The Amish Community: Do they Use Electricity or Not?
Have you ever imagined a life without electricity? Can you live without this power source? Probably not since electricity drives almost everything in today’s modern world. But there’s a protestant group in the country who aren’t as dependent on electricity as most of us. We’re talking about the Amish people.
Because of their views on technology, they’ve developed a way of life that doesn’t revolve around the use of electricity. In fact, their off-grid lifestyle can even serve as our guidepost for those times when we experience prolonged power outages.
Let’s explore the Amish’s relationship with electricity and what aspects we can employ to achieve sustainable living.
The Amish Culture
The Amish came to America a long time ago, during the early 18th century to be exact. Their aim in moving to the country was to escape persecution and find land to farm. The oldest Amish settlement can be found in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where up to now, their simple way of life remains almost unchanged.
Pennsylvania Dutch is the Amish’s first and native language, and some groups still use it to communicate with one another.
Close to 300,000 Amish live in close-knit communities, and their numbers keep rising. With an increase of around 3.1% a year, they’re considered the fastest growing population group in the country.
The core beliefs of the Amish people revolve around family, humility, community, and separation from the world. In their goal to remain distant from things that ground them to this world, they shun anything that would tighten their connection to it. That includes the use of electricity and other labor-saving devices.
An unwritten code of behavior governs Amish everyday life and custom. Called the Ordnung, a German word for order, this set of rules and regulations provide the foundation for the Amish community. Following the dictates of Ordnung is one test of membership and is also considered as a means to show a humble spirit.
The rules vary from one community to another, but they share some common principles. These include certain behaviors and technologies such as:
- Running for public office
- Suing in a court of law
- Ownership of particular technologies (i.e., television, telephones, automobiles)
- Use of public electricity
To clarify, the Amish don’t consider technology as evil. Instead, they view it as something that can potentially impact their culture.
Why the Amish Avoid Power from Public Grids
The Amish view electricity differently from most of us. For the most part, Amish groups refrain from using electricity coming from the public grids. It’s not that they reject electricity per se. Rather, it stems from their belief that it can potentially lead to a tighter bond to the non-Amish world and alter their views and way of life.
They also think that having electric power in the home increases the temptation to indulge in prohibited pursuits, which include using the television, radio, and internet.
Relying intensively on labor-saving devices is another activity that the Amish shun because they believe that doing manual labor is a character-building experience. Hence, using such devices may deprive their children of this educative opportunity. Because labor-saving appliances need electricity to run, it makes sense for them to avoid power from the grid. Thus, Amish leaders banned its use in 1920, and the decision remains up to now, a century after its issuance.
This doesn’t mean that the Amish totally abstain from using energy. In some aspects of Amish life, electricity also enters the picture, although in minimal ways.
Although they refrain from connecting to the public grid, many Amish use electricity for some everyday activities. They need the energy to run some appliances, for example. Also to keep warm and light their homes. But because they’re not tied to the utility grid, they have to find other power sources.
This fossil fuel is one of the most common energy sources in the U.S. In 2020, around 23% of homes in the country relied on natural gas for their energy needs. Fortunately, most appliances that run on electricity can be modified to operate on natural gas. Thus, the Amish use this fuel source to cook their food and, in some instances, do the laundry.
You may imagine an Amish home lit by candles and oil lamps. But while that still happens in some cases, many Amish use more sophisticated lighting fixtures. A common source of illumination many Amish communities use is a rollable lamp, which has a gas tank hidden in the wooden base. Wheels in the base make it easy to move the lighting fixture from room to room and provide illumination where it’s needed.
Diesel generators are machines that produce electricity by converting the chemical energy of diesel into electrical energy. For most of us, generators typically function as standbys for situations where grid electricity is unavailable. But for the Amish, these machines usually serve as their prime energy source.
Both diesel and gasoline generators can provide electricity to operate some appliances and run farm equipment. Power tools needed for building can likewise draw power from these machines.
Some Amish use batteries for different devices, such as flashlights, and recharge the batteries through a generator. And if their business requires power, the Amish will likely turn to a gas or diesel generator for energy.
