Most people in the United States have never lived without power. Indeed, in a world powered by electricity, it can be hard to contemplate a world without it. Yet, such reluctance can leave people woefully underprepared in emergencies, such as a power outage.
In fact, the rising issue of climate change is making adverse weather situations, like the risk of a storm, all the more common. And what goes hand in hand with storms? Damage to the power grid and then – no power. Furthermore, the rise of nuclear weapons has created the risk of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). An EMP is a huge burst of power which can cause the entire grid to collapse; as a result, people would be left without any electricity.
Moreover, our social reliance on electricity has left more and more people craving the mental benefits of a slightly less connected life. Consequently, there’s a growing desire to be more self-sufficient and live off the grid.
So whether you’re needing to live without electricity due to an emergency, or are knowingly going off the grid, you certainly need the knowledge and skills for how to cope if the power goes out. Unfortunately, it is no easy feat to live a life without electricity in this day and age.
Luckily for you, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’re going to take you through the key 10 areas in which your life would be affected without electricity – lighting, heat, water, food, communication, entertainment, sanitation and safety. For each area, we’ll offer and explain alternatives to electricity so you could cope without. By the end of this article, you’ll be more than prepared to live without electricity.
10 Ways to Live Without Electricity
1. Find Light Sources
While less important in the daytime, at night time you’ll need to find alternate lighting sources.
Find Alternatives to Electricity
Luckily, there are quite a few lighting alternatives that do not require power. One obvious option is candles. While the lighting they produce is rather low, they are cheap and long-lasting. Moreover, the low-light they emit isn’t necessarily a con; candles create a lovely calm ambience for an evening spent at home.
However, if you’re after something brighter, then oil lamps are another good choice. They do cost slightly more than candles, but oil lamps produce a far brighter and more consistent light.
The only risk with both options is that they are a potential fire hazard so use with care.
A safer option would be investing in solar lamps. These operate by utilising the sun to power the lamps. While these take longer to charge, and require you to remember to place them outside in the day, they are an environmentally friendly and fantastic long-term option. Likewise, you could buy some camping lanterns to have for an emergency.
Make a Generator
Alternatively, you could consider investing in making your own generator. One great way to do this is to utilise your bicycle. A bicycle generator not only creates free power but also keeps you fit – a win-win situation.
So how does it work?
Put simply, the kinetic energy produced by the moving bicycle powers a motor which in turn converts to electrical energy. The science behind it is slightly simplified here, but luckily you don’t need to understand all the complicated jargon to make an at-home generator.
Another way to power your home would be through renewable power sources, such as solar power. Installing solar panels can be an expensive initial investment, but over time you could have a self-sufficient home.
2. Stay Warm
Whether you’re on the sunny East Coast or battling the winters of New York, heating is an important lifestyle consideration. An LA Summer without air-con or a NY winter with no central heating are both scenarios I’d rather not find myself in. So how to stay comfortable without electricity?
How to Stay Warm Without Electricity
A traditional way to stay warm without electricity is to rely on a fireplace. However, while they worked well for our grandparents, they’re a bit tricker for modern builds. If your property already has one, then this is an easier solution to no electric. On the other hand, installing one into a property can be expensive and complicated. Nevertheless, the overall gain certainly evens out the expense and potential building complications.
Another option is a wood-fired boiler. Unlike a fireplace, a wood-fired boiler acts in a similar capacity to a central heating system in that it’ll heat up the house and warm your water. In contrast, a fireplace produces more isolated warmth to a specific room. Wood-fired boilers are also more effective at converting wood to heat than a traditional fireplace. Consequently, they’re considered quite an efficient alternative, which is, in the longer term, better for the environment.
Furthermore, you should definitely invest in better home insulation to protect against heat escaping in the cold months. While you’ll certainly still require some sort of heating system, effective insulation will make these systems far more energy-efficient.
How to Stay Cool Without Electricity
While staying warm seems the most obvious concerns, no electric during a classic LA summer heatwave is not a reality you want to find yourself in.
Air conditioning has become the holy grail to stay cool, so living without it can feel impossible. Fortunately, there are a few different cooling options that work without power.
A longer-term solution is to install a skylight window to allow cool air into your property. Surprisingly, they’re rather affordable and have the added bonus of bringing in extra light to your house – more windows = a brighter home!
Another budget home improvement for cooling is to invest in some heat-blocking curtains. Windows are one of the biggest culprits for letting excess heat into your home. Heat-blocking curtains are, therefore, designed to reflect heat, which means you won’t come home to a sweltering house or spend the night tossing and turning in bedsheets riddled with sweat.
