Electricity, though it’s only been around for about 150 years, has become a crucial component of human life today. There isn’t a single soul who doesn’t benefit from the phenomenon in one way or another, whether it’s charging a cell phone or simply turning on the lights.
Of course, when times are tough, electricity can become something of a luxury rather than a necessity. The bills get high, and the utility company waits for no man, meaning you could be left in the dark until the funds are there.
On the other hand, areas plagued by disasters like severe thunderstorms, tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornados can suffer from region-wide power outages, leaving hundreds or even thousands without electricity.
During times like those above, it can be scary to wonder how to live without electricity. Regardless of how you got here, we have some tips that can help you survive without power for a short or an extended amount of time.
What Do We Use Electricity For?
In order to properly prepare for a period of time without electricity, it is essential that we know exactly what we will need and what we typically use our electricity for.
Across the United States, electricity is most commonly used in residential areas, industries, and commercial sectors, with a tiny percentage going towards transportation as well. Today we are going to focus on the residential sector where households use electricity as a primary means of living.
In the average American household, we use the majority of our electricity for entertainment, heating and cooling, lighting, water heating, and refrigeration. Beyond those more significant percentages, we also use electricity towards cooking and washing clothes.
A lot of the uses listed above can be considered necessities in today’s world. Without a refrigerator, we couldn’t keep our food suitable for long periods of time. Electric stoves allow us to cook food for our meals, and of course, we all need to eat.
Basic cleanliness also requires that we have hot water to work with, whether we are talking about cleaning ourselves or maintaining the home around us.
And of course, when the temperatures drop in the wintertime, heat allows us to live both safely and comfortably.
Imagine living in a household with no electricity to light a room. By the time the sun sets, it would become challenging to do anything productive. And other things that are considered a luxury would become impossible: you couldn’t turn on the television to watch the game, you wouldn’t be able to play on your favorite gaming device, and you couldn’t even make a phone call.
In fact, after looking at this extensive list of what electricity does for us, it might become clear that we have sorely underappreciated it.
Even in the world outside of our homes, commercial locations and industries need electricity to produce and maintain the food and products that we buy. Your average grocery store needs refrigerators, lights, check-out lanes, and telephones in order to work properly to service you and your family.
Companies that manufacture hygiene products, medicine, and tools all need electricity to function. Doctors’ offices use lighting and various machinery, and maintenance professionals can’t make repairs without electricity.
So, as you can see, electricity has become a vital component of survival in our world today. While losing it would be a heavy blow to take, it’s not impossible to survive without it. After all, what do you think people did 150 years ago?
Tips for Living Without Electricity
When the situation isn’t too dire, you can survive without electricity for a few days, no problem. Some simple tips and solutions can help you get through a tough time, so follow along to ensure you’re doing everything in your power to keep your family safe, comfortable, and well taken care of.
Food and Cooking
Every time the news comes on and warns us about a large snowstorm or a severe thunderstorm, people in the area rush towards the grocery stores to pick up the essentials. While some of us may roll our eyes and laugh at those folks, the truth of the matter is that they are just being prepared in case the worst happens. And if it does, you will wish that you had been a part of that crowd.
There are a few household essentials that everyone should keep in stock in case the power goes out. Here are a few of the basics:
- Beef Jerky
- Dried Beans
All of these items are perfect for outages because you can cook or eat them without electricity. If your stovetop runs on gas, you can cook pasta, beans, and oats. Jerky lasts forever and is full of protein, while honey can add a sweet touch to make these meals a little more pleasant during a hard time.
There are other foods that you can have on hand as well, like granola, dry cereal, peanut butter, canned soup, nuts, and crackers. A little bit of research can tell you more about foods with a long shelf life that is perfect for times of no electricity.
As for cooking, you may be unfortunate enough to be stuck with an electric stovetop or oven. In that case, things like gas-powered grills and camping stoves can be super useful. You can use cast iron pans for cooking over a flame and boiling water.
Have a Plan for Water
Without electricity, your water pump won’t be working, leaving you with a limited water supply. You also won’t be able to control the temperature of your water without the water heating, so you can forget about a nice hot shower.
Even if you can still get water from your faucets, you should avoid doing so in the winter. Because your power is out, your heat isn’t working. This will cause your house to get colder and colder, the longer you are without power. When you run the water with no heat, you risk leaving excess water in the pipes that can freeze, expand, and cause damage.
We all know that water is an absolute necessity. On average, a human being can only go three days without it. In some cases, you can live up to a week without water, but we don’t recommend giving that a shot. Homes with several residents and pets will have an even greater need for water.
Make sure you have a sure-fire way of supplying yourself and those around you with enough water to stay hydrated and functioning. You can do this by stocking up on water bottles or keeping large jugs of water on hand for emergencies only.
If you know enough about rainwater filtration, you can also create a system to collect rainwater as well. This is a smart technique, but it will only go as far as it actually rains during this time of no power.
