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11 Things that are Possible Because of Electricity

Could you make a healthy meal for your family using nothing out of the refrigerator?  Could you fix your hair without your hair dryer?  Have you ever looked around your house and wondered what things you have or do because electricity exists?  How would your life change if you didn’t have electricity?  Here’s my list of some things that are possible only because electricity exists.

  1. Cold and frozen food at our fingertips.  I put this as number one because it can be the hardest thing to live without.  Our society is so used to being able to keep food cold.  We pack our refrigerators with perishable food items that would spoil in a couple days at room temperature.  Where’s the first place we go to look for a snack?  We have lost the knowledge of how to store food without refrigeration.  A large majority of our society also does not have the ability or desire to prepare healthy meals from scratch using pantry foods.  Here is how my family functions without this major appliance: 1o Ways to Live Without Refrigeration
  2. hot-waterHot running water.  A hot water heater is a wonderful convenience.  Turn on the faucet and hot water is available.  Think about it.  It really is miraculous!  Can you tell that this is what I miss the most?  People over a hundred years ago had to start a fire to get hot water.  A wood fired hot water heater is in my future, but until then I heat water on my propane stove for cooking, washing dishes, and showers.
  3. Kitchen appliances.  The kitchen is the room in the house that has the most electrical items.  It is rather eye opening to count your appliances and know that if electricity is gone, most food preparation becomes impossible.  I talked about my experience with this in Kitchen Appliances, Who Needs Them?  There are ways around making things like toast and coffee without electricity, but some foods like smoothies, ice cream, popsicles, and raw vegetable juice are completely impossible to make without electricity.
  4. Light bulbs.  I feel like this is hardly worth mentioning because it is so obvious.  But without electricity to power them most people would be fumbling for flashlights and candles.  (See Off Grid Lighting)
  5. Carpet.  Wall to wall carpeting only exists because of vacuum cleaners.  Take away electricity and carpeting becomes impossible to care for.  Before vacuum cleaners, people used to take out their throw rugs and beat them from railings or fences.  The rest of the time they would just sweep off surface dirt.  I don’t have carpet or throw rugs in my home.  My mom has a small area rug.  She has tried using a manual carpet sweeper, but it doesn’t do the job well and it is hard to maneuver around furniture.  Now she just uses a broom to sweep the top of it.
  6. laundry1
    The plastic bin that I use for laundry and my hand powered Mobile Washer that agitates the clothes.

    Washing clothes with the push of a button.  This is also a miraculous appliance!  Put the clothes in, walk away, and they are washed all by themselves!  I’ve gotten pretty efficient at washing clothes by hand and I have a good system and tools set up in the bathroom.  More than one person has asked me why I didn’t set up my laundry table with washtub and wringer in what was meant to be the utility room of my house.  We instead use it for our pantry and extra storage.  My answer is simple, “Well, where would the water go?”  I need a place to dump my wash water and the bathroom tubs works great for that.  Washing machines have a pump to dispose of the water through a hose.

