For us, rural and urban dwellers, the thought of living in a world without electrical power is a pretty scary one. Few people know what to do when there is no electricity and for them, it’s like a trip back in time, when things were much simpler. However, for the rest of us, electricity is a wonderful invention and we would be lost without it. Even so, nearly every task done with electricity has a manual counterpart.
In the United States, year after year there are entire counties left without power when a natural disaster strikes. Unfortunately, it has become a common occurrence and we have to learn how to finish our daily chores successfully when there is no electricity.
Besides the cost you pay for electricity, there is another hidden one that goes unnoticed and it has been doing so for decades. We are paying our dependency with a steady dimming of our survival instincts self-sufficiency knowledge. There are fewer and fewer people that know what it means to live when there is no electricity and how to perform a task that would have been routinely done by hand a century ago.
Try to speak with people from the young generation and ask them if they know that almost every mundane task done with electricity has a manual counterpart. I guarantee that you will be surprised by their lack of knowledge. You will be amused of how they can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone could live in a time when there is no electricity.
When everything was done by hand in the past, people were able to enjoy the individual quality and gain satisfaction from goods produced by them. That feeling is long gone now and we are being handed everything we need by big chain stores and corporations.
Becoming self-sufficient in today’s world means learning how to live without stress and taking care of yourself by using available resources. You will learn how to develop skills by using manual tools and you will need to understand how everything around you works.
People believe that living off-grid means learning what to do when there is no electricity because that’s a luxury they can no longer afford. That’s a wrong assumption, and in fact, a lot of people use electricity when going off-grid. Even more, one of the first steps for this transition to take place is learning how to improve your energy use.
How to improve your electricity use
I have some friends living completely off the grid, and they teach me a lot about this lifestyle. As I’ve learned, there are several ways you can reduce your dependence on electricity. The following three methods are the most common ones for off-gridders.
1. Buy energy-efficient appliances
This means that you need to buy the most efficient appliances you can find. If you are forced to use electrical power to perform certain tasks or power devices you truly depend on, this is a smart strategy. You will have to buy devices that need the least amount of power possible. Some may argue that this may be expensive, but you will gain a lot from smart acquisitions.
First of all, you will not have to spend a fortune on green energy production systems to generate the amount of energy needed for your old appliances. And second, modern appliances have better performance and lower power usage compared to the power hoarders you are currently using.
2. Use your appliances more efficiently
Living off the grid will force you to learn how to use your appliances more efficiently. When doing laundry, you will not run your washing machine unless you have a full load. The same goes for the dishwater, and it will also help you save water. Another thing is to use led lights in your household. A lot of people living in the wilderness will leave night lights burning throughout the night. By switching those lights to LED, you will make a noticeable saving. Even more, use timers for your appliances so that they are not always in standby mode.
3. Get rid of some devices when there is no power
Even if you live off the grid and you have multiple backup solutions for producing energy, you have to understand the reality. The truth is that there will be times when there is no electricity and the reasons for such scenarios cannot be predicted. Your system may malfunction or get damaged, and if you don’t know how to fix it, you will have to get by with what you’ve got. To accommodate your lifestyles and forget about certain electrical devices altogether. In the following lines, we will concentrate on devices you can live without while not impacting too much your way of life.
This is one of the essentials of any home. However, when there is no electricity, there are several old alternatives such as candles, battery-operated lights, and even slush lamps. Some people even install solar tubes in the ceiling. These can be found at most building supply stores and once installed, they bring light into the home through the ceiling during the day.
The market is flooded with battery and solar devices that can be used inside without hustle. Even more, if you stockpile batteries, make sure you can recharge them properly using quality devices that can recharge even disposable batteries. You can also try to recondition all types of batteries you are exploiting by using working, proven methods.
This is one of the biggest electricity consumers and it can really stress your energy supply. Depending on where you live, you could use ancient building techniques (such as cordwood building) to reduce the need for cooling your home. Make sure your walls and ceiling are well insulated and paint the roof white to reflect the heat of the sun. Some people build houses with large overhangs to keep the interior cooler in summer.
Once again, good insulation is the key here as a well-insulated home is easier to be heated when there is no electricity. A small wood stove is all you may need to keep it warm in winter. There are several passive methods to keep your home warm and use less power. For example, Earthship homes are built to take advantage of sunlight and prevailing wind currents.
