Alternative Light Source Plans: When many of us think that electricity is going out, we have an immediate, short-term plan: grab a flashlight or light a candle. However, do we believe what we would have done if the light had not returned?
There are many different reasons why electricity can go out for a considerable period of time. There are other possibilities like tornado, hurricane, wildfire, blizzard, earthquake, tsunami… and yes, war, or poverty that if you are reading this, you would not have given much thought.
Although your life may be currently unaffected by any of these things, it is good to have an alternative light source plan if the power goes out.
Before you make your plan
There is a lot to consider when coming up with a plan for alternative light sources. It is a plan for thinking through short term (hours to days) outages and long term outages (weeks to months), and even a permanent outage. The goal of considering a permanent outage is to find weaknesses that you may not find in a long-term plan.
Other factors such as where you live, what you do all day (or night), if you have children or animals, and the amount of storage space you have available are all things to keep in mind. Consider the protection of each type of light source, they each need to operate, and whether or not you have space to store the light and supply its use.
Battery powered lights
Battery-powered lights are great for short-term outages. They have the potential to serve you well for a long time, but they have their drawbacks.
Although generally considered safe, the battery produces power and can shock, burn, or otherwise injure. Leaked battery acids can eat through the skin, and can be fatal if ingested by an animal or child.
A battery is a power store, and electricity can drain for many reasons. When this happens, the battery becomes permanently dead or needs to be recharged. In this case, you still need some kind of power source to charge the battery, so be sure to take those factors into consideration.
For the health and safety of your home, make sure that the battery is always used and stored properly. Always make sure to keep the backup on hand, and that the battery is not depleted.
The flashlight is a classic alternative light source, and for good reason. They are portable, operate through wind and rain, are generally inexpensive, and will hold a good deal of light.
You can get flashlight, flash settings with storage canisters for an emergency. Some come with stands and hangers, and they can come with adjustable beam settings and light flashes.
The right flashlight is a good investment. However, don’t forget that you really have to act when you need light. You will need a battery or a way to charge your flashlight.
If you want a flashlight that does not use conventional batteries, there are hand-crank flashlights and solar charged flashlights on the market.
Headlamps come in a wide variety of styles and with different settings. You can get them in a hat, on a headband or on a strap. This is a great option for lighting if you need something portable and hands-free. Consider this option if you have to work outside the house in the dark, do some hunting, or walk before the sun goes out.
Headlamps can be uncomfortable, and some are not easy to replace the battery or require odd batteries that are difficult to find. However, many are well designed and some will charge for some types of power supply with a USB connection.
There are two types of lanterns: battery and fuel powered. We will discuss oil lamps soon. The lantern illuminates the entire room or space, while the flashlight and headlamp are very directional and focused.
Like a flashlight, there are plenty of options with battery operated lanterns. Adjustable brightness, light color choice and lantern size are things that you can see when buying a lantern. There are even hand-crank lanterns that can charge for 20+ minutes.
As with anything battery operated, keep in mind that the lighting settings you use can affect the advertised life of the light.
Lighting the flame
Candles, oil lamps, and lanterns are all good options for flame lighting. However, there are a lot of considerations with flame lighting because the risk of fire increases greatly.
Whenever you intend to use a flame, it is good to have fire extinguishers on hand. Make sure that you have the right kind of fire extinguisher for fire extinguishers based on what kind of source you are using or what flammable objects may be in place.
Also, make sure you know how to safely extinguish different types of fires (ie don’t throw oil on the fire, etc.).
Since most people will light a candle to add a pleasant smell to a room or add ambience to a setting, this is definitely an area that should be seriously considered.
Despite safety concerns, flame lighting is a great alternative light source. In the event of a prolonged or even permanent power outage, most people will use wick and flame for lighting, as did our ancestors.
When the power goes out after dark, it is not uncommon to find homes dotted with candles. They can turn off a lot of light to be a simple, small flame. They are also easy to store in your home.
If you are allergic to artificial fragrances or are sensitive to paraffin wax, look for honeycomb of soy or bees that are unscented or use a natural scent.
