How To Light Your Home Off Grid

Categories: Tips & Tricks

I’m beginning to prepare for when the darkness creeps in long before we’re ready for bed. Although we are currently running all of our overhead lights on solar, we still put non-electric backups in place. We only have about three days’ worth of energy stored in our battery bank… if we’re careful… so it’s important that we have options for extended cloudy weather and longer nights.

For those of you still 100% dependent on the grid for your electricity, having non-electric alternatives for unexpected power outages is a must.

Lighting is one of the easiest things to find off-grid alternatives for. There are several good options to choose from, and most of them cost very little money at all to purchase.


Nothing beats the ambiance of a flickering flame warming the faces of your loved ones on a dark night. Candles can be a very inexpensive way to light your home off grid. You can often find candles for free or just pennies at yard sales. I’ve read that you can make a candle last longer by freezing it for several hours before burning it, though I’ve yet to test this theory.

Although I do have a large tote full of various candles I’ve been collecting for my preps, I have become more conscious about what I burn on a regular basis. Paraffin based candles put off a dangerous toxin-filled smoke when burned. Some studies have found paraffin candles to be almost as bad as cigarettes. For regular indoor use, opt for safer bees wax or soy based candles for indoor burning and save the paraffin candles to be burned in an open, airy place, like outdoors. (I’ve lucked up and found some nice bees wax candles for super cheap at yard sales!)

Keep a few extra candle wicks in various sizes so you can make more candles from the leftover melted wax. You can also make your own wicks out of cotton string by soaking the string in melted wax and allowing it to cool and harden.

Oil Lamps

Good ol’ fashioned oil lamps are another great option for lighting your home without electricity. They can be fueled with kerosene, lamp oil, cooking oil, and even animal fat. However, not all lamp fuels are created equally.

Kerosene has been used as a source of light for ages, but you will want to burn it in an area with plenty of ventilation due to the strong odor it puts off.

You can make an oil lamp from cooking oils at home using pretty much any type of oil or fat you have on hand. Olive oil is the best choice. It doesn’t produce smoke or odor when burned. All you need other than the oil is a mason jar, some wire, and a wick. You can read the instructions on exactly how to make an olive oil lamp in this interesting article.

I made an emergency lamp once by pouring hamburger grease into a tin can, dipping a wick into the center, and allowing it to harden to room temperature. It burned for 11 hours straight before the wick fell over and put itself out. Sure, the house smelled like a burger joint and my husband was craving a double-stacker, but it worked!

When shopping for traditional lamp oil, try to find a brand that carries a non-toxic,  “clean burning” oil; something that says it’s “smokeless” and/or “no-odor” is best.

There are many different styles of oil lamps you can choose from: wall mounted, table top lamps, Aladdins, hanging lamps, reading lamps… all of them are great for their intended purposes. I like to find oil lamps second hand for a couple bucks a piece. Don’t forget to stock up on lamp wicks to keep those lamps in service!

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