Solar power, or the energy from the sun, has become widely available across the country. Because it’s affordable and easy to access, many Amish communities have embraced the use of this technology.
It’s a more recent trend than drawing power from generators, but it’s fast becoming a legitimate way to run specific devices and machines. As such, more and more Amish homes and churches are sporting solar panels on the roof to harness the sun’s power.
This sustainable energy source comes from blowing wind and is harnessed by using wind turbines. It may come as a surprise, but the Amish have been doing that for many years now.
The windmills are placed in areas that get plenty of wind, and the power the blowing air generates is stored in batteries. The batteries are then used to power tools and other household equipment.
How They Use Electricity
Contrary to what you may imagine, Amish homes have modern equipment that requires energy. Some examples are lighting fixtures (usually LED lights), gas-powered washing machines, fridges, and power tools.
Way back in 2008, someone developed what was dubbed as the Amish computer. The machine is a basic word processor that came devoid of any features typical computers have. All it does is process documents and was touted as a machine made for plain people.
From this, you can see that the Amish do use electricity in their homes. They just avoid connecting to the public grid and instead use alternative power sources.
Here are other ways the Amish use electric power.
Lighting their Homes
We usually take a lit home for granted and only realize the value of lighting when a power outage hits. Being plunged in darkness makes doing even the easiest task a challenge. From cooking to cleaning a home, having good lighting helps get the job done faster.
The Amish usually employ different means to light their homes. These include skylights that provide natural illumination and various lamps that are powered by natural gas or batteries.
Buggy Lighting When Traveling
Almost all Amish use the horse and buggy instead of a car to get around. Thus, for safety’s sake, they need some form of illumination when they travel at night.
States with a large Amish population have laws requiring the buggies to be lit while running along public roads. As such, their vehicles need to have lights, which are powered by batteries.
Older buggy lights use halogen bulbs, but the more modern ones sport LED lights that need less energy to run.
It’s not true that the Amish abstain from using all appliances. Amish women do use some that help them get the job done faster and to avoid waste.
Amish women usually have to deal with a surprising amount of laundry. That comes as no surprise, what with their men being involved in farming and carpentry work. Amish couples also have 6-7 children on average, but sometimes the number can go up to 8 or more. That leads to a large mound of soiled clothes and sheets, right? That’s why they need a bit of help in doing the laundry.
In the past, Amish women washed their clothes and sheets with old-fashioned wringer washers. This type of washing machine gets clothes clean through spinning and pressing. The simple design of the device fits into the Amish restriction on technology.
Nowadays, many use a washing machine for their laundry loads. They get the power the washer needs from energy sources like a generator or solar panels.
Amish households seldom have mechanical dryers, however. To dry their laundry, they rely on the traditional method of air-drying their load. Most Amish yards have clotheslines where they hang the clothes and sheets after they’ve come out of the washer.
A couple of decades back, Amish households stored their perishables in cool cellars. Alternately, they filled ice houses with large chunks of ice that they hauled from frozen ponds during winter. The ice keeps the fresh produce from spoiling for almost a year.
Homes that don’t have cellars or ice houses sometimes store perishable food items in cool creeks. Placing food inside a barrel and burying it was another technique they used in storing food.
Old order Amish communities still use some of those methods. However, in the interest of food safety, many members of the group now use solar or gas-powered refrigerators to make their perishables last.
Running Business Equipment
Contrary to the image they project, the Amish don’t dwell in an ancient world. They have managed to keep in step with the times, and many have become successful entrepreneurs. Their businesses range from simple roadside stands to large manufacturing and building operations.
The Amish thrive in the area involving construction, furniture making, and produce farming. Market stands are also popular among Amish entrepreneurs.
Running a business will be quite a challenge without using any tools or equipment related to the trade. Creating furniture or building barns and buggies require power tools. Meanwhile, store owners need a way to keep track of their inventory and communicate with their customers.
To manage the various tasks related to their businesses, the Amish rely on generators or energy from alternative sources.
