Friday, August 9, 2013

The Countdown: 10 Things You Need to Know How to Do Before You Lose Electricity!

#6: Provide Essential Lighting

Since we are about to hit the active period during our hurricane season here in the US, I thought it would be beneficial to create a 'Top 10 List' of things you should know how to do without electricity. Most of these things will be extremely important if you had to go without electricity for a few weeks (or longer). However, many of them also apply to power outages of just a few days. So, every Friday, until we countdown to #1, I will highlight a necessary skill to keep your house running as 'normal' as possible. Once you learn about these 10 things, you should be able to keep your house running normally during any power outage from a few days to a few months or longer, if that becomes necessary.

I do want to mention, none of these things will include the use of a generator. While generators do work short term, IMHO, there is no way you can store enough gasoline to keep the generator running for a long term outage. My strategy is to use 18th and 19th century skills to keep my house running. I don't even own a generator. 

I created this 'Top 10 List' and the subject matter and countdown order are mine alone. You may not agree with my list. That is no problem! You are welcome to share your ideas in the comments section. We all learn when differing viewpoints are shared respectfully!


The short version of this post can be summed up in one word: flashlights. Ideally, you would have one for each member of your family plus some utility flashlights. I know some people who collect flashlights as a hobby! Let me add that if you have flashlights you will also need batteries. I get the large packs at the warehouse stores. I store both regular and rechargeable batteries.

Some of the flashlights we store for emergencies.

While it isn't quite necessary to start collecting flashlights as a hobby, here is a list of some flashlight options you may not have thought about.

  • Head Flashlight. I don't consider this a 'luxury' item. I have found that this type of flashlight is critical when you need both hands to do something. Who hasn't tried to hold a flashlight with their chin or under their arm. Not necessary with one of these. I like this one best because you can angle the light. I really like the strap that goes over the head - it makes for a more comfortable fit (IMHO). However, there are others that don't have the over the head strap. They can be wrapped around your arm, leg, belt or anywhere! Lots of options on Amazon for this type of flashlight in a wide range of prices. I am sure you will find one that you like.
  • Hand crank or shake flashlights. I have both a hand crank lantern and a flashlight that you just shake to use. I will admit, these types of flashlight have a long way to go before they can compete with a 'regular' flashlight. In my experience, they take vigorous shaking or cranking to charge and the light doesn't last as long as the box says it will. Still, if you don't store lots and lots of batteries (and really don't want to store lots and lots of batteries) you may want to consider this alternative. They do come with LED lights to help keep the battery from draining quickly. My lantern has the ability to 'charge up' using an electrical outlet and then I can just use the hand crank to keep it charged. I got both the hand crank lantern and the shake flashlight in the camping section of one of the big box stores.
  • Solar powered lights. There are a couple of options in the solar category that I like. I have a solar powered lantern. On a nice sunny day, mine charges up nicely. (I tend to put it out in the morning and leave it there all day. I am not sure this is necessary, but I usually get busy and forget about it until nighttime when I go looking for it.) Sitting on my back patio, it gets about 6 hours of sunlight during the day. Mine has a basic option for bright or low light. There are others types/brands with fancier options, but I didn't want to pay for them. I got mine at a sporting good store in the camping section.  I also have solar 'night lights'. I made these at a crafting event at my church. They use a solar walkway light and come with a rechargeable battery. They make great night lights! I have one in each bedroom. They cost me just a few dollars each to make. Here is a link that will give you an idea of what I am talking about. The link doesn't show exactly how I made mine, but you will get the idea. Mine is a much simpler design with no tape or glue involved. Doing an Internet search,  I could not find a post that shows step-by-step how I made mine so I will post a 'how to' on how I made one in the next few weeks.
  • Key Chain Flashlight. While this type of flashlight doesn't really fit the spirit of the post, if you don't have any other light, it will do! I actually carry two flashlights in my purse. I have one on my keychain and a small hand held one that is no more than three inches long. Both are handy to have if you are trying to find the lock to open your front door in the dark. I have had each for years and haven't replaced the batteries yet! If you are not at home when the power goes off, these can be a lifesaver!

I don't encourage using candles or any other open flame during a power outage. (See Countdown #10: Think Safety First.) However, there may come a time when you have no other choice. Here's what I use.

Some of the candles/lamps we store for emergencies.

  • Oil Lamps and Lanterns. I have a very nice oil lantern that I got from Lehman's. They come in colors so you can pick one to match your room decor  That is what I did.  Mine are part of my everyday furniture just like an electric lamp would be in normal people's homes. BTW - since Lehman's caters to the Amish lifestyle, they offer quite a few non-electric lighting options. While the company is a bit pricey, you can see what is available and then comparison shop on the Internet for a better price.
  • Canning Jar 'Candle'. I also got this from Lehman's. It uses olive oil/cooking oil so you don't have to store lamp oil. Since it is a single flame, it is a low level light. You can see what is in the room, but you won't be able to read by it. Note: I don't believe this is a good option if you need something to carry from room-to-room. The wick has a tendency to slip down out of the holder and into the oil if you move it. This candle should be considered a stationary light source.
  • Candles. Obviously, decorative candles are quite popular and you can find them in stores everywhere. Lots of people tell me you can also get emergency candles at the Dollar Store as well. I don't purchase candles, I usually make my own. I also save candles given to me as gifts. (I very rarely burn candles, except at Christmas time.) Beeswax candles are the best but they are also expensive. If you know of someone who keeps bees, you have a ready source of high quality wax to make your own candles! You can also mix beeswax with other kinds of wax to keep the costs down. No need for molds or such if you hand dip them. Don't forget a candle box to store your candles in.
  • Candle holders. While you may decorate your home with pretty, fancy candle holders, when the power is out you will want good, solid, heavy candle holders that won't tip over. Lots and lots of options available at lots and lots of different stores. Most candle holders are designed to be stationary. Place the candle holder(s) where you want them and keep them there. It is not a good idea to be walking room-to-room with heavy candle holders in a power outage. However, there is a very good tin candle holder I like that can be easily relocated to a different area if need be. I have had mine for years. I got it from Lehman's.
Let me suggest another option that our great-great- grandparents used. When the sun goes down, go to bed! When the sun comes up, get up! If you follow the sun, you can greatly reduce your need for additional lighting resources. That will help save on both battery use and candles.

Be prepared and have a few different lighting options available to use when the lights go out at your house.  Keep them in an easy to find location and you won't skip a beat the next time you lose power!

Safety Warning: Open flames are dangerous! Have safety rules for your family regarding the use of any open flame device. Be very careful handling any open flame, you don't want to burn down your house while waiting for the electricity to come back on!

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