Home > Practical Advice > What It’s Like to Live Without Electricity
living without electricity logo

What It’s Like to Live Without Electricity

In this day and age, almost everything is done using electricity. It has become such a constant and integral part in our lives that we use it without a second thought. But what if one day, something happens of catastrophic proportions that we lose power for good? How would that affect each and every one of us?

If you think life without electricity is impossible, then here are some few facts to make you think otherwise:

1) 1.3 Billion People Have No Access to Electricity

Yup, you read it right. That’s almost 20% of the world’s total population. The majority of them are found in Africa, with 85% of the population living without electricity. In contrast, almost everyone in Europe, North America, Eastern Asia, and Japan are enjoying electricity right in their homes. Below is a map and a graphical representation taken from worldmapper.org to illustrate this point.

world mapper

2) 60% of the World’s Energy is Consumed by 20% of the World’s Total Population

Much of our fossil fuels, nuclear fuel, and renewable sources of energy are controlled by the major key players such as the US and Japan. Distribution with the rest of the world is negatively impacted by the fact that a few powerful countries have the majority of control over these energy sources.

3) 5 Billion People Have No Access to Decent Fuels for Cooking

For these people, they make use of cook stove which uses wood, charcoal, or animal dung for burning. Cooking through this method usually poses health risks from exposure to smoke. So if you find cooking with electricity or gas stoves difficult, imagine what they have to go through to get a decent meal.

worm farming

The duration of a power blackout depends on the factors that can trigger it. A storm may only cause electric interruptions for a day or so but in SHTF scenarios, these outages may turn permanent. In case of a war, a nuclear explosion can cause an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) which causes extremely high voltage surges, leading to electrical system damage. For more information on EMP, you can read our article here.

When power loss becomes permanent, adjusting instantly and unexpectedly to a life without electricity will certainly be hard. Almost all our activities revolve on the use of electricity and so, coping without it will be a big lifestyle change. But don’t be disheartened, folks. There are some people who choose to live without electricity and are actually happy with their decision. Living without electricity doesn’t have to mean living primitive if you plan ahead.

Lighting

The lack of electrical light won’t be much of a problem in the day. But at night, finding your way around the house can be challenging. Flashlights may be good for emergency situations but if you’re thinking long term, you can always turn to candles, oil lamps, hand cranked flashlights, and solar lights.

ENERGIZERCandles are long lasting and inexpensive so you can buy them in bulk because they won’t go bad. A 35-pound box of candles can be a year’s supply for your family. You can also make your own candles using beef fat, cotton string, and glass jars. Hand cranked flashlights are great because they never need batteries and are charged by simply “winding” them up for a few minutes.

Oil (kerosene) lamps, on the other hand, can produce brighter and steadier light than candles. A single lamp can illuminate the whole room and only uses one to two cups of oil per night and around two liters per week. Lamp oil costs about $3 per liter. As long as it’s available, oil lamps are a good option but take care as they can be a fire hazard if they tip over or get broken.

 solar powered lampsIf you’re afraid of running out of light, you can buy solar powered lamps and at under $20, you can stock up now. They can be carried or hung up. Some lamps may take a full day or more of bright sunlight to recharge. For this reason, buy several of them and alternate them so one is always charging.

Solar powered lighting is a long-term solution to a permanent power outage. If you take time to learn about how to build a solar power system for your home now, you can at least have supplies on hand if they are needed. Even better, you can build the system and start using it now so when SHTF and the power goes out, your home won’t even be affected.

Heating Without Electricity

On those cold winter nights, you can use a fireplace to heat up the room. A good strategy would be to build the fireplace in the middle of the house and install vents to let the heat flow into the different rooms of the house. Each room can have a built in floor vent near the outside walls to let cool air back to into fireplace. Through this process of convection, your rooms can stay warm and cozy. You can also add extra insulation on your walls to prevent heat from escaping as much as possible.

If you need to cool down, you can install a skylight that can be opened in the morning to let the cool air in. It doesn’t cost a lot of money. Plus, it can give you additional lighting in the day as well as a nice view at night.

Cooking Without the Power Grid

Even without electricity, you are still left with a lot of options. If you want to go old school, you can use a wood stove. But if you want something more modern, you could always use a propane gas stove. And without your electrical appliances, food preparation can be done manually. Doing them by hand may not be as fast or as easy, but you can still get the job done.

Food preservation Without Electricity

One of the biggest problems in having no power is, of course, food preservation. How do you keep your meat and other perishables from spoiling? Well, there are refrigerators that run on propane or kerosene. There are also portable battery-powered refrigerators available in the market. They can be recharged through your car battery or a solar power system.

You can also reduce or even eliminate your need for refrigeration by following the tips in this article. If you are living in the country, you can try your hand at gardening so you can grow the fruits and vegetables you need. Use pressure canning and/or water bath canning to make food last longer without refrigeration. Take it one step further by raising livestock such as cow, chickens, and goat for your eggs, meat, and dairy needs. You can also dehydrate, smoke, or ferment foods to reduce refrigeration needs.

