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3 Ways To Make Ice Without Electricity

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In the event of an extended loss of power, besides practical uses, knowing how to make ice would be an essential skill that leads to more comfort. It would also make you very popular with your local community.

Here are 3 ways to make ice without electricity:

  1. Make ice using water and fertilizer.
  2. Turn an electric ice maker machine into a solar-powered device.
  3. Freeze water using the winter climate.

In this article, you will learn step-by-directions on how to make ice without electricity in three different ways. If you are exploring the idea of living off the grid without electricity or want to do a fun science experiment, please read on.

Boiling Water Freezes Faster

Before trying any of the ways to make ice without electricity, you should consider boiling the water first. If you want to speed up the freezing process, this is a good option.

If you desire to stay electricity-free, you can simply boil your water over a campfire. Boiling also kills any bacteria and sterilizes it for consumption.

Scientists explain this phenomenon about water: as it reaches a maximum molecular density at 39.2 °F (4°C), it will become less dense before it freezes. This decreased density is why ice floats. This is called the Mpemba effect.

The Mpemba effect is named after a cooking student in the 1960s that observed that a hot ice cream mix would freeze faster than a cold one. Interestingly, other scientists throughout history, such as Aristotle, Francis Bacon, and René Descartes, have also mentioned this. 

The explanation for this results from the binding properties that hold water together: two hydrogen atoms with one oxygen atom (H2O). 

Stove Top Desalination With Boiling Water Pot Cup Inside and Upside Down Lid
Boiling water can purify it and make it freeze faster.

The theory is that the hydrogen bonds bring water molecules into contact. This causes a natural repulsion between the molecules, so they “stretch’ and sit farther apart when boiled. This results in an energy loss which is like cooling. 

Essentially, the energy loss brought about by heating the atoms in water can cool faster than cold water uninterrupted by heat.

If you are not going to boil water and use an outdoor source, you need to filter or purify your water for your safety. You should never drink water from an outdoor source, even if it looks clean. Water can have hidden viruses, bacteria, parasites, and waterborne diseases like giardiasis or cryptosporidiosis.

Read on to learn about the different ways to make ice without electricity.

1. Make Ice Using Water and Fertilizer

You can use water and fertilizer to create ice if you don’t have electricity. This method is excellent if you have access to a good fertilizer and some safety equipment.

Gather Materials

Make sure you have clean water (see the first method above for materials to get clean water).

Item:Description/Notes:
Ammonium FertilizerThis is a 2-pound (0.9 kg) bag that is an iron- and aluminum-free bag.
Nitrate FertilizerThis comes in a 1-pound (0.4 kg) bag and is fully water-soluble.
Bucket or large bowlThis is a 7.5 x 7.5 x 7.38 inches (19 x 19 x 18 cm) durable plastic pail.
Metal bowl to fit inside the larger bucket or bowlThis is 9.45×4.17 inches (24 x 10.59 cm) and made of food-grade stainless steel.
Measuring CupsThis item is excellent for chemical use for ounce and milliliter measurements. You do not want to use kitchen measuring cups. Consider getting a few, so you are not using the fertilizer one(s) with the drinking water (ice-making) one.
Safety gogglesThese goggles are anti-fog and wide-vision for complete eye protection. They will also fit over corrective glasses.
Safety glovesThis set of 12 reusable and washable gloves are durable MicroFoam Nitrile coated and seamless knit and nylon. If you don’t want chemicals in your washing machine, dispose of them properly according to manufacturer instructions.
Amazon links provided for your convenience.

Steps

  1. Put on safety goggles and gloves and mix equal parts of ammonium and nitrate fertilizers. It is best to make this mixture outside in a well-ventilated area and away from sidewalks where loose fertilizer can run off with rain into waterways. 
  2. Then mix equal parts of this fertilizer combination with water in the larger bucket until it is completely dissolved. As a result, this mixture will produce an endothermic reaction by drawing heat from its surroundings, hence the metal water bowl that you are about to put inside this bucket. 
  3. Place the smaller metal bucket or bowl filled halfway with clean fresh water into the larger container using clean hands and care. Use extreme caution for your health and safety by not getting fertilizer into the metal bowl. The mixture from the larger bucket will conduct and draw heat out through the metal sides of the bowl, lowering the freshwater temperature to freeze eventually.
  4. Consider putting plastic wrap over the top of the bucket. It will keep debris, pollen, and other microscopic material out. 
  5. Keep your bucket away from direct sunlight and heat sources, as this will delay the freezing process. A cool and dark location is best.
  6. Wait patiently for the water to freeze. Check-in on it after several hours have passed. 

