Let There Be Light—Safely

Last year about this time I recommended that all of our readers try a 48 hour experience in which they only used non-electrical sources for light for 48 hours.  For those who did the experiment they discovered the hard way that what they had planned on for lighting didn’t exactly provide a suitable amount. Others found that the term “100 hours” is obviously broadly interpreted in the market.  Still others found themselves a bit frustrated with the lack of mobility of light—something that we rarely take into consideration when we’re forced to use flashlights and candles everywhere we go in our homes.  However, when I did this experiment I also realized some of these same inconveniences for myself when it came to needing alternative sources of light, but there was a problem revealed during my experiment that really gnawed at me for months.  The problem was the serious compromise to the safety of my home as a result of needing to use  candles,  kerosene lanterns, and even flashlights. 

For starters, I don’t feel as confident defending my fortress should trouble come calling if I have to have a flashlight in one hand and my firearm in the other.  And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how expensive batteries can be and they don’t have the longest, most reliable shelf-life either.  On the other hand, a more disconcerting vulnerability is the potential of a fire hazard that’s present even with one of those well-made Aladdin lamps.  While I am not blessed with young children in the home, I know that a lot of you do have young ones in the home. Obviously, functioning with an open flame and appropriate cautions is not a part of their life. But as I was browsing around for a birthday gift in the lawn and garden area of a retail store, an idea struck me.  And I was pretty darn stoked about it; because it would provide a reliable amount of light in the event I needed back-up, it was a less expensive solution, and it didn’t require me to rely on an expansive stock of flammable items in my home and allotted me a more stable and regularly accessible light source.  Woohoo!

Now to be frank, some of you may have already thought of this and may not be as excited about it as I am/was. But for those of you who are several steps ahead of me here, just play along like my sweet husband does when I’m excited about an idea. At least nod your head and smile. OK?

You know those solar powered lights that you can buy to place along your walkway? They usually are sold in such a design that they can easily be staked into the ground.  Basically they are made with a small solar panel, a rechargeable battery (usually a really low end) and come in varying home décor styles. They charge up during the day while there is sun, and then they emit a modest amount of light for 6 to 10 hours at night depending on the strength of the rechargeable battery provided and how much sunlight was generating during the day. Most varieties also come with a small on/off switch.  Their prices range from $4 to $20 each. From a preparedness mindset having these for their intended use is a boon to a person’s home security, even in more trying social circumstances, but these can also easily be adapted for use in the home.

Think about it. Every time you walk into a dark room, you flip the switch for light, right? With me, I don’t see very well without a good amount of light.  I frequently find myself turning on all of the lights in my immediate area in order to function properly—sometimes even in the middle of the day. When I tried the 48 hour experiment, I found myself feeling a bit oppressed and out of sorts trying to function with my alternative light sources.  I’m happy to say that I didn’t have this same sort of experience when trying out my idea.

All you need to do is purchase several of these solar panel lawn and garden lights. A fellow prepper gave me the idea of replacing the rechargeable battery that comes with the lantern with a higher powered rechargeable one. This way the solar panel will be able to store more power during the day which will provide a stronger light as well. Place the solar lights out during the day where they will get the maximum amount of sun exposure and then just before dusk, bring in the numbers of lights that you’ll need to use in the home.  I suggest making a kind of stand/container resemble a vase with some two by fours, so that all you have to do is put the stake in this stand to conveniently provide stability for the light. You can set the lights to come on automatically when placed in a dark room and have them stay on until sufficient natural light comes through, or you can use the on/off switch and just have the light source placed in a convenient spot upon entering the room or area. Rechargeable batteries won’t get fried in the event of an EMP disruption, and the solar panel should stay in tact during such an event as well, unless there are bypass diodes used in the unit. In such a case, the bypass diodes would be damaged in the event of an EMP and your lamp won’t work unless you cut them out, rendering them out of the equation.  Otherwise this is a good, overall plan for alternative light that eliminates fire hazards and some other inconveniences.

Another plus, the Fall and Winter seasons usually bring with them deep discounts on such items. So do a little internet searching for some great deals. Personally, thanks to some strategies of the Self-Reliance Revolution, I don’t believe I’ll pay a dime out-of-pocket for either the lamps or the rechargeable batteries.

