Energy challenge: Life without electricity

Yesterday I underwent my second energy task of the week – going without as much electricity as possible. I decided it wasn’t frugal to turn off the fridge and freezer and ruin the food and my pet lizards rely on heat lamps, but everything else that required plugging into the mains was off limits.

I enjoyed a lie-in as getting up early and sitting in the dark was pretty pointless. So it was a relief when I got up and the sun was shining. I’d worried that working in dim light would give me eye strain. I wear glasses now to read, write and use my laptop and am constantly putting the light on if it’s a bit dark. Unfortunately around 10am the sun went in and I was forced to look for candles. I lit a couple of them but they were surprisingly ineffectual. No wonder the poet John Milton went blind after studying by candlelight!

Also I’d hardly given my radio and CD player much thought, but it was weird not using them. The house seemed so quiet without music playing or John Humphrys berating some politician on the Today Programme. Plus the washing I’d put out yesterday still wasn’t dry and I resisted the urge to put it in the tumble dryer, so I hoped the sun would re-emerge and dry it all off. I could hang it on our radiators but I remember reading it isn’t an energy efficient way to dry washing.

Our electric shower was out of bounds, but my hair felt disgusting so I decided to have a shallow bath, so as not to use too much water, and wash my hair. How relaxing, I thought, until I got in and realised the water was lukewarm. When I emerged with dripping hair I remembered I couldn’t use the hairdryer. Normally I leave my hair to dry naturally anyway, but lately as it’s been getting colder I’ve been drying it off a bit first. So I resigned myself to wet hair for the morning.

Fortunately tea was possible by boiling up water on the hob. Life without that would be pure misery. I remembered that my grandparents years ago put a kettle on the hob to make tea. I took Muriel’s advice – she left a message on Tuesday’s blog suggesting I put the lid on the pan to save energy. It was just as quick as boiling a kettle as long as you only put a cup’s worth of water in it.

By 11.15 the sky turned black and I was finding it more and more difficult to work. I could feel the beginnings of a headache. In our shed I found our citronella lamp but the instructions said it should only be used outside because of the fumes, so I chickened out of using it. But soon the laptop battery gave out anyway. Then I remembered I’d forgotten to reply to an email the previous day from Katie at MSN so, not being able to connect to the internet via my wifi, I texted her instead. Surprisingly enough, not being bothered by my email was quite refreshing!

I know it should be obvious, but when evening came I was astonished by how dark the house was without electric light. I thought it might make me gloomy, but it was quite cosy and romantic eating dinner by candlelight. Although I kept worrying the cat might knock the candles over and set the lounge alight and DJ insisted on wearing his head torch at the dinner table, which was a turn-off!

Washing up was interesting and I tried knitting by candlelight but soon gave up as I couldn’t see what I was doing. “Don’t risk your eyesight!” warned my mother in a text. So we sat nodding off on the sofa – the darkness was incredibly soporific – and went to bed early wondering how on earth our ancestors managed to do anything in the evenings besides snooze!

Do you think we take electricity for granted? Are we over-reliant on it? Leave a message and let me know.

Have a great weekend, Piper xxx


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13 Responses to Energy challenge: Life without electricity

  1. Nicholas says:

    Hmmm, it seems that each day is just an exercise in using the alternative energy source, and since most essential domestic functions can be provided by both options, your comfort and energy usage merely depended on the equipment in your house.  As to your excuse for driving the car (it had fuel in the tank), well……
    No, seriously I\’m trying to pick holes; you provide an interesting blog.  I would like to see some scientific data comparing alternatives, not just in cost, but equivalent energy consumptions and overall effect (eg. microwave versus oven, electric shower versus gas, gas central heating versus Economy 7).
    However, we don\’t have to live the monastic life just yet; most people could save a lot with just a little anticipation and judgement; thinking about the airflow around their house, not dumping the heat from cooking and other functions, isolating unused rooms etc.  Most of all, I have never once observed anyone cooking efficiently; I still reckon the average person uses at least twice as much gas as required, and probably three to four times the electricity!

  2. Kerri says:

    Obviously giving up gas/electricity totally isn\’t a practical option for any real length of time, but it does highlight just how much we rely on the sources of energy we take for granted. My mum (who really isn\’t that old) grew up in a house with no electric – going to bed by candlight and baths infront of the fire filled with water heated on a gas stove were the norm for her when she was growing up – yet for most of us, the idea of this seem\’s so antiquated.
    Groobler – I read somewhere that using a microwave is more effieient in terms of energy consumption than an oven – I guess though it can depend on what you\’re cooking – I don\’t mind zapping a lone jacket spud in the microwave but don\’t fance tacking the Xmas dinner in one!

  3. Nina says:

     wondering how on earth our ancestors managed to do anything in the evenings besides snooze! …..
    Thats why they had loads of children!!!!

  4. Christine says:

    Obviously a house with no bard to recite poetry or sing or recite tales from memory of an evening here. Our ancestors probably had more ways of passing an evening than relying on electricity to power the radio, TV, computer, games console and such like. There used to be a tradition of passing on history by oral tradition – telling tales, reciting poetry, singing and not just in houses which were rich enough to employ bard or minstrel to amuse the household. This would have been done at the fireside of an evening in winter when work outside the house was more limited. Also if you look back, young people further up the social scale were trained to play music, read, recite, sing, dance and generally provide entertainment for themselves and the family.  I suspect that there was much more visiting and socialising before the advent of "in-house" entertainment which we use now of an evening. For which either gas light or candle would be quiet sufficient. You can get candles which come in containers of various sorts you know which would be cat proof Piper. But I think that having days without gas or electricity show just how much we have become conditioned to believing  that these things are essential to life and not knowing how to live without them.

  5. Kerri says:

    In response to Christine, I think that for many of us gas/electricity have become essential to our modern way of living – I need my laptop to carry out my work which means I need electricity, if I didn\’t have my job, I couldn\’t pay my bills and would be out on my ear.
    I agree that our ancestors had very different, and possibly more social ways of spending a dark evening other than sprawled out on the sofa watching Sky TV with the central heating keeping us toasty warm, but then they also still travelled by foot/horse (no cars), had poorer health (no penicillin or NHS) and tended to die much younger.
    Our lifestyles have changed and evolved so we do rely on gas/elec for modern living – but we should remember not to be wasteful with it in this disposable society.

  6. Tattyhousehastings says:

    I\’m really laughing at the thought of DJ eating his romantic dinner with a head lamp on. Find them hilarious, some friends bought them camping last year and they were so handy for opening drinks. But so so funny.

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