2. Turn an Electric Ice Maker Machine Into a Solar-Powered Device

Using a solar-powered ‘off grid’ ice maker will allow you to make ice easily using energy from the sun. Follow the instructions in the YouTube video below for full guidance on how to do this.

This might not be as practical for those on a survivalist adventure since it would be heavy to transport. However, harnessing the sun’s power is a free way to use electrically powered devices in a new way.

In summary, you will need a solar panel, large and powerful batteries, a charge controller, and an inverter. Once you learn how to connect everything up, you might be inspired to make more connections for other electrical devices to be powered by the sun.

3. Freeze Water Using the Winter Climate

Winter View off Back Deck Snowy Yard

This way of making ice is for those that live in a snowy or cold environment and is the simplest way of making ice without electricity.

Gather Materials

Once you have a water source, gather the following materials:

Item:Description/Notes:
If needed to sterilize water:Camping Boiling Pot

Or

Water Filter


Or

Purification Tablets
This pot is made from food-grade and lightweight stainless steel to sanitize water for drinking and emergencies.

This gravity water filter system can clean up to 5,000 liters (1320 gallons) of water at a flow rate of 27 liters (7.13 gallons) per hour. This system can even be connected to a water bottle.

This 2-bottle pack of tablets are made with Tetraglycine Hydroperiodide and is effective Against Giardia Lamblia when used as directed.
Ice Cube Trays (miniature cube size)This 3-pack set can make 60 miniature cubes per BPA-free plastic ice tray for 180 in total. Ideal for freezing water faster.

Clean egg cartons

Or

Resealable bags (your choice of size)
These will create larger ice cubes. Use reused/recycled cartons from home.


This set of 500 bags comes in 3 different sizes.They offer strong sealability to protect contents from debris and bugs.
Jumbo resealable plastic bags (that your ice trays will fit inside)

Or

Cling plastic wrap
These expandable BPA-free plastic and resealable bags keep things fresh with an extra-strong seal.


This eco-friendly wrap offers non-toxic beeswax and plastic alternatives for food (and ice) storage.
Amazon links provided for your convenience.

Steps

  1. Wait until the outside temperature is consistently below freezing, below 32°F (0 °C). Electric freezers in many homes are set to 0 °F (−18 °C), and items will freeze after about three to four hours. Keep in mind that “warmer” freezing temperatures may take longer than freezing water.
  2. Use filtered or boiled water to fill the ice cube trays. The smaller your ice cube tray “holes,” the sooner they will become frozen. If you desire larger ice blocks, you can use resealable bags or a clean egg carton.
  3. Put the ice cube trays inside a jumbo resealable bag to protect them from wildlife and debris. You could also cover it with plastic wrap if your ice cube trays are too big.
  4. Place your covered ice cube trays in a dark location outside. Even on cold and freezing days, sunlight paired with the plastic “greenhouse” you’ve put on the ice cube trays will trap heat and slow down or prevent freezing from happening.
  5. Use patience. Depending on how cold it is and how big your ice cubes will be, it will take time for the ice to freeze. After several hours, you can check on them to see the progress until they are ready for use.

Final Thoughts

Making ice without electricity is possible for those wishing to eliminate electricity use in survival situations and for learning opportunities and experiments. This can be done in three ways: 

  • Using the natural and freezing climate
  • Creating a chemical reaction using fertilizer
  • Converting an electric ice maker into a solar-powered one

By gathering and preparing materials ahead of time, paired with some patience, non-electric ice-making becomes possible.

For more, check out 8 Practical Ways to Purify Water Without Boiling It.

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