How to Light Your House Post-SHTF

Special thanks to guest contributor, Dan Sullivan (from for this post!

What are you going to do when the lights go out? This is a trick question. Keep in mind that power outages happen all the time and, if you’re “lucky” enough, you might have to spend 3 days or more with no electricity.

The U.S. power grid is less and less reliable with more and more blackouts happening every year. Power outages total around 100 minutes per year in the Midwest and over 200 minutes in the Northeast. Of course, this is just an average as power failures that last days on end are frequent and dreadful, leaving thousands with no water, heat, television and Internet.

Power outages wreak havoc when larger-scale disasters occur. For example, a terrorist attack on January 26th left 80% of Pakistan (that’s 140 million people) in the dark after an explosion at one of the country’s power stations. Katrina also caused extended power outages in the U.S. in Louisiana, Mississippi and a few other states, affecting 1.3 million people.

I’m not going to bore you with stats. Suffices to say that having alternate means of lighting is a must, regardless of whether you think the end of the world will happen. Without further ado, let’s review some of the best (and cheapest) ways to light up your house when all your neighbors are going to be left in the dark.


Candles are cheap and require absolutely no generators or batteries or anything like that. If the thought of making your own energy scares you, stock up on candles so you won’t have to worry about that. Plus, they generate heat, unlike some of the other alternatives below.


A great alternative to candles is the old oil lamp. And you’ve got quite a few options. Oil lamps were just the beginning as they were followed by kerosene lamps, gas-based and petroleum-based lamps.

Flashlights and spotlights

You probably have quite a few of them in your bug out bag but have you considered larger flashlights such as spotlights? These will do a much better job lighting the room while being mobile enough to just take them with you and go should you have to bug out.

You’ve got incandescent, LED and even HID flashlights. LEDs are the most common, energy efficient and the ones I personally recommend. And let’s not forget the extremely useful mechanically (or hand-crank, if you prefer) flashlights which require absolutely no power source other than your own two hands. (If you can, get one of those hand-crank flashlights that also has an accumulator. This way, you won’t have to continuously pump it in order to keep it working.)

Also, think about all the possible scenarios in which you’ll use them. For example, if you’re planning on bugging out on a bicycle, your best choice is probably going to be a headlamp because it allows you to keep your hands on the handlebars and still see where you’re going.

Headlamps have their disadvantages, however:

  • you can’t point them in a direction unless you turn your head in it
  • it creates this sort of aura in front of you which prevents you from seeing too far ahead
  • they sometimes draw bugs in your eyes.

OK, I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t get one. Running, riding a bike, doing the dishes and even brushing teeth are much easier with a headlamp. But, at the end of the day, which flashlight to use is your call. What matters is that you’re informed on making the right decision.

Gardening Solar Lights

The cool thing about those is that a lot of people use them because they make their gardens look that much more attractive without raising any suspicions that they are preppers. Plus, the fact that they’re so common means you won’t draw too much attention post-SHTF (when you’ll have to leave them outside every day to recharge).

Gardening solar lights are also extremely useful outdoors during peacetime. They are good at discouraging burglars from entering your home since houses with good lighting are riskier for them to break into. Of course, this sort of use is only good pre-SHTF as part of your home defense plan. After Doomsday, you’re much better off hiding the fact that you have electricity because no one else will. Failing to do that is like painting a giant bull’s-eye on your house.

Solar Light Bulbs

If you don’t mind doing a little DIY, the solar light bulb is for you. All you need is a plastic bottle, water, a little bit of bleach and a hole in your roof that needs to be sealed after the bottle is placed. The only downside is that it only works during the day, when the sun is up. Yet, it’s still a 100% free way of getting sufficient light inside your barn, your bug-out location and, if need be, even your attic.

Here’s a quick YouTube video on how to make one:

Night Vision Monoculars

If you’re looking for something a little high tech, particularly if you have a large perimeter to defend, how about a night vision monocular? Although it works on batteries, it lets you spot enemies even better than during daylight! They’ll set you down $150 to $200 so make sure you really need them before purchasing.

What there’s no available light source?

If you have absolutely nothing to provide you with lighting, you should at least be familiar with your house well enough to go through in total darkness. I’m not saying you should practice with your eyes closed (unless you’re really committed!) but you can at least try to get yourself a glass of water in the middle of the night without turning all the lights on. The streetlights will make it pretty easy for you, anyway.


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