Lastly, there may be some merit in you being able to use all of those smaller solar panels to accomplish some other critical uses in the future—of which I haven’t thought of yet; but I'm sure I will come up with an idea or two sometime in the middle of the night. And on that note, I’m going to sign off now before I approach a Martha Stewart type of personality and beam too brightly about this idea—yes, of course the pun was intended.  I do hope that you find this helpful in your preparedness efforts though.

Hope you all have a BRIGHT and wonderful New Year!

 

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Comments

Yes! To be honest this had occured to me about a year ago, but like my list of other "I'll get them soon as I can" items, we are still without. I would love to know about acquiring the items "with no out of pocket expense"! Us oldsters on SS can use all the help we can get!

However, your article has spurred me onward. I love the idea that the light is free. What about using sand in a bucket to poke them into as an alternative to 2x4 lumber stands. Just a thought...
Thanks, Killene, you give us SO much help and wonderful insight. Happy New Year to all.

Sure you can use just about anything, but you just want to make sure that it's stable and efficient with whatever else is going on in the room that you're using them in.

Love this idea!

You can just set them upside down and they put out light or you can just nail a long nail in a 2x4 or any wood and take the spike out of the bottom and put the light on the nail.....set it in a tall glass etc.
Put the spike back in the morning to put outside.
Some friends just have a long nail at the edge of the porch where the sun hits and they hang it there ....they keep the spike out all the time.
Good to know about the stronger battery!
Where do you get it and how strong is it?
Thanks

You can get stronger rechargable batteries just about anywhere. However, and online search will lead you to many affordable alternatives. (Good to hear from you again, Jackie! Have a Happy New Year!)

Kellene,

Thanks for the idea - I am a 'senior' - how do I determine if the lights have 'diode' before I buy a set?

Andrea

The stats for the panel will tell you whether or not there are bypass diodes. Don't bother worrying about that though unless you are impacted by a EMP. Then you can simply cut them out if you are.

The is another source I have been considering and that is through a place called Farm Tec that have some solar lights that have solar panels you can locate on the outside of your home with a wire that runs inside to the light. They are used as emergency lighting for barns but would work great in the house I think, I believe they would be worth the effort. Good luck everyone.

Kellene ~ The use of candles is a huge concern, not so much for our house, but for my neighbors. I have read that more people die post-hurricane from fires than the actual direct hit. Don't know if this "fact" can be proven, but without doubt, some people do die from use of candles in an aftermath. So, if a grid-down situation were to occur, living and lighting becomes even more problamatic and vulnerable by the use of non-electric sources.

For several years now, I have been "decorating" my home with glass hurricane candle holders and globes, lanterns on the hearth, and other such protective glass sleeves. I collect candles on sale in glass jars (such as Yankee Candle), tapers, tea lights, whatever. My favorite source is garage sales where sellers are practically begging you to take away their unwanted candles.

The flip side of this is 5 large fire extinguishers and 8 smoke detectors located around our home. Smoke is the big killer as one breath of super-heated gas destroys your lungs or one breath of toxic fumes deprives a body of required oxygen to function, you lose consciousness, and die before flames ever reach you or you can escape or save loved ones or even dial 911. We back up to a forest and have thought this one through. Alot.

I received one of those "Sun Jars" for Christmas. It adds more mood light than useful lighting. Don't plan to read with one of these. Our yard is decorated with various solar lights, and I do want to say, "they" don't have the bugs figured out yet on these. They die, wear out, don't last. It's not a battery function, they just aren't that great. I've used the stake kind, solar fountains in the pool, fence toppers and I know this is not a long-term solution. Sorry to be such a downer :)

The most successful solar light we have is a set of tiny solar lights from China that I bought on Ebay (think Christmas lights) on an arbor with the panel high up out of the way on a roof. Those little lights have not failed or gone out. They regularly come on each night, but don't last even 3 hours until the power is gone.

So, while solar lights will afford some lighting, they probably won't be working years after a grid-down situation. I suggest accumulating hurricane globes, decorative "lanterns" (not oil burners, I have those, too), and maybe those cheap religious pillar candles in glass. Burning candles will have to be a 100% safe activity 100% of the time.

