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Published on March 27th, 2010 | by ziggy

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Top 10 Reasons to Live in an Electricity-Free Home (PPB #27)

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When I designed my cob house here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage two years ago, I decided that I was going to live without electricity. I had no plans to buy a solar power system or a wind turbine. I was going to make the leap to live electricity-free in my home, in order to live more simply and even more ecologically than ever before. Humans have lived without electricity for hundreds of thousands of years, so why couldn’t I do it, too? Even today, groups of Amish are still holding strong and continue to live electricity-free in a very wired world. Here are some of the reasons why to live electricity-free:

1. No electricity bill

Living without electricity is really cheap! Solar power systems can cost thousands of dollars. I saved myself a big wad of cash when I decided to go without.

2. You never have to call an electrician

I never have problems with my electricity, because it’s non-existent (duh). Power systems are very finicky and require lots of maintenance, but I save hours of tedious labor each year because there’s nothing to maintain. And I never have to worry about my power going out!

3. Better ambiance

Have you ever been in a room lit entirely by candles? It’s beautiful and literally feels good. Artificial overhead lighting is one of the most offensive and ugly ways to brighten up a space. But candles are warm, mellow, and create a sense of intimacy that cannot be reproduced by a light bulb.

electricity grid

4. It’s about as eco as you can get

Grid power is intensely destructive and responsible for a range of environmental issues, including natural resource exploitation, global climate change, pollution, mountaintop removal, deforestation, and more. Access to electricity has caused our country’s economy to explode over the past 100 years, but at a huge cost and with questionable benefits. Even “green power”, or renewable energy has its own share of environmental impacts, including the mining of very rare and precious elements. Ultimately, clean energy is a myth, and creating any kind of electricity, whether it’s with a solar panel or a wind turbine, creates ecological damage on some level. Going without electricity avoids all of that mess!

5. Less exposure to potentially dangerous electromagnetic fields power lines

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are a hazard with little-known and potentially adverse human health effects. The world is full of stuff slowly killing us so it’s nice to limit exposure to anything that has potential to do even more damage. Who needs to worry about EMFs when you’ve got no buzzing electronics around…?

6. Less electronic noise

…And speaking of buzzing electronics, ha! My house is as quiet as the sky is blue. When I walk into my house, there is no ambient buzz of electric equipment and I can bask in the actual silence of my home. Genuine silence is pretty hard to come by, you know.

7. Healthier circadian rhythms

Artificial light really messes with our circadian rhythms, our natural 24 hour phsyiological cycle. Since we can essentially extend the daylight hours with artificial light, our average waking hours have extended, which essentially messes up the natural rhythm of our bodies:

Once humans began to use artificial light to vary the length of the day, the average night’s sleep decreased from about nine hours to about seven, and the amount of sleep began to vary considerably from one night to the next. This irregularity prevents one’s circadian rhythm from settling into a pattern, and creates a state of perpetual semi-jet-lag. Our bodies’ rhythms attempt to appropriately adjust our alertness, blood pressure, and such for particular times of day; but we often do things contrary to this cycle, and therein lies the problem. (Source)

8. Candles smell good candlelight

One more thing about those candles… Have you ever smelled a beeswax candle? Damn, they smell good. (Don’t talk to me about those nasty artificially scented paraffin wax candles. Paraffin candles contain carcinogenic compounds that can lead to lung cancer, too.) But yea, beeswax candles are where it’s at! They smell absolutely sweet and delicious.

9. Fewer distractions

With computers, movies, video games, cell phones, and everything else begging for attention, it’s nice to have some relief from all of that to make time for yourself and your loved ones. Fewer electronic distractions leaves more time for reading, meditating, playing board games, and relaxing. You can learn to provide your own entertainment without access to electricity and feel relief from all of the distractions that electronics provide.

10. Actual ninjas did it

Ninjas lived without electricity. So did pirates. Even Abe Lincoln, Davy Crockett, Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Cleopatra, and a host of other historical individuals. Join the club and go electric-free!

You’re probably thinking that it’s totally impractical to live without electricity in today’s world. You may be right. Even I, who live in a house without electricity, am sitting here typing on a computer in an artificially-lit room about why you should not do just that. (I do have access to power in a community building here at Dancing Rabbit.)

