There are many ways for your characters to light their home, business, tent, or wherever they are without electricity. Today we will cover five of them. 

6) Battery-Powered Lights 

Battery-powered lights can include many things, such as flashlights, lanterns, spotlights, etc. These are the typical things people keep around in case the power goes out. One way to enhance the lights is to take a flashlight and tape or tie it to a clear gallon container of water. The water will enhance the reach of the light. 

However, I have seen some people, mostly Amish, but a few others, use car batteries to power their home lights. Most LED lights work well with them, but incandescent lights need an AC to DC power inverter. I will link to the time conversion for the light bulb watt in the show notes if you want to figure that out. 

Remember, these will need to be recharged, likely with solar. If there is a storm or cloudy days, that can cause times without a recharge, so having several batteries that can be switched out is a good idea. 

Some battery kits can be bought for people like me, who are not electronically inclined, that already have the electric circuit set up. For those who will not shock themselves, it can be done in DIY fashion. I have only seen the DIY ones done, but people around here are good at that kind of stuff. Just not me. 

7) Fireplace/woodstove 

This may seem a little odd for lighting, but fireplaces and woodstoves have been used to light rooms in the winter, likely since they were invented. Wood stoves can be opened to show light. This will not be as bright as the lights we are used to today but will be enough for most things, as long as they are not reading up close or work like threading a needle. 

8) Mosquito-Killing Lantern, AKA Bug Zappers

Most people do not know there are bug zappers today designed to also be lights. These are most often lanterns, but they can be other things. These come in very handy in the summer. If your character doesn’t have electricity, they will not have an air conditioner. If that is the case, they will likely leave their windows open at night to let the house cool down. This lets in bugs. Having a bug zapper comes in very handy for that. 

9) Kerosene lamps 

Kerosene lamps are very common here in the US as a backup for when the power goes out. The container for the kerosene can be glass, porcelain, or metal. There can be a globe around the flame, but there doesn’t have to be, though it is safer. Like oil lamps, they have a wick to draw up the kerosene to burn. 

I find that the kerosene has a slight smell but nothing bad or stinky. If something was mixed in with it, someone who used this daily would likely know from the smell. Also, someone who never uses them will likely ask what the smell is. 

10) Creative things people burn as alternatives to candles in emergencies

When emergencies happen, and there are no candles, people can get creative in what they use to light their homes. I will cover a few things. 

Some people burn crayons. They will lightly melt the bottom of the canyon to help it stick to a surface. They will light the top on fire. The paper will act like an external wick. This works but smells. 

Oil poured in an orange peel with a wick can work. It does smell good. However, it is easy to tilt, and if someone pokes a hole in the peel or if peel has a crack, the oil could leak out and risk a fire. 

Tuna and sardine cans that have used oil can be used for lighting if a wick is added. The risk here is the oil leaking or being slipped. It will also ruin the food in the cans. 

Butter is said to be able to make a candle. I’m suspicious of this one, but I will add that it is said to work. 

One pound of shorting and a wick are said to last 100 hours. However, I find that it puts off large amounts of black smoke that could potentially be toxic, and it reeks! This is one that many people swear by, but I would never use it! Shortening comes in cardboard containers. Some people take the shorting out of the cardboard and place them in glass jars with a wick. I have not tried this method, but it is my understanding it gets rid of the smoke. Maybe not the smell. 

Fun fact: As of 2022, in the United States, it is estimated that 250,000 homes are off the grid. However, it is estimated that only 1% of those are actually remote, isolated homes. 

What could possibly go wrong: 

Likely to go wrong: Your character’s kerosene lamp or lantern tipped or fell over and caused a fire. 

Likely to go wrong: When using batteries, the batteries were drained by cold weather or prolonged storage, and they do not work, or they do not work as long as your character thought they would. 

Possible to go wrong: Your character uses a crayon for a candle, and their child cries, or even cries hysterically, because their crayons are being burned up. 

Possible to go wrong: While using the woodstove as light, your character left the door to it open, and an ember popped out. This could cause a fire. 

Unlikely to go wrong: Your character tries to use a fireplace for lighting in the summer. This could lead to a dangerous overheating situation. 

Improbable but technically still in the realm of possibilities: A mosquito lantern malfunctions and sparks when a bug gets in it. 

Improbable but technically still in the realm of possibilities: Your character uses Crisco shortening, and the fumes cause medical problems or even cause death. 

Helpful links to learn more:

Ways to brighten a room:

DIY lighting with a car battery:

How long will a battery lights last?

Use and maintain kerosene lantern or lamp:

Household candle alternatives:’t%20be%20a,hour%20of%20light%20per%20tablespoon

Shortening Candles: