Mist Showers: Sustainable Decadence?

The water and energy use of the mist shower is so low that the bathroom could be taken off-grid and off-pipe even in an urban contex.


How to Make Wind Power Sustainable Again

If we build them out of wood, large wind turbines could become a textbook example of the circular economy.


Pour que l’énergie éolienne redevienne durable

Les grandes éoliennes pourraient devenir un modèle d’économie circulaire si elles étaient construites en bois.


Kunnen we windturbines opnieuw uit hout bouwen?

De windturbine kan een schoolvoorbeeld worden van de circulaire economie.


Reinventing the Small Wind Turbine

A wooden rotor and tower greatly increase the net energy output over the lifetime of a small wind turbine.


Réinventer la petite éolienne domestique

Une hélice et un mât en bois augmentent drastiquement la quantité (nette de dette énergétique) d’énergie qu’une petite éolienne peut produire sur sa durée de vie.


Low-tech Magazine: The Printed Website

Read Low-tech Magazine with no access to a computer, a power supply, or the internet.


Heat your House with a Mechanical Windmill

Given the right conditions, a mechanical windmill with an oversized brake system is a cheap, effective, and sustainable heating system.


Keeping Some of the Lights On: Redefining Energy Security

To improve energy security, we need to make infrastructures less reliable.


How Circular is the Circular Economy?

As long as we keep accumulating raw materials, the closing of the material life cycle remains an illusion, even for materials that are, in principle, recyclable.


How to Build a Low-tech Website?

Our new blog is designed to radically reduce the energy use associated with accessing our content.


Could We Dredge the Netherlands Without Fossil Fuels?

For centuries, the Netherlands were mainly dredged by hand, supplemented by animal power, wind power and tidal power. Could it be done again?


We Can’t Do It Ourselves

How to live a more sustainable life? By placing responsibility squarely on the individual, attention is deflected away from the many institutions involved in structuring possible courses of action.


Ditch the Batteries: Off-Grid Compressed Air Energy Storage

Compressed air energy storage is the sustainable and resilient alternative to chemical batteries, with much longer life expectancy, lower life cycle costs, technical simplicity, and low maintenance.


History and Future of the Compressed Air Economy

Historical compressed air systems hold the key to the design of a low-tech, low-cost, robust, sustainable and relatively energy efficient energy storage medium.


Historia y Futuro de la Economía del Aire Comprimido

Sistemas históricos son la clave para el diseño de un medio de almacenamiento de energía de baja tecnología, con bajo costo, robusto, sostenible y relativamente eficiente en energía


How Much Energy Do We Need?

Researchers have calculated minimum levels of energy use needed to live a decent life, but what about maximum levels?


¿Cuánta Energía Necesitamos?

Los investigadores han calculado los niveles mínimos de energía necesarios para vivir una vida decente, pero ¿qué pasa con los niveles máximos?


Bedazzled by Energy Efficiency

To focus on energy efficiency is to make present ways of life non-negotiable.


Deslumbrados por la Eficiencia Energética

Centrarse en la eficiencia energética significaría hacer que las formas de vida actuales sean no-negociables.


How to Run the Economy on the Weather

Adjusting energy demand to supply would make switching to renewable energy much more realistic than it is today.


Cómo Hacer Funcionar la Economía con el Clima

Ajustar la demanda de energía a la oferta haría que el cambio a la energía renovable fuera mucho más realista de lo que es hoy.


How (Not) to Run a Modern Society on Solar and Wind Power Alone

Matching supply to demand at all times makes renewable power production a complex, slow, expensive and unsustainable undertaking.


Cómo (no) Manejar una Sociedad solo con Energía Renovable

Tratar de equilibrar la oferta a la demanda en todo momento hace que la producción de energía renovable sea una tarea compleja, lenta, costosa e insostenible.


Could We Run Modern Society on Human Power Alone?

Unlike solar and wind energy, human power is always available, no matter the season or time of day.


Heat Storage Hypocausts: Air Heating in the Middle Ages

The heat storage hypocaust could keep a room warm for days with just one firing of the furnace.


Vietnam’s Low-tech Food System Takes Advantage of Decay

Vietnam’s decentralised food system has low energy inputs and reduced food waste, giving us a glimpse of what an alternative food system might look like


The Curse of the Modern Office

The information society promises to dematerialise society and make it more sustainable, but modern office and knowledge work has itself become a large and rapidly growing consumer of energy and other resources


Why the Office Needs a Typewriter Revolution

Could we rethink and redesign office equipment, combining the best of mechanical and digital devices?


How to Get Your Apartment Off the Grid

Solar panels on window sills and balconies can supply more power than you would think.


