Alternative Energy

Surviving Without Electricity: Giving Up Our Greatest Discovery

Surviving Without Electricity

While the discovery of electricity was monumental for modern western civilization, the reliance upon electrical power in the home is apparent when you no longer have power. Some people wish to be rid of their dependability on electricity entirely and have opted to adopt a simpler off-grid lifestyle without the need of electricity to complete day-to-day tasks. Living without electricity was an everyday occurrence for majority of human kind’s existence, so it’s nothing new to do.

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If you are interested in getting back to a simpler way of life by cutting off your electrical power supply and dependency, going off-grid can be a challenge if you do not have the proper alternative forms of electricity in place.

Obtaining and maintaining a lifestyle free from the power of electricity is no easy feat. But with the right attitude, an open and resourceful mind, and a bit of resolve, anyone can take the steps necessary to live a sustainable life without the electricity.

Using Lantern for Light

We put together an extensive guide of simple tips and tricks and more permanent solutions to help anyone who is interested in going electricity free get started on living a simpler life without electricity. Even if you’re not interested in going off-grind, anyone can benefit from knowing how to survive with alternative sources of energy and light. These tips are not just for people looking to adopt an electricity free life. For the average household, it is important to be prepared in the case of an emergency like a power outage.

Whether it is by choice or if you’re just dealing with a power outage, knowing not only how to have alternative sources of lighting and heating, but also ways to cook and stay busy is super important when surviving without electricity. Thus, these guidelines can be adopted and put into practice to help anyone be prepared and survive without electricity for an extended blackout. Here are some ways to accomplish and live a life without electricity:

Alternative cooling, heating and energy sources

Whether you are choosing to live without electricity in your home or you want to be prepared in case of an emergency like a power outage, it is important to have an alternative source of energy, heating and cooling. For the average family, having a generator on hand can be helpful for powering their home, though it can be expensive. If you have a fireplace, keep plenty of wood on hand in the winter months, especially if you live in an area where the winters are especially brutal.

Having a kerosene heater might also be a good investment if you do not have a fireplace in your home, or getting a wood burning stove to use in blackout emergencies. If you’re concerned about heat, close off rooms that are being used. By making the living space smaller, heat won’t escape and go to waste in unused parts of the house.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to keep things cool in the blazing heat of summer when the air conditioning and electrical fans are of no use, you can do one or two things to keep yourself cool. Have an extra sheet on hand that you can dunk in water and hang in a window to cat a breeze. The air blowing through the sheet will act like an air conditioning. Hot air rises, so if you can, open windows in the attic spaces to help let out the heat.

Open Window for Cooling

For those who want to live an off-grid lifestyle, if you’re adopting an alternative energy source you need to be sure that it is a renewable, sustainable and built for long term. Looking into renewable energy sources are the perfect way to give power to your home.

Generators are a great way to maintain electrical power source overtime. Installing solar panels to harness the sun’s light is also an excellent and natural source of renewable energy. If you’re really serious, you can even build wind turbines or look into forms of hydro power to generate for other ways to generate natural sources of electricity.

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Building a bicycle generator is another great way to not only charge your necessary electronics, but to get in some fun exercise too. You can buy premade bike generators, but if you’re really into do it yourself projects then you can simply order the blueprints for building your own bicycle generator at home.

You can also invest in the use of alternative fuels, like Biodiesiel, biomass, and Ethanol, which are all great options to replace your dependency on electricity as a heating, cooling, and energy source. Having a wood burning stove or a fireplace can also provide heat and warmth and you can even cook on it too. For some useful information on how to make  your own biodiesel, see our interesting piece on this subject.

No matter what area you live in, it is important to make sure that your home is insulated properly if you are not using electricity to centrally heat your home. Make sure that places where it gets drafty, like in attic spaces and around windows and doors are insulated well. You can cover windows with an insulator kit made to block up any air that might leak through your windows.

In the heat of summer when having an electrical fan or air conditioning unit is not conducive to living an electricity free lifestyle, you can keep your residence cool by preparing in a similar fashion to insulating your home for the winter. Make sure that the windows have curtains that can block out the light. By keeping things darker, you’ll keep the space cooler over time. You could even plan way ahead by planting vines to climb over windows to create natural shade

Alternative light sources

When a blackout hits, you never want to be caught unawares and unprepared. Thus, it is a great idea to have multiple alternative light sources on hand to help you survive without electricity for an extended period of time. Having candles is a great and inexpensive way to give off light when a power outage occurs. However, candles should always be monitored in small spaces and are not great for long-term solutions.

If you’re going to rely on candles, be sure to keep extra matches and lighters on hand. Keeping flashlights and battery-operated lanterns on hand are a great option when in the midst of a blackout. Just be sure to have extra batteries on hand. You can even break out a kerosene lantern to really shed some light when you need to brightly light an area. Just be sure to have extra kerosene on hand.

