Living without electricity

It’s not that long ago that most people lived their lives with very little knowledge or experience of the power of electricity. Now it’s almost unimaginable for most of us to try to live without it. We are so reliant on electricity these days, that when we are deprived of it, as happens in major power failures due to earthquakes, hurricanes etc. people inevitably start to die. They can’t keep cool without their air conditioning units. They can’t keep warm without their electric heaters. Their food supply is ruined when their freezers and electric cookers fail to work.

This doesn’t have to be the case and there is much to be gained by reducing our reliance on electricity, including the fortunes that we spend every year on electricity bills.

Kazuko Kojima recently wrote about developments that are being made in Japan towards a reduced-electricity lifestyle. One of the products she looked at was a refrigerator which uses radiational cooling. It is made of metal with a high level of thermal conductivity and uses water as a coolant. The heat of everything contained within the metal edges is transferred to the water and then to radiator panels which heat up due to the natural convection currents in the water. The result is that a 200-litre capacity refrigerator can be kept at around 8 degrees centigrade even in the height of midsummer.

For light, it might be quirky idea, but it’s possible to use the light from the sun to see your way around. This is a great idea if you can incorporate large windows and skylights into your home. Use the night time hours to sleep and if you have to get up, use a candle or an oil lantern to see. Rediscover tools that people used before the invention of modern appliances – hand beaters, hand can openers, plate irons. Wash your clothes and dishes by hand, let them dry naturally. Even if you just do these things, you are saving a lot of money already as you save the environment.Even modern inventions such as the treadmill have non-electrical counterparts. Treadmill Trends might be biased, but you can still compare the benefits for yourself.

Plenty of people who live in desert climates, which suffer from extremely hot summer days and extremely cold winter nights, often live in structures built into caves. These provide thick walls which provide insulation and protection from the elements. Thick walls are key. Remember that it’s easier to get warm than it is to stay cool, so protecting yourself from the heat is the priority. Use manual fans, running water and draughts plus natural shade to avoid overheating. People survived for hundreds of thousands of years without air conditioning.

When it comes to the most popular appliances, computers and televisions, you may find that their previous non-electrical incarnations take some time to use. But talking to each other and entertaining each other is far more enjoyable and valuable than watching TV. Writing things out by hand and doing hard calculations in your head or on paper can be much more satisfying than having a computer do it for you and not really understanding why or how it came to the answer.

You’ll have time to reconnect with nature instead of spending your time as a willing prisoner – sitting under an artificial light, staring at a screen, both at work and at home. Some of the joy of living will come back to you.

If you’d like to find out more about the joys of living without electricity, you should pay a visit to Atelier Non-Electric theme park in Nasu, Japan. You can see how a whole community can thrive in the modern age with very little or no reliance on electricity to provide for its needs. There are individual homes, transport, agriculture and many ideas which can serve to be an inspiration for us all to change something in our lives, or in our homes. By reducing our reliance on electricity for power, not only do we help the environment, but we help ourselves, too.