  7. Central heat and air conditioning.  Because of electricity, the western world has eliminated the need to prepare and live seasonally.  Electric homes have the ability to keep constant temperatures year round.  I write this more than half way through August.  My husband and dad have already begun preparing for firewood for the winter.  It’s a necessity when the temperatures start to drop in the fall.  Last winter was especially cold.  Even in Arkansas, we had lots of negative degree temperatures.  Our wood stove kept us warm.  We started using it off and on in October and November.  We burned our last fire in May before spring temperatures were finally here to stay.
  8. Windows that don’t open.  I can’t imagine having a window that was purely for the view, aka picture windows.  It is hot today with a high temperature of 94 degrees.  I have all my windows open and the temperature inside is 89 degrees.  We are sweating, but it is bearable.  When it gets above 90 inside, that’s when I really start to feel it.  But we get frequent breezes on our mountaintop and I’ve been very surprised at how comfortable we have been this summer with all our windows open.
  9. Rooms without windows.  I rely on sunlight during the day to see when I’m inside.  When we ordered our manufactured home, the company wanted to make our bathroom without a window.  After my insistence, they figured out a way to include a very small one.  It is still the darkest room in the house, but I can see enough during the day.  Apartments can be especially difficult without electricity.  I’ve lived in many in my life and all the kitchens and bathrooms were windowless.  A living space without adequate windows makes functioning without electricity very difficult.
  10. short-hairstyleWomen’s Hairstyles:  Have you ever gone camping and realized that your hairstyle is just not compatible with roughing it?  Numerous women’s hairstyles are possible because of electric grooming products that inhabit most bathrooms, including hair dryers, curling irons, and hair straighteners.  I’ve had many different hairstyles in my life, both short and long, and I’ve used all kinds of hair products (hair dryers, diffusers, curling irons, flat irons, heat brushes).  I got so tired of it all and the time it took to fix my hair!  Now I keep my hair long.  I just brush it and pull it back.  I spend very little time on my hair and I love it that way!  Take away electricity and more complicated hairstyles are hard to maintain.  This is the first picture that came up on Pinterest when I searched for “short hairstyle”.  I’m sure this takes at least a hair dryer and flat iron to pull off.
  11. Electronic media and games.  Our culture is completely addicted to the screen.  Cell phones, computers, video games, and all sorts of hand held devices.  I’m writing this article on my laptop that is powered by solar.  I’m so thankful that we have enough solar power to keep in contact with friends and family, and put videos and articles online.  Without electricity these sources for work, communication and entertainment go away.  How would your family function?  Would your kids go through withdrawal if their screens were taken away for any period of time?

I’m sure there are more things that I could add to this list.  Honestly, I feel like I’ve lived without electricity for so long that I can’t think of any more!  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!  Be aware of what you turn on and off or plug in during the day, and let me know what would change in your life if you didn’t have electricity.

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About JaimieB

Jaimie lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead known online as An American Homestead. They live with their two sons and her parents Tim and Joann on 50 acres located deep in the American Ozark Mountains.

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14 comments

  1. We were forced to live without electricity for a short while while we moved our old farmhouse to a new location. It was about 2 months. It was tough. The most useful item I found was those solar lights that are supposed to be in your yard. I put them out during the day to charge I. The sun and brought them in at night and placed them in vases on tables for light at night or in the evening. We were still able to have a refrigerator because we had power to the property but I couldn’t imagine trying to live without one. It would take some getting used to.

    • You’ve reminded me that I need to find my solar lights to use when I want additional light this time of year. We use lanterns in the winter because they provide added warmth. In the summer we don’t use much light in the evening at all. We have finished our work outside and around the house by the time the sun goes down and we only need a light in the bedroom for working on laptops in the evening.

  2. Technically, you can make ice cream without electricity. We did it as children. You do, however, have to have ice, so unless it is winter time near a river, you would have to have electricity or a really good cooler.

    • Yes, exactly! I made ice cream as a kid too, but with ice purchased from the store or frozen in our freezer. Both required electricity. Finding the ice in the middle of summer is impossible without electricity, unless you have an ice house. Ice cream just doesn’t sound as good to me in the winter. An ice house is the only possibility. We are looking into that for keeping food cold throughout the year. The Amish use ice houses. Before most people had electricity, they used to get regular deliveries of ice to put in their “ice boxes”. This ice was collected throughout the winter and put in ice houses.

  3. I would add a fan to number 7. I would really want a fan. If there’s no air, I would at least want some wind chill. It could run on solar or hook it up to a rocking chair or something. 🙂
    My wife and I would have the most trouble at night. Our fan is automatically turned on from 10pm to 9am for the air movement and for the noise. In addition to the fan noise, we have a sound machine that drowns out my snoring. 🙂

    • Yes, a fan would be nice to have! It is 88 degrees inside right now at almost 9pm! The snoring thing can be an issue for a lot of couples. It has been for my husband and me. But since living off grid, it has gotten so much better. He snores so much less and only occasionally when laying on his back. I attribute that to hard work, more healthy diet, lots of weight loss and fresh air. It has been a very pleasant byproduct of our homestead lifestyle.