Water

Most city provided water and even most wells depend on electricity to pump water. Without electricity, you won’t be able to access your water. You are going to have to find a nearby source of fresh water, plan for a way to get water from your well using a hand pump, store tons of water now, or move closer to a fresh water source. If you are living in the country, you may have a spring or a well on your property or in your local town area that can be an emergency source of water.

Communication without electricity

Today’s Information Age provides easy access to information. If the phone lines, which operate on a different system, are not affected, you may still be able to use landlines without electricity.

Citizens Band radioIf cell towers aren’t down and you have a solar powered cellular phone charger, it may still work. You may want to use short-range communication using a Citizens Band (CB) radio. These typically come in pairs and cost around $60 and need six to eight AA batteries. They come in handy while traveling or when separated by short distances from family or friends, but not for long distances.

Entertainment

Some of the things you might have a hard time living without are your television, stereo, and other entertainment devices. Using these entertainment systems enables you to relax and unwind so adjusting to a life without it will undoubtedly be hard. But this may also be an opportunity for you take up new interests and hobbies. Learn to play an instrument, take up wood carving, play cards, and catch up on some reading. This can also bring your family closer by spending quality time with each other.

Livelihood

If market trade is still up and running and you are not yet a self-sustaining household, you will still need to have a livelihood. First, you need to consider your skills. What things are you good at? Are you skilled in building, carving, etc.? Next, can you make a living out of those skills? If you can, then you can still make a living for your family. If currency is no longer of value, then think of supplies you can trade with such as livestock, produce, or farm crops.

Alternative energy

Electricity from public grids is not the only means to power up your home. You can invest in alternative sources of energy that are renewable, such as solar, wind turbine, and hydroelectric sources. A popular example would be to use a solar power system or even a bicycle generator.

You can order one or install one for yourself. The benefit of a bicycle generator is not only does it provide power; it is also a great way to exercise. Another example would be to use alternative fuel such as biodiesel, biomass, and ethanol.

Conclusion

After reading all these, life without electricity may not seem so daunting anymore. In fact, the idea of living without it may now even be appealing. Depending on the resources you have and the effort you want to put into it, living without electricity can range from primitive to even luxurious. It would definitely be reminiscent of a simpler, less hectic, and less complicated time.

So whether you intentionally choose to live life without traditional electricity or whether you are forced into it post-SHTF, it’s a good idea to prepare and anticipate any issues so you are not caught off guard. So do you think you can live without electricity? What “electronic” appliance would you miss the most or have to have an alternative for? Tell us by commenting below.

How would you rate this article?
[Total votes: 20, Average: 3.1 / 5]

About Contributing Author

4 comments

  1. Fix your math. 20% of the world population is not 5 billion. It is 1.5 billion.

    Current population is http://www.census.gov/popclock/

    Proof read before you post…a lost art in this technology age.

    Good article once you get past the error.

  2. That was very encouraging. Thanks for choosing this topic.

  3. A thought about your heating plan. Fireplaces are pretty lousy ways to heat a house. Even with doors on them, as soon as the fire goes out, you’ve got issues with heat loss. The reason the pioneers used them was that they were better than nothing, and they used the materials they had at hand.

    Since you implied that this new construction from putting the fireplace in the middle and having vents, you can consider these options: A wood fired boiler, a woodstove (also centrally located like your fireplace, for similar reasons) and finally, solar techniques, such as building to passive solar standards. Also, there are both commercially available, or home built (cheaply) plans for a supplemental solar heater that heats the air and circulates it. Tons of U tube videos on this. I’d also consider superinsulating any house I built today, from both a heating and cooling perspective.

    Depending on how ingenious you get with the boiler and/or woodstove, you can heat potable water (and I mean other than in a pot on the stove) with it. Have seen several set ups where people ran rainwater into ready service barrels, then had it fed into set ups where the firebox warmed it. Also, having ready sources of hot water makes life a little easier. Depending upon the woodstove set up, you can cook on it too.

    We have a family cabin in Northern MN with both a wood stove and fireplace. Fireplace is massive stone thing built by my wife’s grandfather. Stove is mid-sized and not set up to cook on. There is a fire in the stove almost all the time. The only time we fire up the fireplace is for ambiance. It just sucks too much heat out otherwise. (Cabin still belongs to the in-laws and I haven’t been allowed to “improve” it in most areas).

    I chuckled when I read the entertainment section. I’m sure it will be necessary. However, I think most folks who have never lived without power don’t understand why the electrification of America was such a big deal…it enabled machines to do much of the manual labor. Many of the things blogged about here are very labor intensive. Putting up enough firewood to keep a family safe and warm is hard enough with gasoline powered chain saws. If it is a world without electricity, it gets even more labor intensive. (That is why I favor at least some solar assist to any set up.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *