Coping Without Power

Electricity is often taken for granted in most areas of the United States (and in many other countries, as well). It is so ingrained in everyday life that living without it is unimaginable for most. With electric stoves and ovens, electric water heaters, electric lights, electric heat and air conditioning, electric washing machines and dryers, and so much more – people feel that life would suffer greatly without electricity.

However, consider the fact that, until about 250 years ago, electricity was pretty much unheard of, and it has only been a standard part of life since the late-1800s. Prior to that time, electric power was being studied, but had not been put into use in the way it has now. And even though most of us rely on electricity from day to day, thousands of people in the USA know how to live without electricity and running water, including the Amish who have known how to survive without electricity for centuries. There are even some people who are choosing to live off-grid and limit their electric usage (though many use solar power to provide some electrical power).

Sometimes the lack of power is due to a disaster or because of a catastrophe that knocks out the electrical supply temporarily. Living without the conveniences can be frustrating but it can be done, as evidenced by the many who do it every day. It will take some adjustment for the average person.

If it has been a habit to spend much time entertaining one’s self with electronic devices such as television and video games, it will be strange to do without these things. In their absence, it may be possible to discover a new pastime that is both entertaining and satisfying. This could be something like reading or writing, or it could be gardening, biking, hiking, or even bird watching or stargazing. Without city lights, the stars are much more visible and learning the constellations can be a lot of fun.

The lack of climate control within a dwelling can make it uncomfortable at times. In the winter, it will be colder without heat and in the summer it will be hot without air conditioning. There are ways to adjust for this: extra blankets, hot showers, and hot beverages will offer warmth, while cold water – as a shower or a footbath – and cold beverages will help to keep cooler.

Using daylight becomes much more important. Handling things like reading, cooking, and other tasks that require vision during the day is much easier than having to use a candle or lantern to complete them. Once it gets dark, it is extremely dark – much darker than most are accustomed to. Over time, it will become natural to wake up when the sun comes up and go to bed when the sun goes down.

Manual labor such as becomes necessary without electricity will also replace the need for intentional exercise. Washing clothes and other tasks that are handled by machines most often when electricity is available become exercise once they are done by hand. It may take a few days or a couple weeks to get acclimated, but once this happens, it stops feeling strenuous and becomes just a part of life.

Cooking things the old-fashioned way – on actual fire – may take some getting used to. Alternately, things can be cooked in a new-fashioned way known as solar cooking. Either way, it generally takes longer than cooking on an electric stove or in an electric oven. It also takes longer to get a meal ready, as electric preparation tools cannot be used. However, manual tools are still available, for those who have them in the kitchen. The satisfaction of enjoying food after working hard to fix it is incomparable.

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Living Without Electricity: Lessons from the Amish


Cold beverages are more difficult to get, without electricity. Alternate styles of refrigerator will help keep things cooler, but not as cold as an electric refrigerator, and unless ice is available for purchase, it is unlikely to be a factor.

Making things work without electricity is a good brain builder. “Necessity is the mother of invention” and this adage is likely to prove itself over and over when things must be done without electricity. Creativity will be exercised to implement labor-saving options and meet challenges that arise. It will help if manual tools have already been obtained, such as drill, saw, clippers, ax, hourglass, basic knives, and similar tools.

Spending time with family may seem like a punishment to some people, but once it happens, the family may discover that it is fun to spend time together. Play games, hike or bike, have a campfire, and even just enjoy conversation. It may be surprising how much the people can learn about the others with whom they share a home.

Self-sufficiency tends to become more important when things change in the way they do when the power is out. This encourages frugal living and appreciation of what is available, and conservation becomes important. Learning to use everything possible without waste is something that is helpful even if electricity is restored. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” becomes a way of life for many who live without electricity.

One thing that may take the most getting used to is the lack of instant communication. Because most people have dropped landlines for cell phones, there would be few who could communicate by phone. Writing letters may also be difficult, as the postal service would likely be limited, if working at all, depending on the reason for the lack of power. It may be possible to communicate through HAM radio, if one is available or with walkie-talkies, but chances are it may be necessary to actually go to people in order to converse.

1. Living Without Electricity

This book examines how the Amish live without electricity, including food storage and preparation, light, heat, travel, communication, and more. The Amish live a self-sufficient life and are a good example to follow for those who desire to live without electricity as well as for those who are forced to do so.