Be Prepared for No Heat
One of the worst times to lose power is during the winter. Not only is it cold, but it gets darker sooner, leaving you with little time for natural light and warmth from the sun.
Short spurts of no power, like during a bad thunderstorm, are certainly livable with no heat in the winter. But if you’re talking about more than a day or two, things can start to get dangerous depending on where you live.
If you have a woodburning stove or fireplace, now is the time to use it. The best way to be prepared for this situation is to make sure you have plenty of firewood on hand. Even if you don’t use your fireplace a whole lot, having precut wood stored in the yard or your garage will come in handy when the heat has been turned off.
Another precaution you can take is to make sure your house is very well insulated. Your house probably has some level of insulation now, but certain areas can cause issues quickly. Windows and doors are huge culprits of letting air in and out, meaning that with no heat, your home will grow colder quicker.
Insulating your doors and windows is a fairly simple process that you can likely do on your own. Hardware and home improvement stores sell strips of insulation material that you can attach directly on the frame of your door or window for an added seal that keeps the heat in and the cold out.
During a power outage, you can help create a warmer atmosphere by covering any bare or hardwood floor with rugs and blankets. This will help keep the room insulated. You can also maintain heat by sticking to one or two rooms in the house. Not only will you and your family members share body heat, but you can shove a towel under the door to keep heat inside the room.
Cooking is also a good way to generate heat. Of course, you will need to have a gas stove or oven in order to do this with no electricity. If you do, cook a nice hot meal to stir up a little warmth in a house with no running heater.
On the flip side of no heat, during the hot summer months, going with no electricity can mean living for a little while without your air conditioner. Some individuals consider air conditioning a necessity, while others see it as a luxury. Regardless, losing power during a heatwave can be a seemingly torturous event.
If you’re lucky enough to lose power on a windy day, keep your windows open so you can create a cross breeze throughout the house. The flow of air will give some nice relief to the extreme heat.
However, if it’s not a breezy day, you might be better off leaving the windows shut to maintain whatever coolness is left in your house. The same insulation that will help keep heat in your house can work the opposite way to keep the cool in.
Do your best to stay inside. It will likely be cooler in your house than it is outside, so remaining indoors is the safest option.
Drink as much water as possible. With the cold not being a factor, you may actually be able to use running water in your house. The pressure might not be good, as your pump won’t be working, but in some cases, you can still use the faucet. Stay hydrated. This is key to any situation involving extreme heat temperatures.
One of the benefits of electricity is the capability to be able to see when the sun goes down. We are so used to walking into a room and simply flipping a switch to light the whole space up.
But without power, when the sun goes down, dark means dark. There’s no switch to flip, and you can’t do much of anything when you can’t see.
Luckily, battery-powered alternatives make it possible to light up a room without electricity. You can use flashlights, lanterns, and even headlamps to create light where there was none previously.
It’s a wise idea to have a few of these items on hand, just in case. You should also make sure that you have a good stash of batteries. While convenient, their power is limited, so you might need replacements if you’re without power for an extended amount of time.
Candles and oil lamps are also a nice way to create some light and even a calm, romantic atmosphere. Who says it all has to be about survival?
Explore Alternative Entertainment
Once you have the necessities nailed down, you can start to dive into a little bit of fun. We all would probably get pretty bored quickly without electricity, but families with small children likely have the hardest task of entertaining their kids.
Bring back some old-school entertainment to keep everyone occupied, busy, and worry-free. The more distracted you are, the less you will worry about your lack of electricity problem.
Reading is a great way to pass the time, and it can be educational for children. Everyone can participate in reading, whether you each have your own book or you’re reading out loud to a room.
Many households these days have at least one deck of cards. Whip it out and start playing a game or two for a little bit of extra fun. Cards are one of the best items to have when you’re bored because you can play several different games with one deck. Board games and other card games are also a fun way to get through this tough time.
If you’re cooped up with a large group, you might try singing popular songs together as a fun way to bond and entertain each other. You’re especially lucky if someone in the room has a guitar. Some instruments require electricity, but a classic acoustic set of strings is not one of them.
Maybe you know how to knit, sew, or crochet. Now is an excellent time to revisit that skill and improve upon it. If it’s cold, you can even make use of your skill to make some scarves or blankets. Teach others around you if they’re interested, and the time will fly by.
Living Off the Grid
Living without electricity doesn’t necessarily mean a tragedy has occurred. Some folks like to go off the grid intentionally, whether it’s an extended camping trip or a lifestyle choice. In this case, learning how to live without electricity is a life skill that you can apply to the way you have chosen to function.
Some may consider this cheating, because it does allow you to use electricity, but solar power is an excellent and sufficient way to live without standard methods of electricity. It also allows you to remain “off the grid” and be self-sufficient, which is a goal that many people have.
