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Alternatives to electric

 
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Some houshold appliances absolutely require electricity to operate, like computers/televisions/radios, but other appliances do not need to be run with electricity, necessarily.

I want to identify which appliances can be run without electricity and which can not. Of the ones that can, I'd like to identify which of those can be run on homemade fuel, rather than petroleum or coal. Homemade fuels I can think of off the top of my head are fuel alcohol, wood gas, methane, and good ole fire.

Easiest one to get rid of is the clothes dryer. Either use a clothesline or set up a furnace to help dry the clothes.

Electric furnace can be replaced with a RMH or wood burning stove or solar. Heating thermatic oil or water, then pumping it to a radiator by the furnace fan or to individual radiators throughout the house is another way to heat the house.

A gas refrigerator/freezer can be run off homemade methane, I guess. Or, use an absorption refrigerator/freezer and feed it methane or maybe wood gas or just use a fire to heat the element.

Solar tubes could replace most of the lights, though I'd still want the ability to turn on the lights when I wanted them. Lanterns could get the job done after sundown.

Cooking can be done with methane or wood fire or solar oven.

Doing dishes by hand gets rid of the dishwasher.

Hot water heating can be accomplished the same ways as heating the home; wood fire or solar.

The well pump could be operated by a windmill. An elevated cictern would gravity feed water down to the spigots. The pump would fill up the cistern again whenever the wind is blowing.

Unless I missed something, that leaves air conditioning, electronics, clothes washer, and kitchen appliances like mixers, choppers, and blenders.

Here's a crazy thought. Could the kitchen appliances run off a PTO drive shaft that had a universal connector at the end? Maybe run the PTO off a large spring that gets hand wound. I saw an attachment for a dremmel that was flexable and would spin at the end when the dremmel was turning. This is what I'm thinking for kitchen appliances. A flexable shaft like that coming out of the wall. All appliances made to connect at the end of that flexable shaft. I say a BIG spring because I wouldn't want to wind a small one every time I needed to run something.

Maybe it would be more affordable to generate our own electricity if we didn't need so many solar panels to cover our usage.

Any other ideas to reduce the use of electricity without going back to the stone age and without resorting to petroleum or grid electricity? Or, did I miss something in the list?
 
Bill Bianchi
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Oh, and as for the A/C and clothes washer, I'm at a loss to cover those without electricity. I have no intention of washing clothes by hand. I suppose a small engine running on fuel alcohol or wood gas could run a washer and an AC compressr. Not sure.
 
pollinator
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Bill Bianchi wrote:Oh, and as for the A/C and clothes washer, I'm at a loss to cover those without electricity. I have no intention of washing clothes by hand. I suppose a small engine running on fuel alcohol or wood gas could run a washer and an AC compressr. Not sure.



You'll need some electricity for a/c, but an absorption chiller will provide the same cooling with 1/4 the electricity as compared to a conventional vapor compression unit. It's also possible to drive a compressor mechanically using a gasifier engine system, but you still need small pumps and fans to make a proper system. It would use a lot less electricity as a conventional system. Washing machines don't use very much electricity especially when considering their infrequent operation. Operate this and other intermittent modest loads when a solar array is producing.
 
pollinator
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Passive solar design houses with good basements may make the summer cool enough in most climates to do away with air conditioning. IMHO a big problem would be humidity causing mold in humid areas, tho - my best use of the A/C is to get that humidity out of the air so it feels cooler - we're by a river and it's right around 97% humidity almost every morning, you can break a sweat with minimal movement at 62 degrees. They say using clay on the walls will remove some humidity but I doubt it can cope with that much!

I believe there used to be a hand-crank washing machine in the old days, I think I've seen some sitting outside relative's farm houses. You'd heat the water, pour it in, and turn the crank to agitate the clothing. Some hooked them via a belt to an electric motor, but a bicycle on a stand may do the same job.

If you need just a little light after dark, some of the better LED bulbs don't use much electricity, could run off a solar-powered battery. Mother Earth News had an article on how to set up a DC system just for powering lights using a solar panel and a car battery, I believe, wired separately from the rest of the house wiring, which would be AC.
 
steward
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Didn't they use to make Crystal radios that ran without power?

http://antiqueradio.org/econoceanic.htm

We have a little hand crank radio it will run for about ten minutes and then needs more cranking.

We have gotten some things from this website also.

http://www.12volt-travel.com/12-volt-appliances-c-88.html

We also use lots of those solar powered garden lights and lights from this company which I highly recommend.

http://nokero.com/
 
Marcos Buenijo
pollinator
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Renate Haeckler wrote:Passive solar design houses with good basements may make the summer cool enough in most climates to do away with air conditioning. IMHO a big problem would be humidity causing mold in humid areas, tho - my best use of the A/C is to get that humidity out of the air so it feels cooler - we're by a river and it's right around 97% humidity almost every morning, you can break a sweat with minimal movement at 62 degrees. They say using clay on the walls will remove some humidity but I doubt it can cope with that much!

I believe there used to be a hand-crank washing machine in the old days, I think I've seen some sitting outside relative's farm houses. You'd heat the water, pour it in, and turn the crank to agitate the clothing. Some hooked them via a belt to an electric motor, but a bicycle on a stand may do the same job.

If you need just a little light after dark, some of the better LED bulbs don't use much electricity, could run off a solar-powered battery. Mother Earth News had an article on how to set up a DC system just for powering lights using a solar panel and a car battery, I believe, wired separately from the rest of the house wiring, which would be AC.



It's possible to remove the moisture from the air using a good desiccant. You mentioned clay, but this is difficult to regenerate. What's needed is a liquid desiccant that can be pumped to a system for heating and regeneration (i.e. removing the moisture that was previous absorbed so the solution can be reused). In principle, it's possible to do this with solar heat. However, in practice it's a lot simpler to use a small furnace. Also, a practical system is going to require an air fan and at least one small pump, so some electricity consumption is necessary. Yet, I am aware of an experimental system that did not use air moving equipment. It required a fairly large structure in the home over which a calcium chloride solution flowed to increase contact with the air and encourage water vapor absorption. There is a small company that designs such systems for use in large buildings, and they often build very large structures that appear as indoor water falls and/or fountains that often appear as modern art pieces. They flow a concentrated salt water solution that dries the air. This would be a big job, but fundamentally it's not complicated. One point that is important to consider is that the solution must be pumped at a very low rate to a heater where it is regenerated. The hot and more concentrated solution returns to the main system through a heat exchanger that gives up its heat to the solution that is pumped to the heater. This increases efficiency dramatically, so less heat is required for regeneration.

My opinion on manually washing clothes is to not consider it unless there is no other option. If one desires a zero electricity home, then manual washing it will be. However, a washing machine does not use a lot of electricity. These are perfectly acceptable for a modest off grid home as a modest solar system can handle it.

The car battery/LED system seems good as an emergency lighting system. The problem with this approach when used regularly is the battery. A car battery simply cannot tolerate more than a few episodes of significant discharge.
 
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Have a look at the appliances the Amish use with compressed air rather than that nasty electricity.
 
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In summer, you could use a solar powered (instead of gas) refrigerator:

http://www.appropedia.org/The_Design_and_Development_of_a_Solar_Powered_Refrigerator

It works on the same principle as the old "Icy Ball" devices marketed years ago (which you can use with any heat source to provide refrigeration). There are plans to build these online too:

http://makezine.com/2009/08/01/how-to-build-your-own-icyball/
 
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