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human powered appliances

Human-Powered Kitchen Appliances to Reduce Your Electric Bill

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
May 19, 2020

My grandmother moved out of her home and into an assisted care facility at the age of 94. Shortly afterward, she invited each of her grandchildren to take anything from the house that reminded us of her life. After grabbing a few old, black, and white photographs, I meandered into the kitchen and found a cabinet full of my grandma's old kitchen "appliances." There were handheld egg beaters, butter churners, potato ricers, stovetop toasters, and everything in between. Many of her old kitchen tools were solid, cast-iron devices that had probably been handed down to her from older generations of my ancestors. Not only were these "tools" remembrances of my family history, but they were also incredibly well-built and useful. It only seemed right to me to gather together that collection of enduring, resilient kitchen tools that could easily last for another generation or two.

We live in a digital, technology-centered age wherein every new "invention" promises more exceptional comforts and less physical work. The day and age of washing clothes by hand or churning butter from milk brought in from the barn might be a thing of the past for most of us. But sometimes we can ask ourselves, do I need an electric lettuce shredder to "free us" from the burden of having to use a knife to cut up our salad?

Many of us associate the past with hardship and adversity. While modern-day society certainly brings with it a series of privileges and comforts, the values of hard work, craftsmanship, and durability have mostly given way to the principle of "planned obsolescence." Here at Rise, we have written extensively about how some aspects of the "smart home" can increase the operational efficiency of our homes. A smart thermostat might be a great way to cut back on household heating bills. However, finding ways to cut back on the sheer number of electric appliances is also a concrete energy efficiency strategy that we can prioritize.  

Can Hand Powered Appliances Save on your Energy Bills? 

To be clear from the outset, we do not recommend that you cut off your electricity connection and invest in torches and candles to light your home. Wood stoves and solar panels might be great ways to heat and power an off-grid home.  

Electricity is a modern-day convenience upon which most of us depend. Despite this fact, it is also essential to understand that our collective electricity demand is crucial in climate change. Electricity production is responsible for around 28 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. One recent report finds that residential energy demand is expected to increase to more than 25 quadrillions BTU/year in 2025 from current levels of about 20 quadrillions BTU/year. The report goes on to say that "the most rapid growth (is) expected for computers, electronic equipment, and appliances." And the reality is that, according to the US Energy Information Administration, 31 percent of the electricity used in households is for "other" uses - small electric devices.

Reducing the number of electric appliances we use in our homes is one way to reduce our residential energy demand. On the other hand, the following human-powered devices offer practical ideas and strategies to cut back on the amount of energy usage in our homes.

The Top Human Powered Household Appliances 

Before the invention of electricity, human ingenuity came up with hundreds of different devices and apparatuses to make life easier. A visit to your antique market will allow you to find dozens of various appliances and tools that are built to last several lifetimes. Most modern-day corporations have shifted their production to electronic gadgets and devices to fulfill consumer demand for the latest technological wonder. However, there are still many companies dedicated to producing handheld, human-powered tools for household use.

foot powered washing machine
Foot Powered Washing Machine. Photo Credit: Yirego

Foot-Powered Washing Machine 

Believe it or not, it is possible to wash your clothes without pushing the buttons of a washer and dryer. Over 85 percent of households in the United States have a washing machine, and the other 15 percent most rely on laundromats. Yirego is a company that has recently developed a foot-powered washing machine that can save you money while not sentencing homeowners to endless hours bent over a washboard. This $369 portable washing machine can wash up to five pounds of laundry in a quick 5 to 10-minute timeframe. An easy-to-use foot pedal works the inner drum for deep cleansing and then allows you to spin-dry your clothes. A simple clothesline for air drying is all you need to finish the job.

stainless steel food mill
Stainless Steel Food Mill. Photo Credit: Rush's Kitchen Supply

Stainless Steel Food Mill 

Blenders and food processors are a staple appliance in most kitchens, and for a good reason. They save you time when finely grating fruits and vegetables for juices and sauces and allow for more creativity in the kitchen. Hand-powered food mills have been in use for hundreds of years and are the predecessor of the electric blender and food processor. This 3.5-quart stainless steel food mill costs about $50 and will pay for itself in energy savings. It can be used for canning, making apple or tomato sauce, mashing potatoes, and grating vegetables. Similarly, this hand-cranked blender is another option for the fine processing of foods and can be used (without electricity) for making soups, sauces, smoothies, and everything in between.

