How to live without electricity?

Mar 11, 2021

(If there was a catastrophic electrical grid collapse from a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), micronova (reoccurring nova 12 000 yr cycle), terrorism attack or you choose to live remotely off grid, our lives will dramatically change.  Some would find it easier than others depending on how reliant you are on technology and how prepared you are for such an event.

Some say we would be thrown back to the 1800’s which is true in a way.  But we have two hundred years of knowledge to back us up.  The technicians and engineers will have the knowledge to get the system back working again, it might just take a while.   The knowledge and skills of our grandparents has been lost among a great number of us, so the learning curve will be great.

CME, micronova (reoccurring nova), terrorism, power grid failure, legislation removing coal power stations, or loss of the grid from other natural disasters (cyclone, earthquake) will take time to come back from so we need to learn to live for some period of time without electricity, internet, mobile phones, computers, microwave ovens, dishwashers and much more.

There is an added complication if we do get a CME or micronova.  They damage electronic equipment.  That’s OK I have alternative power, right.  The solar batteries, regulator, electrics in the different systems would also be damaged.  About the only way around this is to have a system secured in a Faraday cage.

The use of generators, solar power, wind power and other methods of generating electricity would rely on the generator not being damaged by the event.  And secondly the fuels (petrol, gas, diesel) will eventually need electricity for processing, pumping, transport and so these systems may be in short supply.

The basic elements you can address are-

  • Lifestyle
  • Cooling
  • Heating
  • Cooking
  • Water heating
  • Refrigeration
  • Communications
  • Entertainment

Humans used to live fine before the invention of electricity (ok, it may not have been in luxury).  We will need to look back at how our grand parents survived in their daily lives and alter our lifestyle until the grid can be made operational again which may be quite some time depending on the cause of the failure.

 

 

 

 

Emergency Kit

How will your lifestyle change without electricity?

Having no electricity upsets people even if it is only half an hour without power.  We are that use to having everyone operate with a switch.  When we text or email someone, we expect replies fast.  After a storm the energy providers phone is overloaded with calls from people who need their electricity.  We will need to drastically alter our big city lifestyle if there is a long term power failure.

If the power is down for a while just having a pantry full of stuff won’t last long.  You will need a system to replenish supplies without electricity especially if it is a catastrophic grid failure.  We will have to start rationing everything (food, batteries, and other consumables).  Sure, you could fill the garage with baked beans, soap or bullets but what happens in a years’ time when you have run out.

There will be a range of everyday things we don’t think about, which will not be working, such as-

  • Running tap water, water treatment plants, sewerage treatment
  • Security systems
  • Fuel stations pumps
  • Vehicles (big CME or micronova)
  • Traffic systems
  • Public transport
  • Lights or power points
  • With no vehicles or communications people will be cut off
  • Supermarkets (power, EFTPOS, refrigeration, computerised tellers)
  • Banks – teller, ATMS, stock market
  • With no businesses operating, income will become scarce.
  • Life support – breathing machines, motorised wheel chairs, hospital systems, medical needs

Some replacement options for our lifestyle include-

  • Grow own food (vegetables, fruit, eggs)
  • Have a good store of drinkable water or water purification methods
  • Follow the food safety guidelines for your safety
  • Have a plan for going to toilet as sewerage system may not be working
  • Develop local network of people to trade with
  • Learn some DIY and craft skills
  • Move to a community if you are not ready to be cut off from society
  • Research improvised weapons and security e.g., get a dog
  • Improvised transport – push bike, horse, cart, row boat, steam powered equipment
  • Research alternative ways to survive in your situation
  • Have a prepared emergency kit to see you through up to 7 days.  You will have to plan how to survive after that for longer periods.
  • Develop a hard copy library of useful books – DIY, cookbooks, survival

 

 

How would we stay cool without electricity?

The world is made up of an extreme in weather conditions and people live in pretty much all of them.  Each group has developed methods of surviving in each climate condition and a good percentage live every day without electricity.  As I am writing this I am sitting on my veranda as my home is being treated for pests and it’s March in north Queensland.

What cooling elements wouldn’t we have without electricity?

  • Electric fans
  • Air conditioning
  • Exhaust fans – wall, roof
  • Cold rooms

What are the alternatives to staying cool?

  • Wind power roof vent (non-electric whirley bird)
  • Hand fan (1800’s)
  • Include passive design elements in your home
  • Move to higher elevation, temperate climate
  • Bathe in cool water or pool
  • Find some wind in shady garden
  • Move work or school outside into cool area

 

 

 

How would we heat ourselves without electricity?

Being from north Queensland I’m no expert in snow but I do see on TV cases where heavy snow has taken out the power grid.  This one is more difficult if you are not set up for really cold conditions.  In mild conditions you could get away with a blanket and jumper but in deep sub-zero conditions you will need more.  You won’t have these options available –

  • Electric heaters
  • Central heating (electric type)
  • Electric blankets
  • Heaters that require electric to start or refill (gas) the system.

To get around these problems you will need to-

  • Insulate your home
  • Prevent any heat escaping and cold air getting in
  • Wood stove, wood heater
  • Fire place
  • Rug up (jumpers, scarves, blankets) do it before you get cold.
  • Hot water bottles (boil water without electricity)
  • Add passive designs to your home for cooler climates

Safety point – don’t burn fires in enclosed spaces as Carbon dioxide is odourless and deadly, so is burning down your home.  If you have a wood stove, fire place or wood heater ensure it has proper exhaust to the outside and is cleaned regularly.

