Remember Hans Rosling's case for the washing machine on TED? The same goes for other household appliances. Let's look at how things stack up.
1. Stove – 4 hours becomes 1 hour. We currently cook with wood, and will be getting a modern, electric stove on Tuesday. Starting the fire, heating up the oven, and feeding it while waiting for water to boil are the most time-consuming parts of the cooking process. Cut that, and suddenly I get three more hours per day.
2. Washing machine – 1 hour becomes 5 minutes. I currently also spend roughly an hour every day washing clothes by hand. Getting the washing machine to do the job would save a lot of time. We do have a washing machine, but it only gets non-soiled clothes for various reasons – I wash the soiled clothes by hand.
3. Dishwasher – 30 minutes becomes 5 minutes. We do have a dishwasher. It took me a while to break the habit of washing up by hand after meals… 🙂
4. Vacuum cleaner. Not daily time savings here, but cleaning carpets by hand is a big pain. I'd assume the time investment meant carpets weren't cleaned as often as they are today. I'm glad I don't have to do that!
5. Refridgerator / Car. These two items combined mean that groceries don't need to be done every day. A car has more space for transporting food than a backpack, trolly, or stroller – meaning that instead of two or three trips to the grocery store per week, once is sufficient. Of course, that only holds true if there's a sufficiently large refridgerator to take care of it. This should save me another two hours per week – the time it takes for the second grocery store trip, on foot.
6.Heater with automated temperature control. This saves only five or ten minutes per day in winter, but a whole lot of physical strength and energy for not having to collect wood and bring it into the house during the heating season, start up the fire, and remember to feed it every now and then.
Okay, so added up we're looking at something 4-5 hours of extra time per day. That's equivalent to a part-time job. That's potentially a lot of time per day! Where does all that time go? (I'm looking forward to Tuesday, when we get an electric stove to supplement our wood stove… and three extra hours of time per day.)
Now to the environmental footprint: the car is obvious. The others are not so obvious. But using electricity to heat water to wash clothes or dishes or power a vacuum cleaner or fridge, additional detergents required to clean dishes and clothes that are more corrosive than the quantity I'd need to wash by hand, are all side-effects with additional environmental consequences. The electricity has to be generated somewhere – and today, usually that's not via green sources. The ancient way is renewable energy with a carbon footprint – as opposed to a modeln coal, oil, green, and nuclear mix. Which is more environmentally friendly? In terms of chemical runoff, manual cleaning is better. In terms of carbon emission, we'll be there when we have a working private hobby wind turbine to power household appliances running… somewhere in my son's dreams of cars and wind turbines.
Link: The case for the washing maschine: http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing_machine.html