One Google Search, and a Few €, Extended the Life of my TV by 9 Years. Here’s How

By Daniel Schwaab 

E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in Europe, and it’s easy to see why. Our linear economy and “throw away” culture have led to the fact that electronic devices and appliances are neither designed to last or be easily repaired.  

In fact, it often feels like devices start breaking down the moment their warranty expires. This is compounded by the lure of the latest and greatest gadgets. Think about mobile phones. The moment the battery begins showing signs of reduced capacity, we start shopping for its replacement.   

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The Right to Repair 

The Right to Repair movement has recently gained more attention in the market because, in November 2021, Apple announced, after a long debate, a self-service repair option for their devices (check out Steve Wozniak’s position on this).

Overall, the Right to Repair is a central element in the move towards a circular economy, but there is still a long way to go as brands struggle to change their habits, and legislators struggle to set the right policies.

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How I Managed to Extend the Lifetime of My TV  

Around 12 years ago, I bought a 40-inch LED TV from a well-known brand. After three years, I noticed that it started taking longer and longer to turn on.

Eventually, it took two minutes for the image to appear on screen. Shortly after that, it stopped turning on at all. By that time, of course, the warranty had expired.  

I know that oftentimes the cause of an electronic problem is well known and quite common and, as a physicist, I’m not afraid to take anything apart to find out exactly what that problem is.

What I found when I opened the back of the TV (and confirmed with a quick Google search) was that some components on the power supply module had simply died. (For the more technically inclined among you: several capacitors had blown up).

I bought some new capacitors for less than a Euro and proceeded to solder them to the power supply board. Easy. Needless to say, the TV began working properly again (and still is). 

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Ultimately, I was lucky that: 

1. The TV was relatively easy to dismantle. The TV also used normal screws, and the parts didn’t break down as I began repairs (like some are designed to do). This is, unfortunately, not the common experience.  

 2. I was able to identify and then find replacements for the parts. In this case, I even found someone selling the components as part of a repair kit. In the future, I’d prefer to see brands offering their own repair kits.  

 3. I was able to find a guide on Google that showed me the root cause, and how to fix it. This guide was done by another consumer and, again, I’d prefer to see brands do it themselves

4. I could do the repairs myself and did not need a local shop or repair service. Too often, those shops make more money selling new equipment, and have no real interest (or capability) in actually repairing anything. 

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Turning my Old TV into a Smart TV 

Most TVs sold these days are smart, which means that they can connect to the internet and stream content from services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. My TV was functional, but it didn’t have a SMART HUB like most of the new ones do.

Instead of upgrading to a newer model, all I had to do was plug a small streaming device (40€) into the HDMI slot. This simple and relatively inexpensive move transformed my old TV into a smart one. 

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Give Your Electronics New Life  

My experience is a good example of how you can extend the life of your devices by repairing them instead of replacing them. You can extend their lives even more by passing them on when you’re done with them (in my case, we sold the TV when we decided to buy a new one). 

My old washing machine had similar issues that I could trace down to a 5cm-by-5cm electronic circuit board. But even though the issue was clear, the repair shop I took it to informed me that they would not be able to fix it, and that the part I needed to do the repairs myself wasn’t available as a spare part. That was the end of that. The washing machine had to be thrown out.  

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It makes me angry to know that by saving money on simple components, brands willingly reduce their products’ life span.

Not just that, but they make it difficult for their customers to repair or upgrade their devices so that they can sell more new stuff. As consumers we should try to buy good quality devices, and if something breaks, we should try to fix it before throwing it out. 

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You can Google it, like me, or you can take it to a repair cafe