Nothing is as efficient or energy productive as burning fossil fuels. Alternative energy sources don't measure up. They just can provide an improvement to the darkness.

Thanks to Wanda and Jill for their suggestions. Worth looking into.

As always, thanks for all you do. Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

I didn't care for the "Sun Jar". It was woefully inadequate.
I'm satisfied with the combination of quality solar lights as I've suggested when used in conjunction with mirrors as a part of the backing. The ones I have actually provide over 8 hours of light worthy of reading. (Thank goodness!) I also have some of the great hurricane lanterns with a heavy base to prevent accidental tipping. Better yet is if we prepare ahead of time and have ceiling hooks throughout the house from which we can hang quality lanterns/lights. That way the tipping over factor is not as prominent. However, the hooks MUST be long enough so that we don't run the risk of causing a fire at the ceiling level.

The problem with a lot of the candles that are out there is if we consistently have to inhale what they are putting out. Lighting a candle or two for the fragrance or ambience is one thing, but having to live around them all of the time with the chemicals that are in them is a whole 'nother story. Thus I am adamant about not doing the "cheap" candles. No lead for me.

I've had solar lights outside for many years, and I would echo Elizabeth's caution: some of them just don't last. They work great for a year or two, and then - poof! They're history. I currently have a set that I have to shake every so often to get the light to turn on - and they weren't cheap.

Just sayin.

There's wisdom in having a back up to one's back up. Besides, I don't anticipate needing them to work longer than a "year or two" in such a scenario. Do you?

Last year I tried using a outdoor solar yard light for a nightlight in my bathroom.
The window faces South. I could not figure how to recharge the light with no windowsill to rest on.
After reading this, I am now recharged to try it again. :)
I will try making a hanging bag for the window.
I love the idea of using a stronger battery for more light.
We had a 3 hr power outage this week. We lit the Deitz lantern, put it on a end table. We each had a flashlight was walking thru the house. I have a low light battery you shake to recharge. I can see we need more of these.
Kathleen

I just put them outside during the day and then brought them in at dusk. One thing I failed to mention in the article was the use of mirrors to strengthen the impact of the light. I found that better batteries actually put out suitable light for me to read by--have to have that, given that I'm a bookworm and all. However, all solar lights are not created equally. I got some really cheap ones and in spite of the better batteries, I felt like I needed three times as much. However, the ones that I got at Costco or Sam's Club--can't remember which, were wonderful with the replacement battery.
Bottom line is don't rely on anything without experimenting with it first. You certainly don't need any surprises when things are already chaotic.

My solar lights are flat on the bottom and hang on a hook. It is easy to lift them off the hook and bring them inside and set them on a table. Solar lights are good for recharging aa batteries to use for led flashlights and other things too.

Kellene--As always, a great atticle! You are so right about the candles.They can be dangerous. "Every thing you get in life, cost you something". It is always a trade-off. I have found vases, the cylinder type with kind of a fluted top,and some are made for candles, they can be anywhere from 6" to 12" tall and you can put the pillar candles down inside of them. It keeps the open flame inside the glass, and if you put a mirror tile under them or behind them you get more light. You still have to be cautious! The solar yard lights we have don't seem to put out a lot of light. Maybe it is the type of batteries we have in them, or maybe I have the wrong kind of light. If it were totally dark outside/inside, it would make a real difference. Don't mean to discourage you in anyway, I am going to look into purchasing more/better solar lights. Sounds like a great idea. P. S. I don't know how the pioneers were able to read by candle light. Maybe their eyes were sharper because they weren't as exposed to light 24/7 like we are.

I think the pioneers went to bed at dusk (well night) and woke at dawn.

I would appreciate some clarification: for what I have read, batteries would also be affected by an EMP strike. why and how the solar batteries would be the exception?
Thank you for your help.

A

Batteries are NOT impacted by an EMP hit. I used to think so as well--but was WRONG. An EMP will fry the diodes. So if there aren't any diodes necessary to the operation, then you'll still be fine.