For emergencies, a battery-powered fan is your best bet. In fact, you can now get rechargeable batteries or solar battery chargers, which means you won’t even have to worry about having a stockpile of batteries.
If a fan won’t quite cut your cooling needs, then an expensive but worthwhile investment is to construct or invest in a solar-powered air conditioning system. This would work in the same way to your usual air conditioning system but just be powered by the sun. Not only is this great for situations where you’re without electricity, but it is also better for the environment!
3. Water Access
Running water is essential for many people, not only for hydration but for our sanitation too. However, if you’re without power, you may find yourself without running water in your home too.
Check Your Water Supply
Water supplies in most cities or built-up areas depend on electricity in order to drive the pump. Whether a power cut will impact your water is, therefore, geographically specific. Nonetheless, it is worth being prepared for how to source and purify your water regardless.
How to Source Water
Finding a source of water can be trickier than it seems, particularly for those living in more urbanised areas. In these cases, you have to find emergency stores of water, which will have been put in place by your local council.
For those living in more rural areas, finding a water source can be a lot simpler. If you have a nearby spring, lake or even a local well, these are all perfectly suitable sources of running water.
A longer-term solution for sourcing water is to set up a rainwater harvesting system. In short, this works by harvesting any rainwater that falls on the grounds of your property.
It is worth noting, however, that there can be legal restrictions on your right to construct such a system so always check local laws and regulations before getting started.
How to Purify Water
Most people are not used to worrying about purifying their water, so it’s easy to assume all water is safe to drink. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Unless you want to risk being unwell, you really must purify the water you source.
A simple and effective way to purify water is to boil it; If you are living without electricity, this would require the use of a gas stove or a kettle over a fire.
A chemical alternative is to use iodine solution or chlorine drops. Both of these chemicals kill bacteria and viruses in your water. The only downside is you must wait around thirty minutes for the solution to disperse effectively within the water. It can also leave a strange aftertaste, but this is quick to adjust to and worth it in an emergency.
There are plenty of other options, such as using UV light or water filter, but the ones above are the most simple and effective ways to purify your drinking water.
4. Find Ways to Cook
There are lots of ways to cook without electricity, even if they are slightly more complicated and time-consuming. We’ll breakdown the options for you –
A classic option is a camping stove. Usually fuelled by propane gas, these compact and lightweight cooking devices are the perfect alternative for cooking in emergencies.
If you want to go really traditional, you could rely on a classic campfire to cook your meals. This certainly requires a little more outdoors skills than a camping stove, but it is a cheap option which doesn’t require you to have stored up gas in advance.
A more long-term alternative is to install a wood stove in your kitchen. These stoves can be used to cook the exact same things you can on an electric hob or oven. The only difference is you can’t adjust the heat quite so easily. Cooking with these stoves definitely takes getting used to, but they are a really easy cooking appliance. Better yet, they also will warm the kitchen up as well as provide a means to cook.
Modern technology and gadgets have made us quite reliant on electricity, even for our food preparation! While it may be slightly more time consuming, preparation can be done manually without electricity. All you really need is a few sharp knives, and you’ll be good to go. Plus, if you’re living without electricity, you might as well take your time and enjoy the process of cooking – Why rush it? There’s not much else to do with your time and cooking can be a way to relax from the stresses of life.
5. Preserve Your Food
Keeping Food Cold
Not having a fridge is one of the biggest challenges if you’re living without electricity. However, there are some food storage alternatives.
For example, you can now purchase refrigerators which run on propane, kerosene or are even powered by batteries. Even more environmentally friendly, there are fridges which are powered by the sun. These can all be slightly harder to come by then your traditional electric-powered fridge, but they’re not non-existent. It just requires a little more time online shopping.
How to Preserve Your Food
Food preservation is incredibly important for a multitude of reasons; most importantly, it stops bacteria ruining our food and giving it a shorter shelf-life – this, however, also saves us money!
These days we’re quite lucky not to have to worry about preserving our food, but for past generations, preservation was a well-known skill. It’s rather simple and effective, so it’s worth knowing different preserving methods. Pressure canning, water-bath canning or drying are just some of the methods available.
Canning removes the oxygen supply of and submerses the food in an acidic, salty or sweet preserving agent; this works to prevent bacteria from growing.
With dry-curing, you must cover the food in salt and leave the salt to draw out the water. By removing water, you again limit the ability of bacteria to reproduce.
Different methods suit different types of food, so it is worth doing a bit more extra research depending on what you most often eat.
