Living Without Electricity With The Help Of 19th Century Knowledge

Many people today can’t even imagine what living without electricity would be like since electricity is the blood of our modern world. However, it’s still possible to live without electricity if we put to good use the knowledge of our ancestors.

While it’s possible to live without electricity and still benefit from some of the technology we’re used to having in our daily lives, we also have to understand that urban environments in modern cities aren’t designed to live without electrical power. Our large cities are not set up for their inhabitants to live self-reliantly.

To put it bluntly, if you choose to live without electrical power, you need to find various ways to become self-reliant within your limitations. Alternatively, you can move to a rural environment where it would be much simpler to live without electricity.

Some people believe that those living ecologically and without modern commodities means they are forced to live without technology as well. However, that’s not true, and the Amish communities in rural Ohio and Pennsylvania show us the contrary. Even more, there are certain companies that provide everything needed for these communities, and everyone can purchase various stuff from such companies.

And while the Amish people live without electricity by choice, others in third world countries have no choice but to live without power, and they have found ways to meet their needs without it.

Let’s look at how the ways of living of the Amish people can be applied to the typical American lifestyle.


housing for amish people

If you want to build a house in a rural environment and keep your cost of the house and outbuilding down, you should look at how the Amish do it. They have a certain unity and collaboration that it’s hard to find in these modern times, and they all come together when someone needs help.

For example, when a family needs to build a house or barn, everyone from their community gets together, and they camp on the family’s land, working on building the new structure. They will not leave until everything is done. When they are building a house, they build the structure, insulate it well and raise it in place on a site which takes full advantage of the sun and prevailing winds. Such houses can use up to 80 percent less fuel for heating and cooling.

Heating and cooling

ss power your home optimisedIn our households, the heating and cooling costs are some of the biggest expenses of each family, and the average American home also wastes a significant percent of resources.

Do like the Amish and place your house facing the south to take advantage of the sun for both your heating and lighting needs. Even more, when designing the roof, make sure the north-facing part of the roof has a steeper side to help snow slide off and prevent snow accumulation on the roof.

They are also using double-panned windows, which help retain the heat from their wood stoves, and usually, they insulate the walls much better than what you would find in an average American home.

Compared to other countries, our houses are built with a minimal amount of insulation and materials to keep the building costs down. However, if you build a house with thicker and better-insulated walls, floors, and ceilings, it will be much more cost-effective over its lifetime in terms of heating and cooling expenses.

The current house market and the obsession of people to make a quick buck (including home flipping) take a toll on home insulation. Most contractors are using less-qualitative materials to cover the minimum insulation requirements because they can save several thousand dollars which end up in their pockets.

To avoid using electricity to heat your home in the winter or cool it during the summer months, you will have to use various passive methods and some low-tech methods as well.

As we said before, building thicker walls and adding more insulation helps you reduce the heating and cooling costs. It’s also recommended to install a solar-operated fan in the attic to draw the heat out and keep the house cooler.

Depending on the wind conditions in your area and how the house is oriented, you can find a way to create a breeze, moving through the house. You can install metal screens on your windows and doors and let them open all night during the summer. Another method which is also used by the Amish would be to soak a few towels in cold water and hang them in the open doors or windows. The wind blowing will evaporate the cold water and create a cooler breeze.

Using wood stoves

wood stove used by amish

Homes in third-world countries have wood stoves installed which are used for both heating and cooking. While wood stoves are banned in many urban and semi-urban environments because they are considered heavy polluters and a fire hazard, they are still being used by many households to help them cut down their electricity and gas bills. You can do a little bit of research and purchase a quality wood stove and have it installed in your house if the local laws allow it.

I consider the woodstove a great commodity and one of the main tools to help improve your ability to become self-reliant. There are still many companies manufacturing and selling woodstoves, or perhaps you can purchase a second-hand one. Examine a used woodstove properly before buying it to make sure its integrity is not compromised, and all parts fit and seal well.

