Human Powered Electricity for Off-Grid Living
Getting electricity to your off-grid place is probably one of the most challenging things you will encounter when attempting to live a self-sustaining independent life. Let's face it for a lot of people solar panels cost too much money, they don't have running water on their property, propane and kerosene cost money and wind power is not reliable so what is an off-gridder to do? Well, one thing we have plenty of in this country is human power or ...CALORIES!
There are many instances when alternative methods fail to live up to our expectations, either they are too expensive, unreliable, difficult to build and maintain or unavailable. Human powered inventions have none of those pitfalls. They are cheap, simple to make, reliable and portable!
People have been using human powered machines for a very long time. Some of the first inventions were used to crush grain and seeds, transport people and things and pump water. Later people invented looms to make fabric and human-powered catapults were used to erect those fabulous cathedrals throughout Europe. However, since the advent of cheap electricity the human-powered inventions seem to have all but stopped. So instead of using our labor to create things we flip a switch..and what do we have for all our efforts? We have an overweight population that is completely and utterly dependent on fossil fuels that pollute our environment and cause us to be dependent on foreign oil for every contraption known to man!
But, you might say..I've never heard of human-powered electricity or appliances..what are they?
Human-powered electricity is electricity that is generated through either hand-cranked, peddled or treadled power. It can be done by almost anyone who can walk including children. They even have children's playgrounds in Africa that include spinning wheels, see-saws and swings that when used either generate electricity or pump water while the children play with them! Here is a list of just some human-powered appliances:
Really any appliance can be powered by human-power if you have a generator and unlike most other alternative energy sources you can take your human-powered generator with you if you need to move. Also, one can use a human-powered generator in an apartment or a rented home, unlike solar panels or a windmill. They are also very easy to make as all of the parts can be obtained at your local hardware store or..garage sale.
So how much electricity can one generate using a human-powered medium? An average person peddling for an hour would generate 75 watts however, someone who is in Olympic shape could generate over 200 watts. That means a family of four using a human-powered medium could generate about 300 or more watts. This would allow you to light a room for few hours or more depending on the type of light bulb used, power up a laptop or T.V. or pump water into your home. In other words, you will not have huge loads of electricity to waste but it would be enough for the most important tasks.
Moreover, a family could combine the use of a human-powered generator with a few other human-powered appliances that work directly to turn, blend or pump anything that might need turning, cranking or pumping. If one is conservative this combination would be more than enough to power a whole household! Some mechanically driven appliances that might work more efficiently by using direct human-power would be items like a washing machine, a can opener, a mixer or a loom. The amount of calories expended directly for certain items like these would be less than pedaling a human-powered generator and then plugging the appliance in. However, other items would be less efficient, so each item would have to be evaluated individually in order to determine the best tool.
Human-powered machines are the best course of action for those who have little money and yet yearn to go off the grid. So many people would like to go off the grid but when they research the cost of alternative energy sources they become discouraged and usually shelve the dream as unattainable. Additionally, with the recent interest in off-grid living human-powered tools are making a come-back and consequently there are new inventions being created every day. One place that has a plethora of great products is Lehman's Amish Hardware store in Ohio. They also have catalogs that your can order from in case you don't live in Ohio.
I hope this article gives you hope to keep dreaming and eventually make your off-grid dreams come true.
Additional Articles by Brie Hoffman
- The Pros and Cons of Whimsical Cob Cottage Houses
- The Best Roofing Materials for Off-Grid Homes!
- Rainwater Harvesting for Off-Grid Homes
- How to make MONEY Off the Grid!
- Which States Have the Lowest Property Taxes?
- Off-Grid Composting Toilets and the Benefits of Humanure!
- How much money does it cost to go Off-Grid and to live on the Land?