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Way Back Play Back – How Appliances Have Changed Over the Years

It’s always fun to look back on the past and take a closer look at how much things can change in just a few years. Take the Internet for example – while it’s difficult to conceive of a world without it now, a lot of us didn’t even know it existed until 15 or so years ago. Working in the home improvement industry, I come across hilarious old household items daily and always get a kick out of the fact that once, that style was ‘cool’. Appliances are one group of items that have come a really long way over the years in terms of style, convenience and environmental friendliness. Here are a few of the most notable changes.

Fridges –

When it comes to style, what’s old is new again when it comes to fridges, but the comparisons stop there. Modern fridges consume on average only half of the energy that they did 20 years ago, making them not only more earth-friendly but also more cost-efficient. If you’re still hanging on to an old fridge, head over to the Energy Star website to see the real benefits of upgrading.

Washing Machines –

One thing tends to come to mind when thinking about the washing machines of the past – hard work. Before an electric motor was used, clean clothes required a whole lot of scrubbing and wringing. Even after the process of extraction became mainstream, two units were still required – one for washing and another for extracting the water after the clothes were clean. Today’s washers use between 10 and 25 gallons of water per load, significantly less than the average 30 – 40 gallons used by the old machines. They also use a lot less energy – in fact, 95% of the energy used by your washing machine is to heat the water; just think how much less energy you can use by washing in cold!

Dryers –

Not unlike it’s washing counterpart, drying clothes used to be a lot more work than it is now. Allowing things to dry out on the line was great (and still is) but some people wanted another option, a process to get the job done faster. Enter the traditional clothes dryer, a drum with holes that was rotated by-hand over an open fire. The introduction of the electric dryer in the early 20th century did make the process a bit easier, but it still took a lot longer than it does today. While most modern dryers use similar amounts of energy, features such as timed-dry and sensor shut-off’s ensure that your dryer doesn’t run any longer than necessary!

Microwaves –

For an accidental discovery, the microwave has had a pretty big impact on households across the world but it really hasn’t changed that much over the years. Early models used around 1600 watts of energy and cost a small fortune, much more than most homeowners could afford. By late in the 20th century though, negative myths surrounding their use had been disproven and sales began to skyrocket, making them a prominent fixture in hundreds of millions of homes. Today’s microwaves cost a fraction of the original price, come in a variety of sizes and use anywhere from 550 – 1600 watts. To put that in perspective, an electric oven set to a temperature of 350 degrees uses around 2000 watts.

It’s easy to forget that life wasn’t always as convenient as it is today, but our easy lives do come at a cost – and most of it is left for the environment to pay. Today’s manufacturers are trying their best to keep this in mind, but the responsibility isn’t doesn’t lie solely with them. Keeping our earth clean and green for years to come is everyone’s job! Keep this in mind the next time you leave your dryer running too long, set your washer to hot water, or use the dishwasher to clean just a handful of plates – the environment will thank you!


Jessica is an environmentally conscience do-it-yourselfer who loves to help people green-ify their homes. She works as a Community Coordinator at PartSelect where they sell parts for Whirlpool appliances and provide homeowners with the resources they need to take repairs into their own hands.