La-La Land, Circa 1970


Forgotten survey of 1,000 households in Los Angeles/Orange County.

Today in Fortnightly

"... the ownership of luxury items - dishwashers, clothes dryers, air conditioners, etc. - is particularly sensitive to income level." 

Welcome to the Los Angeles/Orange County area in 1970. We found in the Library of Congress this remarkable survey of consumers' adoption of machines, appliance and devices as of 46 years ago. 

Forty-seven percent of households had a color television. Sixty-nine percent had a black and white TV.

Income level really mattered. Seventy-five percent of the wealthiest households had color, while 18 percent of the poorest had color sets.

As many as thirty-three percent of households had a refrigerator without a freezer. Fifty-nine percent had a washing machine, so 41 percent didn't.

As for a clothes dryer, just 15 percent had one. Eighty-five percent didn't.

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Twenty-four percent had a dishwasher. Income really mattered here too. Sixty-three percent of the wealthiest had a dishwasher, while six percent of the poorest had one.

Twenty-two percent had a room air conditioner. Not that much. Just seven percent had central air.

Some appliances were more popular in those days, than now. Fifty-three percent of households had an electric fry pan. Forty-four percent had a waffle grill.

The consumption of electricity for lighting averaged 80 watt-hours per hour per household. But for the poorest households the average was only 27 watt-hours per hour. It was nearly 150 watt-hours per hour for the wealthiest. 

These levels of consumption for lighting are half or less than half, compared to today's levels. 

The average now, nationally, is nearly 200 watt-hours per hour. In California, however, it's lower, 160 watt-hours per hour. 

And yet people relied on energy-inefficient incandescent bulbs in 1970. The number of lights in a home, and their usage, was apparently far less. 

The increased efficiency of refrigerators has paid off. In 1970, a refrigerator required 80 to 130 watt-hours per hour. Depending on whether it had a freezer or not. 

In 2016, a refrigerator requires 50 to 60 watt-hours per hour. They all have freezers, and many features unknown 46 years ago.

Total electricity consumption in 1970 was 550 watt-hours per hour per household in Los Angeles/Orange County. Total consumption now is higher, not surprisingly. 

It's now around 760 watt-hours per hour per household in California. Nationally, consumption per home is over 60 percent higher. 

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Number-crunching courtesy of Public Utilities Fortnightly.

Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly

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