However, perhaps it’s more important to say that there is much value in having an electric- and electronic-free sanctuary, a space without access to those distractions that can quickly consume our daily lives. And to recognize the fact that humans have lived without electricity for hundreds of generations and made it to this point, that humans don’t “need” electricity to survive, is crucial and can open our minds to the possibilities of making do with less. Electricity is a great privilege, but its ecological impacts are huge, and the creation of electricity will never be truly green.

To learn to live with just a little less electricity can be incredibly empowering. (No pun intended, sorry.)

Many thanks to Web Retail Group, provider of ecommerce web design and product data feeds, for their pledge to the blogathon!

Image credit: Flickr via AdamCohn, AlmazUK, jaxxon



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About the Author

I'm a 26-year-old currently living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri, an intentional community devoted to sustainable living and culture change. Things you might find me doing here (other than blogging) are building with natural materials, gardening, beekeeping, making cheese, candlemaking, and above all else, living simply. You can read about my on-going natural building projects at: http://www.small-scale.net/yearofmud



  • http://hecketyathome.blogspot.com heckety

    You make valid points and I’d certainly agree that electricity has come at a price (ha!ha! sorry) but there is one thing I heard years ago which still brings me pause: social historians say that it was only with the advent of electric light in cities, particularly street lamps, that police forces in the big cities began to get a grip on the criminal behaviour during the nights, and make cities safer. Of course this brings up more questions about cities and all sorts of other guff, but I think its an interesting piece of information.
    Which isn’t to say that we live in a city, or depend an having power every minute…

  • vinoba bhave

    I love the post, but you misspelled Gandhi.

  • http://yigalweinstein.info yigal weinstein

    In terms of CO2 emissions it’s debatable and context sensitive which source of light candles or the bulb is more eco-friendly. This guy http://enochthered.wordpress.com/2008/03/31/earth-hour-candles-and-carbon/ found the estimate of CO2 produced per candle to be 10 times that of a 40W bulb producing the same number of lumens, 500 roughly. So it appears it is all a matter of quantity vs. quality. There is no doubt in my mind that candle light is far superior to that of bulbs, however to produce an equivalent amount of CO2 or less simply using less lighting, I guess, is the logical solution.

    Also the source of the wax is truly an issue. Beeswax is a “Carbon” neutral source so that’s really good. It also smells awesome! I’m uncertain if I would be willing to live so much “off the grid” as in no energy, but more power to you for doing so (disregard the nonsensical pun).

  • kyle yoder

    all great points. i am trying to go without electricity in my rented room for the last week of lent. sort of an extended ‘earth hour.’ tame relative to your commitment, but should still be a nice respite from the nasty distractions and lights you mentioned.

  • http://www.greenvle.com Anthony

    Living with no electricity is almost impossible in our day of age. Everything is ran off of electricity. From computers to furnaces unless we use an other source of energy to power our equipment. But if our electricity some how goes out we can adapt to the environment quickly because we have to. I just can not see anyone going without electricity voluntarily. That’s like ninjas fighting without there swords.

    • http://www.offoffgridmovie.com Sophek Tounn

      You should read this guy’s book, Surviving Off Off-Grid, google it. He lived w/o electricity for the most part for 10 years.

  • hugoagogo

    How did she get her post composed and uploaded?

    I s’pose she’s got a wood fire? (that’s good).

  • http://www.small-scale.net/yearofmud ziggy

    hugoagogo: If you read the full article, you’d notice where I described how I do get electricity to use my computer… and I’m a he, too. The she in the photo is my galfriend.

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  • http://japanhomestead.blogspot.com/ Eric (Knobbly)

    Great post Ziggy-
    I think that it would be nice to have both an electronics free sanctuary- like your house- and an electronic one as well- your community building.

    I do love the magic time of candles and silence during a power outage after a big storm, but I also love bright instant light when I need to do paperwork.

  • Doug

    I won’t even consider living without electricity unless/until books and magazines are universally available in large print editions. Reading by candlelight is frustrating and headache-inducing.

    Also, please permit me to indulge my pet peeve: Why oh why do so many bloggers write their posts in the form of top ten lists? Couldn’t you have titled it “Why I Live in an Electricity-Free Home” and explained why without that compositional crutch?

