An excerpt from Self-Sufficient Home by Christopher Nyerges. "Self-Sufficient Home" is available from Amazon, and from the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.
Not everyone has the ability to jump right in and install a photovoltaic system to get all their electricity from the sun. But a good first step towards greater self-reliance is to question each of our electrical uses. Here is an excerpt from the "Self-Sufficient Home" book, available wherever quality books are sold.
Electric Can Openers: Ever hear of someone who couldn’t even open some canned goods after a blackout because their power was out because all they had were electric can openers? Get a good manual can opener and keep it handy. Also, most Swiss Army knives have a blade specifically designed for opening cans – and everyone has a Swiss Army knife – don’t they?
Electric knife sharpeners: For the most part, these cause damage to quality knives. Get rid of them!
Electric juicers: OK, some of these are quite good, like the Acme and Vitamix juicers. You simply couldn’t do the same thing manually. Still, if you simply want to make orange juice or grapefruit juice from the fresh fruit, buy the simple devices where you squeeze each half of the fruit and twist it around to extract the juice.
Microwave ovens: Though generally not a big electrical use, I choose to not have one. There is still some controversy about the relative safety of this method of cooking food. Plus, it is worth noting that, in general, microwaves are ideally suited to cooking highly processed “fast foods” which are more expensive and less nutritious than whole foods. Part of becoming energy self-reliant is to re-think everything we do, and how we do it, and why we do it. Since good food, properly prepared, is so fundamental to good health and good well-being, shouldn’t we look at why we are in such a hurry to eat that we feel compelled to use microwave ovens?
Automatic dishwashers: Yes, there are some which are energy-efficient, and if you insist on having one of these, get the most energy-efficient one possible. I have long found that it is somewhat meditative to stand before the sink, where I can look out the window, and silently wash each dish, rinsing it, and letting it drip-dry in the dish rack.
Stoves: In most cases, your stove is fueled by gas. Use the smallest flame possible, and keep all pots and pans covered while you cook. This not only saves gas, but reduces some of the scorching of pots and pans. I recall a sign in a kitchen that said “If you can smell it, you’re losing it.” This was an admonishment to keep all cooking foods covered, since if the aromatic oils and essences were in the air, they were no longer in your food!
Garbage disposals: These are fuel hogs that also use up lots of water, simply so your compost can get washed away. You should use all your kitchen scraps to feed your pets, or add it to your compost pit/worm farm. I have long believed that the main function of garbage disposals is to keep plumbers employed. In my homes that I owned, I have always removed the garbage disposals, put the kitchen scraps into the compost pit (or fed to the chickens), and had fewer plumbing problems as a result.
Having a compost pit/ worm farm in the back yard is one of the easiest ways to “be a part of the solution.” It is something that should be in every residential backyard in America. They are easy to make and to use and maintain. It isn’t necessary to buy a commercial composter, since a compost system of some sort is easy to make (see The Complete Book of Composting by Rodale Press), though many of the commercial models are not very expensive.
In an elevated society of the future, I envision a composter as the norm for every backyard, something that is taken for granted. It is the ancient way in which each plot of land can be enriched by the alchemical conversion of the “wastes” of the residents.
When purchasing a new washing machine, look for the best EnergyStar rating. Some of the newer models are more efficient not only with electricity, but also with water.
Also, if you are able to do so in your location, you should disconnect your washing machine drain from the sewer line and direct the rinse water into your yard to water your fruit trees and garden. This is a big no-brainer. It is easy to do and allows you to use the water twice that you use to wash your clothes.
If you choose to use the rinse water in your yard, here are a few things to keep in mind. 1. Make sure you are buying a detergent that is not toxic to plants in your yard. 2. Make sure you are not allowing water to puddle up somewhere, breeding mosquitoes. 3. Test your system to make sure it works well and drains well and doesn’t over-strain the washing machine. In general, you can attach a large hose to the drain line of the washing machine. This new hose should be at least as large in diameter as your washing machine’s drain hose, and it must be as long as necessary to get to your yard, by gravity.
Look for the best EnergyStar rating. And don’t overlook the utter practicality of the “solar clothes dryer” – a clothes line!
I was very impressed during a winter visit to the Ohio Amish lands to see that every Amish household dries their clothes on their covered porches, on rack ingeniously devised for this purpose. They have committed themselves to not using electricity, and so they FIND those natural forces, and natural principles, by which they utilize for their day-to-day needs.
OTHER HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES
Hair dryers: Perhaps I am an exception, but a towell and fresh air are fine for me. Still, many women depend on these for quickly drying their hair. Has anyone come up with a battery-operated hair dryer?
Electric toothbrushes: Are these really necessary!?
GARAGE and YARD TOOLS
Many of today’s garage tools are powered by built-in batteries, which can be recharged over and over. Some can even be set up to be re-charged by the sun. This includes such tools as drills, saws, pneumatic hammers, staplers. and more. With a small PV system, you can keep all your tools powered by the sun.
I have a very dim view of such “garden tools” as weed-whackers and blowers. I am Old School, and I prefer hand tools for pruning, and a rake and broom for cleaning. When called up to cut the lawn, I have used both push mowers, and power mowers, though my belief about the pointlessness of “front lawns” keeps me from using such devices.