Web Culture

This Is How And Why The Amish Live Off The Grid

Tina Sieber 14-01-2014

How would a lack of electricity Top 10 Activities To Do When There's A Power Outage Read More affect your life? There is a group of traditionalist people, who reject many of modern society’s technology, including electricity from the public grid: the Amish. That, however, does not prevent them from enjoying some of the comforts of technology.


Why Do Amish People Reject Electricity?

Interestingly, Amish don’t reject electricity per se; the subject is more complicated than that.

The power source itself is not the issue. Running household items with electricity, like an iron or a lamp, is perfectly agreeable with Amish beliefs. Technology that adds value to the community, is a welcome tool, although each community individually decides what exactly is considered valuable. Being connected to the power grid, however, would inevitably establish a tight connection to the non-Amish world. This in turn, fear the Amish, could influence their culture in undesired ways. Moreover, Amish leaders recognized early on that electricity can potentially power many things, and thus its use was banned in 1920.

Charging Devices

Electricity does not discriminate, and eliminating public power from the home prevents the temptation of using television, radio, and the Internet in the home. Additionally, too much reliance on labor-saving devices, Amish feel, may deprive children of character-building opportunities to work.
Source: Amish America

How Do They Generate Power?

This is where it gets interesting. Since they refuse to buy electricity from the public grid, but still depend on energy for many of their everyday operations, they were forced to developed many workarounds. To power appliances, Amish use batteries, propane gas, compressed air pressure, various generators, hydraulic pumps, and even solar panels.

While not all of their power sources, like propane gas or diesel, are sustainable, they are rather creative, independent, and used to living off the grid.


How Do They Use Electricity?

Amish are probably not as backward as you think. Most use electric lights, often LEDs, instead of candles, gas or oil lamps, they have gas-powered fridges, washers, solar-powered electric fences, they use electric tools, and back in 2008, someone even developed a Classic Word Processor, aka an Amish computer.

Amish Computer

This dumped down computer was “made specifically for the plain people by the plain people.” It came without connectivity ports, sound, pictures, games, or other features beyond the ability to process documents and be useful for business.

For the Amish, the key is to stay off any grid that connects them too tightly to the modern world. As long as our worldly luxuries don’t violate their independence and their Christian values or threaten their community, anything is game. That naturally excludes the Internet What Happened When I Went Completely Offline For A Week Living in the Internet era has changed us to such an extent that the idea of having to live completely offline even for a little while sounds like a prison sentence. But it really isn't. Read More and home phones.


The Amish are suspicious that beneath the glitter of modernity lurks a divisive force that in time might fragment and obliterate their close-knit community.
~Donald Kraybill, The Riddle of Amish Culture

What Can We Learn From The Amish?

The Amish’s first and foremost concern is to preserve their Christian values and protect their cherished community. They are deeply aware of how quickly a community can deteriorate, if individuals temporarily forgo common values to strive for personal goals or satisfaction.

If you thought the Amish are a dying community, think again. They aren’t many, but their population has been growing from 165,000 in the year 2000, to approximately 249,000 in 2012. That’s a 50% increase in 12 years. Meanwhile, overall birth rates in many Western countries are stagnating or even dropping. It seems like the Amish are thriving.

You can conquer this with deprecatory comments and comparisons all you want; there is something to be learned here. The Amish know what they value and they have a clear vision for their future; their lives revolve around their community and nothing else. Based on these premises, they carefully evaluate every new technology, trying to understand what the consequences of its use may be and whether it can serve them in a good way.


When they do find a tool they have a need for, they amend the technology to remove all elements that don’t serve them, such as with the word processor. They are never rushed to madly follow a trend and thus their culture is developing slow enough to maintain its key values and characteristics; its identity. They rule and hack technology, so gadgets won’t run their life.

The lifestyle of the Amish might be backward and old-fashioned; most of their values, however, are universal and timeless. Western societies share many of these values, but what is our vision for our future? Consumption to maintain endless growth Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Every year, exhibitions around the world present new high tech devices; expensive toys that come with many promises. They aim to make our lives easier, more fun, super connected, and of course they are status... Read More ? And where are we ending up with this strategy compared to the Amish?

