Lighting in an Amish home


Randy L. McKee photo

How do the Amish light their homes. Without a public power connection, it’s not as simple as flicking a switch.

But Amish do have a number of church-sanctioned ways to illuminate their houses. Like other technologies, lighting will vary across communities. Here are 7 sources of lighting used by the Amish:

1. Propane or Natural Gas Lights
One of the most common sources of illumination. Gas-powered lights may be built into the architecture of the home, or may be freestanding. One of the most typical lights used in family rooms is a tall rolling light with the propane tank enclosed in the wooden base. Wheels allow it to be moved around the room to position it for optimum lighting. Smaller gas lights can be hung from the ceiling. Special metal shields prevent the ceiling from getting too hot.

2. Kerosene Lamps
The more conservative Amish tend to use kerosene-powered lamps. The teardrop glass wick lamp provides a nice glow, though doesn’t generate nearly as much light (or heat) as the above. As a liquid that can be spilled, kerosene can sometimes start fires.

3. Battery-powered lights
Flashlights and other battery-powered lighting are also quite common, especially in mainstream or more progressive Amish abodes. Dewalt lights (called Dewalt for the company brand name) can stand on their own and contain a rechargeable battery in the flat base. These provide a powerful lighting source. They typically have hooks which can be used to hang them from the ceiling. Battery-powered LED bedside lamps, providing dim light for reading, are also common.

4. Skylights
The simplest of all lighting, directly harnessing the power of nature. Not something you see in every Amish home, but a skylight, for instance in a bathroom, provides a limited source of natural light.

5. Diesel and Gasoline Engines
The Amish have been using diesel and gasoline engines to run farm equipment and manufacturing machines for many years. That usage has trickled over to household use as well.

6. Solar Panels
As solar panels become more available, affordable and easy to use, the technology is being embraced by many Amish communities here in Ohio. While connecting to the public power grid is frowned upon as an unhealthy intrusion on their simple lifestyle, the Amish have long considered energy sources such as diesel and gasoline engines and now solar power is considered a legitimate way to run certain machines, cash resisters, sewing machines and meet the rest of their modest electrical needs.

7. Public Grid Electricity
What? I thought the Amish don’t use public power in their homes. Well, for 99% of the Amish, this is true. However there is a small group of around a dozen or so churches known as the electric New Order Amish, who do permit public electricity in the home.

Electric New Orders maintain numerous other Amish traditions, beliefs and practices and so are still considered Amish, even though their adoption of electric means they have may have limited fellowship opportunities with other Amish.