The recent storms to hit our little neck of the woods raises the question about how to prevent damage to your electronics and home appliances.
First, let me say there are no absolutes when it comes to the performance and longevity of appliances and electronics. There is no magic number of years that you can expect these things to last. And, they are no longer a lifetime investment.
Second, there is no planned obsolescence or conspiracy by the manufacturers as to how long an appliance or electronic device should last. It really depends on how it is used, maintained and protected. Factors such as government mandates to improve efficiency, conserve energy and rising costs of raw materials have changed how these items are built. Manufacturers today have the technology to engineer and build electronics and appliances to last like the tanks we grew up with, but the cost to do that would run the prices through the roof. So, the manufacturers are given the task to balance price, features, performance and longevity.
Furthermore, what was once featured the "best of the best" 10 to 20 years ago is most likely a "middle of the road" featured item today. The price of those items have changed but a few percentage points over time. However, the new "best of the best" are vastly improved with convenience enhancements that were not even thought of 10 years ago. It is the combination of increased technology, performance enhancing features and materials that create the sticker shock we all see these days.
Now to my point of prevention. Think of all the things you have that plug in and use electricity. 90 percent of them have some sort of electronic board or controller. If you were like me years ago, you only plugged your computer or TV into a surge protector that was supposed to protect them against spikes from storms or power surges. It then dawned on me I should do the same with everything electrical. A simple item such as a $5-$10 surge protector can save all of the expensive stuff. You might ask, "what about an electric oven or furnace and AC unit that run off 220v power?" If they don't have electrical surge protection built into them already you might look into a whole house surge protection system. These require a certified electrician to install and can cost several hundreds of dollars, but it protects every circuit in your home and thousands of dollars of equipment.
Last, I have noticed more portable generators running during our most current outages. These are a great way to keep things running and off the main grid until the power comes back. The down side to these are that you have to be home to pull them out, start them up and plug the items you want to use into them. That presents the question of what do you want to keep running and will it handle everything you want? Then, you need to be there when the gas runs out so you can refill them. And, they don't protect anything when the power first goes out when the most damage can occur.
The best thing that you can do to protect your investments in appliances and electronics would be to invest in a standby generator. These items have surge protection built into them, come in a variety of sizes to cover the minimum number of circuits needed to maintain a comfortable existence during power outages, or you can get them sized to run your entire home just like nothing happened. Standby generators turn on automatically within 10 seconds of an outage and run using the natural gas that comes to your home so no running to the gas station in the middle of the night. Once a week the unit will go through a self test for about 10 minutes and yearly maintenance by a certified technician should provide you with worry free power no matter where you are or what the situation. Prices for standby generators begin around $1800. Installation varies greatly due to location of utilities and circuits you want to power up and could range from $2000 to $4000.
You have a lot invested in your appliances and electronics. Treat them equally and with proper use and care you may extend their life.