I’m not proposing to live like the Amish. But I do think that this extremely simple, non-conforming, and self-sufficient lifestyle is a blueprint for how an intentional way of living 3 Apps To Help You Practice Mindfulness in 2014 and Beyond If you feel like the past year went by like a jet plane, you might be doing something wrong. Read More , a way of life that is based on values and vision, paired with careful evaluation of new developments, can help an individual, a community, and a society thrive sustainably.

What is your vision for our common future?


Image credits: Amish Buggy by Anita Ritenour via Flickr, Charging Station by Nottingham Hackspace This Is How And Why The Amish Live Off The Grid There is a group of traditionalist people, who reject many of modern society's technology, including public grid electricity: the Amish. That, however, does not prevent them from enjoying some of the comforts of technology. Read More via Flickr, Classic Word Procesor via Amish Internet Blog

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  1. Jason
    February 18, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    How are the Amish allowed to no be connected to the electric grid? The government doesn't require them to be connected or have electricity?

    • katajojo
      November 30, 2016 at 6:30 am

      No. The govt doesnt require anyone to be connected to the grid. You can tell the electric company to turn off your power if you want, and then have fun!

  2. sl0j0n
    May 24, 2015 at 5:53 am

    Hello, all.
    As a minister, I think you've overlooked part of the Amish tradition.
    As it was explained to me,
    the Scriptures contain a long established 'truth' about the fact that those we associate with can affect us for good, or for bad.
    There's a very old saying, "Birds of a feather, flock together".
    It simply means that people tend to join with those of similar viewpoints,
    & that the views of our associates can influence us.
    The Scriptures urge us to be careful about our relationships with others,
    because not all want the things, not all have the same goals,
    & not all believe the same things.
    The Amish take that to an extreme,
    on the belief that entering into a business relationship with the power company or the telephone company, is similar to hanging with criminals,
    or sending your children to public schools with demon-worshippers.
    So they isolate themselves in their communities, where most share the same views & where they're less likely to be influenced by "worldly" people, or the "ungodly," & who would make it harder for them to serve their "God," their way.
    IMO, they've misinterpreted the Scriptures, conflating spiritual things with material things. The two are very different, the power company is not the same as The Knights of Columbus, & a volunteer fire department is not the same as the mafia.
    The Scriptures also teach us to be reasonable, & sound in mind. That's a good goal for all, don't you think?

    • Tina
      May 24, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      Interesting perspective. It's certainly true that your environment, including the people around you, influence who you are. I didn't consider that this is why they are isolating themselves to such a degree, i.e. to maintain maximum control over their environment. Thanks for the comment, sl0j0n!

    • Jen
      April 29, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Umm, what's wrong with the Knights of Columbus?

    • katajojo
      November 30, 2016 at 6:34 am

      sir you are incorrect. The writer had it right, and this comment from you:

      The Amish take that to an extreme,
      on the belief that entering into a business relationship with the power company or the telephone company, is similar to hanging with criminals,
      or sending your children to public schools with demon-worshippers.

      Is utterly false about the Amish.

  3. Jim
    May 13, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    I think when America goes dark we will all wish we were a little bit Amish and its not if but when, it is coming get ready for the downfall of the once greatest nation in the world. The Amish are smart and well prepared and have been that way for years.

  4. Andrea
    January 29, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Can I just say, it is really nice reading an article that explains, correctly, why the Amish do what they do.

    I'm not Amish (clearly) - I'm Mennonite. Or, as a friend put it, "Amish with cell phones". The suspicion that Amish have for new technologies is not all bad. We should be more aware of how technologies influence us. Technology is power, which can be used for enormous good, but not if we're reckless. Texting can be a lifesaver in the right circumstances. In the wrong circumstances, it can kill you.

    The downside, though, is not just that you "miss out". Amish lifestyle isn't as ecologically sound as one might hope. There's a lot to be gained by getting to know people around the world via this Internet thing. There's enormous good that doesn't happen when people don't connect to the world around them.

    We need to remember both sides. Always.

    • Tina S
      January 29, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      Thank you for your feedback, Andrea. I agree fully that it's important to remain open minded.

  5. Guest
    January 24, 2014 at 5:30 am

    Go Amish. I don't agree with any facet of religion, but when it comes to Luddism as a way of life, I say rock on. At least they aren't bombarded with stupid celebrity crap on Twitter, and chances are there are very few ways the NSA can spy on them.

    BTW: Free Ted Kaczynski.

  6. larry
    January 17, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Electrical grid bad....propane grid ok?

