Do you know the emergency situation you are most likely to encounter?
It’s a power outage.
While power outages are highly likely to occur, many people are left unprepared when they happen. In a blackout, most people find themselves rummaging through their junk drawer, hoping to find a flashlight and praying the batteries still have a charge.
Anyone can prepare themselves for a blackout, and there’s no reason not to be prepared as it’s a situation most of us will be in several times throughout our lifetime.
In this article, you will learn:
- The 9 best emergency lighting options for a power outage
- The advantages and disadvantages of each method and which is best for you
- Helpful tips for thriving when the lights go out
Preparing For A Power Outage
To properly prepare your family in the case of a power outage, incorporate the following tips into your survival planning:
- Keep a light by every bed in your home. For battery-powered lights, check the batteries every 6 months (set a recurring reminder on your phone to do this right now!) and replace those that are weak.
- Talk to your family about what to do if there is a blackout. Choose a room for everyone to meet during a blackout and ensure each family member has a light source in their bedroom and can use it correctly.
- Store 1 week’s worth of water and non-perishable food in case of a long-term emergency situation. For proper water storage, I recommend using the WaterBrick.
- Have a wind-up emergency radio on-hand to stay informed during an emergency and be aware of any progress authorities are making in getting the grid back online. Of special note, an emergency radio also makes a great backup light source, making it a valuable multitool. For more info, learn how to pick the best emergency radio.
- Always make sure to have at least one backup light source as even the best-laid plans can go wrong in an emergency.
- For more help on getting your home ready for the next blackout, check out our comprehensive article on power grid failure.
Emergency Lighting Options for Your Home During a Blackout
There are a plethora of options to choose from for lighting your home during a power outage, but which ones are the best?
Read on to learn about the 9 different methods for lighting your house during a blackout and the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.
1. Luci Solar Air Lantern
What It Is
The Luci Solar Air Lantern is a small, compact, lightweight lantern that reaches its full size when inflated with air and recharges via a built-in solar panel. I use the Luci Solar Air Lantern in my blackout kit as well as in my car and camping gear. In my opinion, this is by far the best lantern to use in a power outage.
- Charges within only a few hours and has no need for batteries
- The Luci Solar Air Lantern can hold its charge for up to 3 years and provide 12 hours of light
- Can be flattened to only 1 inch tall and weighs less than a deck of cards – perfect for storage or carrying
- For its small, compact size, it provides a lot of light due to its round shape, which evenly shines over 150 square feet
- Offers 100% waterproof capabilities so no need to panic if exposed to accidental dunking or rain
- Has 2 brightness settings as well as an emergency SOS flash option to make it useful for nearly any emergency situation
- Offers good quality at an inexpensive price
- Can also be used for the following:
- Camping – ideal for a weekend away. Makes it easy to cook, read, or play cards when it’s dark. I just leave it hanging up for the whole trip, it charges during the day, and I turn it on after the sun goes down.
- Car – perfect for changing a tire or checking under the hood at night. Additionally, it can be set to SOS mode to alert other drivers to your presence.
- Bug Out Bag – weighing as much as a deck of cards and collapsing down to 1 inch high, this is a perfect lightweight addition to a bug out bag or any other pack that may need to be carried over long distances.
- Fishing/Boating – as it is 100% waterproof and able to float, it makes a great boating companion. If you happen to find yourself in trouble on the water, especially at night, the SOS setting can be a lifesaver.
- Doesn’t provide the spotlight or throw distance of a flashlight; better suited for general illumination of a room or work area.
What It Is
A flashlight is a small, handheld light. Most people have a flashlight at home. When choosing a flashlight for a blackout kit, my recommendation is to find one that has an LED light source (instead of an old style light bulb), and that takes standard alkaline batteries (no fancy, expensive lithium batteries).
Why Choose An LED Light?
- The efficiency is much greater than that of an old style light bulb, giving you better value for your money
- Tougher than traditional bulbs, can be dropped without the worry of shattering
- Offers a longer lifetime – modern LEDs are rated to last 10,000+ hours, several years of continuous use
Why Choose A Light That Takes Regular Batteries?
