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Living Without: Electric Light

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So many of us are used to flicking a switch to instantly flood a room with light. But, that isn’t always a possibility for everyone. So, how do you live without electric light?

While many non-electric lighting options have fallen out of favor for better, brighter electric options it’s not something we can constantly depend on.

Power failures can quickly leave us in the dark and if you’re trying to adjust to an off-grid lifestyle? You may be surprised by how much you were accustomed to flicking a switch.

Of course, there are options for lighting your home off the grid, but why waste a resource if you don’t need to?

For centuries humans have lit their dwellings with non-electric sources. Why not utilize them, even if only in an emergency?

How to live without electric light

I’ve experienced long-term power failure first hand as I’m sure many of you have. Several years ago our local area was devastated by a tornado. While our home and family were kept safe, our grid electricity was not.

We were without power for several days and it was cold. Just days before Thanksgiving we had unseasonably warm temps that immediately plummeted into the teens after the storm.

Not only were we forced to adjust and figure out how to live without grid electric for several days but it got me thinking.

When we move, we will likely be without power for a while. Only a generator or small solar system which means our power will not be anything like it is now.

Right now, we can pretty much mindlessly use electricity, in the future? At least until our home is built, frivolous use will not be a possibility. So, why not take the experience it and run with it?

Make it a fun game of practice so not only are we used to it, but so are our kids who think they need to light up the whole house day and night.

So, we make a game out of it. We all now regularly go without turning on lights just for fun. We don’t, of course, live in the dark. We just use other, non-electric sources instead. The girls love it, we can play board games and tell stories and pretend we are out camping (which we also do often).

We also usually sleep better on the nights we don’t flick on the light switch. I feel it is because we don’t have all of that bright, artificial, offensive light that is telling our bodies it is still daytime right up until the time we retire to our beds.

Circadian rhythms are more in line without that bright, fake light and we fall asleep naturally, when our bodies are ready to instead of having artificial lights to confuse our internal clocks.

We always wake more rested, naturally with the rising of the sun as well. Our mornings are much calmer and enjoyable when we avoid artificial light of any kind, this includes computers, TVs and other electronic devices.

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5 Off Grid Light Options

Oil Lamps

I don’t know what it is about oil lamps, but I love them. They just remind me of a simpler time, I guess.

Oil lamps provide long-lasting, unwavering light with an oil based fuel. They typically have a big fuel chamber with a hole that allows you to pour the fuel into along with a wick to light to burn the fuel.

Oil lamps have been used for thousands of years but more modern kerosene lamps have been around since 1850.

There are numerous sources of fuel that can be utilized in oil lamps. From commercially available kerosene to animal fats like butter, tallow, and lard.

You can also use castor oil, sesame oil, flax oil and even the oils produced and rendered from walnuts and almonds.

Interestingly enough the first oil that was used after whale blubber resources were completely depleted was camphine which was a blend of turpentine and alcohol.

But, during the Civil War there were taxes added to alcohol that made it unsustainable and expensive. So, people started using kerosene.

Regardless, they provide enough light to light up a room, though not enough to read by unless you’re on top of the lamp.

If you have children, you’ll obviously want to keep them out of reach… which, might be up at the ceiling if your kids are monkey’s like mine. Nice to have, regardless. Especially the old, vintage lamps.

Alladin Lamp

Technically, this is an oil lamp. However, it produces as much light as your typical incandescent lamp.

Aladdin lamps have a pretty awesome history, if you ask me. Their production began in 1909 and they have been lighting the American home since then.

While many may find them obsolete, at the time of their development, there was a high demand for better, brighter lights. Electrification was far from becoming ubiquitous and their developer Victor S. Johnson saw a need and went for it.

They even saw a sharp uprising in usage during WWII when the manufacture of electric lamps was stopped and Johnson received permission from the U.S. Government to use copper to produce more Aladdin lamps since there was less copper used for that than to electrify the entire country.

They have fallen out of popularity, obviously, but provide an unwavering, exceptionally bright light that provides the light of 60 candles making them an excellent way to light up a room.

You can still purchase Aladdin lamps today, like the one you can find here. However, you can often find these in good condition at flea markets, garage sales and estate sales for relatively cheap.


Of course no off-grid lighting post would be complete without mentioning candles.

Candles have been used for centuries and it’s so easy to make your own beeswax candles or other emergency candles.

Candles were originally made by the Romans in 500BC and they were real, dipped candles made from tallow and beeswax like the ones you see made (or make) if you go to a living history museum. The coolest kind, if you ask me.

Of course, they don’t put off a ton of light and if you use commercially available scented candles then you’re letting toxins into the air, but making your own is fairly simple.

Natural beeswax candles can actually naturally clean the air and if you have your own beehives or you can source it locally… you’re even better for the wear.

Candles obviously don’t provide a lot of light to read by or do knitting or crocheting, but they’re essential to have in case of an emergency and well… as long as they’re clean burning, they provide some nice ambiance.

Solar Lamps

Sometimes technology is amazing. And solar technology is pretty cool. While the original solar lamps that I tested out several years ago were severely lacking, a lot of them today are amazing.

Many can provide you with enough bright light to read by for hours.

Of course, you do need sunlight in order to charge them and we don’t get a ton of that here in Indiana, especially in the winter months. But, they are nice to have around. You just have to keep a good charge on them.

Some are great, others aren’t. I haven’t found any that I am over the moon about, so I won’t link to any. But, make sure you read the reviews before you purchase and consider these for outdoor lighting as well. Especially walkways… your chicken coop or barn. Any place you could use the light and don’t have an electric source.

Battery Operated LED Lights

Have you seen how bright some of these LED lights are?? It’s amazing. Of course, most are battery operated which means you have to have another resource on hand. But, can definitely be worthwhile.

And, since they are LED, they don’t run through batteries every 5 seconds. Well, they shouldn’t.

We make sure we have a couple on each floor of our home, in the garage, the coop, every vehicle and our camper so that we have access to instant, bright light at a moments notice.

We use these and check the batteries in each every few weeks and if we are planning a long trip.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Other lamp and lighting options are constantly becoming available as technology advances.

And of course, making sure you can utilize natural light in the best ways possible is always a good option.

But these basic ways to light your home will help you become less dependent on electricity, at least for your lighting needs. Even if you are on grid, I suggest having a few of these options available in your home.

You never know when you’re going to need them.

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Getting Through Tough Times: Essential Skills to Learn NOW

Saturday 27th of March 2021

[…] Learn to live without electric light. […]


Monday 27th of July 2020

You're lucky I was without power for 10 days in a all electric house in the middle of winter. I had a camp stove a few old flashlights and a worthless fireplace which we used 24 7 .I learned a good lesson then I since made a lot of changes.But nothing is 100% perfect and last for a real extended period. I can't see Bering without power permentaly.


Sunday 3rd of April 2016

Love this. We had a 7-day power outage several years ago. I think the thing I missed the most was a brighter light at night. The house sure gets dark when there's not electricity at all. Thanks for the tips! You are the featured blogger this week at The Gathering Spot. :)

April J Harris

Saturday 2nd of April 2016

What a challenge! I enjoyed reading about how you do this. I think I would find it very difficult indeed to live without electric light, but I admire you for embracing this challenge! Sharing. Thank you for being a part of our Hearth and Soul Hop.

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