 

 

 

 

How can we cook without electricity?

We cook food for various reasons including for taste, kill off bacteria, change texture, release trapped vitamins, and to keep us warm on cold days.  If you are set up with gas appliances you may not notice any difference (except for the automatic starter).  But if not you may be finding alternatives.

  • Without electricity you wouldn’t be able to use-
  • Microwaves
  • Electric ovens
  • Electric start for gas ovens (have to use match)
  • Electric mixers, slicers, toasters, kettles, blenders, jaffle irons etc.
  • Take away food is out as they need electricity for cooking, and everyday business needs such as electronic payments.

Other options you have available to cook your food

  • BBQ
  • Camp fire
  • Gas cooker (but gas refills may not be available as the business will not be able to operate)
  • Choose foods that don’t need cooking
  • Choose foods that require minimal cooking
  • Choose survival rations that cook themselves such as Flameless ration heaters
  • Use manual operated cooking utensils (whisk, masher, knife)

 

How can we communicate without electricity?

This one is probably going to be the most difficult problem these days as we have become totally reliant on technology for all forms of communication.  We have also spread out across the globe so they only way we can communicate with distant family and friends is via technology.  Sure telecommunications have back batteries but they only last a short while and the more people use them the quicker they will run out.

We wouldn’t have access to-

  • Mobile phones – signals and recharging
  • Landlines – all run through computer stations that may have back up power but landlines are rarer these days.
  • Phone system due to server failure – fax, text, ringing all go through servers
  • Internet – satellites, servers, and the electronic systems that keep them running
  • Satellites (CME, micronova) – phone, internet, television, GPS, navigation data and more.
  • Google, Sir or other virtual assistant to save you.

Communication alternatives

Our daily communication will have to slow down, no more instant replies to questions (unless face to face).  If the disaster such as CME has taken out transport and vehicles we may be stuck for a while.

  • Notes left on fridge
  • Forward planning and talking before doing something.
  • Letters in mail (if mail system is working)
  • Face to face
  • Shopping lists and to do lists on paper
  • Using the kids as messengers (worked in old days, don’t know about today)

 

 

How would we heat water without electricity?

We usually heat water for bathing, cleaning, drinking, water purification, equipment sterilisation, dish washing and cooking.  Try to do dish washing with old water will not remove the fat and oils.

We wouldn’t have access to-

  • Electric water heating, storage tank with element
  • Electric kettles, urns
  • Electric boilers
  • Boosters for solar water heaters in winter
  • Other systems that require electricity to start or light them

Other options for water heating include-

  • Rocket stove
  • Boiling water (without using electricity) and adding to bath tub
  • Solar showers (camping style)
  • Solar water heater (roof style with tank) but without electrical booster
  • Having cold baths
  • Bathing in creek/river
  • DIY improvised water heater systems such as black hose on roof
  • Live near a thermal hot pool (volcanic style, probably not drinkable)

 

 

How would we keep our food cold without electricity?

In the old days we went to the markets each day and bought fresh produce and ate it that day.  There were some passive food cooling devices but they were cooling only so food safety was a problem.  There was a point when the ice box was invented and large blocks of artic ice were shipped and stored for refrigeration but this was small and limiting.

Without electricity we wouldn’t have-

  • Fridges
  • Freezers
  • Cold rooms
  • Long term storage of fresh dairy or meat products.
  • Shops wouldn’t have refrigeration either most likely.

We would have to change your lifestyle to-

  • Collecting fresh food (vegetables, eggs, milk) from garden each day
  • Camping style car fridge (if car battery working CME)
  • Fishing regularly,
  • Butcher poultry and livestock as required (trading large cuts before they go off)
  • Follow food safety guidelines to prevent illness
  • Wet canvas bag style cool box (not suited to dairy and meat long term)
  • Place items in bag/plastic box in cold stream (if nearby)
  • Collect ice/snow if available
  • Preserve and pickle product so it lasts longer on shelf
  • Build a cooler area to store food e.g., root cellar depending on climate.

 

 

How would we entertain ourselves without electricity?

Life without electricity we will have less time for entertainment as we spend our time manually getting water, food, cooking etc.  Without lights, tv, computers and mobile phones we will probably go to sleep earlier too.

We wouldn’t have access to-

  • Movies, DVD’s, music (electronic)
  • Internet
  • Computer games
  • Nightclubs, bars
  • Modern clubs – tenpin bowls, indoor games, gym, pokies

Our alternatives could include-

  • Board games, cards
  • Dancing (to acoustic, wood wind, brass instruments)
  • Sports – outdoors in daylight
  • Playing musical instruments (not electrical)
  • Camp fire party
  • Get back to nature, walks, swimming
  • Work on growing your own food
  • Work on improving your life without electricity
  • Relaxation

Summary

Electricity grids can be down for a few hours right through to total failure requiring weeks to recover.  If the grid is hit by a CME or micronova the recovery could be a lot longer.  Without electricity for an extended period of time our lives will be turned up side down.  Depending on how prepared people are some will have less problems than others.  People who live in more rural areas or areas with dodgy power feed will have systems in place for when there is no power.  Those living in a high technology world will feel lost.  Learn how to prepare an emergency kit so you at least have supplies for 3 to 7 days.

 

When the power grid has a major failure consider putting your big goals on hold and focus on surviving the near future until the power grid is back up and running.   

 

 

 

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