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How to Light Your Home When the Grid Goes Down

emergency lighting

Have you ever spent a night in your city when ALL the lights were out? I have! Kind of eerie, isn't it?

One night in the dark can be kind of fun - an adventure, but several nights, or longer, can be very difficult, especially if you have children who might be scared by the darkness for days.

We recently took an inventory of our lighting preparedness — we didn't do so well. We found we had a few flashlights but not near enough batteries if the blackout lasted more than three days to a week.


But more importantly, our flashlights are old and the lights are very dim. Not a great help long term. Time for some new flashlights!

Lighting Ideas for a Long Term Outage

LED Flashlights

FLASHLIGHTS: Flashlights are one of the easiest emergency lights to store — there are so many sizes and types. One that holds two batteries will run continuously for 6 hours, although it is seldom used continuously for 6 hours. Batteries need to be stored in a cool area - not cold - just cool. Cold temperatures can ruin or shorten the life of batteries.

There are also combination solar-powered AM/FM/NOAA weather radios that include a flashlight and a USB cell phone charger.


light sticks

LIGHT STICKS (Chemical): Lightsticks have come to be associated with emergency lighting situations. They were first seen at outdoor nighttime events such as on the 4th of July. They give off a nice green glow but are not a bright light. They could be kept in various places around the home for instant light to help find other sources of light in an emergency. They are great for storage as they cost little and need no other fuel. The only disadvantage is that they are a one-time use item. You shake to light them up, they burn for 8-12 hours, and they're done. Kids love them!

Emergency Candles

EMERGENCY CANDLES: The best kind of candles to put into storage are those that come in a container, usually glass. They are safer and will burn longer with less mess. The Ready Candle burns liquid parafin (wax), is smokeless and odorless, and burns for 100 hours. The wax is contained within the bottle so there is no messy melted wax to spill.

For enough light for reading light several of these candles. Candles are inexpensive ($5.00 - $10.00) and are not as dangerous as wax candles that are not in a container. Make sure they are out of any drafts and not close to anything that will burn. A quick draft can make the flame jump to any flammable object.

Candles can also be made from cooking oil. Take a piece of string, lay one end in cooking oil in a dish and allow the other end to hang over the edge. Light the dry end. Use 7 to 8 strings for more light. These are very smoky and should be used only when nothing else is available.

CANDLE LANTERNS: Small candle "lanterns" are available in many sporting goods sections that combine the safety features of candle, base, glass chimney, and carrying/hanging handle in one. Some brass or stainless steel versions are designed to hold the standard white emergency candles (3 inches tall by 1 inch in diameter). Others hold tea lights, which will burn for two to four hours, as compared to nine hours for the emergency candles.

LIQUID-FUEL CANDLES: These are similar to the oil lamps used back in biblical times. Using lamp oil, they will burn from sixty to one hundred hours. However, there is only a small, single flame so don't count on them lighting up a room. They give off about as much light as a dinner candle. They would be a good choice for a nightlight since they burn for so long. Just be sure and put them in a safe place.

Goal Zero solar lantern

LANTERNS: Lanterns come in many varieties. Some burn lamp oils, citronella oil (for mosquito protection), and others burn kerosene. If improperly lit, kerosene creates more and darker smoke than lamp oil, as well as having a slight odor. Some will burn any of the three types of oil. Fuels may be available in drugstores and/or the larger K-Mart or Walmart-type outlets.

Old-fashioned, standard oil lamps are a tried-and-true option. (Learn the best way to fill and use an oil lamp - step-by-step and easy.)

Goal Zero has a solar lantern (pictured) that is eco-friendly with a dynamo crank to charge it as well as solar. Unlike other lanterns, the Lighthouse 250 will charge your cell phone, camera, gps, and other devices. Light up your campsite or use for ambience at outdoor parties.

LED LIGHT STRINGS: These are ordinary Christmas lights but as long as they are LEDs, they come in extremely handy if you happen to have any kind of a generator. They are especially great if you have a solar generator because they are very energy efficient using only 4.8 Watts per string. String several of these 100 foot strings together and you have the whole room lit up. The kids will think it's Christmas!

Solar Garden Lights

SOLAR GARDEN LIGHTS: Yes, that's right - bring your solar-powered garden lights inside to use as nightlights. The bright-white LED lights are brighter than the amber lights. Though neither is bright enough to light up an entire room, the bright-white ones do a pretty good job of lighting a small area. Their value lies in their renewable light source - no batteries, no oil, no dangerous fuel. During the day, just put them outside or in a sunny window to soak up the sun's rays. Even in cloudy winter gloom, most will recharge enough to create a comforting glow that will last for eight to 10 hours.


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