My wife brings her hair dryer along when we go on vacation, even though the hotels provide one. She’s used to hers and can’t leave without it. However, during some of our camping trips, she learned that this item is completely unnecessary. Your hair will dry naturally, and you won’t get sick if you don’t go outside.
This recent invention is recommended by dentists around the world like this dentist in Glen Rock, and they say these get your teeth cleaned. That may be true in some instances, but my grandparents didn’t have one, and they didn’t suffer without it. A manual toothbrush is all you need to keep your teeth clean. Even more, you can make your own mouthwash without too much trouble.
In recent years these small space heaters are becoming “a necessity”, but people don’t realize that they are energy gobblers. Rather than using some of these, you should let your body adapt to various temperatures. Survival requires for you to make sacrifices and if you’re cold, you can always add a sweater on.
Laundry and clothing
Most off-gridders agree that there is no easy manual counterpart for this appliance when there is no electricity. However, there are still solutions for this and people have washed clothes by hand in buckets and bodies of water for centuries. Some still do it even today. Be smart about it and improvise a simple off-grid washing machine or buy one that is specifically designed for such environments. This one, sold by Amazon is the most appreciated one, and people are happy with its use.
Recommended article: How to deal with Laundry in Primitive Conditions
Honestly, I find no use for this in an off-grid environment since you have an inexpensive counterpart for it. My grandmother had an efficient clothes dryer, the “clothesline” and it never failed her. There is nothing better than meeting your needs with simple solutions.
My mother learned how to sew by hand using a needle and thread, and she’s doing it even today. She repairs pants and shirts her grandsons ruin on camping trips. If you need to do extensive repair jobs, you could get a treadle-powered sewing machine. The problem is that most fabrics today are “one-time use” only and they tear easily so people would by more.
Almost every kitchen tool has a manual counterpart and you need to find the one suited for your needs. You need a coffee grinder, get an old-fashioned hand-cranked one. You will notice the aroma is preserved better and you will get a little exercise as well. Electrical juicers you may ask? No, there’s no need for such thing since many manual juicers do a great job of providing you a glass of fresh orange juice in the morning.
I recommend reading the following article to discover which kitchen tools are recommended for a time when there is no power:
Dump your electric stove and get a gas or wood burning stove. These are far more efficient than electrical ones. You can install one in your backyard for outdoor cooking. Even more, you can get an efficient solar cooker for daytime cooking.
Some people prefer this, but they never tried a solar over. These work well in most of the country during daytime and there are even backpacking models.
When you live off the grid, you will have no use for such device. You will learn how to compost your scraps for composting to make good soil for your garden.
While these can make life easier and cooking quicker, their niche is limited when living off the grid. Most, if not all of the kitchen tasks performed by these fancy appliances can be done manually in a world when there is no electricity. All you need is a solid breadboard and a quality knife. For meat and grain grinding, there are also manual counterparts available.
Tools for your workshop
Once again, people have to understand that all the modern tasks performed with power tools, was once done with manual tools. Many simple tasks do not require an electrical device and you should be fine with manual labor and proper tools.
I don’t know someone who owns a manual drill anymore, but these still exist. You can find them at some woodworking shops. The most practical alternative would be to use battery-operated tools that can be charged using solar chargers. If you have the chance, visit an Amish wood shop and you will be surprised by what it can be achieved using only hand tools.
Nowadays, chainsaws and circular saws (here are some of the top ones on the market) are highly appreciated since they make wood cutting easier. In the old days, young men were able to build a cabin or a barn using just hand saws. Some of these skills are used even today, and I recommend watching this video and be amazed at what can be achieved without power tools. When using manuals saws, your only concern is to keep them sharpened.
All sorts of tools are available for your workshop, some are battery operated while others are manual. Regardless the project you want to accomplish, there’s always a solution available without the need to plug your devices into the wall.
The same goes for yard or gardening tools, and your grandparents were doing just fine without the help of blowers or weed-whackers. I find that using a broom or a rake to get rid of falling leaves is quite a relaxing activity.
A final word
With the threats we are currently facing, everything could be gone in a flash. While natural disasters have a predictable outcome and people can rebuild easily, it can’t be said the same about a large scale EMP attack. The use of electricity has become an intrinsic part of modern life and suck aspects of modern life would not work in a world when there is no electricity. Imagine how hospitals would function without power, it would be chaotic.
We have to understand that even though electricity has a positive impact on our lives, it can also be gone in a moment. Preppers and off-gridders who value the continuity of life and the well-being of our families try to adapt and find manual counterparts whenever possible.