Residential - Tips & tricks - Defective household appliances: repair or replace?

There are better ways to start your day than by feeling a puff of warm air when you open the refrigerator door. Likewise, who wants to finish their day by discovering that the dishes are still wet after the dishwasher has gone through the dry cycle? Not to mention the worry of the cost of having the appliance repaired or, even worse, replaced.

What if it turns out to be something trivial?
It is indeed frustrating to have to pay the repairman who fixed your appliance after barely stepping through the front door! As soon as he saw the toys lying around, he suggested that you check the temperature control gauge to see if it had been fiddled with by small hands…


  • The fridge or freezer door was held ajar by a misplaced product or a drawer that hasn’t been properly closed;
  • There was a fuse blown on the stove’s control panel;
  • The exhaust duct on the dryer was blocked or crushed;
  • The control knob on the washing machine hadn’t been set properly…

And let’s not forget the best of all: an overloaded circuit in the electrical panel. In situations such as these, you can avoid that annoying bill by simply consulting the “troubleshooting” section of manufacturer’s instruction manual, where you will generally find step-by-step instructions to remedy a malfunction.

If it becomes apparent that the appliance is in fact defective, you then have to turn to a specialist.

Professional training for repair contractors
Quebec’s Comité sectoriel de la main-d’œuvre de l’industrie électrique et électronique has developed approved professional standards that it has used since June 2005 to certify the skills of repair contractors who have passed theoretical and practical exams. Modern technology has made household appliances very complicated to repair —electromechanical commands have been replaced with electronic strips and models change every two or three years, not to mention that high-end European appliances, whose design and components are even more sophisticated, are becoming increasingly popular. Pinpointing a problem or malfunction is therefore no longer a simple matter. “You can no longer pick up this trade as you go along” notes Pierre Craig, President of S.E.S. Service Inc., a Laval company that has specialized in repairing household appliances for 35 years and that is recommended by CAA-Quebec. Today, training and refresher courses are absolutely necessary.

But who should you turn to? Most repair people work for themselves; others are employed by the repair service of a manufacturer or retailer that sells new or used appliances, or by a repair contractor who has been certified by the manufacturer. No matter who you call, the Consumer Protection Act stipulates the same procedure.

Ask for a written estimate
If the repair cost is more than $50 and if the defective appliance is a stove, fridge, freezer, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, microwave oven, air conditioner or dehumidifier  you must be provided with a written estimate before any work is performed (it is possible to refuse it by providing a document signed and written entirely in your own handwriting). Unless prior notice has been provided, no fees can be charged for this estimate. The repair contractor must respect the estimate once it has been accepted.

When the work is finished, an official invoice must be produced and the nature of the repairs carried out as well as the price of the new, used and reconditioned parts installed must be listed on the bill. The date on which the appliance is once again functioning properly in your home must also be written on the bill. The legally required three-month warranty on parts and labour takes effect as of that date, as specified by the Office de la protection du consommateur on its website.

It may not be repairable, but it can certainly be recycled
If it is impossible to repair an appliance or if it is not worth repairing (especially due to the cost!), you will have no choice but to get rid of it.

Naturally, municipalities offer a pick-up service for large waste items. However, it would appear that nine times out of ten, old household appliances end up somewhere other than a landfill. Most retailers of new and used appliances will accept old items and take them apart so that some of the parts can be used to recondition other appliances. What’s more, recycling companies and waste recovery centres are more than willing to give old appliances new life.

The following directories will help you find this type of company in your area (in French only) :

Double the benefits of your purchase by saving energy, too!
If you have to replace your appliance, a good solution is to opt for an energy-efficient ENERGY STAR-qualified appliance. Its operating cost will be much lower because refrigeration appliances that are more than 10 years old consume 4.8 times as much energy as the same new Energy Star-rated appliance. 

These appliances will produce considerable savings throughout their lifespan of between 10 and 21 years, depending on the type of appliance. ENERGY STAR-qualified refrigerators consume 15-20% less energy than the Canadian minimum energy yield standards. As for qualified washing machines, they use up to 50% less energy and between 35 and 50% less water!

Having a faulty household appliance is never a pleasant experience. But when it comes time to change, why not change for the better—better for you, better for your pocketbook and better for the environment.