Living Without Electricity

Careful planning turned living without electricity into the basis for a pleasant way of life.

| November/December 1980

Five years ago my husband (Scott) and I purchased 31 acres in the Ozarks, and immediately started working toward the lifestyle that we had long been fantasizing about and planning for.

We bought our land with the full knowledge that we would be living without electricity, unable to hook up to a power company's grid. A national wilderness area borders us on three sides, you see, and the nearest electrical pole on the property's accessible side is more than a mile away. Furthermore, there are numerous vertical rock ledges and a year-round stream between our home and that lone pole ... and we would never consider destroying the beauty of the glades and brook with a big, cleared powerline right-of-way!

Unnecessary Conveniences

One and a half years after our land purchase, Scott and I moved into an octagonal, square-beamed home that we'd built ourselves ... with hand tools. And just before that happy event, we had an electrical-appliance garage sale ... during which we parted with our television, iron, hair dryer, toaster, blender, and various other gadgets we've long since forgotten (and haven't missed).

Now you probably wonder how we get along without such "conveniences." Well, it's not complicated at all: We've replaced electricity with kerosene, propane gas, wood, a car battery, and the heating and cooling properties of the thermal mass in our house.

Mantle-type Aladdin kerosene lanterns provide us with illumination for evening reading and work, for instance. Five of these — two in the living room and three in the kitchen — give off plenty of white light (which is also easy on our eyes when we're doing close work). Throughout the rest of the house, standard kerosene wick lamps produce a soothing yellow glow. Our lighting system probably isn't any less expensive than electrical lamps would be, but it does create a mellower atmosphere and isn't subject to the potential brownouts and blackouts (and pricing whims) of a power company.

During the day our many windows and two skylights provide plenty of light, since — when we designed the house — we were careful to base the placement of the openings on the daily and seasonal positions of the sun. The kitchen (which is the most important room for us) stays bright and cheerful all day long as a result of its southwestern exposure. And there isn't any problem with excessive summer heat buildup, because our home is nestled in the trees, and their leaves filter the sun during the intensely hot months.

David Smith
1/27/2013 7:20:38 PM

Can u put pictures up of your house? It sounds really awesome! I looked up info on living without electricity, after reading about the unhealthy smart meters that are being forced upon people. Someday, I would love to live how you are living...

1/4/2008 6:38:05 PM

Anyone with agood picture of an old treadle grinder ,please email to

1/4/2008 6:37:50 PM

Anyone with agood picture of an old treadle grinder ,please email to

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