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How do the Amish keep their house warm?

The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships known for simple living, plain dress, and resistance to modern conveniences like electricity. Yet even without modern heating systems, Amish homes stay cozy through the winter. How do they do it? Let’s explore the various methods the Amish use to heat their homes without electricity or gas.

Reliance on Wood Heat

The most common way the Amish heat their homes is with wood stoves and fireplaces. Burning wood provides radiant heat that warms people and surfaces in a room. The Amish have access to abundant wood on their rural properties and farms. Chopping firewood is a frequent chore for Amish men and boys.

Most Amish homes have a centrally located wood stove that heats the main living areas. The stovepipe runs up through the ceiling into the upstairs bedrooms, allowing heat to rise and warm the whole house. Amish women keep a ready pile of split firewood indoors near the stove during winter.

Fireplaces provide additional heat and ambiance in many Amish homes. Central masonry chimneys allow multiple wood stoves to share a flue. The Amish maintain their wood stoves and chimneys meticulously to prevent house fires.

Benefits of Wood Heat

– Renewable resource readily available on Amish properties
– Lower cost than fossil fuels
– Provides radiant and conductive heat
– Long burning with proper wood stovel
– Self-sufficiency appeals to Amish values

Supplemental Heating Sources

While wood stoves do the bulk of heating Amish homes in winter, several supplemental heat sources boost warmth in cold weather:

Passive Solar Heat

The Amish orient new homes to take advantage of passive solar heat. Southerly facing windows allow low winter sunlight to warm interior spaces. Strategic use of shade trees limits summer solar gain.

Cooking and Baking

Wood cookstoves radiate heat while cooking meals. Amish women do a lot of canning, baking and cooking in winter, which adds warmth to the kitchen and adjacent rooms.

Gas and Propane Appliances

Many Amish homes have propane lights and refrigerators. Some also use propane or natural gas for cooking appliances, hot water heaters, or laundry stoves. These devices provide a small amount of supplemental heat, especially in the kitchen.

Heated Bed Warmers

Some Amish families use old-fashioned bed warmers filled with hot rocks or water to pre-heat beds on cold nights. An antique brass bed warmer holds heat for up to eight hours.

Hot Water Bottles and Heated Bricks

Rubber hot water bottles and heated masonry bricks wrapped in towels provide portable heat sources to warm beds and body parts.

Warming Pans

Bed warming pans filled with hot coals or embers slide between sheets to take the chill off before slipping into bed.

Soapstone Wood Stoves

A small number of Amish homes have soapstone wood stoves. After stoking, soapstone releases heat slowly and steadily over 12-24 hours, maintaining warmth.

Passive Heating Methods

In addition to active heating sources, several passive techniques help the Amish keep homes warm:

Strategic Window Placement

Amish homes often have fewer, smaller windows on north facing walls, where cold winter winds prevail. Southern exposures have more windows to capture free solar warmth.

Window Insulation

Indoor insulated window shutters close at night to minimizes heat loss through glass. Some Amish use bubble wrap or plastic sheets to add extra insulation over windows in winter.

Draft Reduction

The Amish caulk and weatherstrip windows and doors to reduce air infiltration. Rugs, quilts, or even cardboard cover cracks under doorways.

Thermal Mass

Stone fireplaces and masonry chimneys store passive solar heat absorbed during the day, slowly radiating it back overnight.

Caulking and Weatherstripping

Sealing gaps and cracks in the exterior prevents cold air from sneaking into the home’s envelope. The Amish also add extra insulation like quilt batts in attics and walls.

Movable Insulation

Insulated window coverings, bedding, and other movable insulation add warmth where needed.

Lifestyle Factors

Certain Amish lifestyle choices also influence heating needs:

Smaller Homes

The typical Amish home is under 2,000 square feet, much smaller than the modern American average home size of over 2,600 square feet. Smaller spaces require less energy to heat.

Open Floor Plans

Many Amish homes have open floor plans. This allows heat to freely circulate between rooms rather than getting trapped in closed-off spaces.

Family Bedrooms

Parents often sleep in the main floor bedroom, while children share bedrooms upstairs. Body heat from multiple children in one room adds warmth.

Dressing Warmly

Amish clothing traditions help household members stay warm even in unheated bedrooms. Long underwear, sweaters, wool socks, and quilted jackets trap body heat.

Cold Hardy Lifestyles

The Amish acclimate well to cooler indoor temperatures that might discomfort most modern Americans accustomed to central heating.

Gathering in Shared Spaces

Amish families gather together in the main living areas in the evenings. Body heat from a gathered family cluster adds warmth to these shared living spaces.

Community Barn Raising

For new home construction, the Amish hold community barn raising events. The entire community pitches in to build a new home rapidly, often in a single day. This efficient building style allows the focus to remain on effective heating techniques rather than luxury finishing touches.

Off-Grid Power Sources

While the Amish do not use electricity from the public grid, some power alternatives include:

Battery Power

Many Amish use 12 volt DC batteries charged by solar panels or gas generators to power lights, appliances, or heating devices.

Pressure Lights

Gas lights that use pressurized propane provide warm illumination without electric wires.

Wood Gasifiers

A small number of Amish wood gasifier furnaces and stoves generate flammable gas and electricity from wood.

Transitioning to Alternative Energy

A growing number of progressive Amish families are adopting alternative energy sources like solar thermal panels for hydronic heat systems. However, off-grid renewable energy remains cost prohibitive for most Amish households. Wood will continue providing primary heat in Amish homes for the foreseeable future.


Without modern furnaces, the Amish creatively combine wood heat, supplemental heat sources, passive techniques, and lifestyle choices to stay warm through harsh winters. Core Amish values of self-sufficiency, simplicity, and group cooperation allow them to thrive without electrical heating. Their ingenious methods for heating homes off-the-grid provide practical inspiration for anyone wishing to rely more on renewable resources.