How To Make Ice Without Electricity From Water and Fertilizer

I have a confession to make: I am now officially hooked on Jericho.

Some friends of ours let us borrow their Jericho: The First Season DVDs, and Jerry and I could NOT stop watching. Seriously, we had a five-hour movie marathon over the weekend, and both of us were completely enthralled into the wee morning hours.

FIVE HOURS STRAIGHT people! That’s more TV than I normally watch in a month!

It’s a good thing we only had the first two discs, or it would have been bad for everyone.

In the show, I saw them do something that I found incredibly interesting – and that I’ve done before myself. They make ice with no electricity!

In the show, the man was dying with a horrible fever, there was no electricity so they had no ice.

A teacher remembered a science experiment that created ice from water and fertilizer and was able to create a block of ice in time to cool the man off.

There are a few different ways to make ice from electricity, which I’ll detail below, starting with the method shown in Jericho. Let’s dive in! Method 1: Making Ice Using Fertilizer and Water

Before I dive into the instructions on this one (the Jericho method), I should note that you’ll need fertilizer and water as your two core ingredients. I’ve chosen to use ammonium nitrate, but you could also use calcium chloride.

Method #1: The Easiest One

You’ll need:

  • water
  • Ammonium Nitrate (a fertilizer made up of a 50/50 mixture of ammonium and nitrate; found at farm and garden stores)
  • a bucket or large bowl
  • a smaller metal bowl (small enough to fit inside the other container)


  1. Mix equal parts water and fertilizer in a bucket or a large bowl, till dissolved.
  2. Next, carefully place the smaller metal bowl half filled with water in the bucket. Note: it must be a metal bowl, plastic will not work. The bowl of water will freeze, though it takes several hours from what I’ve read.

If this works, not only would it be an awesome science project for the kiddos, but would also be a potential lifesaver if you were ever in a situation where you’d lost power and desperately needed to cool something/someone off.

Method 2: Making Ice With a Solar Freezer

You can purchase a solar freezer online for not that much money, and the benefit of this is that it will allow you to make ice whenever you need to without electricity.

You can also DIY your own solar freezer. All you need is a covered container, insulation material like cloth, sand, or even mud, and, if possible, some ice chunks or ice cubes you already have.

First, start by lining the container with the insulation material and making sure there are no exposed sections that could leak cold air.

Once the insulation is secure, add water to just below the top of the container and place any available pre-existing ice chunks on top of the water. If not available, salt can be used instead, but this will take longer and isn’t as reliable.

Finally, cover the entire container with its lid and ensure that it’s well sealed. After three days in direct sunlight, the water should have frozen enough for use as solid ice blocks in whatever form or size you intended it for!

Method 3: Using Dry Ice to Make Ice

For this method, all you need is a container, some food-grade gloves, and of course, the key ingredient – dry ice.

Safety should always come first!

Ensure all the pieces of dry ice are broken up into small, manageable pieces so riding gloves will help protect your hands from contact with the frozen solid carbon dioxide.

Start by covering the bottom of the container with pieces of dry ice and slowly layer in more as you fill up your container to get a consistent mixture of remaining smoke and liquid carbon dioxide as it begins to thaw.

Method 4: Using the Great Outdoors to Make Ice

If you’re lucky enough to live in a colder climate, like those in the northernmost parts of America, you may want to consider using the great outdoors to solve your ice-making dilemma.

I’m fortunate that where I live, in upstate New York, we have freezing or below-freezing temperatures for most of the winter months (typically mid-November through mid-March, at the very least).

Because of this, making ice without electricity by leveraging the great outdoors is easy during the winter – all we have to do is go outside. But the real problem comes with storage if you want to make enough ice to get you through to warmer months when this method obviously won’t be possible.

Storing ice without electricity can be tricky, but it is possible. You don’t necessarily need an ice house like people in the 1800s had; you just need a cold space that’s somewhat insulated.

Of course, this won’t be an option at all times of the year, but if you can do some advance planning, you can do some ice harvesting during cold temperatures to be used later on. In cold environments, such as up in the mountains, chunks of natural ice form along rivers and around lakes as temperatures drop below zero.

If you don’t have a place to harvest ice, you can make your own ice and then keep it frozen for long periods of time by following the tips below.

Firstly, you’ll need an insulated cooler or box made of material with low thermal conductivity, such as cork or sawdust. Fill up an ice cube tray with water, then put it in a freezer bag to prevent dirt from ending up in your ice.

Put the ice cube tray outside at night, when temperatures drop below freezing. You can expedite the freezing of water by boiling the water first.