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    @Doug–

    On your second point… list posts work. Yep, many people find the concept annoying, but we (and many other bloggers) have seen over and over and over again that people like having the promise of 10 (or 5 or 101) points/facts about a topic. It also plays in nicely to how most readers read online… that is, they tend to skim. Lists are imminently skimmable…

    Maybe it’s a crutch… but it’s one that people seem to like…

  • due zingare

    Your list is an EXCELLENT tool for quitting.
    We are in the process of renovating an old cob house in Italy, tahat, being abandoned since 1975, has just elemental electrics: one lightbulb and one plug per room. As we are keeping all the original features (roof is made with bamboo over wood beams, covered with mud and then tiles laid in the fresh mud), we struggle with designing the electrics in the same vein: We need SO MANY more plugs! power tools, fridge, juicer, computer, table and bed lights, etc.
    We used a list like yours to quit smoking, and it works great, so, since we try and live more simply, consuming less, we’ll print your list on the wall as we fix the house…one of the reasons will always work at that moment!

  • http://www.small-scale.net/yearofmud ziggy

    Doug: Haha, yea, I agree. I sometimes resent having to “resort” to specific blogging techniques like writing lists. Like Jeff said, it works for many readers, though.

    I often find blog writing to be cramped by gimmicks that net traffic and social bookmark links – it seems kinda cheap, in a way, but… again… it works, and sometimes to get your point across, you have to be willing to go with some of those gimmicks.

  • Dax

    I have a few questions about the non-electric living.

    1. how do you refrigerate?
    2. what’s the candle bill per month like?
    3. i assume you have no phone, right?

    thanks for the info. this is a very interesting post.

  • http://www.small-scale.net/yearofmud ziggy

    Hey Dax:

    I don’t have a fridge. Currently, I eat in an outdoor kitchen, and we don’t have much in the way of perishables… except garden produce, which gets eaten pretty quickly or preserved for the winter. Milk is the trickiest thing to try to keep cool in the summer… it usually doesn’t work for too long unless I make it into cheese or kefir.

    Candle bill? Interesting question… I haven’t tracked my usage, but I can imagine we were burning one candle or less a day in the winter… hard to say, though. We paid $2 per beeswax candle (each candle has 10+ hours of burn time). Although we’ll be making our own candles soon, which will be even cheaper… (wax is $3.50 a pound here).

    I do have a phone. It’s a corded phone, which needs no outlet, of course.

  • Evian001

    Hi. I live in los angeles & by choice have decided to go without electricity. I enjoy it very much. I wanted to answer DAX question. I dont refrigerate or cook. I try to eat greens live fruit & vegstables. ( only buy what will be consumed in a day or three) my candle bill is non existant as of yet. I have a ipod touch and cell phone that i charge @ work ( or in the complex apartment laundry room shhhhhh… Dont tell any1 @ also during the day at work. The people who kno me think im crazy for choosing this lifestyle but im more peaceful person and i find i lead a 95% more active life.

    I also like when the author of this post mentioned jesus christ, among others lived without electricity. I might be rambling but this subject hits so close to home for me. I have always been a night person thus i enjoy the dark.

    You may be wondering how i bathe. Well i will tell you i dont. I enjoy the oder of my homemade funk fest. Sike! I work @ a gym so i also have access to shower facilitys. Works well for me im in the process of getting candles so i will keep note of my monthy bill and let uall know.

    I dont tell too many people how i truly live because most brains are so brainwashed into beliving their life isnt complete unless…. So i dont bother beating a dead horse.

    Bottom line. I enjoy it i wake up with the sun & go to bed when it sets (@ least 3 days a week)- its very peaceful. I recokamend every1 reading this to decide for theirself thro that calm inner voice ( free from judgemental negative thought) to look @ all areas of your personal life (not just this electricity non-issue) & see how much is based on keeping up with the jonses.

    P.s. I know people with kids cannot live like me. It would be considered abuse. I hv2 parakeets who listen to a battery charged radio and get sunlight during the day.

    It can be done question is do you have the courage to do it !
    ( its ok if dont ;)

  • Uncle Jeff

    My nephew’s wife suffers from multiple chemical and environmental sensitivities and is in desperate need to live in an ‘electricity-free’ environment. Does anyone know of a community that is free of electricity, and other EMF related sources of energy?

    Below is a link that tells Nicole’s story much better than I ever could. Yes, I know there’s a fund raising request connected to this link, but that’s not why I’m sharing the link. I’m sharing it so you can read about the devastation electricity has had upon one couple’s life.

    http://secreteye.org/nicole/fundraise.html

    http://planetthrive.com/2009/11/nicole/

  • Purely Basic

    Cutting living expenses and improving the health of the home is always desirable.