- Easier to find or scavenge in a long-term survival situation
- Fits easily into a pocket
- The sheer volume of available options makes it easy to find one that perfectly fits your budget and needs
- Good for spotlighting – shining on a specific target from far away
- Not ideal for general lighting purposes as they throw a concentrated beam
- Batteries can sometimes make them heavy
- Needs batteries to function! Flashlights tend to sit in a drawer for a long time before use, resulting in the power draining from the batteries and rendering the flashlight useless when you most need it
- Batteries are expensive, especially if you are going to stockpile them for a long-term bug-in or shelter-in-place situation. I recommend using a cheaper, reusable option.
We recommend the J5 Hyper V LED Tactical Flashlight.
What It Is
A headlamp is a small LED light that is worn on your head. It is favored by campers and outdoorsmen as it provides hands-free lighting that is well-suited for many tasks and finding your way in the dark.
- Offers hands-free working – no more holding a flashlight in your teeth as you work
- Most modern models come with multiple brightness options to save battery power
- Not ideal for general lighting tasks such as lighting up a room during a blackout (similar to flashlights)
- It is difficult to have a conversation with someone while wearing a headlamp as you will be shining the light in their eyes when facing them. This has happened to me more times than I can count, I hated headlamps for a long time before coming to terms with their usefulness.
Click here to learn how to choose the best headlamp for your needs.
4. Oil Lantern
What It Is
An oil lantern is an old style storm lantern that burns lamp oil stored in its base. This method has been used for thousands of years, so you know it’s a solid method for lighting your home. My parents had some of these in the basement when I was growing up and walking by them always made me feel like I was in an old movie.
- No batteries needed
- Simple moving parts that can be easily fixed
- Long lasting
- Can burn olive or citronella oil as an alternative to lamp oil
- Major fire hazard; basically becomes a molotov cocktail when knocked over
- Frequently made of glass and is therefore quite fragile and is a potential fire hazard
- Need to store enough oil to keep it going as well as spare wicks
5. Propane Lantern
A propane lantern is a lamp element that sits on top of a small propane tank, which acts as both the base of the lamp and the fuel source. The old style Coleman Propane Lantern was a standard item for the Boy Scout trips of my youth.
- Generates a lot of light for a long time
- Provides adjustable brightness
- Easy to use
- Have to have propane tanks on hand that fit the lantern (because these tanks are a particular size and type, they are harder to scavenge than something like an AA battery or lamp oil)
- Pose a minor fire hazard (not as much as an oil lamp but you are burning propane, which has the potential to be a problem)
- Get very hot during use (something to be aware of if you have pets or children around)
- Have to replace the mantel of the lantern regularly (another item that would be difficult to scavenge)
6. Emergency Candles
Another light source that has been around for thousands of years, candles are a lighting source that keeps things simple. When I was a kid, we used candles to light the house during blackouts and always had a large stockpile downstairs.
- Candles are cheap
- They last a long time; there are also many “Emergency Candles” that can last up to 36 hours
- They are a fire hazard, and while no one wants to have to call the fire department, during a blackout you might not even be able to!
- You will need a large quantity to light a large room or entire house, which means a lot of storage space
- You will need even more candles if you are looking to provide light for a long-term shelter-in-place scenario, no thanks!
7. Battery Powered Lantern
What It Is
A battery powered lantern is a modern electric lantern that runs on regular old batteries. In the last couple years, a huge number of new styles have come out that have LEDs in place of old-style light bulbs.
- There are many varieties of this lighting method available, making it easy to find one that suits your budget and performs exactly as needed
- They usually take standard batteries, which are easier to scavenge than some of the other fuel sources mentioned
- Very easy to use
- Good for lighting a room or work area
- The main difference between a battery powered lantern and something like the Luci Solar Air Lantern that I use is that a battery powered lantern needs a constant supply of new batteries
- Batteries can be expensive, especially if you choose to stockpile them, and are one more thing you will need to scavenge for in a long-term blackout or shelter-in-place scenario
8. Wind Up Lights
A wind-up light is a small flashlight powered by a hand-cranked dynamo. A crank or lever, usually on the outside of the flashlight, is wound or pumped to generate electricity.
