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Last edited 01 Mar 2021
Service life of products
The term ‘service life’ is usually applied to products to indicate the period of time over which they can function as they were intended, giving users the service they expect. So, for instance, the service life of a boiler is the length of time it can function as a boiler ie, providing heating and hot water.
Service life may be thought to begin at the point of sale ie, when the customer buys the product, whether in a shop, online or wherever purchased, to the point it is discarded. Some products however, are discarded before the end of their service life for various reasons, including the arrival of better products on the market, boredom or simply a desire for change.
A product said to have a long service life may suffer the occasional breakdown during that time. However, if it can be maintained and repaired to allow it to function as before, it should not normally interfere with the service life. Poor repairs can however, adversely affect service life.
 What can determine service life?
- Quality of manufacture
- Materials used
- Flexibility in use
- Intensity of use
- Operating/environment conditions
- Care in distribution and use
- Built-in obsolescence
- Maintenance and repairs
Manufacturers can use tools and calculations (reliability analysis and maintainability, for instance) to determine a product’s expected service life. Specifying a product’s service life represents a commitment on the part of a manufacturer which, if seriously overstated, could have financial implications for them.
For most commercial and consumer products, manufacturers commit cautiously to service life, usually staying within a 2-5-year period. But this can depend on the product in question: motor vehicles may have a service life of 150,000 miles or 15 years of service before they are regarded as at the end of their service life.
 The service life of a building
The Home Quality Mark One, Technical Manual SD239, England, Scotland & Wales, published by BRE in 2018, defines the service life of a building as ‘the period of time after installation during which a building, or its part, meets or exceeds the performance requirements.’ See 'service life' for more information.
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