Cómo Desconectar tu Vivienda de la Red Eléctrica

Decidí alimentar con energía solar la oficina de Low-tech Magazine en casa, y escribir mis artículos desconectado de la red eléctrica.


Slow Electricity: The Return of DC Power?

Directly coupling DC power sources with DC loads can result in a significantly cheaper and more sustainable solar system.


Power Water Networks

Hydraulic power transmission is very efficient compared to electricity when it is used to operate powerful but infrequently used machines.


Fruit Walls: Urban Farming in the 1600s

From the sixteenth to the twentieth century, urban farmers grew Mediterranean fruits and vegetables as far north as England and the Netherlands, using only renewable energy.


Reinventing the Greenhouse

Contrary to its fully glazed counterpart, a passive solar greenhouse is designed to retain as much warmth as possible.


Les Murs à Fruits: l’Agriculture Urbaine au 17e Siècle

Du 16e au 20e siècle, on pouvait trouver dans les villes d’Angleterre ou des Pays-Bas des fermiers qui parvenaient à cultiver des fruits et légumes méditerranéens en n’utilisant que des énergies renouvelables.


Muros Frutales: Agricultura Urbana en el 1600

Desde el siglo XVI hasta el siglo XX, agricultores urbanos cultivaban frutas y vegetales típicos de la zona mediterránea, en zonas tan lejanas como el norte de Inglaterra y Holanda, usando solo energías renovables.


Reinventando el Invernadero

Al contrario de los invernaderos totalmente acristalados, un invernadero solar pasivo está diseñado para retener el máximo calor posible.


Réinventer la Serre

Une serre solaire à énergie passive est conçue de manière à retenir autant de chaleur que possible, contrairement à son homologue de verre.


How to Build a Low-tech Internet

If we want the internet to keep working in circumstances where access to energy is more limited, we can learn important lessons from alternative network technologies.


The 4G Mobile Internet That’s Already There

These days, so many households have a WiFi-router installed that sharing the signal of these devices could provide free mobile internet access across densely populated cities.


Why We Need a Speed Limit for the Internet

The energy use of the internet can only stop growing when energy sources run out, unless we impose self-chosen limits.


How Sustainable is Stored Sunlight?

Energy storage is often ignored when scientists investigate the sustainability of PV systems.


How Sustainable is PV solar power?

At high growth rates, the energy and CO2 savings made by the cumulative installed capacity of solar PV systems can be cancelled out by the energy use and CO2 emissions from the production of new installed capacity.


How to Keep Warm in a Cool House

If we are looking for quick and substantial energy savings for existing buildings, then local heating systems deserve our closest attention


Radiant & Conductive Heating Systems

Radiant and conductive heating systems make energy use independent of the size of a room or building.


Cómo Mantenerse Caliente en una Casa Fría

Combinar los viejos métodos de calentamiento con los modernos sistemas de calefacción radiante y conductiva puede disminuir el consumo de energía, mejorar la salud, e incrementar el confort térmico.


Restoring the Old Way of Warming: Heating People, not Places

Most modern heating systems are primarily based on the heating of air. This seems an obvious choice, but there are far worthier alternatives.


Calentar a la Gente, No al Edificio

La mayoría de los sistemas actuales de calefacción se basan en calentar el aire. Parece una opción obvia, pero hay alternativas mucho más válidas.


The Revenge of the Circulating Fan

Cooling people by increasing local airflow is at least ten times more energy efficient than refrigerating the air in a given space.


If We Insulate Our Houses, Why Not Our Cooking Pots?

A fireless cooker doubles the efficiency of any type of cooking device because it shortens the time on the fire and limits heat transfer losses


Well-Tended Fires Outperform Modern Cooking Stoves

Despite technological advancements since the Industrial Revolution, cooking remains a spectacularly inefficient process.


Modular Cargo Cycles

Modular cargo cycles are cheap to build and easy to customize.


How Sustainable is Digital Fabrication?

Automation is more energy-intensive than mechanisation.


High Speed Trains are Killing the European Railway Network

High speed rail is destroying the most valuable alternative to the airplane; the “low speed” rail network that has been in service for decades.


High Speed Trains are Killing the European Railway Network (2)

It’s enlightening to look at the present European focus on high speed trains in the context of railway history.


Hochgeschwindigkeitszüge zerstören das europäische Bahnnetz

Hochgeschwindigkeitsverkehr zerstört die wertvollste Alternative zum Flugzeug; das „langsame“ Eisenbahnnetz, welches bereits seit mehreren Jahrzehnten besteht.


