I spent a little time yesterday sorting through my emergency lighting. While researching Just In Case, I purchased all manner of lighting to determine what worked and what didn’t so I have quite a lot of it. Here is my synopsis, the good, the bad and the expensive.
Candles: I have very few candles. I have one box of emergency candles that I picked up years ago. With a house full of kids and an annoying cat, candles are a very poor option for me. An adult always has to be, not just in the room, but withing arm’s reach. In addition, the light quality is poor. The one good thing is that candles are cheap. If you spend a bit more you can get globes which helps with safety. If candles are placed in front of a mirror more light is dispersed into the room. If you have to use them put them up high and keep them well away from floaty fabric like curtains. Because we have bees, I will be making candles this year but they will be for ambiance, not function.
100 hour candles: These are not actually candles but tiny globes filled with liquid paraffin. I have a couple of these and they work pretty well. They are not expensive and store well. I keep one in my bug our bag and a couple here at home.
kerosene lanterns: I hate kerosene. The light is a nasty yellow and the smell can trigger headaches and asthma. I have one only because I don’t know how to get rid of the kerosene. It sits on a shelf, mocking me. The lantern itself is beautiful. I really want to get rid of the fuel and the wick, clean out the lamp and refill it with liquid paraffin. Kerosene is inexpensive and stores well.
liquid paraffin lanterns: I love my LP lamps. The light is bright, the lamps pretty, there is no odor and the paraffin is actually easier to find than kerosene now. It is more expensive but this is one place where you will probably be glad you spent the extra money. Make sure you pick up extra lamps and wicks. Read the instructions and follow them and don’t put paraffin in a lamp already holding kerosene. I am not sure what will happen but I prefer to believe the instruction manual and assume the lamp makers have a reason for telling me not to do it.
hand crank lanterns: I have a couple of these. The good news is that the led lights throw off a fair amount of light and will last a long time, you have no fire danger kids can safely keep one in their bedrooms. The bad news is that they are pretty expensive, the light tends to be very directed and the charge doesn’t hold long. The claim is for ten minutes of light for a minute of cranking. the truth is that the ligh begins to fade after five minutes and they are talking vigorous cranking. It gets old fast when the power is out for days. There are bigger lights out now than the one I have. The technology will probably continue to improve and the cost come down.
Flashlights: You can’t have too many. I have a ton of hand crank models. I got some cheap ones at a big box store. They did hold up well. In fact, the handle fell off one after just a few uses. They require a lot of cranking but my kids like them. I do dot use those next to our beds as the charge doesn’t hold. I don’t want to have to be cranking a flashlight if I have to get out of my house in a hurry. I do keep a couple in my car so I don’t have to worry about the batteries going bad and leaving me in the dark.
battery flashlights: I have a lot of these. I like the led bulbs as the light is really bright and the bulbs have a long life. I have both regular batteries and rechargeable. I picked up a solar recharger. It works pretty well but we have times like this past month where we haven’t had enough sun to charge batteries. Regular batteries must be rotated and are hell to dispose of from an environmental stand point.
I hope I haven’t left anything out. Light is so important during a crisis and deserves some thought. Make sure you store your emergency lighting where you can find it in the pitch black. Keep a flashlight next to every bed in the house and keep one for every family member in the car. Pick up extras when you can; they are good for charity and barter. My kids know to expect a flashlight in their stocking every Christmas. I use my lanterns as table decorations. They look nice and are right where I need them. Don’t forget matches.
I have seen kits for making lanterns out of mason jars using olive oil for fuel. I am not sure why you wouldn’t just buy a lantern. Lehman’s has a huge selection of lanterns. Some use mantles. They are terrific lanterns. They throw off a ton of light. The problem is the cost; $100.00 plus is a lot of money for me, and the mantles are really fragile. If you decide to splurge, you will need to stock replacement mantles and use the appropriate fuel. If I was relying on non-electric lights on a daily basis, I would spend the money.