October 11, 2011

High Style Low Consumption

As BC Hydro marks 50 years of energy efficiency, we look back on how our use of electricity – and home appliances and gadgets – has changed over the last half-century.

BY MICHELLE HOPKINS

The ’60s was a time of technological advances that made life simpler for homemakers, providing more leisure time than ever before. Although electric stoves, refrigerators, toasters and kettles revolutionized the kitchen in the ’50s, the ’60s was a time of mass production, making them more affordable for all. Vacuum cleaners and washing machines cut down on the hours the lady of the house spent cleaning. So proud of their appliances were the women of this era that they often displayed them in their family rooms. Today, gadgets are much more technically advanced and more energy efficient – and they are front and centre in nearly every room in our homes.

Things have also changed over the five decades BC Hydro has been in business. In 1961, when BC Hydro replaced BC Electric, electricity was adding luxury and style, influencing home design. With an eye on growing advancement, homes of the 1960s were being wired with “adequate power for appliances today and further electrical conveniences in the future,” says Doug Overholt, of BC Hydro’s Power Smart New Home Program. “Compared to 50 years ago, home designs today are larger overall, and more flexible too,” Overholt adds. “Things are less formal now, and living spaces have paralleled that informality.” But builders of the ’60s didn’t anticipate just how much power we would need for today’s modern household. “There’s more lighting, there are more appliances, there are electronics – and these have all had implications for builders,” says Overholt. In an attempt to minimize our carbon footprint, automated gadgets are all about being energy efficient. “Decreasing your carbon footprint was not on the forefront in the ’60s, it was more about gadgets and making “work” in the kitchen a little more glamorous,” says interior decorator Alykhan Velji, of Calgary-based Alykhan Velji Design, who is appearing this month at the Vancouver Home + Design Show. “Since the ’60s, our energy consumption has been increasing and at a rapid pace.

There has to be things in place to lower our consumption, hence the introduction of Energy Star appliances, compact fluorescent bulbs, rebates from the government, and more. These really helped in lowering this number – however, we all have to do our part.” Besides being more energy efficient, technology is also finding ways to incorporate new design into home gadgets, which are becoming sleeker and more refined. “Gadgets are become more streamlined and serving double duty.

Decreasing your carbon footprint was not on the forefront in the ’60s, it was more about gadgets and making “work” in the kitchen a little more glamorous. Alykhan Velji, Alykhan Velji Design

There is also a lot of smart technology that is being introduced, such as touch screens and touchless gadgets,” adds Velji. Design in general has taken on a more eco-friendly role, where many recycled materials are repurposed and given new life as different products, says Velji. “Also, the availability is there to take your old appliances to places that will recycle them instead of going to the landfill,” he adds. Today’s gadgets have unique elements that make them easier to use. “A touch screen, for example, is great because you don’t have to press any buttons for use,” says Velji. “I also love the kitchen faucets that you can get now that have a sensor and turn on automatically.” Velji also likes to repurpose vintage gadgets in his interior design. “If you have old gadgets and they are in good condition, I would display them,” he says. “This would work if you had a mid-century feel in your space and I think would really bring in some character. “However, if you don’t have a use for old gadgets any more, I would take them to a second-hand store or a place that specializes in vintage appliances and furniture. They may gladly take the pieces off your hands.”

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