Kerosene Lantern

If you’re looking to go off grid and want a long-term alternative light source to permanently replace your use of electrical lighting, it is a good idea to plan and construct a new lighting system to mimic life with electrical wiring. If you do invest in a bicycle generator, you can use that to power the light in your house. Kerosene lanterns are a viable option that will provide good flood lighting within your home. See our piece on home emergency lighting designs to answer your needs, check it out.

You can also consider using candles, battery lanterns, kerosene wick lamps and flashlights. If you do use candles, keep the wax drippings to make more candles later. Whatever you choose, it is always a good idea to have multiples and backups in the offset chance that one alternative lighting source fails. Always be prepared for anything. Keep a stash of extra batteries and matches on hand to lite you light sources and keep them going so you’re never left fumbling in the dark.

Food and cooking practices

When your power goes out, the ability to cook and keep food preserved can become a hassle. If you ever experience a blackout, do not open the refrigerator. By leaving it closed you are going to ensure that your items will keep long, especially if it turns out to be a short power outage, then your food will not spoil in the short amount of time until your electricity comes back on.

Only open your fridge and freezer when necessary. Do keep in mind though that if it is turning into an extended blackout that you should eat your perishable items before they go bad. If possible you can purchase a block of dry ice to put in the refrigerator to keep things cool longer. Do not consume perishable foods after the first full day of a black out otherwise you could make yourself very sick.


Having bottled water and a sustainable water supply is very important. According to the Red Cross, every person should have at least 1 gallon on drinking water per day. Shoot for having a water supply that can get you through a week without electricity. You’ll need to figure out how many gallons to have on hand, depending on the size of your household.

Consider keeping powdered drinks on hand as well, like hot chocolate, tea, instant coffee, and a vitamin supplement. If it’s feasible, keeping a stock of electrolyte drinks like Gatorade are great to keep around to soothe a queasy stomach or to help stabilize the bodies electrolytes.

Also keeping a well stocked pantry and emergency food source of non-perishable items like nuts, peanut butter, crackers, canned vegetables and fruits, and canned meats will ensure that you are well prepared during the emergency of a longer-term power outage.

When it comes to cooking food, you’ll need an alternative heat source if you do not have a gas stove already in your home. Using a camping stove is a great option, just be sure to have extra propane canisters on hand to only be used in emergencies.

You can also use a propane or charcoal grill if you have one. Just be sure to use your alternative stoves outside to avoid dangerous carbon monoxide build up inside your home. Keeping the basic cooking utensils for an emergency is important as well. Consider getting a small pot, having travel mugs, plates and eating utensils.

Propane Grill

For the off-grid choice, similarly you can use a gas stove or camping stove. Charcoal grills are also a viable option. Building a wood stove will ensure a renewable cooking source, and you can even gather your own firewood and tinder. A gas stove can still be used without electricity, just have matches or a lighter on hand to light the stove. Making a solar oven is also a great natural and alternative option to cooking with electricity. For tips on how to build a wood stove, see our article on this important topic.

You can find many different variations of how to build your own solar oven online. If you’re living off-grid, keeping perishable foods can prove difficult without the use of a refrigerator that uses electricity. Consider learning more about food preservation, like salting meat or learning how to can food. Knowing how to dehydrate food is a great way to store food for long periods of time.

Having a water purifier to use in conjunction with a natural water source or keeping potable water on hand is a good way to keep your own water source. You can even melt snow in the wintertime if you live in an area that gets cold enough. Just be sure to boil any water before you drink it to purify it.

Have an emergency kit and a plan

When the power goes out it is easy to trip and fall or stub a toe when fumbling around in the dark. You also never want to be caught unprepared if you have to survive more than 24 hours without electricity.

Therefore, it is vital to keep a first aid kit on hand since you never know what could happen. Creating your own first aid kit it is really easy and allows for customization. You can always purchase all ready put together kits if you do not want to bother with putting together your own. You should have at least the basics, band aids, gauze, medical tape, etc. Also be sure to keep other basic household items ready for a blackout emergency.

Emergency kit list

Blankets, flashlights with extra batteries, extra matches, a radio, sanitation items like Purel and toilet paper, a small sewing kit, a utility knife like a Swiss Army, a can opener that doesn’t require electricity, and at least a weeks supply of personal medications along with over the counter pain medications. Having a set of spare clothes for each member of your household is important too. Layers are best, since you never know what time of year a power outage will hit.

It’s important to have copies of important documents stored in a safe location that you can access quickly and easily. Making copies of your passports, birth certificates, drivers licenses, medical information and proof of address. Make sure that you have complied a list of emergency contacts in case of an emergency.


Having a plan when in an emergency is one of the smartest things a family can do to prepare for getting through an extended power outage. Use your cell phones as quickly as possible to get a hold on any household members who might not be at home.

Communicating and keeping track of your family will ensure that you all survive life without electricity due to a blackout or power outage. Consider having a landline installed if you don’t have one so as not to rely on the electricity of a cellphone. You can even get a rotary phone that does not require an electrical outlet for power.

