Energy challenge: Life without gas

This week as I continue my energy saving challenge I am carrying out two experiments: a day without gas and a day without electricity. My aim is to discover just how reliant we are on these energy supplies, and what it feels like to do without them, as many people struggling to pay their fuel bills have little choice but to do.

Yesterday I conducted my first task, spending 24 hours without using our gas supply. “This will be the easiest one,” I thought, but I was wrong there! On Monday morning as I emerged bleary-eyed from bed, it was dark, miserable and freezing cold. So, on automatic pilot, the first thing I did was reach for the central heating controls. Then I shrank back, remembering they were out of bounds. My heart sank. Recent days have been relatively warm once they’ve got going. I’ve even been able to sit outside at lunchtime, albeit in a coat, but unfortunately yesterday wasn’t one of them. At least I was able to use the electric shower, though. I wrapped up warmly and put my fake Ugg boots on to try and keep my feet warm. Luckily I have a tiny electric fan heater which I put on in my office, but I tried to use it sparingly.

At lunchtime, though, when I stepped out of my lukewarm office into the rest of the house the cold hit me like a wall. In fact it was so nippy that I got into bed for half an hour to warm up! As I couldn’t use the gas hob to cook lunch, I made some toast using the electric toaster and heated up some tinned soup in the microwave. It was ok but I’m not a big fan of microwave cooking, I tend to use it to defrost things or make baked potatoes.

And as the afternoon grew colder I got so fed up that I jumped in the car and drove around a bit to warm up and relieve the glum feeling that was setting in. Normally I would have gone for a walk but it was lashing with rain. I was tempted to seek refuge at my neighbour’s house but felt it would be cheating to make use of her central heating.

When DJ got home even he – who unlike me doesn’t feel the cold – remarked on how chilly the house was and put his fleece on. Teatime raised a new conundrum. What would we have to eat as we couldn’t use the gas hob? We were flummoxed. I’d considered making something the day before and heating it up in the microwave, but decided this was cheating. The barbecue was a possibility, but with the rain lashing down outside it didn’t appeal.

We could have a salad but with the temperature dropping, we wanted something warm and stodgy but there was nothing suitable to cook in the microwave. Then DJ remembered the oven is electric and our spirits rose. We could make a flan, cook potato wedges or toad in the hole. Hooray for hot food! But some of the flan ingredients needed to be fried and while we could cook the toad in the oven, we’d need to cook the onion gravy on the hob. The microwave was a possibility, but it just wouldn’t taste the same. Eventually we decided on oven-roasted vegetables with couscous, which we made by boiling a kettle of water and mixing the water and the couscous together in a bowl.

Dinner cheered us up no end, but washing up with lukewarm water wasn’t fun. Frankly, it was a relief when bedtime rolled around so we could huddle together and warm up.

Later in the week I’ll be trying life without electricity. Wish me luck!

Have you had to do without gas or electricity? How did you cope? Leave a comment and let me know.


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10 Responses to Energy challenge: Life without gas

  1. Nina says:

    What a hard day!!!! I could almost feel your misery! You wouldnt want to come round here, Elli has a tummy bug.

  2. Christine says:

    You should have been taking gas and electricity meter readings for the past 5 days prior to this experiment. This would show you how much of each you use on a regular basis. You\’d then realise just how much more electricity you used today in order to cook and have some heat. Oh and that extra money spent on petrol in the car! Most of us don\’t have that luxury if we are having to do without either gas or electricity. One does wonder how you will manage with no electricity if the battery on the laptop goes flat. Hmm the land line telephone runs on electricity you know unless you unplug it and put a battery in it. No telly or radio? What about light? Do you keep a supply of candles like we used to have to do when I was little and the power supply was not reliable way out in the wilds on the farm. And one hopes that you have charged up the mobile telephone. How do you charge up a mobile without electricity? Does your gas boiler need electricity to power it up like mine does? Normally if you don\’t have a gas supply you may well have Economy 7 for heating which covers the water as well. Maybe you need to consider something like a woodburning stove as a future investment.

