Amish & Electricity

How do the Amish use electricity?

One of the easiest ways to identify an Amish home is to look for the electric power lines running into the house; if you don’t see them, you are probably looking at an Amish home. Living without electricity is something most Americans would find very difficult to do. Imagine cooking your meals without a microwave, blender, or electric mixer. Or even worse, imagine spending your evenings with no electric lights, TV, VCR, or stereo. As difficult as it seems, the Amish do this every day of their life. They cook using gas stoves, light their homes with gas lamps, and read instead of watching TV.

Making Amish Crafts with Air

When it comes to making their crafts, the Amish again get by without electricity. When they piece a quilt, they do so on a treadle or compressed air powered sewing machine. All quilting is done by hand.Wood crafts and furniture are generally made using tools powered by compressed air. The work shops usually have a lot of sky lights and operate only during the day to take advantage of natural lighting (and to avoid having to use gas lamps around highly combustible saw dust).

It all started with the milk coolers. According to new government regulations, dairy farmers were required to refrigerate their milk while it was being stored on the farm. This posed a problem for Amish dairy farmers since the Amish church prohibited the use of standard electricity.

Amish and Generators

This was a crisis. Without electricity, the Amish couldn’t store milk, and the church was adamant that Amish were not going connect to the local electric company. Finally a solution was found. It was decided that diesel generators could be used to power the refrigerators. This decision allowed the Amish to continue their tradition as dairy farmers without having to use public electricity.

Air compressors are introduced to the Amish

Eventually someone had a bright idea to get double duty from the generators. While a generator was running to cool the milk, they also used it to compress air which was then stored in a tank. This compressed air was then used to power a water pump, so the Amish were no longer reliant on windmills or gas powered pumps to get water. From this point, it was only a matter of time until other adaptations were made.

Today Amish are using compressed air to run washers, sewing machines, and kitchen appliances such as mixers and blenders. Compressed air is also powering the current boom in Amish wood shops as Amish crafts people use it to run their power tools.

The diesel generators are also being used to charge car batteries. These batteries are then used to power lights on their buggies as required by state law. Today they are also being used to run glue guns, cash registers, small fans and other small appliances that didn’t adapt well to compressed air.

Despite all the added conveniences that compressed air and batteries have bought, the Amish life is still one of deep-rooted simplicity. Their homes still lack TV’s and electric lights, they still travel by horse drawn buggies, and on wash day, their clothes are still hung on a clothes lines to dry just as they’ve always been. In the end, the core values are still firmly in place.


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