Easy-Bake Oven: The Littlest Energy Efficiency Victim

It was the 1970s, and I was about seven years old when I received my very own avocado-green Easy-Bake Oven with the watch-it-bake window. And watch it I did. I loved mixing up that gooey batter, pouring it into the tiny tin pan and lovingly sliding it into the oven with the “pan pusher.” The 15 minutes it took to bake the cake seemed like an eternity. When it was finally done, I was rewarded with a barely edible little pastry and a big sense of accomplishment.

easybake2What an idea: the ability to bake real food from a working oven with an ordinary, household light bulb! What kind of dough boy magic was this? Well, it wasn’t magic but inefficiency.

A standard incandescent bulb is only 10% efficient at producing light, according to Environmental Protection Agency. The other 90% of the electricity it uses is lost as heat—enough heat loss to literally bake a cake.

Kenner Inc. sold the first Easy-Bake Ovens in 1963, inspired by the lights vendors used to keep pretzels and other street food warm. One would imagine that, with all of the technological progress in the last 50 years, the incandescent bulb would have improved to the point that it could no longer cook food. That is not the case. In fact, traditional light bulb technology hasn’t changed much since 1913 (the same year Henry Ford introduced the assembly line).

Consumer Reports has conducted ratings comparing 60-watt incandescent bulbs (because they’re the most popular type sold in the U.S.) and their LED/CFL equivalents. In those tests, both LEDs and CFLs used from 65% to 85% less electricity than incandescents, and also have a longer lifespan.

But with the heat-loving light bulb’s slow death spiral, what’s become of the Easy-Bake Oven? The manufacturer (now Hasbro) is managing the change just fine. Well aware of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, the company transformed it into the Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven back in 2011. The new Ultimate Oven cooks cakes, pizzas and more with “a heating element similar to a conventional oven.” In addition to cooking a greater variety of foods, non-gender specific color options are available for future Bobby Flays and Wolfgang Pucks.

It just doesn’t feel the same, does it?
Image Source: hasbro.com

Although I can wax nostalgic about my old toys, I don’t feel the same way about my old light bulbs. I prefer the telephones and computers of today compared to the ‘70s, and I’m happy with today’s new energy-efficient light bulbs.

Check out responsiblebynature.com for the locations nearest you to purchase discounted energy-efficient lighting and to properly dispose of spent CFLs.

By Connector, Mary LaLone