    Americans lived with no electricity for over a hundred years and they are not the worse for it. Many still do it today.

    As for crime; it skyrocketed after the cities were lit. Much easier to do a crime when you can see.

    It seems there is quite alot of fear in people about not having this paid product of electricity. Some people work almost a full day a week just to pay for the electricity to light thier house a few hours at night, wash a pile of clothes once every few weeks, keep 50 gallons of water warm, refridgerate food so it spoils slower (it still spoils), and keep water frozen. There may be a few other household activities that are involved but that’s the gist of it.

    I don’t see very well and reading by candlelight is delightful. The light is bright enough to see the page clearly yet soft enough to not tire my eyes.

  • Adam

    Doug, you read the ten list. I must be more simple minded to have done so without hipocracy but o.k. And if your opposed write a flowing blog on “Why electricity is in my home” and see who reads it.

  • kate

    I saw an article I think was in respose to yours. It was a title was “Top 10 Reasons To Have Electricity” it was on discountelectricity.com here is the url to the article.

    http://www.discountelectricity.com/333/top-10-reasons-to-have-electricity/

    I hope you don’t think this is spam I know that my email gets a lot of people.

  • thomas b

    Ziggy:
    As my wife and I are located here in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. North Central Arkansas, to be more precise, we are just now discovering the many advantages of removing ourselves from the manufactured power sources, as well. However, I simply wanted to take this time to applaud you with your current living conditions. As we are discovering for ourselves that the removal process of one’s self from today’s power grids is, quite frankly, a journey and not an overnight transition. With regards to your candle producing efforts in the near future, I might suggest you try the Olive Oil Lanterns you can create yourself. We make ours as often as necessary, and the olive oil is a natural renewable source for lantern lighting without any disruptions to nature in any form.
    Thanks again for sharing
    thomas b

    • http://Web Toby Champion

      Thomas, making olive oil lamps at Dancing Rabbit would probably be unlikely to work as you can’t grow olives in Missouri, as far as I know, and people there tend to – as I understand it – like to use resources that could at least theoretically be sourced within the bioregion. There are plenty of beehives in the area though.

  • http://Web Karen

    Are you managing your own bees for wax collection? Have you had any problems with colony collapse disorder?

  • Lee Bones

    I do like the list of reasons given for living without electricity in one’s own home. I’d like to live that way myself. What about food storage? I’d enjoy learning how people that live without electricity store food. I’m aware of root cellars, and also salt meat, or smoked meat.

  • Laura

    Where were yourmy whole life? I’ve dreamed of living a life without electricity. I love the medieval and renaissance times more then this day in age. At night, I light candles instead of using lights. That’s as far as I’ve gotten, you see. My fiance is getting a degree in networking and uses his computer everyday, he also loves video games. I enjoy them too, I just prefer to read, play cards, or just sit and relax by candlelight.

  • Katie

    What about an ice box for food storage? Like they used to have back in the day. Just a thought. I couldn’t live without my fresh dairy.

  • george

    how did you write the article and you answer if you dont have electricity and of course internet?

  • Pam

    Do u go some where else to use the internet and how about food that needs to be cooled like milk and everything else. I would luv to go w/no elect…..cuz in this state( AZ) it is very expensive!!

    • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      I doubt Ziggy’s checking this right now, so I’ll tell you what I know. He and his partner April are a part of a cooperative at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage that has its own kitchen. They do have access to electricity in the village – they just don’t have it in their home.

  • mmamaof4

    So what do you use instead of a fridge and freezer? That would be my main concern. Also, how do you get water…and do you take COLD baths? how? just wondering since I’d love to do this myself! :)

    • forestsylvan

      See my post and also it is not too hard to build simple solar water heater.
      Cheers,
      Forestsylvan

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  • forestsylvan

    Hi folks,
    I hear a lot of concern regarding food storage, here are a few things I did to keep food :
    I have lived for at least 9 years with no electric at all I buried a food grade drum and with straw this acted as a root cellar and I kept cabbage, potato, carrot squash, garlic onion etc all winter long , I lived in a canvas yurt and a small cabin built with handtools. I buried buckets under a bench in the yurt (yurt was on ground) with a lid and used as the indoor root cellar so I would restock once a week from the barrel root cellar. this in montana where we did have -42 degrees and typically 0 to 30 temps in winter. this works well in summer too as the ground has a even temp somewhere in the 50’s degrees.We canned and dried a lot of food too.