    • katajojo
      November 30, 2016 at 6:54 am

      yes. you've missed the entire point. it has nothing to do with electricity being BAD....it has to do with being totally self sufficient, and free from being connected to outside society. Electricity keeps you dependent on the community that runs the power grid. When you are connected to the city power grid you are connected to the city, and therefore connected to all its concerns and its government charters that could affect the power coming to your home. Once you connect to the grid you start caring about things like the price of a kwh, and the government officials that regulate the price of that kwh. You start caring about the utility department elections, bc you want to vote the guy in that will keep your costs down. You start to now have to have the city meter box on your house that has to be maintained by the city, and you have to answer now to the city regulating it. THAT is what they DON'T WANT. They don't want to start caring about any of that kind of thing. They don't want to start worrying that if the cost of the kwh goes up they need to become 'conscientious voters,' bc THEY DONT VOTE or get involved in ANY government whatsoever.

      Going and buying propane at the local CoOp store and taking it home with you to power your OWN power grid is no different than buying shoes. Once you buy the shoes you have no other connection to the store owner whatsoever. Is ISNT the electricity they are against....it's being connected to society with all its concerns that take us away from being kind and working hard. They are not against electricity....but against the INFRASTRUCTURE it is connected to.

  7. Jeo
    January 17, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    We should all be a bit more Amish ... it would do us good.

  8. Tony Salcedo
    January 16, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I live in Lancaster County, PA, which is to say, Ground Zero for the Amish community. Personally, I am against ANY group that teaches superstition over scientific, methodologically discovered fact, however, they aren't nearly as vile as say, the Westboro Baptist Church, or even the Catholic church.

    With that said, I know the Amish take to heart, the Judeo-Christian value of "not being of the world", however, this is delusional thinking. They very much affect the world every time one of their 5-10 MP/H horse and buggies causes an accident, which I think is a public nuisance that I deal with first hand, every time I come over a hill (the area is VERY hilly overall, with winding and twisting back roads everywhere) and have to slam on my brakes because some Amish family wants to keep to their delusional traditions (mind you, I generally drive the speed limit, it's not like I'm gunning it in a Ferrari or something).

    If you live on this planet, the only way you're going to be really disconnected is to live on a secluded island. They do indeed use resources everyone else does, and to think otherwise is once again, delusional. I realize there are some sects that are a bit more accepting of modern convenience, and perhaps are less apt to fit what I've described, my issue with those groups is simply that they derive their beliefs from a place that isn't rational or logical. That's a different discussion. Don't take this criticism as intolerance. I tolerate them just fine, I'm very live and let live. But I'm sorry, public safety is more important than your myths. If you think otherwise, either get a car/bike/scooter/motorcycle/whatever or don't use public roads you don't even pay taxes for.

    • Andrea
      January 29, 2014 at 7:37 pm

      Your criticisms are valid, and as a Mennonite, I'd say this is mostly why I like my branch of Anabaptism best. (Hutterites are just scary. :-) )

      I think this article is aimed more for the people who have never met any Amish, who don't live anywhere near them. When you've got a people group that's as secluded as these, you get myths and stereotypes, and when this group of people isn't online, it just gets worse. For me, it's nice to read something that's accurate for once.

    • Jen
      April 29, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      Suggested speed signs are posted on corners and hills in Indiana anywhere from 5-20 mph. Combination of Amish, deer, and cows. I don't know why people don't pay attention to those signs. Maybe because their insanely busy modern life doesn't allow them to slow down for their own safety or anyone else's.

      Also, what's your beef with Catholics?

    • katajojo
      November 30, 2016 at 7:02 am

      well, at least a good thing about the Amish not being online is....they won't ever see the crap you just slung at them.

      I have lived around Amish, and I'll take a 1000 buggies in my way if it still means that I can buy their baked goods!!!!! and their ice cream! and oh yea...cinnamon rolls! and their quilts, and their wood tables. Seriously you think they're a road hazzard? Well maybe they think the same about YOUR CAR. Bicycles have access to the roadways, and the buggies are no more hazard than bikes. When you're in Amish area drive slow. Geees. Soooooo take a cup of cat nip tea and chill out.