To maximize insulation, fill any air gaps and line the container with newspaper, emergency blankets, or Mylar.

Next, locate a nearby non-polluted water source, such as a spring or stream, and fill the container to the brim; this will reduce the amount of air inside and increase insulation further.

Place smaller items like pieces of wood in between boxes or coolers and use blankets to wrap them up- these will act as additional insulators and should help keep your ice from melting too quickly. You’ll place your ice cube trays inside the cooler or other container. If you can, use both cubes and large blocks of ice to help the ice stay frozen longer.

Now, you’ll have an ice tray that should stay frozen inside the container even when the outside surroundings begin to heat up. I recommend storing it in a root cellar or another cold food storage location to keep your food cool as long as possible.

Here’s a video with a version of this method to teach you more:

Method 5: Turn an Electric Ice Maker Machine Into a Solar-Powered Unit

Converting an electric ice maker machine into a solar-powered unit is a great way to make ice without electricity – you can easily hook up an ice maker to batteries with solar panels without having to really rewire the ice maker at all.

To begin, you will first need to buy the necessary components for the conversion, such as photovoltaic panels, a solar charge controller, and deep-cycle batteries.

Once you’ve acquired the components, you’ll need to install them correctly in order to make sure your ice maker can draw power from the sun.

After installation is complete, periodically check all connections to ensure they are free of any damage and properly connected. Finally, program your solar charge controller in order for it to provide a steady voltage which will ensure that your ice-making machine operates under optimal conditions at all times.

Here’s a video that shows how to use an electric ice maker in this way:

Method 6: Use the Bell Jar and Vacuum Pump Method

Instead of using a traditional freezer, the bell jar and vacuum pump method is an effective solution for creating ice quickly and efficiently.

This technique begins by allowing a container of either water or a combination of salt and water to almost completely fill the bell jar. The lid is then placed over the jar which creates an airtight seal.

A vacuum pump is used to remove all the air molecules from inside the container, leaving nothing but chilled vapors.

Learn more about how to make your own portable ice maker with this method by watching the video below:

Method 7: Make Dry Ice Cubes Using a Fire Extinguisher

If you’re reading the above tutorial about how to make ice using dry ice, you might be thinking, “well, that’s great. But dry ice is hard to find, and I don’t have any of that either.” Fortunately, there is a solution.

First, you must get yourself a fire extinguisher or air duster, which contains pressurized carbon dioxide. Make sure to take all the necessary safety precautions before proceeding, as the pressure could cause an accident if handled carelessly. I recommend wearing gloves and eye protection at the very least.

Remove the locking pin on the fire extinguisher and press down on the handle. You’ll see a force of carbon dioxide vapor coming out. This is extremely cold, so the key here is to capture it.

You can pump the fire extinguisher into a pillowcase, and you’ll notice a solid buildup of ice at the bottom of the bag. You should find enough to make a decent-sized snowball of dry ice to store your perishable food.

Here’s a video with more details:

Method 8: Make Ice Using a Small Propane Freezer

A small propane freezer uses the heat of combustion to create a cooling effect, rather than using electrical power. This is perfect for adventurous campers who don’t want to limit their travels in search of perfect locations.

Because this type of appliance doesn’t require a lot of space, it’s also convenient and unobtrusive when on the move.

As an added benefit, the portable nature of the propane freezer allows you to make ice anywhere – even if there’s no nearby water source – and bring your creations home with you after your travels.

I’m totally putting this on my list of things to try!

Categories DIY

46 thoughts on “How To Make Ice Without Electricity From Water and Fertilizer”

  1. I was just re watching Jerico and googled to see if we could really make ice with water and fertilizer…and this popped up LOL Thank you for all the info!

  2. Hey everyone. Great notes and suggestions. I’m doing this as an experiment with my sons. I couldn’t find 50/50 fertilizer, I purchased a lower mix. Will that still work? I’m going to use cow manure too as a comparison.

  3. Well… it really worked… the ice making experiment… my brother did it … so it was quite cool… and thanku thanku for the interesting info…

  4. I just recently came across your website and this article. If a person wanted to do a science experiment such as this, what brand of fertilizer would work? Are there any particular brand that you can recommend? How does someone find out if a particular brand of fertilizer has 50/50.

      • I have a general question: does anyone know HOW to make the necessary fertilizer without buying it? I mean..why aren’t they doing this in communities that lack refrigeration? Especially if ice can assist with breaking fevers and keeping some medicines viable.
        Since we are correcting each other, I thought I should point out:
        “his interest was at the maximum level…therefore peaked is apropriate”
        …HER his interest was at the maximum level…therefore peaked is APPROPRIATE.

