Don’t throw it all away: a guide fo fixing appliances


Household appliances can often be repaired instead of thrown away.


Household appliances can often be repaired instead of thrown away.

Paul Smith is Test Manager at Consumer NZ

Defective devices don’t have to end up in landfills. Many are thrown out when they just need a simple fix.

In New Zealand, millions of household appliances and technical devices are thrown away unnecessarily. Every year we throw away about 97,000 tons of unwanted or broken e-waste – one of the highest per capita amounts on the planet.

That’s not sustainable. Many of the discarded products could easily be fixed, but many of us don’t know where to start.

* Appliance makers are using shortcuts to make cheaper products that don’t last as long, says Consumer NZ
* Why does it cost more to repair equipment than to buy new?
* Why the Right-to-Repair movement is giving Big Tech a big headache
* Why you should care about the right to repair

How to proceed with a repair:

  • Identify the problem. User manuals often include troubleshooting guides for common problems, and most major devices will display error codes to help you diagnose problems. You can also google the make, model and symptoms – you won’t be the first to experience the error.

  • know your rights The Consumer Guarantee Act states that a product must function for a reasonable period of time without becoming defective. If a device fails after a few years of proper use, you can contact the retailer (or their manufacturer) where you bought it and request a repair.

  • Become an expert. If you search online, you’re likely to find successful repair stories, owner’s manuals, and repair guides and videos. The website is a goldmine of repair tips. Even if you can’t tackle the repair yourself, hiring an expert can save you time and money when you know what’s wrong.

  • Find spare parts. This is not always easy as most manufacturers would rather sell you a new device. Either they don’t stock spare parts or they make them expensive. However, there are alternatives. As well as checking with the manufacturer, you can also look for online retailers both locally and internationally (e.g. Trademe, eBay, and Also try equipment repair shops and stores that sell used equipment – they likely have salvaged parts.

  • Bring in an expert. Device repairs don’t come cheap. So think about how long a repair will extend the life of the device – it may not be worth repairing older models. You should also look for Repair Caf├ęs near you ( has a calendar) where volunteers offer their expertise for a little koha.

If this were easier and less expensive, more products would be repaired. However, as a consumer, it’s impossible to know which brands are making products that are easier to repair. A product repairability label posted at the point of sale would provide this information.

Just as an Energy Star rating tells you how efficient a product is in use, a repairability label tells you how easily a product can be repaired. The repairability rating is based on whether repair instructions are available, how easy it is to take the product apart for repair, and the availability and price of replacement parts. We wouldn’t be the first in the world to introduce this – the French have already successfully introduced a similar repairability label.

Tired of wasting money on products you can’t fix?

Let’s increase the pressure on manufacturers to do better. Show them you want products you can repair and help us require a mandatory repairability label.