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4 Incredible Post-Apocalyptic and Off-Grid Uses For Old Home Appliances

By Goedekershomelife @goedekers
Photo by Eric Crowley

Photo by Eric Crowley

It’s the end of the world. What good are the appliances you relied on every day?

Movies and television shows have thrived on the idea lately of the breakdown of society and the loss of the modern comforts of our lives. Whether it is the result of zombies, as featured in The Walking Dead and World War Z or some phenomena that removes a valuable and basic technology as depicted in the show Revolution, appliances can be critical to human survival.Too bad the writers of those shows underestimate the value of the everyday kitchen appliances that can solve intriguing problems.

These ideas are not only fanciful what-if scenarios. They can also be employed by those looking to move off-grid, or simply re-use and recycle their old appliances in a useful manner.

Far from being useless, your appliances may very well be some of your most valuable assets, even without electricity. Here are just a few applications, all totally new from the ideas we shared previously.

Water Heater Rocket Stove

A home water heater tank turned into a home heater. Photo by Rob Steves.

A home water heater tank turned into a home heater. Photo by Rob Steves.

Without electricity to heat your hot water, what good is a hot water tank? Well, for starters you can use it to heat your home.

Rob Steves posted this article of how he turned an old water heater tank into a super-efficient rocket stove.

A rocket stove generates a lot of heat with very little fuel. Instead of logs, a few pieces of wood will be sufficient to heat your home. That huge tank is not used to hold or burn wood, but to provide sufficient space to contain the inside chimney. The large surface area helps heat the room faster.

Rocket stove diagram by Rob Steves.

Rocket stove diagram by Rob Steves.

Rob explains what makes a rocket stove so efficient:

“The goal of a rocket stove is to burn a relatively small amount of wood at as high a temperature as possible, resulting in more complete combustion, and to extract as much heat as possible from the exhaust gases. To generate high combustion temperatures, rocket stoves separate the combustion, heat extraction and exhaust functions. They have insulated internal chimneys to generate a strong draft for vigorous combustion. My design uses a down draft combustion chamber. Scrap wood is loaded directly on top of the existing burning wood inside the combustion chamber.  The flame is drawn downward by the strong draft rather than rising out of the chamber as one might expect. The result is that ALL combustion products pass through the hottest part of the fire resulting in very complete combustion, producing the greatest amount of heat and reducing products of incomplete combustion such as carbon monoxide and smoke. To capture as much of the heat as possible and radiate it into the room, the exhaust gases are passed through a secondary chamber (much larger than the combustion chamber) that absorbs and radiates the heat. Finally the relatively cool exhaust gases are expelled through an exhaust tube.”

The exhaust is so cool Rob was able to use a dryer exhaust hose to connect the rocket stove to his chimney. Unlike a wood stove, in which the exhaust pipe will burn you if you touch it. Instead, the heat from the fire stays inside.

However, telling your insurance company that you are using a rocket stove in your home that you built itself might do more than just raise eyebrows. In the event of the zombie apocalypse, though, your insurance premiums should be the least of your problems.

Washing Machine Generator

My wife was watching an episode of the show Jericho when I caught a piece of the plot – in the wake of a national apocalyptic crisis the town had sent a small group to a black market to find critical parts for building a wind turbine. The plot seemed a little contrived to me, although putting TV characters in danger is what writers are supposed to do, I suppose.

Instead of risking life and limb, one of the most critical components for a DIY wind generator is a motor to act as a generator – in fact, a washing machine motor can be used to do this. I’m sure the town without power had enough washing machines to create a small wind farm.

There are many instructions out there, but the principle is simple. A motor changes electrical current into motion, and in the same way a motor that is turned by another force – hand crank, wind, or water wheel – generates an electrical current. The motor can be connected to a battery and from there your power can be stored and used when necessary.

The Back Shed has more information on using washing machines as wind generators in this article.

Refrigerator Water Heater

After you’ve taken your hot water heater apart to build a rocket stove to heat the house, how are you going to get hot water? That’s a job for your now useless refrigerator.

More specifically, you want to use the compressor coils from your refrigerator – the rack of metal tubing that tends to get dusty:

Refrigerator compressor coils. Photo by Mike Florence.

Refrigerator compressor coils. Photo by Mike Florence.

This metal tubing that snakes back and forth becomes a very critical component of a solar water heater – the heat exchanger.

If you put your compressor coil in a dark colored box with a glass top, and connect hose to both ends, the setup can generate scalding hot water rather quickly on a hot day. Mother Earth News gets into a lot more detail – and variations – on the principle in an article here.

Of course, this only used your compressor coils from the fridge. You can use the well-insulated chamber as a big cooler, an icebox (with real ice). Or you can use it to hold the tank of hot water from your solar hot water heater. After all, that great insulation that saves you money on your electric bill can be used to keep heat out or in.

Gas Range As A Propane Range

If there is no electricity, your gas range may not be useless. In fact, many people do not realize that their gas range can be used in an emergency as, well, a range.

Many, but not all, gas ranges can be used with LP or liquid petroleum. Even if you have regular gas service, should civilization fall you can use a propane tank to utilize the stove top of your range.

Granted, this comes with a lot of “ifs.” Ranges that can use LP or gas have a setting that would have to be changed. And not all models rely on gas pressure to feed your burners, so any model with an electric mechanism for fueling your burners will not work when the power is out. And of course, you will have to light it with a match.

Feel free to comment with other ideas for using your home appliances without electricity. Share now, or else you won’t be able to when the Internet goes down and the zombies rise…

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