- No need to stock up on batteries, you are the energy source!
- Simple to use
- Not ideal for long-term use as they need to be turned off to charge (this can also be tiring)
- Ineffective at lighting up rooms or work areas as they are not that bright
- Tend to break from overuse as there are lots of moving parts
Glowsticks are plastic tubes filled with chemicals that glow when a small capsule is broken inside them, usually by bending the glowstick. Glowsticks typically glow green but can be purchased in a variety of colors.
- Works well for lighting up small spaces or places such as wells or manholes where you may not want to stick something you don’t want to lose
- There is no fire hazard as they do not generate heat and there’s no worry of shattering
- Can last up to 12 hours
- They do not provide a lot of light
- Once they are on, they remain lit until they burn out
- Once burnt out, that’s it – no refilling or recharging
What I Use In My Blackout Kit
For my home blackout kit, my primary light source is the Luci Solar Air Lantern. I love the fact that I can charge it up and know that charge will hold for 3 years.
Then, when a blackout occurs, I will have 12 hours of lighting on-hand and can charge it up the next day.
Never needing batteries is a big thing to me. In a long-term emergency situation, not needing batteries means I won’t have to leave my family alone at home while I scavenge for batteries!
My backup light source is a Fenix HP25 Headlamp. I use this if I have to do maintenance on the house in tight quarters or need to light the way while walking at night.
For extra lighting, for yourself or other family members, a J5 Hyper V LED Tactical Flashlight can come in handy as well.
Lastly, I have several sets of emergency candles as the last line of defense. When properly used, candles can double as a can double as a heat source, so I see this a smart, multipurpose item to include.
What do you use to light your home during blackouts? Is there anything you would suggest staying away from? Let me know in the Comments Section below, thanks!
5 comments on “The Best Emergency Lighting for a Power Outage”
My lights in my get-home bag are a headlamp and a good quality handheld flashlight. My concealed carry gun (a G21) also has a light that snaps onto the accessory rail.
At home I have a little – or a lot – of everything. Flashlights large and small, candles, oil lamps and gallons of oil, even some solar sidewalk lights I can bring inside if I need to.
The one light I’d like to have the most is the one I don’t have – that would be a nice big skylight or two in my house.
I also have a powerful, handheld spotlight for the car.
One item I have that I urge everyone to get is a pair of reading glasses with two built-in LED lights – one on each side. This is a very handy item which I mostly use for work.
As has happened in Dallas TX, you might not want to put a bulls-eye on your forehead.
Just drain the fat if you are browning meat, or whatever other animal fat source you have and put it in a tuna can, or whatever type of can you have available. Lay a wick across the diameter of the can and leave one end sticking up above the rim. I’ve used jute twine (small flame) and tightly woven cotton (big flame) with success. Just be careful to keep it safe when not in use. The ‘Possums though it was dinner that came with its own dental floss.
To prevent discharged batteries due to longer storage, my hint is to take the extremely useful Energizer L91 primary lithium AA cells. They are very lightweight too, helping you to reduce the weight of your BoB. With a capacity of roughly 3500mAh(!) they will power your light for a long, long time, and they will hold that 1.5V right until they die. YES, they are expensive, but with a 20 year(!) shelf life you can buy a few NOW and completely forget about them… unti they are most needed and turn out to be still very usable.
Thanks for all your useful information! I once lived in a cabin with only wood heat and used the old style lanterns and solar lighting as my major light source. I live in northern Minnesota where it gets dark early and solar power doesn’t really cut it in the winter. I would advise that if you live in a northern area to use a generator if possible. Otherwise I’d say to use a buddy heater and propane lantern for good lighting and some very good flashlights. Make sure you have plenty of batteries on hand too! Ever try to start a fire at -40 degrees?? NOT FUN!!! Nearly frostbit my hands. So have some good fire starters. Steel wool and or cotton balls with Vaseline. Find a water source like a natural spring near you if you can. In my naivete, I thought melting snow would give me a lot of water. Haha!! It takes way more snow than you think!! I might also recommend LED lighting sources that are packable if you need to bug out. Hopefully, we’ll never need to bug out. Just thought I’d give some insight on what I learned. Have a blessed day!