how-amish-lighting-worksHow 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.

1. Propane or Natural Gas Lighting

This is one of the most prevalent forms of lighting among the Amish (perhaps the most common today). Gas lighting can be portable, or built into the architecture of the home.

The gas fires a thorium-based mantle which glows extremely brightly, giving off ample illumination (and heat). All you do is turn on the fuel regulator and light the mantle with a lighter (or vice versa, but you get the point).

mantle-gas-light-amish-house

We’ve seen photos of these before, such as this built-in lighting in an Ohio Amish home, or this tall rolling mobile floor unit. I’ve even seen this type of lighting in the form of an outdoor yard light in front of an Amish home.

2. Kerosene Lamp

This is the classic teardrop glass wick lamp which gives off a warm soothing glow. Not nearly as much light compared to the above.

This might be how many people imagine Amish do lighting, but it is more common in the most traditional communities.

kerosene-lamp-flame

Even though the lighting choices listed just above and below this one are more popular, you still see these in Amish homes in a technologically-progressive place like Lancaster County.

I use one of these sometimes at a friend’s home if my flashlight batteries die and I’m still trying to read. Another Lancaster friend fondly recalled his parents leaving one left lit on the kitchen table for him when as a youth he returned home late from running around.

3. Battery-powered Lights

The stand-up Dewalt lights as they are called (after the maker’s brand name) provide powerful lighting which can illuminate a room.

They’re especially convenient because they stand up on their own, or can be hung from a hook in the ceiling. As you can see in the photo, they are powered by an 18-volt rechargeable battery pack which pops in the bottom.

dewalt-18v-light

You also have less-powerful smaller lights like the bedside table light mentioned here. Other portable battery lights are popular; for example if doing something in the dark outside, an Amish person might wear a headband LED lamp. Amish make ample use of handy battery-powered lighting.

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.

Also seen in Amish shops, as in the photo below:

skylights-amish-store

Not going to work too well at night, of course.

5. 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-and-a-half churches known as the electric New Order Amish, who do permit public electricity in the home.light-bulb

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

Image credits: Gas light in dark- sworm/flickr; kerosene wick- pshab/flickr; skylights in Amish shop- markstos/flickr; electric bulb- craftygoat/flickr