  3. piper says:

    Not much gets past you, Ms Hewitt…
    I had to go out in the car anyway – I\’d already paid for the petrol so getting on a bus instead would be wasting money – but benefited from warming up in it. Can\’t use it later this week when I do my electricity experiment though as it uses electricity.  We have a landline phone but don\’t get many calls and won\’t be using it.  I do keep candles in the house. There\’ll be no lights, tv, radio etc. We do have some citronella lamps which I might investigate. I\’ll have to stop working when the laptop battery goes flat. Will have to check re the gas boiler.  
    Exceptions are the lizard tanks which will still be working – it\’s not fair on them to switch the tanks off as I don\’t want them to get sick, the freezer and fridge. If I turn them off – esp. the freezer – the food will spoil, which isn\’t exactly frugal. But eating food from the freezer will be off limits.
    The thing that worries me most is the amount of cups of tea I drink…I\’m going to miss that kettle…and I can\’t make toast either which I love.  Both our grill and toaster are electric.

  4. Muriel says:

    Well for the tea you can always boil some water on the stove and make it that way – might take a little longer, but if you just do a cups worth of water it shouldn\’t be too long. And use the lid on the pot – if you don\’t have a stove kettle – so it boils quicker saving energy!
    Toast, well you can always hold a piece over the gas flame, but again maybe not most energy efficient – not sure – and watch your fingers! don\’t need any burns to keep you warm

  5. Unknown says:

    We turned off the gas at the mains on May 11th. We do have mobile calor gas fires which we use if necessary. Up till Oct 4th, we just boiled a kettle of water, put it in a bucket and added cold water, using this for a shower. We now put on the electric water heater for 30 mins in the morning.Our gas hot water system is gravity fed, and we are awaiting quotes to make this more efficient.We have an electric stove, but could use a camping gas stove if we had to do without electricity. Doing without lights would be a challenge.

  6. Christine says:

    Tis not a proper electricity free experiment then really is it? Honestly truely? If you were really worried about the gas and electricity bills you would have re-homed the lizards some time back. I know that\’s being horrible but we\’ve had to let fish tanks go along with the contents when the bills had to be cut down. And I live without a freezer so know that it\’s not an essential item (there is nowhere that one can be safely kept and defrosted here). It just means cooking from fresh without the benefit of frozen vegetables and other such delights. It was a bit of a culture change but it\’s possible. There are also various cool pot systems that can be used which take away the need for a fridge. I know that I\’m being very hard on you and that your mother has already said all sorts of sensible things to you in the same line of thought but whatever. It\’s all part of the conversation on being frugal.. Diane is taking a lot of thingss along a whole new path isn\’t she? I like some of her ideas. It would be doing without the radio which I would find a killer – I\’d be looking for one of those wind up ones smartish. And a wind up computer. Not practical for working with but good for the bills.

  7. piper says:

    Thanks for the cooking tips Muriel. Might try that toasting technique! 
    Wow – Diane. I\’m very impressed. What led you to take such drastic action in the end and turn off the gas?
    Hi Christine. I take on board your points but I didn\’t say it was a scientific experiment, it\’s more about trying to experience a little of what it might be like without electricity.  And I never said that we can\’t pay our bills – I count my lucky stars that we can. But I\’d still like to learn more about saving energy and reduce our bills if we can. Incidentally – how do you store all the veg from your allotment if you don\’t have a freezer?  Do you have a root cellar? Or do you pickle?

  8. Christine says:

    Piper, what veg isn\’t stored in the ground, eaten fresh or pickled has ended up in the daughter\’s freezer this year. I realise that it\’s not a scientific trial that you are undertaking, I\’m just trying to see how far you have thought through all the sides of what you are trying to do. It\’s nice to see someone looking at how they live and wondering if there is a better way to do things that is more frugal. And even nicer when they come back with a line of thought that is well thought out or which challenges my question. I find the answers to your blogs are often very useful and challenging to the way that I actully budget. Diane has set me thinking.

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