ELECTRIC SAVVY: Using Electricity to Make your House a Home
This skinny little book attempts what is, if not impossible, then highly improbable—explaining the how, what, and why of basically everything to do with electricity to the general public, with a few whos and whens tossed in for good measure. It accomplishes that goal with an astonishing amount of success. Beginning with stories of Readler’s grandparents at around the time when electricity started becoming accessible to rural users, the author moves readers along the eighty years or so since (occasionally dipping much farther back in history to explain important discoveries).
Most major developments in communication are touched on: the telegraph, the telephone, cell phones, and the Internet. Household appliances from washing machines to toasters to refrigerators to computers are explained. Other household uses of electricity are discussed, from a simple doorbell to video surveillance for home security to thermostats that can be adjusted via mobile app. Power sources, from different types of batteries to solar power to the stuff that comes out of the wall, the use of that third prong, and why the plug for your clothes dryer looks so weird are all discussed.
I’m at a bit of a loss on how to respond to this book. I suppose it all really depends on what you’re trying to get out of it. Without any sort of helpful diagrams or pictures to illustrate what was being described, I simply couldn’t grasp much of the technical how-this-works information. So if you’re looking to really understand how electricity works, you may be better off with some more detailed manual.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking to gain an appreciation for the many ways that electricity is used to provide the comforts and conveniences we enjoy, then this could be an enjoyable read. Where this book really shines is in its history, anecdotes, and practical information. Readler has an easy, friendly storyteller’s voice that makes those sections stand out. So while I may not understand all of the technical aspects, reading about the development of music dissemination, for example, from radio to stereo, turntables to MP3 players, was particularly interesting. Other sections I found helpful include practical considerations for anyone thinking of adding solar panels to help power their home or explanations of the difference between the many types of light bulbs available now.