How They Keep Warm
Amish communities in Northern states usually face harsh winter conditions. However, their religious beliefs prohibit electric-powered central heating systems, which they consider a luxury. Thus, they need ways to keep their homes warm during frigid weather.
They usually use heat sources like fireplaces, coal furnaces, and wood-burning stoves to drive away the winter chill. You can generally find Amish families preparing for winter by cutting and stacking pieces of wood. They’ll use these to keep their stove or fireplace blazing when the cold wind starts to blow.
Nowadays, the more modern Amish communities protect their homes against bitterly cold weather by using hot water pipes. Solar energy is quickly becoming a popular means of heating water. That’s because tapping the sun’s power aligns with their goal to be independent of public power.
When using solar energy, they usually build a battery shed separate from the main house. The shed houses the batteries that are used for heating the water.
What the Amish Can Teach Us
Living in today’s fast-paced world, where technology seems to update every so often, can be stressful. Trying to keep up with everything and striving to accomplish so many things can be exhausting. In addition, it may cause us to lose track of who we are and what we believe in. When it comes to keeping ourselves grounded, we can turn to the Amish for some life lessons.
The Amish aim to preserve their values and protect their culture. To do that, they’re willing to forgo many conveniences and luxuries many of us can’t live without. Their existence revolves around their family and community, upholding the relationships they’ve forged above all things. Because of this, they are wary of anything that may affect the fabric of their community or family life.
Unlike many of us who seem unable to resist incorporating every new technology into our lives, the Amish pick only those they can use in a good way. The ones that can detract from their primary goal, they reject.
Being self-sufficient is another lesson we can learn from this group that espouses a simple life. The world has become too materialistic, many say, where mindless consumption is the norm. So when technology fails, our life seems to come to a standstill, or worse, descend into chaos.
A self-sufficient lifestyle will help us focus on what we need to survive, and probably, a few amenities to make our lives comfortable. That’s in contrast with trying to sample every innovation in technology that comes along.
Why do the Amish not use electricity?
The Amish live a simple life. That’s in line with their efforts to remain detached from the non-Amish world and continue being self-sufficient. They believe that linking to the power grid will deepen their attachment to the world and eventually hurt their culture. That’s because having continuous electric power can lead to temptations like using the television and the internet.
As such, even though they use electricity in some form, they abstain from connecting to the public grid.
Do the Amish have electricity in their homes?
Yes, the Amish have electricity in their homes. However, they don’t use the same power source that many of us do since they are not connected to the public electric grid. Instead, families and businesses turn to generators and other alternative energy sources to run their appliances and machines.
Do the Amish live without electricity?
Though the Amish are hardworking people, they also appreciate devices, appliances, and tools that make their jobs easier. It follows that they will need electricity to operate these appliances and tools even in a limited manner. What they live without is a connection to the power grid.
Do Amish people not use technology?
Using technology is not entirely prohibited in Amish culture. In fact, they put to good use some forms of modern technologies. These include farm machinery, electric lights, and even telephones.
However, they’re opposed to forms of technology that can potentially weaken their well-preserved cultures, such as the television and the internet.
Can Amish have cell phones?
The old order Amish reject the telephone because they consider it a direct line to the world. It also offers way too much convenience, which the Amish object to. However, new order Amish have accepted the use of both the landline and mobile phones..
Using landline phones and cell phones have their limits, though. The Amish don’t allow the installation of telephones in their homes. Instead, they usually place it in the barn or some outbuilding a few meters away from the main house. They may use cell phones but only in the course of running their business or during emergencies.
How the Amish use electricity shows how they approach technology. That is, they employ it in a limited way and only in aspects of their lives that truly need it. As a result, they manage to enjoy the innovation without being overly dependent on it. So in the event of a total collapse of the electric grid, the Amish will likely feel the least impact.
Due to the changing climate, extreme weather conditions will likely occur with increasing frequency. Power outages are one of the typical outcomes of such events. Emulating some aspects of the Amish lifestyle will help us prepare for prolonged blackouts and mitigate the outages’ undesirable effect on our lives.