Modern life has given us a kitchen full of appliances that turn on and off at the push of a button. Electric dishwashers, stove tops, ovens, washing machines, clothes dryers, refrigerators, hot water heaters and air conditioners are standard in many homes, and smaller kitchen appliances like microwaves, toasters and electric kettles provide effortless convenience as well. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages of home appliances, and you may want to weigh your options before making a purchase.
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Electrical Appliances
The major reason why electrical appliances have become so ubiquitous in our homes is that they help us save time on everyday tasks. When you don't have to hand-wash dishes or clothes, you have more time to devote to your career, hobbies or family. Even the humble refrigerator allows us to shop for fresh produce about once a week rather than every day.
However, some appliances create fire and flood hazards. For example, the U.S. Fire Administration reports that approximately 2,900 house fires are caused by dryers each year, resulting in an average of 5 deaths, 100 injuries and $35 million in property damage. In addition, appliances require electricity, natural gas or water, and none of these utilities are cheap, especially if you run your appliances all the time or do not use energy-saving models.
Disadvantages of Electrical Energy
The discovery of electricity introduced us to a world of convenience and invention, but this electricity is often generated in ways that are harmful to the environment. Virtually all electricity is generated by turning a turbine, which sends kinetic energy to a generator that converts that energy into an electrical current. Wind can turn the turbine, but so can hot steam — and that hot steam is often produced by burning coal. If you're concerned about the environmental and humanitarian impacts of mining and burning coal, you may be concerned about using electricity generated with this fuel.
The cost of electricity also varies widely depending on how it's generated, and therefore it costs more to power the same appliances in certain areas of the country versus others. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, a homeowner in California would pay 21 cents per kilowatt-hour, whereas a homeowner in Missouri would pay 9 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The other major disadvantage of electrical energy is that it's relatively easy to become disconnected from this power source. Weather events tend to disrupt electrical lines, and when the management of your home entirely depends on electrical appliances, it's easy to feel lost during a power outage. Suddenly you can't wash or dry your clothes, store your food or even cook meals.
Alternatives to Electrical Appliances
If you want to reduce your dependency on electricity, alternatives exist. Often, you can just return to doing things "the old-fashioned way." For example, you can hang your clothes out to dry or wash dishes by hand. You can also choose to buy gas-powered appliances (such as stoves and water heaters), which are less susceptible to outages but do pose health risks if the gas line leaks.
You can even build an outdoor clay oven for cooking anything from casseroles to pizzas. Washing your clothes without electricity can be accomplished with a simple sink or with a clever pedal-powered agitator.
Once you start searching for an alternative to electrical appliances, you're bound to find a solution. After all, electricity is a relatively modern invention. However, some modern appliances are more difficult to replace, such as refrigerators. For these few remaining electrical necessities, you may be interested in supplying and controlling your source of electricity, such as with a solar panel or mini wind turbine.