Ultra Chef Food Chopper
Ultra Chef Food Chopper. Photo Credit: Amazon

Manual Food Processor

If you can't (or don't want to) live without a food processor, the Ultra Chef Food Chopper is a smaller, less expensive option that is super versatile. It has seven different functions that chop, slice, shred, and even juice.

rotary egg beater
Rotary Egg Beater. Photo Credit: Amazon

Hand Mixer

One of the hallmarks of electric appliances is that they claim that they save us time. But in many cases, human-powered mixers and egg beaters can get the job done in virtually the same amount of time as their electric-powered counterparts. Whether you are beating eggs, whipping cream, or only stirring up a stew, hand mixers are incredibly easy to use and don't require any electricity. If you cannot find one at your local antique store, this hand mixer (also known as a rotary egg beater) costs less than $20 and comes with stainless steel blades and a chrome handle.

rok espresso maker
Rok Espresso Maker. Photo Credit: Rok Coffee

Human-Powered Espresso Machines

Human-powered appliances are also helpful for specialty, high-end food luxuries. Have you ever heard of a human-powered espresso machine? ROK Coffee specializes in a hand-powered espresso machine that starts at under $200. The device might look a little funky, but it is convenient. It allows homeowners to enjoy a hot cup of high-quality espresso without waiting in line at Starbucks or spending thousands of dollars on an electric option. You can find US dealers of this human-powered espresso machine here.

Aeropress. Photo Credit: Amazon

Another great, hand-powered espresso maker, the Aeropress, costs around $30. With its handy travel bag, you can have great coffee no matter where you go.

Hario Coffee Grinder
Hario Coffee Grinder. Photo Credit: Amazon

Hand Coffee Grinder

Many coffee lovers opt for hand grinders, especially while traveling, and some even prefer them to electric mills. The Skerton Pro, a recently updated version by Hario, has a removable arm, a glass bowl and is reasonably priced below $50.

Juice Press
Juice Press. Photo Credit: Lee Valley Tools

Juice Press

There are a lot of fantastic electric juicers out there. But, sometimes, a simple, durable press is all you need! This stainless steel juice press is popular with restaurants and bars AND will last you a lifetime.

Marcato Atlas 150 Pasta Maker
Atlas 150 Pasta Maker. Photo Credit: Marcato

Pasta Maker

The time-tested Atlas 150 manual pasta maker by Marcato would be a great addition to any kitchen. This sturdy, stainless option comes in many colors, and the classic, made in Italy stainless version is available for less than $100.

bike smoothie
Bike Smoothie. Photo Credit: Instructables

Leg-Powered Blender

If you want to get crazy, you can combine getting a little exercise indoors with blending up a smoothie. This Fender Blender by Rock the Bike allows you to blend up your creation while riding a stationary bicycle. AT $1,700, a new one is pricey, but you can fit one on your bike for much less. Or, if you are a serious DIY-er, make your human-powered blender with your bike and blender for less than $25 using these instructions.

Bottom Line

Human-powered appliances might seem like they belong in a museum instead of a kitchen. However, as you can see, we can find many ways to rely on a little bit of elbow grease instead of kilowatts. It is a great way to reduce your household energy demand, carbon footprint - and save a little money on your monthly electric bill. Many of these appliances are also exceptionally well built and challenge the standard of planned obsolescence, meaning that they'll still be around to pass down to your grandchildren.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-04-28T20:11:45+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.