How Technology Is Changing Your Home Appliances

How Technology is Changing Your Home Appliances

Between Government Energy-Efficiency Regulations and Smart Technology, There’s No Going Back

It’s hard to fathom how much our home appliances have changed since 1975. Why that year?

That’s when the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) was enacted by Congress, establishing a federal program for energy targets, labeling, testing, etc. California had enacted standards a year earlier, and everyone quickly realized that such things were better handled on the national level. That way manufacturers didn’t have to deal with individual state standards.

In 1979, EPCA was amended so the Department of Energy (DOE) could establish energy conservation standards. And in 1987, the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act set minimum efficiency standards for many items in our home. Congress also established schedules for the DOE to review and update items.

As the years go by, additional acts set new standards on new products as well as updated old ones.

In 2017, released a Benefits PDF explaining how successful the program has been.

Here’s their summary chart:

How technology is changing your home appliances

In terms of energy savings,

“The typical new refrigerator uses one-quarter the energy than in 1973 — despite offering 20% more storage capacity and being available at half the retail cost.”

They also mention additional efficiency gains since 1990 in the following appliances:

  • New clothes washers use 70% less energy
  • New dishwashers use more than 40% less energy
  • New air conditioners use about 50% less energy
  • New furnaces use about 10% less energy

This 2017 report also states:

“The national energy efficiency standards completed through 2016 are expected to save 71 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) of energy by 2020 and nearly 142 quads through 2030—more energy than the entire nation consumes in one year. The cumulative utility bill savings to consumers are estimated to be more than $1 trillion by 2020 and more than $2 trillion by 2030.”

And since the cost of energy and water continues to rise, energy-efficient appliances can be of help there too.

Many of us remember with great fondness how reliable older home appliances were. But when they bite the dust, accept it, and turn to today’s more energy-efficient ones—unless you want to visit used appliance stores! You might score something more affordable but still reliable. And since retro is hot these days, you might even find the real deal from the 1940s or 50s that knocks your socks off. Just be aware they use more electricity, and it may be almost impossible to find repair parts.

Of course, new energy-efficient appliances can be pricey to buy. So, if you go new, it’s more important than ever to decide just what features you want. Bells and whistles cost money!

Enter Smart Technology

Energy efficiency is only one part of the evolution of home appliances. AI, which makes voice control possible, and app-based smart tech, which uses a home’s WiFi and the Internet, are also significant factors. Less obvious, but equally impactful, is the Internet of Things (IoT). This technology lets machines interact with other machines.

IoT examples include:

  • Dryers syncing to matching washers to set the most effective drying cycle
  • Appliances running diagnostics with its manufacturers
  • Refrigerators sensing what’s missing from your fridge and reminding you to restock

What’s the Difference Between an Automated Home and a Smart Home?

The primary difference is whether WiFi or the Internet is involved in the control process. “Smart” uses the WiFi and the Internet. Automation uses different kinds of technologies to control devices—and often, no human intervention is required.

Automation examples include: 

  • Garage door safety sensors that prevent the door from closing if someone or something is in the way
  • Dusk-to-dawn light automatically turns on and off on its own
  • A programmable thermostat is a form of home automation if everything is self-contained

More fully automated homes have a master controller where everything is set up and event sequences are established. For example, home theater systems are often programmed so a simple button push triggers a series of events—lights dim, shades are drawn, a projector warms up, a screen drops down, and a stereo system is turned on.

Technically, automated homes predate smart homes. Today, however, the terms are often used interchangeably.

The Evolution of the Automated then Smart Home

The idea of an automated or smart home has been around for decades. The haunting short story “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury first appeared in 1950. He describes a home we’d recognize today as automated or smart, even futuristic smart, still functioning after one or more nuclear explosions kills off humanity.

According to, the very first smartphone dates to 1994, the first smart home technology took a bow in 1975, and the first voice assistant debuted way back in 1952, though the 2010s saw the emergence of Siri, Watson, and Google Assistant.

BCC Research credits the smart home concept back to Nikola Tesla in 1898 when he invented remote controls.

Some call out the 1966 ECHO IV home computer. Invented by Jim Sutherland in Pittsburgh, PA., it could:

“Control many aspects of his home with his wife and children as active users. It truly was a home computer—that is, the house itself was part of the computer and its use was integrated into the family’s daily routines.”

