it's just an unintended side effect of the demands that are being placed on all the parties involved leading to an end result that is counter to the intent.
Basically, nobody really thought this plan through.
Keep On Pushing
As we push for ever greater efficiency on use we see things like more sealed components, a good example is thermistors or temperature sensors inside fridges that are formed in.
You need to find them, dig them out then reform to replace them.
That is of course, if you can even get the spare part as many, you just can't!
Where you can't get the part you have to scrap a machine costing hundreds of pounds for a £10 spare part, it's madness.
The point is, at what point do you sacrifice the ability to service in order to make a marginal, tiny gain on energy use?
In service, we can't but help think that the point has already been lost and that the waste generated through machines scrapped way, way earlier than they should be overshadows any energy use gains by an order of magnitude.
We are not for a minute suggesting that looking to achieve improved energy use should be abandoned at all, what we are saying is that all parties involved need to think a bit more about sustainability over the longer term, not just in showrooms.
A failure to do so is merely adding to the environmental problems, not helping them.
The irony of which is not lost on us at all.