Wondering if the Amish Use Electricity?


The Amish moved to the United States in the 18th century to escape European persecution and find new land to farm. [1] They are known for their humble, simple life separate from the rest of the world. With the introduction of electricity after their settlement in the United States, did the Amish use electricity?

The Amish forgo connection to the public electric power grid, but some use off-grid electricity, such as diesel, gas, and solar power, for limited electric use. The Amish consider modern technology carefully to decide if they will adopt or use it in any form.

The Amish choose to insulate themselves from the rest of the world and focus on family and community. Therefore, they must carefully contemplate modern technology, such as electricity, on how adopting it would affect these connections. This article will discuss what the Amish believe about electricity and other modern technologies.

electric grid
What off-grid electricity do the Amish use? See below

What Do Amish Believe About Using Electricity?

Most Amish in the United States don’t connect to the public grid as most Americans do. They don’t connect to the grid because they believe public power relies too much on the outside world, increasing the temptation for prohibited technologies, like TV or the internet. They see the need for electricity today, though.

In fact, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, banned the use of public electricity in 1920, and the ban is still in effect in 2022. [2]

Instead of connecting to the power grid, the Amish use off-grid electricity for specific purposes. Some of these off-grid systems include:

  • Propane and natural gas
  • Diesel and gas generators
  • Solar and wind energy

Propane and natural gas are the most common sources of electricity, as they can be built into the architecture of the building or used as freestanding sources. [3]

An everyday activity for Amish families is to spend time together in the evenings reading. They often use propane tanks for light. The Amish also use propane and natural gas to power refrigerators or washing machines in Amish homes.

Diesel and gas generators are also commonly used in Amish communities. They are used to provide electricity to power tools and other farm equipment as well as other appliances in the home.

Solar panels became more popular in Amish communities in Ohio as the panels became more affordable, available, and easy to use. [2]

Electricity is also required when the Amish drive their buggies at night. States with large populations of Amish require buggies to be lit when on public roads. [1] Most lights in buggies are powered by batteries and have either LED or, less commonly, halogen bulbs.

Amish man

What Do Amish Use As Well as Electricity?

The Amish, especially Old Order Amish, use other sources of light in addition to or instead of off-grid electricity. They may use anything from traditional kerosene or oil lamps to battery-powered lights and skylights.

As already stated, the Amish use electricity to a certain degree. That does not mean they don’t use other methods to provide light to a house or business. 

For example, more conservative Amish communities often use traditional kerosene lamps to light their house. [4] The issue of using kerosene lamps is the higher likelihood of fires. 

Luckily, buildings with kerosene or oil lamps often have a fire alarm system. Unfortunately, they tend to be crude devices, similar to a wind-up clock. These fire alarms are sold in areas with a lot of Amish, but many complain that the prices are steep. Still, it’s better to have a fire alarm than not.

Kerosene or oil lamps are dimmer than other forms of illumination the Amish use, but they can still present a nice glow. 

The Amish also commonly use battery-powered lights, such as flashlights. They may also use Dewalt lights hooked to the ceiling or freestanding on the ground. These lights are very bright and have a rechargeable battery, so they don’t need to be replaced, just recharged. [2]

Another light source many Amish families utilize is the skylight. Skylights are a fantastic way to get natural light into a home. For example, a person could put a skylight in a bathroom to provide light during the day. [2]

In general, the Amish are not against the use of electricity. They know how helpful electricity is. The Amish simply don’t want to join the public electric grid to stop any bad influences from the outside world from getting inside their homes. It also symbolizes their separation from the rest of the world.

electric bulbs
What is Ordnung? See below

Do Amish Use Any Modern Technology?

The Amish are not opposed to using modern technology but are cautious about which technologies they use. The modern technology a community can use depends on their Ordnung, an Amish community’s oral code of behavior. [1]

Each Amish community has its own Ordnung, every one different from the other. Following the rules and regulations laid down by the Ordnung is a test of an Amish member and is considered a way to show their humble spirit. [1]

The Amish rely on various modern technologies, from laundry machines to cell phones. They are cautious about which technologies they include and use in their communities. The Amish don’t use technology that they believe will negatively affect relationships between families and communities or that would take away from teaching children the value of hard work. [5]

There is also a difference between owning modern technology and using technology for the Amish. Owning the technology itself is more dangerous since using technology in everyday life may make it too convenient. [5] Therefore, most of the modern technology used by the Amish is used in moderation and for specific purposes only.

Some of the modern technologies that many of the Amish use include:

  • Laundry machines
  • Cell phones and landline phones
  • Power tools
  • Electric lights
  • Refrigerators

Suppose an Amish family has a landline phone. In that case, it is generally kept outside the house, in a barn, or another outhouse to be used for emergencies or running a business.

Also, Amish are more likely to have and use modern technology at work rather than at home or school.

Conclusion

The Amish do use electricity, but they don’t connect to the public electric grid. They use off-grid electricity like diesel engines and solar panels.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source
[5] Source

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see the About page for details.

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