Hochgeschwindigkeitszüge zerstören das europäische Bahnnetz (2)

EuroCity und EuroNight schufen ein nachhaltiges, effizientes und günstiges Angebot für Fernfahrten. Das Beste das Europa jemals hatte.


Heat Your Clothes, Not Your House

The arrival of compact lithium-ion batteries has increased the performance and diversity of electrically heated clothing.


Burning the Bones of the Earth: Lime Kilns

Lime burning is a now-forgotten industry that sustained many agrarian communities before energy became cheap.


Power from the Tap: Water Motors

In the nineteenth century, miniature water turbines were connected to the tap and could power any machine that is now driven by electricity


Back to Basics: Direct Hydropower

The hydro power installations in use today are less energy efficient than those of earlier centuries.


Vuelta a lo Básico: Hidroenergía Directa

Las instalaciones hidroenergéticas en funcionamiento hoy son en realidad menos eficientes que las de siglos anteriores.


The Mechanical Transmission of Power (3): Endless Rope Drives

The trend towards small-scale, decentralised power production means that rope transmission might have a place in our energy system again


The Mechanical Transmission of Power (2): Jerker Line Systems

Jerker line systems can be used to operate water pumps or sawing machines, to forge iron, to process food or fibres, or to make paper.


The Mechanical Transmission of Power (1): Stangenkunst

Long-distance power transmission predates the invention of electricity by almost four centuries.


How to Make Everything Ourselves: Open Modular Hardware

A modular system unites the advantages of standardisation (parts can be produced cheaply in large amounts) with the advantages of customisation (a large diversity of unique objects can be made with relatively few parts).


Electric Velomobiles: as Fast and Comfortable as Automobiles, but 80 times more Efficient

About a quarter of the existent wind turbines would suffice to power as many electric velomobiles as there are people.


Electric Velomobiles: as Fast and Comfortable as Automobiles, but 80 times more Efficient (Part Two)

A car with a top speed of 270 km/h can be driven anywhere on Earth, while an electric velomobile with an electric assistance of up to 50 km/h is illegal is most countries.


El Velomóvil Eléctrico: Rápido y Cómodo Como un Automóvil, 80 Veces Más Eficiente

Alrededor de una cuarta parte de los aerogeneradores existentes sería suficiente para alimentar tantos velomóviles eléctricos como personas.


El Velomóvil Eléctrico: Rápido y Cómodo Como un Automóvil, 80 Veces Más Eficiente (parte 2)

El mayor obstáculo con el que fabricantes y conductores de velomóviles eléctricos tropiezan está en la legislación.


Cargo Cyclists Replace Truck Drivers on European City Streets

A cargo cycle is at least as fast as a delivery van in the city - and much cheaper to use.


The Solar Envelope: How to Heat and Cool Cities without Fossil Fuels

Modern research, which combines ancient knowledge with fast computing techniques, shows that passive solar cities are a realistic option, allowing for surprisingly high population densities.


The solar envelope: how to heat and cool cities without fossil fuels

In order to ensure solar access and fresh air, many cities in Europe and in the United States enacted a variety of building codes between the 1850s and the 1930s.


The Solar Envelope: How to Heat and Cool Cities without Fossil Fuels

Solar access for all can be achieved with densities of up to 200 people per acre.


The Art of Producing Sustainable Consumer Goods: Basketry

Virtually all human cultures have made baskets, and have apparently done so since we co-existed with ground sloths and sabre-toothed cats.


How to Downsize a Transport Network: The Chinese Wheelbarrow

For being such a seemingly ordinary vehicle, the wheelbarrow has a surprisingly exciting history.


Gas Bag Vehicles

The old-timers on these pictures are not moving furniture or an oversized load. What can be seen on the roof is the fuel tank of the vehicle - a balloon filled with uncompressed gas.


Medieval Smokestacks: Fossil Fuels in Pre-industrial Times

Almost all of the leading economies in Western Europe during the last millenium relied on a large-scale use of fossil fuels such as peat and coal.


The Bright Future of Solar Thermal Powered Factories

To power industrial processes like the making of chemicals, the smelting of metals or the production of microchips, we need a renewable source of thermal energy.


Bike Powered Electricity Generators are Not Sustainable

The present approach to pedal power results in highly inefficient machines.


The Short History of Early Pedal Powered Machines

From the 1870s onwards, pedals and cranks were attached to tools like lathes, saws, grinders, shapers, tool sharpeners and to boring, drilling and cutting machines.


Pedal Powered Farms and Factories: The Forgotten Future of the Stationary Bicycle

The possibilities of pedal power largely exceed the use of the bicycle.