  5. An idea I heard about was getting solar panels, and other supplies for survival and putting them in a faraday box. A faraday box is an emp protective box for electronics. If you put solar panels and circuits needed for setting them up, then in case an emp/nuke went off and you survived, you could have power and some electronics… But always a good idea to know where your local underground aquifer is and to have a few well placed stashes…

  6. Just a few shows and movies that i found interesting reguarding post apocalyptic and apocalyptic nature and survival situations. Though you have to take some parts and leave others far behind you from each there are still some interesting facts that have been hidden in these shows.


    The Walking Dead

    The Colony




    Evacuate Earth

    Surviving Disaster

    Falling Skies


    Doomsday Preppers

    After Armagedon

    America Blackout



    20 Years After

    I am legend

    28 Days later


    The Happening

    Water World

    The Post Man

    Red Dawn

    The Book Of Eli




    The Day After Tommorrow

    The Host

    The Road

    War Of The Worlds

    World War Z


    Some of these shows and movies are far fetched and way off base but at the same time there are little survial tips mixed in with the garbage. Hope the list is enjoyed and my apoligies if some dont share my views reguarding this list.

  7. Found this thread because I’m making a solar powered ac, it requires ice, so I got to I king. How can I make ice without electricity. Thanks all

  8. Would it be Okay for me to use this as research for my project? We have to write a research paper about the topic we are doing and I would love to be able to use this! I wouldnt be quoting it exactly in the final draft, just a few facts here and there.

  9. I also LOVED Jericho and that is what made me want to do this for the science fair at my school because few people at my school have even watched Jericho so no one else would he doing it. Thank you SO much for the info it’s has helped me so much!

  10. Jericho ran for two seasons and I miss it. Revolution is awesome as well. I actually found this site doing a search due to what I had seen on Jericho. I wanted to learn it for SHTF and disaster planning since I have meds that need to be kept cold. Thanks guys

  11. This is basically how instant cold packs work. The outer bag is filled with ammonium nitrate and the inner bag is filled with water. When you squeeze the pack you break the inner bag and the water mixes with the ammonium nitrate, making the pack cold. Just pick up an instant cold pack next time your out, you can knock this off or your things to try list.

  12. This is awesome, thanks for the info. I’m going to try the experiment and watch Jericho.I don’t really like Revolution though.

  13. Oh that’s just horse poop. Use horse or cow poop mixed with human pee you got the mix. Use a clay pot on the outside. Wet it on the outside and set it in the sun. cover the top with a cloth. works in a few hours. Seen this on youtube. They used wet sand. With the right mix it would get much colder. However one could not expect to get enough ice to store food for the winter. That’s what id like to find.
    By the way, Its nice to see people acting like adults as all the posters here have done. cheers

  14. I was considering doing this for my insulator project at school, until I read in the description that it could end up burning down my school(or blowing up everyone in the room) so I decided against it.

    • While dry there is a minimal risk of combustion of ammonium nitrate in the event of a static electricity discharge. That is a highly remote chance of unintentional ignition. Once mixed with water, that possibility is reduced to nil. In an unsealed container, ammonium nitrate will extract water from the air at an ambient humidity over 60%, again minimizing toward precluding the possibility of unintentional combustion. Short of intentionally sparking or exposing anhydrous (dry) ammonium nitrate to flame, the possibility of spontaneous combustion is nil. Otherwise, instant cold packs would be exploding and burning down pharmacies on a regular basis.
      It would appear the warning was exceptionally overstating the possibilities. That being said, always ensure every reasonable precaution when dealing with even the most benign chemical compounds and reactions.

  15. Wow it’s so funny how everyone is on here cause of the ice trick on jericho but the only reason I put more thought in it is cause they have ice cubes on revolution just like somebody else had posted

  16. LOVE THE SHOW. that is actually why i was looking it up. and found this thread. it got me to thinking. what if….. tomorrow, im going to look for literature on just those type of experiments. any suggestions?

  17. Its funny that everyone is mentioning Revolution. Thats why I am looking for ways to make the ice with out electricity. They have cubes of it on the show for their drinks.

  18. How many seasons did Jericho run? We just found it on Netflix and love it!!!

    As for Revolution… I was praying that my power would go out when I watched the pilot. It was horrible!!! Nothing realistic about it whatsoever. I haven’t tuned in since the pilot.

  19. bad thing is, the government won’t let anyone sell the amonium nitrate unless you have 24 hour surveliance. We always used it to disolve ice on the steps and in our garden. Now thanks to our government, here is another thing the “normal people” can’t have to use.


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