  4. Being on a farm, out in the sticks, we lose electricity from time to time. We make do with 2 exceptions. 1) Refrigeration. We raise animals and the only thing I can is the broth, so the meat and veggies need help from a generator. 2) Our well pump. I have been asking for a hand pump for just one of these times. However, a new well would have to be dug as I am informed that they can’t put one of those on an existing hydrant that is tied into the pump system. The rest we manage.

  5. We experienced 4 days without electricity in Sept. 2003. Hurricane Isabelle hit MD, and our daughter was 2 months old. MD is hot and humid in the summertime. I remember changing her diaper in the middle of the night with a flashlight clenched between my teeth. The sweat just poured off the sides of me while I slept at night. I sent my husband and baby to my in-laws as they had power.
    Now we live in the AZ desert, and I think often of what would I do if we lost power. I pray that my husband can get a job in a more temperate climate. You give me loads of food for thought, Jaimie. 🙂

  6. Jamie,
    I’m so very Proud of you. I watch the AAH videos and see all that you joufully do for your family. We are farmers too. My days of processing food for 7 people is most times 12 or more hours, 6 days a week, and we have all the modern gadgits except for heat and air. What you’re doing is opening the door for other women to see it’s possible to provide for our families with very little outside help. You are inspiring many, and they need the inspiration. This is the most fulfilling life, where, we do today what He has given our hands to do. Thank you and Zach, and your Parents too. Trail Blazers, that’s what you’re becoming!

  7. Great info. All of your post and videos may be the best on the net. Thanks for doing all you guys do. I bet your parents where thrilled with the idea of retirement like they have done. Looking forward to season two.

  8. Hi Jaime, just found your website, you guys think like we do! Just wanted to let you know about refrigeration. I converted a small chest freezer into a refrigerator with a thermometer I got from amazon. You can google info on the conversion. It takes the equivalent of a 7 watt bulb to operate it so it is easily run off a ten watt solar panel and battery. Just thought I’d pass it along in case you didn’t know of it. I love mine.

  9. I’m not off grid, have long wanted to be, but one thing I don’t want or have is carpet. Instead, try thick plush cushy slippers and a soft, thick throw rug by the bed.
    I have a juicer and electricity and somehow get so distracted I don’t make time to make as much juice as I would like.
    I have hot running water, but the stopper on both of my bathtubs haven’t worked for over 5 years. I’d love a hot soak but so far haven’t fixed it yet.
    At 14 year old twins pretty much know how to push buttons, so I have them do most of the button pushing, loading of their own laundry…so I don’t push too many clothes wash buttons anymore.
    I live in the desert. Don’t think I’d like 115 degrees outdoors and who knows what indoors all summer. But I have heard they did it. They used to put wet sheets over open windows!
    All the money these houses cost and they can’t put a little sunlight in the bath or laundry room! A skylight or one of those tube type sky things would have saved a lot of electricity by now.
    I’m with you on the hairstyle thing, and when it comes to kids and electronics…oh, just get me off this grid!

  10. I just found your website. It is awesome. We live in the Ozarks too. We have lived off grid for almost 2 years. We use a large ice chest for a refrigerator. We have reusable ice blocks that we freeze at our sons house and then put in our ice chest. We change them daily. We will eventually put in a cistern under ground with a cellar off of it for refrigeration. We have some Amish friends who showed us their cellar. It was really cold down there. I am also going to get a hand washer made by the Amish. It holds a lot of laundry. It has an agitator on it.
    I can’t wait to watch your videos. They are very inspiring.

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