Keypads and terminals around the home interacted with ECHO IV, which was housed in four 6-ft.-high cabinets in the basement. Its applications included clocks, stereo system power, TV control, thermostat, music/tone generator, and match and educational programs.

The Kitchen Computer followed a year later. It could generate recipes. When commercialized by Honeywell and sold by Neiman Marcus in 1969, it had a hefty price tag and a snarky tagline:

“If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute.”

Automated homes became popular in the early 2000s. Systems monitored or controlled things like lighting, climate control, entertainments systems, etc. As noted earlier, no Internet or WiFi was involved.

Which bring us to the 2004 LG Internet Refrigerator. A reviewer at the time enthused:

“The LG Internet Refrigerator has the coolest set of features ever seen in the kitchen…Users can watch TV, listen to MP3 music, take and store digital photos, make a video phone call, use the fridge as a message board or surf the web. It also has VCR and DVD ports, a microphone and speakers. Information about food in the fridge can be stored and a map of the fridge allows the owner to keep an inventory of what foods are in each section and how long they have been there. Its biggest advantage will be its functionality as a food management system. It also has an inbuilt hard drive and modem, so that the appliance can be 'connected' by simply running a phone connection into it.”

What will the Future Hold for Home Appliances?

Smartphones, smart TVs, and smart speakers slowly got us accustomed to the idea of “smart.” Smart doorbells, smart thermostats, smart bulbs, and smart security systems with their apps followed. Today, many major and minor appliances and fixtures are smart and will even respond to voice commands via Alexa and Google Assistant. But what about the future?

Today’s appliances may look different than their predecessors, but virtually all are improvements on existing devices. Will that continue? Or will something new emerge? speculates:

  • To make homes more convenient, devices will become integrated with each other and totally automated—integrated coffee maker, wirelessly connected appliances, and customizable thermostat
  • With natural disasters becoming more common, homeowners will need to make sure their homes can sustain them—water storage system, backup generator, long-term food storage
  • Homeowners can become more eco-friendly and lower their utility bills with green kitchen technology—heat induction stove, built-in herb garden, and water conservation system
  • Digital backsplash that displays artwork and is where you can watch TV, surf the web to pull up recipes, and use the touchscreen to control appliances
  • Smart oven hood—instead of just helping to circulate air and reduce odors, oven hoods will include digital screens to bring all your favorite apps within reach and built-in cameras to live-stream your cooking skills with ease

And at 2022’s CES (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show), some industry experts participated in a panel discussion about what kitchens might look like in 2030.

  • Autonomous appliances that don’t need an app. For example, a special refrigerator that can cook the food inside. Think of it as a countertop kitchen robot like this example from Suvie
  • Kitchen appliances that prep meals based on what you need to eat, based on healthy or dietary needs
  • Sustainable ways to preserve food beyond a refrigerator
  • Robots that can select the recipe, source and take delivery of ingredients, and then prep and cook it
  • If kitchen space is defined by all the individual appliances, and if they are no longer needed thanks to one-appliance-that-does-it-all and robots, will there even be a kitchen as we know it?

Whoa. No kitchen? The kitchen is where everyone comes together—whether it’s for holiday meal prep, daily meals, or even to just bake cookies. It’s hard to wrap the brain around this particular vision of the future.

Smart or Not, Home Appliances Still Need to be Connected to Utilities

Thanks to governmental regulations, today’s major home appliances are more energy efficient and will continue to improve in the future. Smart technology adds convenience factors and can reduce energy consumption even more by precisely defining operational parameters.

However, today’s appliances, as well as those of the future, still need power, and if appropriate, water. Certified Appliance Accessories is your appliance connection solution. We sell reliable, durable, and industry-standard power cords, water hoses, and gas appliance hookups. We also offer high-quality replacement parts for electric ranges so you can keep your current ones running longer, and cooking accessories that expand the versatility of both electric and gas ovens.

So, whether you are buying new or gently used appliances or want to keep your existing ones running as long as possible, check out what we have to offer. It’s the “smart” thing to do!

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Certified Appliance Accessories is not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.