February 19, 2018

Proud Appliance Ownership

Just in time for Mother’s Day- a photo I found recently that I liked for its quaint look back in time. This woman seems so pleased with her new washer and dryer. I imagine that the family had saved for a while to acquire the set and ease her workload. Her daughter writes that it is probably 1953 and this is the family’s first automatic washer and dryer. “Before that she used a wringer washer and we either hung the clothes in the basement, or outside if the weather was good.”

Old Appliances Stick Around and Get the Job Done

We all say it: “They don’t make ’em like they used to.” Well, Donna Vickroy at the SouthTownStar offers hers and others thoughts on this:

Milan and Helen Varichak’s grandkids say their kitchen looks like outer space.

The South Holland couple have a 51-year-old Westinghouse stove and a 54-year-old General Electric refrigerator.

“They’re both in good condition,” Helen said. “The refrigerator could use a good polishing but other than that, it’s OK.”

By contrast, their son, who lives in New Lenox, has had his refrigerator replaced three times already.

When Helen and Milan moved into their home in 1958, Helen’s father gave them a new double-oven stove as a housewarming gift.

And until recently, the gift continued to warm their house. But Helen said now she is in need of a repair man because she recently had all new electricity put in her house and the stove won’t work.

“I think it just needs to be updated,” she said.

Dennis O’Malley, who owns O’Malley Heating and Cooling in Orland Park, still has the refrigerator his grandparents bought in 1934.

The General Electric appliance was the first item his grandparents bought on credit. The price tag? $222.60.

O’Malley still has the documents and warranties for the appliance.

Ron Steffek still has the original tag with the model number for his 1928 GE refrigerator. The Oak Lawn resident also has another GE that is a year older.

The fridges, both of which sport the compressor ball on top, have never been serviced and are still being used to store pop and beer.

Marge Beddow, who lives in unincorporated Palos Township, has a cast iron stove that is at least 70 years old. The wood-burning device has two round circles on the top where her mom once placed pots.

“My brother is 82 years old, and he remembers it when he was little,” Beddow said. “I remember my mom making soap on it.”

Today, the stove and its accompanying shovel are used for decoration.

Brad O’Connor’s old ice box is part decoration and part storage unit.

When they used to have parties, O’Connor remembers his mom going over to Lang Ice on the corner of 59th Street and Lawndale Avenue to pick up a block of ice. She’d put it in the family’s ice box, stock it with sodas and it would be good for the day.

O’Connor doesn’t know exactly how old the ice box is, just that it predates electricity. It has three doors, one on the left, one on the right and one on the bottom for ice.

“It’s probably pre-1930s,” he said.

When he moved from Chicago’s Gage Park community to Hometown, he brought the box with him.

After World War II ended in 1945, there were few appliances to be had. The newly married Rosettis put their name on waiting lists at Sears, Montgomery Ward and a little hardware store across the street from their Chicago Heights home.

Two years later, on the day their son turned 1, the owner of the hardware store called.

“He described this GE refrigerator to me, and I say, ‘Oh my, that sounds too big,’ ” Daphene Rosetti said. Still, they wheeled the fridge across the street, plugged it in and it’s still running.

Now it is relegated to the basement and used to stock pop and beer.

When Leonard and Joan Stubenfoll got married in 1955, they bought a used 20-year-old refrigerator. The Stubenfolls keep their GE model in the garage, stocked with pop and beer. They’ve never had to have a repair man out – not for that fridge, anyway.

“We’ve had three or four newer fridges (in the kitchen) since then,” he said.

Stubenfoll has a theory.

“They made the old models too good,” he said. But apparently, “they’ve” learned their lesson.

“If companies continued to make ’em like they used to, they would have gone out of business.”

Is it Time to Replace Your Old Appliances?

If you’ve been thinking about whether it is time to replace your aging appliances, or if you are wondering whether you could be saving the big bucks in energy costs if you had an all new suite of kitchen appliances,  Alina Tugend at the New York Times has some thoughts to share.

One of the first thoughts I have about replacing an older, working appliance that whether “besides the money, is this really a good idea environmentally, to get rid of an appliance that is operating just fine to buy another one, even if it does have better energy standards?”

“It takes energy to make a product,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “You don’t want to replace perfectly good products.”

He gave his rule of thumb for refrigerators.

“If it’s avocado or brown-colored, it’s time to retire it,” he said. Refrigerators from the 1970s, the last time I believe those particular appliance colors were in vogue, use three to four times the power of today’s models.

A spokeswoman from the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Energy Star program along with the Department of Energy,says that, generally, any appliance over 15 years old probably should be put out to pasture. The good news is that about 80 percent of a refrigerator or a clothes washer is recyclable.

Getting rid of an old appliance “is not without some environmental impact, but because so much can be recycled and reused, if you have a guzzler, you’re better off sending it to the landfill,” said Jennifer Amann, a senior associate at the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Try to find a place that will pick up your old refrigerator for recycling, either the company you are buying your new one from or see if your state or local government has a recycling program.

Even if they are brought to the landfill, Ms. Amann says, most of the appliances’ parts are then recycled, because they take up too much space.

What environmentalists do not want you to do is place the old one in the garage to hold two six-packs of beer. If you really need it, Mr. Horowitz suggested, leave it unplugged until, say, holiday time when you need the extra space for those pumpkin pies.

And do not resell it. Retiring the energy-inefficient model is the best thing to do.

Clothes washers and dishwashers have pretty much the same criteria as refrigerators — they have become much more energy-efficient. So if yours is inching toward 15 years, consider replacing it.

For clothes washers, the new front-loader models use much less water and spin clothes dry much more thoroughly, so you are spending less time — and power — drying.

I also learned something interesting about washing dishes. Unless you are an extremely frugal hand dishwasher, you are certainly using more water hand-washing dishes than a dishwasher does, Ms. Amann said. And with a newer model, do not even pre-rinse by hand.

“A good dishwasher can use just four to seven gallons of water to wash a full load of dishes,” she said. If you do not have a full load, but are afraid the food will get stuck on, a good feature is rinse and hold, which uses less than a gallon of water.


Although clothes dryers are big energy suckers, there is not much that can be done to make them less wasteful. So just hang onto yours until it gives up the ghost. One good feature of newer models is a moisture sensor, so the dryer stops when clothes are dry.

The federal government does not issue Energy Stars for dryers, because there is not much difference in energy use among the models.

As we move toward summer, it is a good time to replace an ailing central air-conditioner. New federal standards just started two years ago. But if you are keeping your old one, check to see if the ducts are leaking. You can waste about 30 percent of energy through leaking ducts, Mr. Horowitz said.

Window-box air-conditioners  are inexpensive enough that it is worth swapping an old one for an Energy Star model. The more recent ones also have a thermostat that will shut off the air-conditioner when the room gets cool enough. Sometimes the local utility company will pick up old boxes through an “early retirement program.”

So if you are planning to use that window air conditioner to keep cool this summer, check its age.  You might want to add it to the list along with the new suite.