Before you decide to go with the woodstove, it would be a smart thing to make sure you have access to a safe source of wood. It would be much better to obtain the wood without having to pay for it.


Modern homes do not lack electric lighting, and it’s one of the big components of newly built houses. However, if you build your house facing south, with proper construction and a good alignment, you will greatly minimize your need for electric lighting during the day. You can even install light tubes/skylight kits that capture the light through a system of mirrors and help bring it inside the home.


To avoid using electricity to provide light for your home, you can use various types of oil lamps which are constantly produced even today. Some of these lamps provide light just as good as the common lightbulb, and they are built with mirrors and glass, which provide better light dispersion than the lamps our great parents had.

For mobility, you can use an oil lantern, or perhaps you can use a rechargeable lamp/flashlight, which can be recharged using some of the DIY solar power systems available today.

Food production

amish farmin methods

When someone decides to live off the grid and becomes self-sufficient, food production becomes a major concern. Every food production journey begins with researching what foods grow in your area and growing only what your family eats. You need to put a lot of work into it, and as you gain more experience, you will end up growing more food than you consume. A surplus of food can always be preserved or sold/bartered to obtain the stuff you need.

Food production involves everything from growing trees and crops to raising livestock. Here it all depends on what experience you have, how willing you are to learn and how well you adapt to the food production requirements for your family.

Every food production task you can think of was, and it’s still accomplished using manual tools. It may be true that using electrical equipment is less work, but if you live without electricity, you will need to use old-reliable manual tools.


Back in the day, before the invention of refrigeration, people used to buy dried goods for storage and go to the farmer’s market to obtain fresh produce. They ate and figured out ways to store the food before refrigeration came along.

Some had ice boxes that would help them preserve food during the hot months, while others were building and using root cellars to store their food and other perishable goods. If you want to preserve food, there are various methods you could use besides storing dried produce or home-canning. I’ve written a while back an article on the “how to live without refrigeration” topic. I highly recommend you read it here:

How To Live Without Refrigeration

Using manual tools

We have invented all sorts of electrical tools and appliances to cover a myriad of jobs for our modern lifestyle, and we can’t seem to do without such tools. However, we forget that most of such tools have a manual counterpart, and they were used successfully by our ancestors. If you want to live without electricity, you will need to rediscover these tools.

There are manual coffee grinders, can openers, orange juicers, fruit peelers, and many other frequently used conveniences. If you want to do some work inside or around the house, there are manual drills, saws, rasps, rakes, brooms, and various manual tools that work just as well as electrical appliances/tools.

Having access to electronics

having access to electronics

While for most people would be impossible to live without electricity, there are also those that find a way to combine the best of two worlds. As I’ve mentioned in this article, some will use a solar panel system to power various devices or tools.

For example, one such device would be the cell phone, and you can use one and power it without the need for home wiring. If you have cell coverage in your area, you can keep the phone’s battery charged using a simple solar panel (there are even portable, folding ones).

How about television? While some decide to ditch the TV and spend their time doing various chores and enjoying nature, others will still want to watch their favorite shows. There are all sorts of array of electric devices all running on 12 volts DC (direct current). Get a small TV and run it using batteries powered by the sun.

Although the goal here is to live without electricity, you can still use modern appliances if you can’t do without them. However, the idea is to be off the grid and generate your own electricity, free of charge. Also, I would recommend figuring out ways to power only the items you need and leave the ones you want last. Don’t overdo it and try to live a simpler life.


If you want to learn how to live without electricity, it’s recommended to look at how the Amish or people in third world countries do it. Their long-life lessons can provide precious information and help you discover methods to make your transition easier.

There are those who prefer a simple life without the noise of modern technology, and their happiness does not require the use of electronics. They keep things to a bare minimum in their off-the-grid lives and still have rich and fulfilling lives.

Recommended resources:

The medicinal plants the Amish have been using for decades

Survival food recipes that stood the test of time

The best DIY projects for your household to become self-sufficient

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