We're gadget-tastic!

Our demand for new electrical devices is insatiable, new figures show
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The Independent Online

Families have nearly three times as many electric appliances and gadgets as they had a generation ago, an official report will reveal tomorrow.

In the 1970s, a typical home had some 17 - mainly basic appliances such as televisions, vacuum cleaners, kettles, irons and cookers. Today this number has swollen to 47, ranging from scanners to security systems, computers to cappuccino makers.

The amount of energy needed to power this electronic explosion has doubled over the last 30 years, even though most appliances have become more energy-efficient. And, as The Independent on Sunday revealed this spring, there is increasing evidence that invisible "electrosmog" is giving children cancer, causing miscarriages and suicides, and even making some people allergic to modern life.

Peter Sendall, from Newcastle, says that he and his family have far more appliances even than the 47 listed in the report, including electric eyelash-curlers for his two daughters.

"Buying these things is a buzz," he says. "We definitely have more than the average family. I mostly buy out of pleasure, not need."

By contrast, Anja (who declines to give her surname) from the Brithdir Mawr Community near Newport, Pembrokeshire has chosen a completely different lifestyle "out of awareness of the resources available".

She and her family have such appliances as a television, computers, a washing machine and chain saws but she says that they "limit use to those that are needed at the time, and never leave them on standby or use them more than necessary". "I don't think the children miss out," she says. "They spend every day outside."

Despite her family's restraint the increase in electronic gadgets slows no signs of ending. The report, published by the Energy Savings Trust, predicts that the number of appliances in homes will "rise substantially" over the next four years, while the amount of electricity they use will increase by 12 per cent.

New large plasma-screen televisions - which use up to four times as much electricity as cathode-ray ones - will help to fuel the increase. And so will the increasing use of rechargeable gadgets, and appliances that are kept constantly on stand-by.

Even leaving recharging units constantly plugged in and switched on uses enormous amounts of energy, the report adds. If only one mobile phone charger per household is constantly left on in this way, together theyuse enough electricity - even when apparently inactive - to power 66,000 homes.

THE RISE OF THE MACHINES

What we had in the 1970s

In the typical home 30 years ago, there were only 17 different electrical labour-saving and consumer goods

Television, vacuum cleaner, electric bar heater, hi-fi music system, hairdryer, electric kettle, washing machine, iron, electric blanket, radio, sewing machine, cooker, cassette player, fridge, DIY appliances, toaster, occasional lamps

What we have in 2006

In the typical modern home, there are nearly three times as many electrical consumer goods, some 47 in total

Television, video player, DVD player/recorder, portable music player, mobile phone, hairdryer, hair iron, electric toothbrush, wireless telephone/answering machine, slave portable phone headset, electric kettle, smoothie maker, food processor, ice-cream maker, digital radio, mini hi-fi system, washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher, playStation/games console, cappuccino maker, digital clock/radio, electric lawnmower, strimmer, microwave, electric oven, electric hob, extractor fan, large fridge/ freezer, drinks cooler, portable fan, vacuum cleaner, computer, monitor, printer, scanner/fax, digital camera, set-top box, electric shaver, steam iron, juicer, home security system, broadband connection, halogen bulb light fitting, personal care products, power tools, electric blanket

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