When Did We Forget We Had Hands?

When Did We Forget We Had Hands?

Americans in the 21st century seem to have forgotten that their hands are attached to their body for uses other than surfing, texting or typing. In fact, a report from 1998 (when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth!) shows Americans using more electricity to run small appliances than in any other area.

Items such as computers, ceiling fans, halogen torchiere lamps, vacuum cleaners, electric skillets, dehumidifiers, waterbed heaters, electric toothbrushes, hot tubs, video tape recorders, microwave ovens and stereos – all bunched under a category power companies and the U.S. Department of Energy call “miscellaneous” – now account for about one-fifth of the energy used in your home, and the percentage is growing quickly. Increasing nearly 5 percent a year, the power needed to run small appliances more than doubled from 1976 to 1995.

Large appliances have been upgraded to use one-third as much electricity as they did in 1992 – a remarkable achievement that has allowed the nation’s utilities to continue providing largely uninterrupted service in spite of population growth. But very little effort or legislation has been aimed at curbing the energy appetites of smaller appliances like electric can openers, electric toothbrushes, food choppers/processors, electric skillets, popcorn poppers and the like, largely on the persistent impression that these smaller appliances don’t use enough electricity to worry about.

My personal pet peeve is the electric can opener. While very useful, perhaps even necessary, to older adults suffering arthritis, that is not the demographic which owns these whining little devices. It is perfectly healthy (for the most part) young and middle-aged couples, not raised in the pre-1930 era which saw electricity as a miraculous but very expensive commodity, available to most city-dwellers but only 10 percent of rural population (at a time when rural living was the norm), which saw its cost as prohibitive, since it involved the expense of running the transmission and distribution lines.

Today the exact opposite is true; electricity is still one of the cheapest advances in technology, and owning some of the more exotic and frivolous appliances like an electric can opener, a Salad Shooter and a French pancake maker mark the dividing line between the frugal (male or female) homemaker who hasn’t forgotten how to chop green beans and those grownups who really do own all the toys.



Many of these appliances continue to use energy even when off, and can consume nearly 20 percent of a household’s electricity budget. You can identify them by the red or green status lights and LED (time of day/status) displays. Two of these culprits are set-top cable boxes and digital satellite systems.

If you don’t have these electronic luxuries yet, vow to buy them (where possible) as solar-powered or hand-powered units. Choose a hand-powered paper shredder, which has almost nothing that can break down (unlike their electric-powered cousins). Or a stapler-free stapler, an oxymoronic title for a devilishly clever device (someone stayed up nights working on this!)

For emergency situations, choose a wind-up radio, flashlight and cell phone charger. Wow! Who knew “hands-free” could get so good?

And don’t forget to check out the rest of Green Home’s environmental store for energy-wise heating and cooling units, solar-powered lights, fans and electronics, and start whittling away at your utility bill. The best thing about energy wise devices is that, after your initial investment, they start giving back very quickly by reducing power bills.


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