Some types of wax or wax of different quality will burn longer than others. Different quality wicks can make your candles look cleaner or longer.
Some brands of candles advertise burn time. There are candles that are made just for emergency situations, so keep your eyes open while shopping. A candle that lasts forever when lit for one hour at a time, when lit for one hour at a time.
2. Oil lamps and lanterns
Lamps and lanterns work in the same way, although they have somewhat different purposes. An oil lamp, once lit, will remain stable. However, an oil lantern can sit on a tabletop or work with you. It is incredibly important that if you go this route, to have fire protection equipment.
Make sure you learn how to use your lamp or lantern. You do not want to try to be surrounded by fuel and flames in the dark.
Many lanterns and lamps require a small funnel to fill with oil. Even if you come with a funnel, buy an extra lantern funnel or two. I have noticed that the lantern is too small to come with, and the kitchen funnel will be very large.
Oil Lamps and Lanterns
Oil lamps and lanterns burn slowly and turn off a decent amount of light, making them a good alternative light source for a room that will be of great use during an outage. The light is softer than a flashlight or anything that drives an LED, and it can be very easy on the eyes.
Some oil lamps require a mantle instead of a wick, and they can be a little difficult to “install”. They act almost like a lightbulb, and yet they are very different.
The glass on the lantern or lamp continuously burns and refracts light around the room. Once the lamp is lit, never touch the lamp. It is hot and will burn you. You do not want to clean the glass broken by lamplight because you have dropped it or try to cure burns in the dark.
Kerosene is the recommended oil for lamps because it burns well, is bright, and has a long shelf-life. However, it has a very strong smell, and it can be an irritant to some people. If you suffer from those issues, you may have to look into other sources of fuel.
Anything with a flame will produce at least some soot, and you may need to wipe the glass on a lamp or lantern between uses.
You can often buy kerosene cans where you buy gas cans. In the US, they are blue and come in different sizes. Research where you can buy it by the gallon from the pump. Here, we can get it at a farm store which has a gas station.
If you have to do animal work in the evening, an oil lantern is portable and safe enough to carry with you. If this is a backup plan for you, consider installing a hook to hang your lantern while working. Old buildings and animal beds are highly flammable.
Don’t forget to consider how you will light your candles, lamps or lanterns. Matchboxes and lighters are often kept on hand, but flint is a good back-up. It would be good to have a waterproof container or waterproof match in the event of water damage like a flood.
Solar, generator, and portable charger
Solar, generators and portable chargers are all possible alternative power sources for lighting. However, each has drawbacks if considered for lighting alone and may not be worth it.
There are questions that you should ask yourself before investing in any of these options. Questions like whether you have space or not, what kind of circumstances do you want to put them in and what are your priorities.
In a short term outage, you can be happy kicking off your lights with a generator. During a long-term outage that lasts for a week or more, you may regret running out of your fuel and electricity when your chest freezes and everything melts.
With solar, you can invest in a small unit that can charge or power some small objects without investing huge amounts of money. However, again, you need to consider whether you want to keep current during an outage if solar is your back-up light source plan.
Hand-crank flashlights / radios with solar chargers can charge devices such as cell phones or headlamps in addition to acting as a flashlight on their own. If you do not always want to charge the battery or keep it in stock then it can help solve the battery problem.
A small portable charger is handy for short-term outages. They come in different sizes and price points and serve as a back-up charger for a phone or headlamp with a USB charger. They are limited in how much power you shop, so if you can’t recharge the charger, you’re out of luck.
When considering these options, do not forget to keep safety and practicality in mind for your situation. Flames pose a risk you don’t want to take if you have animals or curious children. If you have space for a generator, but no fuel, this is probably not the right option for you.
Candles and flashlights are easy to store and do not take up too much room. Battery-powered options such as headlamps, nightlights or Christmas lights can be easily wired around and are generally not at risk of fire. However, when you are looking at shelf-life or “burn time”, you put more obstacles here than oil.
You may not be able to come up with a comprehensive lighting plan without considering many other possible aspects of the preparations. Your plan for heating and water may affect the route you take. In the meantime, make sure you have some candles or flashlights on hand.