Helen Martin: Planning to get rid of built-in obsolescence

EU regulations mean the Scottish Parliament is facing a �1m lighting bill for the lighting seen at the rear of the chamber. Picture: contributed
EU regulations mean the Scottish Parliament is facing a �1m lighting bill for the lighting seen at the rear of the chamber. Picture: contributed
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THE lighting installed just 12 years ago in the Scottish Parliament’s debating chamber is about to be replaced, at a cost to us of £1 million.

The current system has been banned by the EU and regardless of whether we fully Brexit or not, will become non-existent because the bulbs are only made by one manufacturer in Germany who, understandably, is stopping production.

Obsolescence is becoming a major and regular part of life that is costing us all a fortune. That wasn’t always the case. Ask your granny and she’ll probably remember the days when a vacuum cleaner lasted for 50 years and TVs could be repaired time after time.

My aunt ran a hotel in Ireland, one of the few buildings in the village that had electric lighting. . . only lighting. Everything else, including the iron to press the bed linen and her pre-war, sausage-shaped, suction carpet cleaner, came with plugs which fitted into the ceiling light bulb socket.

Surprisingly, over the course of 20 years, the place never blew up and she didn’t suffer a single electric shock.

Safety is one of the best reasons for making something obsolete, but where does it stop?

Our central heating system and boiler was brand new 12 years ago (just like Holyrood) and at the time, complied with all the relevant legislation.

Now, at our annual service, I get hit with increasing notices of being “at risk” because of new rules applying to the height of the outside vent, the length of the flue, and various other tweaks I don’t understand.

Three years ago we had to have a hole cut in the kitchen ceiling so the engineer could stick his head up and inspect the flue joint. That was then passed as satisfactory. We had the kitchen renewed and decorated.

This year another engineer marked it as at risk because the joint had insufficient support. Fortunately adjustment isn’t compulsory – the only way to achieve that would be to bring the new ceiling down again.

Global warming is another huge player in forcing us to scrap perfectly functioning items and systems because of emissions or the levels of energy they use.

The EU is even about to dictate how powerful vacuum cleaners can be. But does that clash with efficiency and safety when it comes to homes with dogs, cats or asthmatics?

For manufacturers, built-in obsolescence is a terrific money-spinner. A flat screen television is now expected to last for an average of five years, about 15 years less than the old clunky square ones. Why? Because today’s goggle-box is just that . . . a plastic box containing a little mother board which can’t be fixed.

Cooker extraction hoods come equipped with halogen lights which over-heat and can fuse the whole thing. They don’t come with cool LEDs which would cost just £12 more. A well-known Scottish kitchen supply firm has cost me about £1200 in total over that.

But the greatest cause of obsolescence is the consumer’s lust for the latest model.

Never mind if the mobile phone, the TV, the vacuum or the freezer is still working perfectly. Chuck it out and get an upgrade.

Okay, safety first. But it might be time we considered the effect all this obsolescence is having on poverty, waste and landfill.

Betrayed over crooked banks

MORE banking shenanigans have been revealed in the last week . . .

RBS pretending to help struggling firms while taking over their assets on the cheap to sell at a profit for the bank, and all banks who paid out compensation for mis-selling PPI now demanding money back from customers – because the bank miscalculated the payouts made years ago!

On PPI the Financial Ombudsman says banks are not breaking any rules. Clearly honesty, integrity, responsibility for their own mistakes and the unfairness of pursuing people who have already spent the money in good faith, don’t count.

But the Government has a duty to protect the public from exploitation. Our banking system is shameless and despite the hell it has caused and continues to visit on ordinary people – and swathes of it still being in public ownership – it is under-regulated and by any moral yardstick, downright crooked. Parliament is betraying us by its inaction.

Smart meters not looking so clever

ONE of the highest domestic costs is energy, due to rise by another £130 a year. But don’t be too quick to sign up to smart meters currently being heavily– flogged by suppliers.

One firm’s smart meter (“kindly” installed at no cost) is not guaranteed to be compatible with another supplier, should you wish to change for a cheaper tariff.

In that respect, it’s just another way of locking you in. There are also concerns that the radiation these meters emit can be harmful to humans, animals and even plants! Surveys overseas have also shown that in the majority of cases, such meters don’t result in lower bills.

Yet the UK government wants to see us all on smart meters by 2020? Not for me thank you.

Tesco pays price for big brands

TESCO and Unilever have resolved their spat over the supermarket’s refusal to raise prices on the global giant’s brands such as Hellman’s and Marmite. What a waste of time and energy. Tesco initially refused because it’s already in a price war with Lidl and Aldi – who are winning because they DON’T do big brands. Wake up Tesco!