How 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?

Facts and Statistics

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

1.2 Billion People Have No Access to Electricity

Yup, you read it right. That’s 16% of the world’s total population. Most of them are found in Africa, with 85% of the population living without electricity.

Energy Access Outlook in 2017, estimated the number of people with no access to electricity at 14% of the world population. Either way, that’s still over a billion people!

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

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 most of control over these energy sources.

2.5 Billion People Have No Access to Decent Fuels for Cooking

For these people, they make use of cook stove which uses wood, agricultural waste, charcoal, or animal dung for burning. Over 90% of households in some countries cook with unclean fuels.

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 must go through to get a decent meal.

The duration of a power blackout depends on the triggering factors. A storm may only cause electric interruptions for a day or so but in SHTF scenarios, these outages may become permanent.

In case of a war, a nuclear explosion can cause an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) which causes extremely high voltage surges, and can cause electrical system damage.

How to Live Without Electricity

When power loss becomes permanent, adjusting instantly and unexpectedly to a life without electricity will certainly be hard. Almost all our activities revolve around the use of electricity and so, coping without it will be a big lifestyle change for many people. But don’t be disheartened, folks.

There are some people who choose to live without electricity and are happy with their decision. Living without electricity doesn’t have to mean living primitive, if you do some advanced planning.

Lighting

The lack of electrically powered light won’t be much of a problem in the daylight hours. But at night, finding your way around the house can be challenging without lights.

Flashlights may be good for emergency situations but if you’re thinking long term, you can always turn to candles, oil lamps, battery powered headlamps, hand cranked flashlights, and solar lights.

ENERGIZER

Candles 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 lamps

If 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.

Last but certainly not least, you can purchase a portable or whole home generator. Just keep in mind that generators require fuel to operate and in a long term SHTF situation, fuel may be in short supply if it’s available at all.

Solar powered lighting is one of the best options, if you can do it. Save your generator for cloudy days when your battery storage runs low or while a solar panel is being repaired or replaced.

Heating

On those cold winter nights, you can use a fireplace to heat up the room. Although not as energy efficient as other methods, 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.

Even better, as one of our readers suggested, would be to consider a wood fired boiler or woodstove or a supplemental solar heater as seen in the video below:

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

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

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 and preserve them by storing them in a root cellar. You can also use pressure canning and/or water bath canning to make food last longer without refrigeration.

Use a propane refrigerator or you can even make your own ice using a bucket or large bowl with a smaller metal bowl inside filled with water. Fill the space between the two containers with ammonium nitrate. The resulting process of heat conduction will turn the water into ice.

Take it one step further by raising livestock such as cows, chickens, and goat for your eggs, meat, and dairy needs. You can also dehydrate, smoke, or ferment foods to further reduce refrigeration needs.

Water

Most city provided water and even most water 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.

Rainwater Harvesting

One of the ways that you can prepare to have access to an ample supply of water if you are living without electricity is to setup a rainwater harvesting system on your property.

Always check to make sure that whatever system you build is within the bounds of the water rights laws and regulations in your state. Although most states do allow for rainwater harvesting for individual use and consumption, some states do have restrictions and other conditions that must be adhered to if you want to stay out of court.

Do you know if it is illegal to collect rainwater in your area? If not, now is the time to find out.

Communications

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 radio

If 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, they don’t cost a fortune, 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. Think about skills you can learn that interest you and would be entertaining but can also help you during a survival situation or in a situation where the power goes out.

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.

Homesteading

Many people who want to be prepared to live without electricity turn to homesteading. This lifestyle change can be significantly different for everyone, but it basically involves creating, raising, or otherwise producing what you and your family need by using your land and skills.

You can still go to the grocery store if it’s available and you need something, but homesteaders produce a significant amount of what they need to survive without relying on stores or public utilities.

Urban Prepping

If homesteading in a rural or even in an urban area isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Many people are preparing for preparing to live without electricity using urban prepping.

The urban prepping lifestyle focuses on finding and securing needed resources from the types of found materials, water sources, etc. that are more readily available in urban areas.

Urban preppers typically place a heavy focus on stockpiling supplies, but many urban preppers supplement their stockpile by foraging for wild edibles, and/or building and maintaining an aquaponics or hydroponics system for additional food and nutrition.

So, if you live in an urban area, focus on learning the crucial urban preps for city dwellers and keep building your skills.

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 propane, 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 electricity 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.

Do you think you can live without electricity? What “electronic” appliance would you miss the most or must have an alternative for no matter what? Tell us by commenting below.

living without electricity Pinterest image

updated by Megan Stewart 09/20/2019

About Megan Stewart

Megan Stewart
Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart. For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of nine grandsons and one granddaughter, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.

5 comments

  1. Dan F. Sullivan

    Fixed, thanks for catching that.

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    That was very encouraging. Thanks for choosing this topic.

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    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.)

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    Ever thought about getting Electricity from your CHANGE… Like Pennies? Or how about Urine? or the GROUND? Why don’t the Schools teach old technologies that can work to power your Cell Phones and Tablets, USB Lights, etc. Why don’t they teach LIFE SKILLS and not political rhetoric which is basically how to LIE and Promise things you can never deliver! Just because the Grid is gone doesn’t mean you have to live like a Caveman. Learn to thrive and not to just survive! Learn to read and you don’t Public Education/indoctrination. You don’t need to work more than 10 years to be set for life And yes everyone can have a private fishing hole in their own back yard… Hydroponics!

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    We heat with a rocket stove with a gravity fed pellet hopper. It will also burn wood chips. Chipper is electric. Powered by my solar array. We lived without electricity all the last 10 months while saving up money to repair and enlarge the sollar array. Did just fine. Used ice now and then when we bought fresh milk or meat. Made the cold last longer by mixing rock salt into the cold icemelt water. Mostly used canned or dried meats or milk. We’re Eating fresh wild greens and garden produce right now. Not a lot to can this year but there is some.
    Communities most always saved or shipped ice. An art to. Worth learning. Before electric refrigeration there was ice. Even when folks bought ice for their iceboxes year around it wasn’t made with electricity.
    When we bought ice cream we bought smaller amounts or shared with the neighbors.
    I cook most often outside on a woodfire but I can cook on the heat collection chamber of the rocket stove. All winter I heat a 3 gallon pan of water on top next to a half gallon old tea kettle. I use a heat activated fan to circulate heat in the home. Found it on eBay. Aiming to order another very soon.
    I have a propane stove but often cook on wood in a split barrel homemade BBQ with expanded metal under a fire and above the fire to cook on. Metal frame and expanded metal shelves on the ends to work on. Without electricity the last 10 months I lit the cooking fires with a long lighter.
    To keep my husband busy when I wasn’t working we played simple dominoes. He has Alzheimer’s so games have to be simple. I play majong on my phone. I keep it charged with a solar charger or in the vehicles If we go anywhere.
    Laundry was washed using a new toilet plunger in a new 5 gallon bucket. Actually 3 buckets. Soap/bleach, rinse, rinse. Drying on folding racks. Hope to get clothesline in backyard soon.

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