    I then moved to property that had a small stream from a spring and I built a small footbridge, using handtools with logs and some salvaged planks. From the top I could lift off a lid on bridge and access buckets submerged in the water, keep food very cool for summer. A friend had a straw bale cooler built into his house wall on north side of house, that keeps food cool. My point is there are many ways depending on circumstance to keep food cool, refrigeration is a new technology for human kind . wrap food in paper or dry straw avoid plastic which makes food sweat and mold.

    I cut firewood with handsaws for a couple of years, very satisfying.
    I found a bee keeper and bought his ugly wax ( wax that is not a consistant color that americans are so picky about, (I did the same thing with farmers with fine but “ugly” potatoes, carrots etc) the ugly wax burns great and works for salves boot polish etc at a much lower cost just a darker color. Candle making works great on cold nights when the dipping drys quicker Just a large tin can heated on woodstove , really good when 0 degrees out, go outside and dip away!

    A maple syrup bucket made of metal, heats up water on woodstove with dipper have a shower/bath. Even in zero degree I would stand on a slat deck outside, cook up the fire in cabin or yurt for cozyness when returning, and go to town. You really don’t feel the cold. or have a wash tub to stand in and have it inside cabin or yurt. Another great way is to have a suana with slat floor and sponge bath rinse after sauna! And yes we had a tradition of keeping a hole in the ice on the river , one place I lived in Montana and in the morning a quick dip, the kids, age 5 to 12, loved it ,they would shape their hair and laugh as it froze, Look I’m Pippy longstocking,no chilhood sickness those winters.And Better than caffiene! Then a quick run to the blazing wood stove laughing all the way!

    The other benifits mentioned in the article are spot on too! I used to be able to feel when I went in an electric building, and the sleep pattern is much better with no electric.

    I could see a solar wind powered small meeting/library/computer/phone building and the “home” be cozy and electric free.
    Before my electric free years I lived in a tipi with one 12 volt dc solar panel for a couple of lights and a radio (dc low amp power is less damaging to humans). i still used the bucket buried under the carpet for food storage.This could be a way to ease into electric free living or still make a big change in life by having a few modern things. I suggest don’t get too hung up on being a purist just move towards your goals, small change helps the planet too and you will get more confident as time goes on!

    Some of these years I lived without a car or truck and had a bicycle and for a time a mule. I still relied on vehicle use from time to time with friends but I made sure to not only pay my share of gas $ but would give $ for vehicle maintenance. If we could pool vehicles more that would be a great help for our home planet.

    I was fortunate to have “live” water and I carried water from spring/river to home. If you have a well check out simple pump,: http://www.simplepump.com/
    it will replace my old cast iron 100 year old technology when I move to my land with well. I think for the simple life 5 to 10 gallons of water a day for personel
    use.

    Currently and ironically I am paying a lot to live in modern house with electric to save money to pay off land to live simple once again…..

    I know I went on a bit of a rant, but if nothing else it has helped my spirit by verbilizing this and knowing other folks have a dream and vision like mine!
    Best wishes to all,
    Forestsylvan

    • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      Rant away – thanks so much for the thorough overview of your lifestyle!

      • forestsylvan

        Jeff,
        You are very welcome! This was a quick post, before I head off a little late to my employment, and as I said has lifted my spirits and helps keep my eyes on the prize! The simple life really is simple once it is going. I have a desire to “own” my land (Which I don’t entirely agree with, but I thought I would give it another try as opposed to squatting on land)so I am paying some dues up front to achieve that and then comes more time to enjoy and contemplate life. above all keep it fun.

        Cheerio

  • the randullo family

    hello
    My family have chosen to live non-electrically for the last five years. I will never go back. WE love it. It’s real living . the computer I use now is at a library, which I increasingly use less and less. WE grow alot of our own food, hand pump our water, use our own sticks and dead trees to heat our home in winter , we use candles in winter,very few the rest of year. we have become musicians, dancers, gardeners and builders. I hope for all people to live this way , only community centers maybe using some electrical power. Try it for two years and you’ll change beautifully forever. WE have a easy non-electrical beautiful home. we do not need power to make less crime. People are good, very few crime problems that with increased truth, care and responsibility we can change. TO A NEW AND SAFE WORLD!!

    • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      Thanks so much for sharing your story with us!

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