The Lights Don’t Work – Now What?

I remember when I got my first set of high quality solar rechargeable flashlights, I was so excited, I couldn’t wait till the power went out so I could see how well they worked in a legitimate power outage.

Sure, I tried them out at night by turning all the lights off but it just wasn’t the same.  It’s such a habit to flip the light switch when you walk in a room, it was too easy to forget we were pretending all the power was off.

I’ve upgraded my solar lights over the years and now prefer the Goal Zero Torch 250.  It has a very efficient solar recharging panel as well as a USB cable and hand crank to assist in charging.  I keep these solar flashlights in almost every room in the house.  I put them in the window sills so they are constantly being charged every day – even when it’s cloudy outside.

Having access to a reliable source of light is not only essential for safety and preparedness but it’s also important to help keep one’s spirits and mood elevated.  Being in the dark can be a very scary, stressful and depressing event.  Especially for younger ones – it’s the night-light principle.

I wanted to spend a little time discussing options as they relate to providing light during a power outage.

Lightning is probably the most common thing people normally associate with power outages. You are sitting at home and you are cast into darkness. The TV silences. As a child, during summer thunder storms that would knock out power, I was excited. I would run to get the flashlights and candles; it was just like indoor camping!

During the summer, long days would allow you to still have light for reading or board games until close to bedtime.  However other parts of the year (or the globe), a power outage can mean many hours of darkness before sleeping.

As you may never know how long the power will be out, do you have a plan to provide light in your home or learn to do without?

Lights without Power

1)  Flashlights

For most of us, this is the go-to light source the minute the power goes out. Small battery powered LED flashlights are great to have around the house but should not be relied upon for your primary source of light.  As I mentioned above, a good quality solar rechargeable flashlight is your best option for long-term lighting solutions.

We’ve all experienced the frustration of grabbing a flashlight only to realize the batteries are dead or they go dead after using the flashlight for just a couple of minutes. So if you choose to keep several of these little guys around the house, you have to be vigilant and check the batteries often – especially if they use AAA batteries.  These flashlights are convenient but just don’t have the staying power to keep things eliminated very long.

2)  Reduce your need for lighting

While it may not be necessary at first, aligning your daily schedule with the sun will reduce your need for light.  This may include aligning your sleep schedule. Normally you may wake at noon and stay up until 3 am, but this will require much more additional lighting (in whatever form), then if you went to bed closer to sunset.

Also, do activities as a group. Rather than having everyone sitting in different rooms with their own lights, bring everyone together and share the light source.

3)  Candles

Your average taper candle will burn an inch an hour. So your 10-12 inch candles equals to 10-12 hours. How many candles are in your home, and how long will they last form? Taper candles are portable and tall, great for casting gentle light for moving about.  A box of 30, 10″ candles which would give you 300 hours of light.

Then there are the 100 hour candles. You can also find liquid candles that claims to burn for +100 hours. These are not as portable, and more expensive per burn time then the standard taper candles.

Don’t forget last year’s Christmas gift candles. Those Yankee candles and other odd-ball candles in glass jars can also be burned as a light source, even if you don’t consider them part of your survival gear.  And there’s an additional bonus, your house will smell nice.

With any candle, be sure to stock fire starting supplies like matches and lighters. I find the best matches are cheap, but I splurge for the Bic Lighters when it comes to reliability.

4)  Mini solar lights

Small portable solar lighting can be a great light source that doesn’t require batteries or won’t burn down like a candle.

Garden solar powered lights can a greater renewable source for light. Leave them in a sunny window during the day and have a small portable light for walking around at night. They can be found at most Walmart’s or even the Dollar Store.  They’re not very bright and won’t stay on all night but they are a cheap way to provide some light around the house.

I learned another great application of these solar garden lights – that of showing where you tent ropes are.  If your tent requires ropes to keep your tent from blowing away or to keep your rain fly on, put a garden solar light next to each staked rope and you’ll never have to worry about tripping over the rope when you get up in the middle of the night to go to the bedroom.

5)  Large lanterns

Large lanterns can be used for lighting up a whole room, a tent or outside area.  Solar powered lanterns provide a renewable source of energy (assuming it’s sunny). LED lights do provide bright light for less energy than traditional lights, which pushes it’s capabilities further.

More traditional camping lanterns run off oil or propane. The length of burn-time will depend on the flow of propane and how bright you set it to be. This is a bulkier option as you also need to store extra propane tanks. If you are storing propane for heating and cooking also, adding a lantern may not be as cumbersome.

6) Headlamps

Headlamps are great for quick trips to the bathroom at night as well as any chore that requires using both hands and direct focus of the light. While large headlamps are great when the power is flowing, smaller battery powered ones may work better during a power outage. Small LED ones are inexpensive and can provide hands-free light.

7) Fireplace or campfire

For situations where it is safe to be outside with a campfire, enjoy sitting around a campfire at night rather than sitting inside burning candles or your propane lantern. Likewise, a home fireplace could also provide light for reading or playing games. For those who have gas fireplaces, this is a great source for light and heat when the power goes out.  The flow of natural gas is not effected by a power outage.

Steps to Take Today

1)  Evaluate you home for your current lighting options.
2)  Invest in candles, lanterns and headlamps.
3)  Stock up on basic supplies: batteries, matches and lighters.

In Conclusion

There are many options for providing light during a power outage beyond candles. The first step is always to try and minimize the amount of light you need in the first place, and then ration your options in case the power outage lasts for a long time. However there are many solar rechargeable options that work well and don’t use up resources.

More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry