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A History of Residential Electricity- Part 2

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The twentieth century is known as the golden age of electricity as it brought rapid technological advancements in the field. Edison continued to make improvements to the lightbulb, but the impacts went far beyond replacing oil lamps. Electricity being brought into the home allowed people to bring new technology into their lives. The era birthed the inventions of the home radio, a compact (enough) vacuum, and electric coffee makers. People could now bathe without heating individual buckets of water, as the electricity both enabled water to be pumped into the house as well as heat the water. 

There was, however, a great discrepancy between how quickly people in the city received modern updates as opposed to people living in the country. By 1925, half the country had running electricity in their homes and those who did not lived in rural areas. When indoor plumbing was installed deep in the country in the 1930s, urbanized areas had already had it for years. 

Just as the advent of the Internet accelerated innovation within the last 20 years, so did the introduction of in-home electricity at the turn of the 20th century. Not only were previously laborious tasks replaced with semi-modern conveniences, the entire way of life changed for the average American family. Home appliances such as electric stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers came onto the market, air conditioners were refined and altered for home use, and electric lawn mowers became available. Invention spurred innovation by the mid-1900s, small kitchen appliances was a booming industry, most households had their own radio, and color televisions were coming on the scene. 

With the growing use of electricity, came the growing profit to be made and the ability to politicize this new commodity. Samuel Insull, an entrepreneur, made valiant efforts to keep electricity affordable by proposing statewide regulations for maximum rates, rather than the county-by-county ones that were becoming burdensome, and in exchange the state gave one power company a legal monopoly over the area. New York and Wisconsin were the first states to agree to this statewide regulation. Insull provided inexpensive power to many until the Great Depression, when his company collapsed with the economy. 

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