Solar power extends to several areas of life these days. The biggest investment you can make is installing solar panels on the roof of your house. With enough panels and sunlight, you can power an entire household with these panels.
Beyond that, there are many products today that use solar power as a method of electricity. Cell phone chargers, lanterns, air conditioners, washers and dryers, fans, and more have the technology to function without traditional electricity. They are also more cost-effective.
Solar power lets you enjoy the luxury of electricity with lower costs and less of a dependence on the world around you. When the city loses power due to a storm, you will be alright with your bank of power collected from those sunny days.
Of course, solar power only works best when you also have a battery bank to store excess power. In order to get the most out of your solar panels, you need to have strong, consistent sunlight. This isn’t possible all year-round and isn’t even doable for a full day. When the sun goes down, your energy levels drop. Even in the early morning and later in the evenings, the sun’s light is only so strong.
If you have a battery bank, you can store up energy that you can use at nighttime or during cloudy days. Otherwise, your power will be spotty at best – even in the sunniest of places.
Use a Generator
Tons of companies today sell small generators that let you power devices and tools via gas rather than electricity. You can use a generator to power things as small as a laptop charger to as large as an RV camper.
Many of these generators require charging, so you will need to be prepared and have it charged ahead of time to use it. Or, you can invest in one without an electric start. Some of these generators use a pull start similar to a gas lawnmower, meaning you don’t need electricity at all to get them started.
Generators come in all shapes and sizes, but the bigger you need, the more money you are going to spend. Of course, if you’re working towards self-sufficiency, then the price of a generator will be small in comparison to the money you will save on utility bills.
Cut Out Major Luxuries
Due to the invention of electricity, our world has been introduced to so much technology. While much of this has become a necessity (refrigerators and heat, for example), a large portion of it can be considered a luxury.
If you’re looking to get off the grid and minimize your need for electricity, then you need to start cutting your luxuries down. The fewer luxuries you have, the less you have to worry about powering things up.
Some of the first things that can go are TV, video games, and computers. You can also live without hairdryers, speaker systems, and other small devices that need charging.
From there, you can cut other luxury items that seem necessary but really aren’t. For example, while you might use your dryer on a weekly basis, you can live without it. For someone really looking to live with as little electricity as possible, get rid of your dryer and start hanging your clothes on the line outside. You also don’t really need a washing machine either, since people before us went their whole lives washing clothing by hand. And on that same note, you can toss out that iron as well, as it’s a luxury that simple living doesn’t require.
Consider how many kitchen appliances you really need as well. You don’t need a dishwasher when you have perfectly good running water. You can also probably ditch your blender, the food processor, and the waffle iron.
Depending on where you’d like to settle into your off-grid lifestyle, you may also be able to cut out heat and air conditioning. These are two huge pieces of electrical technology that cost a lot of money to use. In the winter, stick to a woodburning fireplace to heat your home. During the summer, you’ll just have to suck it up and put up with being a little warmer than usual.
Finally, you can also cut down on your lighting. Before there was electricity, families used candles, fireplaces, and oil lamps for light at nighttime. There’s no good reason why a simple lifestyle can’t lend itself to the same practice.
Try it Out
Living off the grid can sound extremely appealing to certain folks, but sometimes we can really take our lifestyle and luxuries for granted. While you may like the idea of open spaces, no bills, and no people, dreaming it up and actually doing it are two different things.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to try the lifestyle out the best you can now before you sell all your worldly possessions and buy a shack in the middle of nowhere.
Take the time to try living without electricity (or very little electricity) for a week or two. Eliminate everything but what you plan on having in your new life. Cut out television, excess lighting, and extra kitchen appliances. Use candles and oil lamps at night and see what happens when you try to wake up with no alarm clock in the morning. Turn off your phone, and don’t touch a gaming system once.
This may sound a little extreme, especially if you’re considering getting solar panels to charge up the basics like microwaves and lights, but going to the extreme will let you know that you can conquer any challenges or issues you might come across along the way.
Living off the grid can be a huge disappointment if you go all the way only to discover that you’re miserable without all your old luxuries, so try it out first from the comfort of your home and see how long you can last.
Living Without Electricity
As you can see, so many things in our daily lives require the use of electricity. When we have to go without it, it can cause a lot of inconvenience and even risks to our families and us. Because we do see things like bad weather and financial troubles, it is absolutely necessary that we are prepared for the worst. You never know when tragedy can strike or emergencies can happen, so it’s better to have everything you need to get by on hand.
On the other hand, someone who wants to live without electricity as a lifestyle or even just for a time should also have the proper tools to do so safely. Whether you are camping or moving into a small cabin in the middle of the woods, you still need basic tools to survive.
We all need to stay warm, resist overheating, eat, drink, and maintain some level of cleanliness, and all of that becomes much easier when we have electricity at our fingertips. While it’s not impossible to secure these things without electricity, it is difficult, and knowledge is the best tool we can have on our side when the time comes.