  9. Alan
    January 15, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    I think in a way that I'm sad I was not brought up Amish...or Japanese...or maybe other cultures I am not aware of. I admire their work ethic and sense of community and respect for one another. It's something you don't see much of anymore in the U.S. :(

  10. Diane E
    January 15, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    I don't live too close to Amish folks or Mennonites, but have shopped in a few of their stores and been to their communities and petted a few of their horses as I met them in town.
    Although I don't care for many of their ideas, their self sufficiency and innovation to live life the way they choose in the midst of our modern world is interesting and yes indeed folks could learn something from it. Our reliance on modern conveniences might not translate well to a world without them, so it never hurts to be aware and co-opt useful knowledge.
    I personally believe we should strive to learn from all that goes on around us, even things we don't necessarily approve of. Knowledge is power.

  11. Josip F
    January 15, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Idealize much? Read this article and comments below:

    • dragonmouth
      January 16, 2014 at 12:47 am

      If you think this is limited to only the Amish, you are sadly mistaken. This goes on in all closed societies, communities, groups and sects, especially the ones that are sticking to the fundemental tenets of their religion. There are misguided people all over the world. Some are even living right next door to you and you don't even know it.

    • Tinkicker
      January 16, 2014 at 2:30 am

      MIsguided people...exactly what is the definition? Someone who doesn't believe what we believe? That's pretty misguided.
      I'd say to be misguided is to participate or submit to beliefs that hurt you in some way. Sounds like everybody in the U.S. EXCEPT the Amish lol. They seem pretty darn happy and satisfied. I can't say that for modern Americans...gotta get more do more see more be more earn more so I can impress people who don't even mean anything to me and who I don't even know.
      I couldn't live the Amish way of life, but I sure am not going to criticize them. They've got my respect.

    • dragonmouth
      January 16, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      "MIsguided people…exactly what is the definition?"
      Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Irish Republican Army, Tamil Tigers, Aum ShinriKyo, Jim Jones, the Inquisition, etc.

  12. JasonDinalt
    January 15, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Amish population grows - their girls pump out kids
    Birth rates in western world are dropping
    We should learn from Amish - dumb down our girls with ideology and turn them into sows, into children producing machines.

    • Tina S
      January 15, 2014 at 10:31 am

      You're missing the point. I didn't say "live like the Amish", I wrote that we can learn from them. They are smart about preserving and developing their way of life. There is plenty of evidence that the rest of the world is not.

    • katajojo
      November 30, 2016 at 7:08 am

      The Amish women aren't like that at all, and they don't pop out children. their family sizes are standard average. Amish children do not have to stay in Amish society. They are free to go be an "Englisher" if they want, and they accept converts. The fact that the community has increased really has nothing to do with "having babies." The writer's point was that it is impressive that such an off grid strict society is gaining ground and not losing it. By family size, by converts, and the offsetting of those who leave when they come of age. It's amazing that in 2016 that this society isn't dwindling. That was her point.

  13. Dave H
    January 15, 2014 at 7:24 am

    "Beards seem higher maintenance"? Nah! It's less work to shampoo the beard than to shave any day.

  14. monkeebizz
    January 15, 2014 at 6:45 am

    I think it might be very good to be this way as what will happen if the system goes down because sometimes I wonder about how some people would be able to cope in a great famine when say air dropped flour and oil is sitting on a pallet .
    people are so modernized now that they might have difficulty converting simple products like these into food.If you understand what I'm trying to say but I find my experience dealing with modern society and religion is making me insane and FULL of paranoia ,guilt, and wondering what I need to do ? Damned if I do damned if I do not!

  15. Tracey
    January 15, 2014 at 4:17 am

    the Mennonites are the ones who use electricity.There are many "sects" of amish.

    • Andrea
      January 29, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      And the internet. :-) There are Mennonites who are very similar to the Amish; there are lots of sects of each.

      (Hi, I'm Mennonite!)

  16. Larry J
    January 15, 2014 at 3:59 am

    I always wondered why they refused to utilize modern technology. Now I understand. Makes sense. Yet still can't get over the backwards intent.

  17. mango
    January 14, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Steve, "Beards seem higher maintenance" .. Only someone without a beard could think that..

    • dr.torres
      January 16, 2014 at 1:07 am

      Exactly. The only real maitenance my beard requires is a washin' and a strokin'.

  18. Steve
    January 14, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    I grew an appreciation for the Amish from Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools site, and various videos of their respect for simplicity. I don't understand why they don't use razors though. Beards seem higher maintenance.