Take a Tip from History: 3 Newfangled Conveniences With Old Fashioned, Energy-Saving Alternatives

October 10, 2016   By The SOE Team

Take a Tip from History: 3 Newfangled Conveniences With Old Fashioned, Energy-Saving Alternatives

In modern times, we have adapted to many conveniences that we did not have for thousands of years. In the Victorian era, people didn’t watch TV. And do you really think cowboys bathed under running water? It feels as though the newfangled comforts we’ve acquired are impossible to live without. But they aren’t. We’re simply lucky enough to have them as a part of our lives.

A downside to this luck is the energy we waste by taking advantage of novel technologies. No one needs to watch TV for five hours a day or take a 30 minute shower when there are old fashioned ways to get around excessive use of these modern conveniences. If we lived without them for that long, we can treat them as a luxury and save energy in the process. Let’s take a look at 3 contemporary amenities’ history to understand how we can, in fact, live without them and use old fashioned techniques to conserve energy.

The Vacuum Cleaner:

Vacuum cleaners didn’t exist until 1901 when Hubert Cecil Booth invented the “Puffing Billy.” This large device was powered by an internal combustion engine and captured dirt through suction and a cloth filter. Because it was so bulky and loud, Booth marketed it as a home service rather than a household appliance. Back then, vacuums were more of a novelty. Booth’s customers would frequently hold tea parties during their carpet cleaning service to show off what the Puffing Billy could do. It wasn’t until half a century later that modern vacuums became a staple in household cleaning.

Nowadays we use vacuums for every day cleaning, which considering how contemporary these electric appliances are, is quite unnecessary. To save electricity, go the old fashioned route and trade your vacuum for a broom. You could even transport rugs outdoors to beat the dirt off of them, just like your grandma used to do.


The first successful television demonstration took place in San Francisco in 1927. However, TVs did not become a fixture in American homes until the mid-1950s when more than half of American homes had one of these entertainment devices. Following the introduction of color TV and multiple broadcasting companies, by the late 1990s, 98% of American homes had a television. Today, the average American watches two to five hours of TV a day, using as much as $6 worth of energy per month.

Before television existed, people had to find creative ways to entertain themselves. From going on a stroll, to reading a book, to playing board games, there are plenty of old fashioned ways to keep occupied. Turn off the TV, grab your family and play Monopoly! Not only will you be saving energy, you’ll be fruitfully interacting with the people you love.


Modern bathing techniques came with indoor plumbing in the 19th Century. However, back then, bathrooms were considered a luxury and many homes were without indoor plumbing as late as the 1960s. People used to bathe in wooden tubs and the water would be regularly used to clean multiple people. It wasn’t until the mid-to-late 20th Century that the shower, as we know it, became a common fixture in homes.

I am by no means suggesting that you quit bathing. Back in olden times, people often stunk so bad that it would turn stomachs. We should most certainly utilize this modern convenience, but there are ways to save energy in this realm without sacrificing cleanliness. Instead of sitting under the water for your entire shower, make a compromise and take a “navy shower.” All you have to do is turn your water off during the middle of your shower, as you are soaping yourself down. Then, turn the water back on for a minute or so to rinse off. By using this old fashioned military technique, you can successfully conserve a significant amount of water without jeopardizing your hygiene.