El futuro olvidado de la bicicleta estática

Las posibilidades que la energía a pedales presenta exceden ampliamente al uso de la bicicleta.


Insulation: First the Body, Then the Home

Modern thermal underclothing offers the possibility to turn the thermostat much lower without sacrificing comfort or sex appeal.


Aerial Ropeways: Automatic Cargo Transport for a Bargain

Cargo tramways can be fully or partly powered by gravity, and some deliver excess power that can be utilized to generate electricity or to drive cranes or machinery in nearby factories


Hand Powered Drilling Tools and Machines

During the last quarter of the 19th century, a radically improved generation of tools appeared.


Herramientas y Máquinas Manuales de Perforación

Durante el último cuarto del siglo XIX apareció una nueva generación radicalmente mejorada de herramientas.


Boat Mills: Water Powered, Floating Factories

Boat mills, bridge mills and hanging mills were almost as widespread as windmills.


The Velomobile: High-tech Bike or Low-tech Car?

The human power required to achieve a speed of 30 km/h in a velomobile is only 79 watts, compared to 271 watts on a normal bicycle.


Recycling Animal and Human Dung is the Key to Sustainable Farming

Flushing the water closet wreaks ecological havoc, deprives agricultural soils of essential nutrients and makes food production dependent on fossil fuels.


Piston-powered aircraft from the 1950s were as fuel-efficient as the current average jet

Estimates about the fuel efficiency of aircraft ignore the record of the pre-jet era.


Lost Knowledge: Ropes and Knots

Ropewalk factories are some of the most remarkable industrial workshops and buildings in history.


The Status Quo of Electric Cars: Better Batteries, Same Range

We don’t need better batteries, we need better cars.


The Sky is the Limit: Human-Powered Cranes and Lifting Devices

The only advantage that fossil-fuelled powered cranes have brought us, is a higher lifting speed


Wood Gas Vehicles: Firewood in the Fuel Tank

During the Second World War, almost every motorised vehicle in continental Europe was converted to use firewood.


Trolley Canal Boats

Only four years after the first experimental trolleybus, an ordinary steam canal boat was adapted to a trolleyboat.


How (Not) To Resolve the Energy Crisis

Increasing the share of renewable energy will not make us any less dependent on fossil fuels as long as total energy consumption keeps rising.


Rings of Fire: Hoffmann Kilns

Depending on the size of the kiln, it took between one and six weeks for the fire to complete a full circle.


Wind Powered Factories: History (and Future) of Industrial Windmills

Would it make sense to revive the industrial windmill and again convert kinetic energy directly into mechanical energy?


Water Powered Cable Trains

Cable trains (or funiculars) are one of the most energy-efficient modes of transport out there.


Get Wired (Again): Trolleybuses and Trolleytrucks

Trolleybuses and trolleytrucks have all the advantages of electric cars — and none of their drawbacks.


The Monster Footprint of Digital Technology

The embodied energy of the memory chip alone exceeds the energy consumption of a laptop during its life expectancy of 3 years.


Small Windmills Put to the Test

Wind power rules, but small windmills are a swindle.


Cargo ships, then and now

Time for a new age of sail.


Who Killed the Electric Grid? Fast-charging Electric Cars

Fast recharging times generate lots of excitement, but what seems to be forgotten is that they can lead to a fabulous amount of peak demand.


Tiles as a Substitute for Steel: The Art of the Timbrel Vault

The craftsmanship associated with timbrel vaulting has long vanished, but the achievements are still with us today.


A Steam Powered Submarine: The Ictíneo

Narcís Monturiol successfully resolved the two basic obstacles presented to submarine inventors: air supply and mechanical power.


The Citroen 2CV: Cleantech from the 1940s

In spite of all the high-tech that has been squeezed into cars, the 2CV from 1949 is still more energy efficient than the smallest Citroen today.


Life Without Airplanes: from London to New York in 3 Days and 12 Hours

If we would stuff people in the ‘Queen Mary 2’ like we fold passengers into airplane seats, the ship could transport more than 500,000 people


Bring back the horses

Replacing tractors with real horse power could be the revolution that agriculture needs.


Life Before Television

Turn off your flat screen television and get lost in 17th, 18th and 19th century optical entertainment.


Satellite Navigation in the 18th Century

More than two centuries ago, it was possible to very accurately pinpoint your position on earth by means of ‘satellites’.


Email in the 18th Century: The Optical Telegraph

More than 200 years ago it was already possible to send messages throughout Europe and America at the speed of an aeroplane – wireless and without need for electricity.


Page created: Sun, Oct 20, 2019 - 09:05 PM GMT