Lighting the Dark

       In the case of a weather emergency, or other reasons that the electrical grid stops functioning, how will we light our homes at night? We need to have some non-electrical alternatives to be able to get around in the dark.
       Finding alternatives for lighting is pretty easy. For the short term, many items are inexpensive, too. When the grid is down, we revert to using items used in times past.

Candles – are one of the oldest light sources. They consist of two parts – a fuel source and a wick. The fuel source has changed over the years but is a form of solid fat that burns at a steady rate. Originally made from paper, wicks have advanced over the years as well, to braided cotton infused with chemicals that control the speed of burning and coil when they burn to trim themselves.[1] Square ones help keep the wick from clogging.  Select candles that do not smoke or give off foul odors (tallow). Candles made from beeswax are recommended. Add some survival candles with long burning times to your emergency supplies. Save the melted wax that doesn’t burn to reuse in candles you make yourself. Make your own wicks out of cotton string soaked in melted wax and cooled.[2]

Oil Lamps – were developed about the same time as candles, but candles stayed in favor longer. Oil lamps used a variety of oils. Today’s oil lamps consist of a reservoir for the oil, a clamp which holds the wick up and away from the oil (so the entire surface doesn’t catch on fire) and a glass chimney that directs the air draft over the flame. This design makes the light brighter and the lamp safer to carry. Kerosene has been used for a long time. If you use it in a lamp, do so in an area with plenty of ventilation due to the odor it emits. Commercially available lamp oil is a liquid petroleum product designed to burn cleanly in brass and glass oil lamps, torches and lanterns. It is further refined than kerosene so that it does not produce as much harmful smoke, soot and other pollutants. When you are setting up a lamp, follow the instruction for filling the reservoir (leave at least a 1/2 inch from top). The wick should be clipped and cleaned before each lighting. Do not extend the wick above the combustion chamber because that will result in incomplete combustion, making smoke and soot as well as excess heat. If you see this, lower the wick until it stops. To turn off the lamp, turn the wick down into the burner until the flame goes out. Do not turn it so far that it becomes un-threaded from the burner assembly. Keep lamp oil at room temperature. Do not store lamp oil in a garage or shed where it could freeze. It could be an explosion hazard if it defrosts too quickly.[3]

Battery Powered Lights – are usually the first thing we reach for when the power goes off unexpectedly. Battery powered lanterns are safer to use than candles or oil lamps. You can either have ones that work on replaceable batteries or others that come with rechargeable batteries. We have some that stay plugged into electrical outlets all the time. When the power goes off, they automatically light up so we can find them. Solar powered or hand-crank lights are also available.

Solar Lights – work great as night lights, indoors or out. You just need to remember to put them outside each morning to get recharged. You can screw them off the ground stake and place them in a paper cup. They can be used outdoors to light paths, patios and as security lights with motion sensors. Solar panels, LED lights and batteries expand their lighting capabilities. Solar lights can improve the lives of the world’s poorest people as the quality of products and affordability improves. They work anywhere the sun shines, even in places where there is no or an unreliable electrical grid. Solar lights will save the expense and health hazards of buying kerosene in developing countries.[4]
References
[1] http://www.historyoflighting.net/lighting-history/history-of-candles/
[2] http://theprepperproject.com/how-to-light-your-home-off-grid/
[3] http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-lamp-oil.htm
[4] http://www.economist.com/node/21560983

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