I have a number of preparedness friends that talk to me about their generators. I listen patiently and allow them to go on and on about how their generators can run their house, run their air conditioning or run their freezer for some number of days. I invariably ask the question, “Then what?”
They seldom have a good answer.
My point is, why have a generator for household needs? There are some exceptions but I consider those exceptions to fall mostly into the medical category. The most notable exception would be battery charging. And battery charging only when your solar charging system can’t recharge your batteries. And I am only talking batteries to run your Ham radios, handheld radios or power boxes to run mobile radios. And, maybe your AAA & AA battery chargers that already aren’t solar powered.
What the heck am I really saying and what does that have to do with candles?
OK, I am not a fan of generators unless it is for recharging batteries that have a very specific purpose and a very, very limited mission. Example: powering a Ham radio. I am not a fan of generators for general purpose electric generating and certainly not for “lights.”
I firmly believe that you can use candles for 99% of your true lighting needs during emergencies and disasters. And for grid-down I am not sure you have any viable long-term alternatives. So how many candles do you have stored?
First of all let’s define the two levels of candle needs; 1) short-term for emergencies and disasters, 2) long-term for grid-down.
Short-term needs are pretty easy to meet. Calculate the maximum number of days you feel an emergency or disaster could knockout the power. Then figure how many hours each day that you would need light from those candles. You would have to figure-in the activities requiring the candle light (i.e. reading). Then take the number of hours per day of need times the number of days expected. Take that number and add 50% to it for a margin of error and unexpected issues.
If you expected a 3 hour per night need and you expected the power could be off for a maximum of 10 days then you would need 30 hours of candle use. But, then add in the 50% margin of error and that number bumps to 45 hours of need. Now just go buy the right sized candle with the appropriate expected burn time. You can buy 115 & 120 hour emergency candles out on the Internet for $8 – $12. So you should be able to meet your needs easily and economically.
Sound pretty simple, yes? And it is.
Emergency candles come in one basic form, so-called “paraffin.” But paraffin comes in two basic forms in relation to emergency candles, liquid and solid. You are probably most familiar with solid paraffin candles, just walk into Hobby Lobby.
Liquid paraffin is actually more efficient when it comes to lighting. But don’t confuse “liquid paraffin” with “solid paraffin” at all. While theoretically they are both hydrocarbons, you can’t make traditional candles out of liquid paraffin. and you can’t make liquid paraffin by melting candles. Liquid paraffin is actually highly refined kerosene. It is referred to as lamp-oil in many places.
But between the two, it is mostly cost that drives the purchases. Then storage capability. Get the most burn-time for your hard-earned money for candles you can safely store.
- Watch for garage sales, estate sales or church rummage sales. Sometimes regular everyday candles can be bought for a fraction of the cost that they are priced in stores.
- Keep an eye on “dollar stores.” They sell some pretty big candles for $1 from time-to-time. Just buy one of the big candles, take it home, and test it for burn-time. Go back and buy as many as you can if you get good burn-time out of them.
- Some of the preparedness websites regularly have both kinds of emergency candles on sale. The Ready Store (thereadystore.com) had them on sale on 7/21 for $5.99 each. That is a bargain for 100 – 115 hours of light.
- I bought and use ReadyCANDLE from The Ready Store. They are inexpensive when bought on sale and ready to use when needed. They give out lots of light and they are not the hassle of a regular candle.
However, what about long-term “grid-down” needs? That becomes whole new ball game when you can’t continue to buy regular or liquid candles. In a future post I will go into detail about making your own candles with nothing special other than what you already will have on-hand. But for now, think in terms of homemade candles…
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