Saturday, March 5, 2011

Emergency Preparedness: Candles

Light is extremely important, both for physical and psychological reasons. Keep all the lights in your home off for 24 hours. I think you'd be surprised how gloomy a house can feel in the absence of light. Not to mention, if you were without light in the Winter in Oregon, you'd be sitting in the dark or going to bed at 4:30 pm. That doesn't sound appealing, even to me, and I go to bed at 9:00 pm most nights!  

You'll want to decide what kind of light is most appropriately suited for your family's needs. 
Here are some options:


  • kerosene: great light source - some models will burn around 70 hours
  • battery operated: convenient and easy to use, but require larger batteries
  • propane: easy to find, propane cylinders are easy to use


  • plug-in: great for short-term use, but no where to recharge - you would have to keep a good supply of batteries on-hand
  • hand crank: crank for 1 minute and get 30 minutes of light with no need for batteries or light bulbs
  • LED shake light: 20 minutes of light with 30 seconds of shaking, no need for batteries or bulbs
  • squeeze light: no batteries; just squeeze the handle repeatedly to generate light
  • solar powered: needs 6-9 hours full sun to charge, can use back up batteries, more costly than other choices
  • book lights: wonderful for reading, but not a good choice for other lighting

Oil lamps

  • Oil candles: small candles sell around $4, burn 100 hours, clear oil-less soot
  • Hurricane lamps: produce a lot of light, amount of light output is controlled-dim to bright, produces some warmth, oil easy to find at mass merchant
  • Light sticks: fair amount of light if very dark, safe for a child, lights up to 8 hours, around $2 each


  • Gas models are very costly to burn, so stock up on firewood!


  • small stick: burns 4-6 hours, provides good light, but can tip easily
    pillar: burns 8 hours or up to 100 if emergency variety
  • votive or tea light: short life with wax puddles, but small enough to buy and store easily
  • fragrant/jar: soot and scent are drawbacks, they're expensive

Keeping all that in mind, our family decided to boost our supply with stick candles. The candles are going to supplement our 15 hurricane oil lamps. Some people dislike the smell of oil lamps, but I LOVE it - probably because I didn't grow up with it. :)

At The Dollar Tree in Springfield, they sell these packs of 6 Emergency Candles for a buck! What's even better than that is the fact that they sell them online at their site by the case, with free shipping if you have them sent to one of their stores!! $48.00 for 288 candles!! 

But what, really, does that mean? How many hours will one of those suckers burn? 

I wanted to know, so I conducted a little experiment!

I placed the candle in my butter keep, of course. Where else?

I lit the candle at 5:05pm and let it burn for 4 hours. Like I said, we go to bed around 9:00pm, so I blew it out at 9:05pm. Then, the following morning at 6:05am, I re-lit the little sucker. It burned with a solid flame for another hour.

Here are the results in simplified terms, and what they mean for you: 

1 candle = 5 hours of light
6 candles = 1 box 
48 boxes = 1 case

Which means... if I buy a case of these, and use them for around 2.5 hours per day, I will get 2 days' worth out of one candle. Which means... 

1 box will last me 12 days. If I continue this pattern... 

1 case of candles (for $48.00) will give me 576 days. 

And just for fun... 

$48.00 for 288 candles, at 5 hours per candle amounts to... 

1,440 hours of light, at $0.03 per hour of light. 

I'm a fan of those figures. 

One last note: While your family is making a decision on what kind of light sources to store, take a look at this video:

I've posted information about SoutherPrepper1 before - he's a regular guy, dedicating a lot of his time to prepping and educating others about the process. He's great! And in this video, he discusses several ways of storing/using light. 

Happy Prepping!! 

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