Good ideas, but how about those of us who live in the rain belt, Oregon and Washington. I think I will continue to stock up on other sources of light I./e. candles and lanterns for the winter months. And think about this for summer, all four months of it. But thank you for the idea.

Kathleen, I have to admit, Oregon and Washington are two of the few states I've never lived in, so I don't know completely what you're dealing with, but I do know this, anytime you can use the sun for free is better and more self-reliant than having to use the other more costly and perhaps more volatile items. So if it were me, and only 4 months, I would still do it, including purchasing a solar oven. That's 4 months of woodcutting, kerosene pouring, and so many other things that I wouldn't have to do. Keep in mind that solar works regardless of the temperatures. It's all about sun coverage and only about sun coverage.
Anyway, just my two cents.

I had some solar lights in the yard, they must not have been good ones (lowes). I am going to try again. They would work well for emergency lighting. They are on my never ending shopping list!! Candles are way dangerous with little ones around. Thank you for the important reminder.

ferfal in Argentina just had a great post about lighting as they are dealing with rolling blackouts again. He mentioned some of the cheaper LED type lights have a strobe effect of turning on and off hundreds of times a second. This can create headaches in some folks.
You are so right about testing your stuff realisticly to see how it really works for you.

I have a set of solar lights that were very cheap. Hubby said they'd die fast. Well, 6 years later, they are still going strong!

I really love the idea of free light, like everyone else here. When we re-built the deck last year, I put solar light post caps on the posts. They do attach to the posts with screws, but you really don't need to do that, or, if you anticipate a power outage, you could remove the screws. The advantge of these is that they have flat bottoms, no indoor "stand" needed. They seem a bit brighter than the staked ones.

Also, though this is a much more expensive alternative, I've been placing battery-powered "candle" wall sconces thoughout my home (from QVC--got 'em as Christmas gifts 3 years ago). They are very attractive, and look like flickering candles; mine have on/off timers, which are nice in the foyer for when I arrive home in from work in the dark. The "C" batteries seem to last a long time, too.

Those Coleman shaded battery-powered camping lamps are wonderful. I've bought the $4.99 WalMart off-brand ones, and they work as well. Had those for years, and use for power outages, not camping. The (krypton??) bulbs have lasted for many years. I not replaced one in 7 years of infrequent usage.

Love this blog--I stumbled upon it while searching for "canning butter".

Hello Kellene,

I think it would be great if you did a blog on "wood gas" stoves as a source of heat and a bare essential appliance for cooking. Also a simple "rocket stove" is a great tool as well. I hope to build a "gasifier" sometime in the near future. I think the possibilities to produce your own energy if we ever get off the grid is tremendous when you think about using wood to generate electricity.

Super site.

Hey Bill. If you do a search, I believe you'll find those articles have already been written and posted on here. Yeah! Keep Preppin!

Kellene,
There is so much conflicting information available about protecting against an EMP attack. You are adamant that batteries do not need to be protected but others differ. Do you have a link to information that supports this? Right now I think it wouldn't hurt to go ahead and protect them anyway just in case.
I love your blog, your writing and your attitudes!

Yeah, Jon, I used to think that batteries would be affected as well. However, upon further reading (library, not internet) I realized that an EMP only has an impact on
diode junctions, not plates. Batteries that you buy for flashlights, etc. are only made up of plates, not diode junctions.

I have thought of this and you can even find the cheaper ones at wal-mart for as little as $1.00. One downside of these is if your would need your place to be dark in case of attack, you would have to cover them because they do not turn off.

Betty, you can purchase the kinds that have on/off switches. In fact, there's a cool little light bulb that you are essentially charging when it's in your lamp and when the lights go off it will continue to give you light, but you can pull it out and hold it like a flashlight and even turn it on and off. here's the link to that info: http://www.preparednesspro.com/a-few-of-my-favorite-things-2012/

I found inexpensive solar lights at IKEA. One is a goose-neck table lamp with a pop-out solar panel and the other a half-ball shape about the size of a cantaloupe. It works well on a table or on the floor. IKEA also carries a powerful hand-crank flashlight. It is in the kids department but certainly not a toy. Harbour Freight carries several solar lights also such as a 200 ft , 50 light rope light.

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