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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Emergency Lighting Options

When the power goes out thee are many things we will miss.  Computers, television, refrigerators & stoves will all be useless.  We can do without the electronic stuff and camping stoves will fit the bill for cooking.  Your fridge will keep things cool for a short time, but eventually the contents will have to be eaten or wasted.  Now what do you do when the sun goes down?  Well, either go to bed of find another way to light up the way without flicking the switch.  There are several options for emergency light and some are much better than others.  What you want to look for is something that is safe, renewable, and bright enough to show the way.

Candles offer a decent amount of light and contribute to the heat too, but knock one over and there could be bigger problems than you are prepared to deal with.  Candle lanterns help prevent this, but most of these use the tiny tea light candles that give off a limited amount of light.  Not to mention that you either have to keep them burning, or light them every time you need it.  Oil lamps & kerosene lamps are another open flame option.  Here too though, if you knock one over, you will be in bigger trouble than with an overturned candle.  Also, some lamps tend to smoke a little and have an unpleasant odor.  Lastly for the open flame option are propane and naptha lanterns.  These will give you a decent amount of light, are adjustable in intensity, and also contribute to heat.  However, the 1 lb cans of propane are costly to stock up on in quantity, and the naptha versions need pumping to gasify the fuel.

There are a multitude of battery powered flashlights & lanterns available.  These will almost all give off really good light and are safe to use.  For the lantern types, larger C or D size batteries will need to be stored.  These can get expensive for quality cells(for reliability and durability, I suggest Duracell).  One way to help save on the costs is to get rechargeable batteries.  However, I have yet to find a quick charger for these larger type cells.  There is a product on the market that is essentially a C or D sized case that you put AA batteries into.  The AA batteries come with 15 minute chargers that plug into the accessory outlet of your car.  A great idea if you can get them.  Smaller, hand held flashlights are great for walking around with.  They take smaller sized batteries that are easy to find in quick recharge versions.  As a side note, I have a solar recharger for up to 4 AA cells that will charge up batteries in the time of an average sunny day, making it possible to have 4 completely charges batteries for the night time.

My favorite items are the self renewable type lights.  Solar powered garden lights work well to light up a room enough to get around.  Simply put them back into the sun during the day, and bring them in at dusk.  A perfect option for bathrooms, and bedrooms where you only need enough light to get around without stubbing your toes.  If you want, you can remove the rechargeable batteries inside and put them in a standard charger, most of these garden lights have 1 AA sized rechargeable battery that can be easily removed.  Next on my favorite list is the hand crank flashlight.  Many models can be charges by solar, crank or plugged into a laptop usb port.  I have two that will also charge a cell phone from the hand crank and also have a radio built in.  I use these all the time during short power outages and I can get about a half hour of radio with only a couple of minutes of cranking.  If the light is dim when you turn it on, simply crank and go!  They also sell crank powered lanterns, but I have yet to try them out.  I have read many reviews that claim low light levels and/or short run time compared to crank time.

All in all, as you can tell, I always try to go with self renewable lighting for my emergency needs.  However, I also store candles, oil lamps & oil, propane lantern & propane cans, regular flashlight & Duracell batteries as well as my hand crank & rechargeable batteries.  I hope this article helps you find the option that is right for you, but just remember, diversity is key...it's better to have a few candles in case you can't get those rechargeables charged than to have to sit in the dark.

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