6. Keep Things Clean
Sanitation is integral to our physical and mental health. There is nothing worse than feeling unclean and unkempt. Without electricity, modern conveniences, such as washing machines, aren’t available – which is a real difficulty!
Hand Washing Clothes
Washing machines have made doing laundry for the whole family so much more convenient and quick. However, if you’re living without electricity, hand washing clothes is also effective.
In fact, with some practice, it can become quite an easy, and even, meditative task. The main thing you’ll need to invest in is a washboard to scrub your clothes against.
Instead of a tumble dryer, there are two options. In the warmer months, hang your clothes outside to dry. In the winter months, it is a bit tricker. However, a cheap clothes horse will also work well – it may just take a bit longer to dry!
While you want to remain good levels of sanitation without electricity, you also, as we mentioned earlier, need to conserve water. One way to do this is to take shorter showers or, even better, take a bath. Even small changes like this can make a huge difference to your water consumption.
7. Keep up Communication
Communication is easier than ever in the modern world of technology, but without power, it becomes a bit more difficult.
In fact, communication is particularly important if you find yourself without power unexpectedly. Obviously, in these sorts of emergencies, you need to be able to contact any relevant authorities or just family and friends. Unfortunately, cell towers require electricity to operate so if there’s no power, there’s no signal.
Solar-powered phone chargers are good to have spare, so you can easily charge your cell phones. Likewise, a solar-powered or battery-powered short-range communication radio is another good option. They’re fairly inexpensive and get the job done, so it’s worth having one as part of your emergency supplies.
Another option is a satellite phone. They’re quite expensive, but they’re reliable and have a long-range, particularly compared to radios.
8. Stay Safe
Without electricity, there’s often no light, no heating and a lack of ability to communicate. Unsurprisingly, this is quite a precarious and dangerous situation to find yourself in.
Staying safe, therefore, should be a number one priority. Ultimately, investing and preparing in a lot of the suggestions we’ve made above will make you more prepared and, thus, safe in an emergency like being without power.
It’s best, if you can, to stay within your property rather than wander the streets; your home will be the safest place to be. Make sure to gather all other family members into the same room, so you’re all together.
From here you want to make sure you have your emergency kit (we’ve listed our comprehensive guide below at number 10) which would ideally have a first-aid kit, communication device, flashlight and some basic food and water; in the short-term, that’ll keep you going whilst you put the next steps in action.
9. Keep Yourself Busy
Nowadays, it can be hard to think of ways to entertain ourselves that don’t involve electricity. Most of us are guilty of spending our free time scrolling social media, watching the TV or streaming music. It’s easy to think life without electricity is boring. Yet, some of the most fun and social activities are completely electric-free.
Card-games are a classic form of entertainment, so we always recommend having a pack of playing cards readily available. In fact, they’re great for all the family; uniting adult and child! Likewise, books are a perfect way to wind down or keep distracted; you can lose your imagination in thousands of books, so reading is sure to keep you occupied.
If you’re going to be without electricity for the long-haul, then it might be worth thinking about some hobbies. Playing an instrument, painting, or embroidery are all wonderful ways to occupy your time. Even better, you’ll be up-skilling yourself with any of these hobbies!
Our grandparents lived without the TV and found things to entertain themselves. So while life without your favourite TV shows may seem bleak, you may just surprise yourself.
10. Be Prepared
If you live somewhere with lots of power outages, then you need to be prepared. What do we mean by that? Well, try to stock up on first aid supplies and long-lasting food items, so you’re covered for short-term periods without electricity.
An emergency kit should consist of these essentials –
- Spare batteries
- Swiss-army knife
- Can opener
- Spare medications
- Emergency blanket
- Copies of personal documents
- Non-perishable foods
- Supply of water
- Sanitation – i.e., hand gel, soap, or toothpaste.
This list isn’t exhaustive, so feel free to prioritise or add to it as you wish, but these are the key things you’ll want to have stored away for emergencies. It might seem unnecessary, but taking a little bit of time to organise your emergency kit will save you a lot of stress in the future!
So that is our top 10 tips for how to live without electricity. Such a life can seem impossible, but with rising electricity demands, power outages are more and more common, so it’s worth being prepared. Likewise, if you just want to explore an off the grid lifestyle where you survive without the power grid, we’ve covered the necessary survival skills.
Do your research, set aside some time for planning, and be safe! Hopefully, our article gave you some helpful tips and survival skills for the future. Next time the power goes out, you’ll be more prepared than other people.