Even if you’re living off-grid, these are important measure to take in the event of a major emergency. You’ll want to be just as if not more prepared than the average household when you’ve already chosen to live without electricity. Be sure that you have a way to call and get ahold of emergency personal if need be. Just because you’ve opted out of a life dependent on modern electricity does not mean that you shouldn’t have ways to stay in touch with civilization that can help you in a time of need.

Having a battery operated shortwave radio can help to keep you informed during a power outage caused by a natural disaster or just if you’re looking to stay in touch with the world around you.

Battery Operated Shortwave Radio

If you’re worried about staying in touch with your family, you can invest in some personal walkie-talkie radios to keep in contact in case you need to separate for a short period of time.


Life without electricity can get rather dull when there’s no power to plug in the television or keep a computer charged. For those that have adopted an electrical free lifestyle, the everyday chores are enough to keep you busy all day.

However, for those that may find themselves in a black out, perhaps even with children, it is always a good idea to keep games on hand. A deck of cards is a cheap and easy form of entertainment. With plenty of card games to choose from, a plain deck of cards can provide hours of entertainment. If cards are not your thing, you can always opt for keeping a few game boards on hand.

Board Games

If the weather is permitting it and there hasn’t been a natural disaster keeping you inside with the power out, consider getting yourself and your family out of the house and into the sunlight. If it’s just a short-term power outage, it’s a good idea to keep everyone busy and away from the reminders that the electricity is out. Try going for a walk.

You never know, the power might be back on once you return to your home. Books are also a great source of quality entertainment that do not require electricity. Just a bit of imagination is all it takes to transport you to hours of endless whimsy and amusement. If you have kids, consider having coloring books and crayons available to help pass the time.

Charge absolutely necessary electronics in the car

When having to live without electricity for any amount of time, utilizing your cars battery to power important electronic devices is a good idea to keep in the back of your mind when in a pinch. Just be sure to use it as a last resort, since it is important to keep enough fuel in your car to get to a safer location if need be. When absolutely necessary, you can power your electronic devices from your cars cigarette lighter, like your smart phone, if you need to contact loved ones, or a rechargeable flashlights when the battery goes dead.

Charging Phone in a Car

Whatever your reasoning for needing to survive without electricity, whether it be by choice or necessity, it is good to stay informed and be prepared. By having alternative forms of heating and cooling, and energy to stay comfortable whatever the weather, you’ll ensure your household will be able to get through the worst of power outages or just be able to manage life electricity free. Making sure that your home can stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer can provide a comfortable and livable atmosphere.

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While potentially investing in alternative forms of energy when living off-grid can power your entire house naturally and renewable. Having dependable light sources like candles, flashlights, and kerosene lanterns will provide you with the light you need to get activities and chores complete in the darkest of conditions.

Candles on the Table

Practicing safe food and cooking practices in a power outage emergency will help to keep your family healthy and strong with their bellies full of properly prepared meals. Always remember to keep plenty of water on hand in case of power outage emergencies and if you’re living off grid to make sure that you have access to clean drinking water.

The best way to be prepared for any emergency is to always have an emergency kit ready and a family plans at hand. So if you’re either just wanting to be prepared and survive a few days without electricity or if you want to leave the modern dependency on electrical power behind to live a life without electricity, we hope that this extensive guide has given you the tool you need to get started.

See our must-read article on alternative power sources for homes for more insight.

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About the author

David Dawson

David Dawson is a retired security specialist with over 20 years of experience. He worked for a secret manufacturing facilities and hospitals in Illinois. David's responsibility was to protect people in case of any disaster or cataclysm that might occur. Now he keeps on doing it through teaching others about how to prepare and survive flood, earthquake or even war.


  • Electricity has become a necessity nowadays but I do agree with you David. We can live using different sources of energy. I actually have this concept of raising animals and using their wastes as fuel for a biomass farm that would generate enough electricity for the animals. It’s a full circle. In the world of today, there are several interesting concepts that we can explore that revolves around sustainability and being off-the-grid.

  • Honestly, I think candles are dangerous. You should never sleep with candle light for example, and you must attend them all the time. I agree with you, generators and solar energy are great alternatives to electricity. In fact, everybody needs to know how to live life without electricity.

  • The mere thought of living without electricity is likely a frightening experience, but not to me.
    During my years in the military, we spent months on end without electricity, and it was exciting to figure out ways to do stuff without it.
    Security is always a priority. Open fire is useful, but dangerous as well.

  • Today, everyone has a smartphone and the majority of them have lanterns, it would be good to keep an external battery always fully charged so you can use your phone for long periods of time. External batteries generally have high power and high capacity, are very large, which makes the charging process much faster. They also have several usb ports that can supply energy to several different smartphones. Because external batteries don’t take up much space and are lightweight you can take them when you’re in a journey without electricity.

  • Having external batteries and power banks is a good idea. You should also consider solar lanterns, especially during the Summer. Kerosene powered lanterns can also be a life saver, especially in the country.

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