You’re at home, mid-Netflix binge, and ready for a great night and pop! the lights go out, and the tv turns off. Your entire house is quiet, caught in a power outage. They can happen for many reasons; storms, extreme weather events, and even vulnerable power grids unable to keep up with increasing demands.
No matter what causes a blackout, your response should be the same. You need a disaster preparedness kit. An integral part of that kit is keeping emergency candles on hand. But we’re not talking about the set of candles in the kitchen for dinner parties and mood lighting.
You can’t find emergency candles at the dollar store or corner bodega, so you may be wondering…
What is an Emergency Candle?
An emergency candle provides light and heat during a disaster or power outage. These unique candles have a few great qualities other candles don’t always:
- They’re made with high-quality wax and wick to prevent flickering.
- Dripless, so they don’t spill wax and make a mess.
- Burns slow for reliable light.
- The candle burns smokeless so you can use them inside without discomfort.
- Reusable so you can conserve supplies.
- Unscented, so when they burn, they won’t contaminate the air quality.
It should be clear why emergency candles are a great addition to any disaster readiness kit. They’re made to help during stressful situations. Unlike lanterns and flashlights, they always work for as long as they should, without replacing batteries or bulbs. Also, they don’t need maintenance, and they don’t have a shelf life.
How Long Does an Emergency Candle Last?
Expect an emergency candle to last for somewhere between 7 and twelve hours. But keep in mind, every emergency candle brand is unique. The size of the candle and the wax and wick all determine how long a candle will burn. Time is an important consideration when buying candles. Remember, if a power outage only lasts a short time, you can save the candle. You’ll always get the full burn time, unlike with some other emergency lighting options, like glow sticks.
If you’re in a survival situation, it’s essential to know how long a candle will burn, which raises an important question. If you’re preparing for an emergency or power outage for the first time, you may wonder how many candles you’ll need…
How Many Candles Should You Buy?
Depending on the size of your home, you don’t want to buy hundreds of candles. You may not even want to buy dozens of candles. Remember one of the great features of candles? You can re-light them and get the full burn time from each candle. And while it may be dark out anywhere from ten to 12 hours a day, depending on the season, you’ll be asleep for some portion of that time.
Realistically, you only need four to five hours of emergency lighting per day. And that’s in situations where the power outage goes on for more than the average eight hours.
Depending on where you live, extreme weather events and natural disasters may be more common. It’s no longer unusual for power outages to go on for days or even weeks following a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire.
FEMA recommends having emergency supplies for three days without power, including food and water for emergency power outage situations. Of course, you have to balance prudence with preparation when purchasing emergency supplies like candles. If you have space, buy several boxes and hope that you won’t burn through them all. And make sure you have a secondary emergency light source on hand.
What to Use Instead of Candles?
If you have a family with small children, your first thought maybe that candle burns in a blackout will just add more disaster to a situation. And there are a few emergencies when you’re cautioned against lighting survival candles.
Always get up-to-date information over the radio or via cellphone alerts to learn what caused the power outage. Also, check with the natural gas provider in your area to make sure there’s no gas leak or risk of a gas main break.
Here are a few of the situations when you shouldn’t use any kind of flame or candle:
- Earthquake: during an earthquake, gas lines rupture and leak, filling your home with explosive gas.
- Gas main break: if you know there’s a risk of a gas main break during another emergency, don’t use candles or light matches.
- Debris: if there is a lot of flammable debris, and the candle is at risk of tipping over, opt for a different lighting option rather than risking a fire.
Keep at least one of the following emergency light options on hand, along with candles. Then you’ll be in great shape no matter what causes a power outage. Here are just a few options, pick the best one for your home and family:
- Glow sticks: easy, long-lasting light, but they’re dim and have a shelf life.
- LED lamps: bright lamps that will run all night off battery power.
- LED flashlights: they’re lightweight and can run for up to 3 continuous hours.
- Solar-powered lamps: takes up to 8 hours to charge, but provides light for hours.
- Hand-crank lanterns: charge with a small hand crank or by USB for long-lasting light.
If you’ve tried other emergency light sources, you may see the long, effortless burn time of candles and think that solar and crank-powered lanterns aren’t that great. Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself…
Are Emergency Candles the Best Lighting in a Blackout?
There really isn’t a single “best” light option during an emergency. Candles have lots of great benefits and deserve a place in your disaster kit, but use them responsibly. Here are the best things about emergency candles:
- Cheap to buy.
- Produce heat as well as light.
- Don’t expire or go bad.
- Don’t malfunction or require repair.
- Long burn time.
- Don’t require batteries or charging.
One of our favorite things about emergency candles that bears repeating is that they’re reusable and ready in an instant. Whether a power outage lasts ten minutes or ten hours, a candles power is the same. A single box of candles, like these Stonebriar pillars, can provide you with over 100 hours of light.
Also, you can even make your own emergency candles; just keep reading…
How to Make Emergency Candles
Making emergency candles saves you money, but it’s also a great way to recycle items you already have around the house. It’s a fun project you can do with kids. Just use caution because it involves melting and pouring wax. One of the most significant benefits of making emergency candles is you get more for your money. Spend an afternoon making a big batch and share them with friends and family. It just takes a few materials; store-bought and from around the house. Later, we’ll discuss how to make a survival candle when you need light and don’t have an emergency candle handy.
The quality of the materials makes a huge difference in the burn time of your homemade emergency candles. Keep reading to learn about the best components to use in your candles.
The wax you use has the most significant impact on the burn time of your candle and the quality of light. We’ll go over different wax types and which one is the best for emergency candles.
- Paraffin wax: the least expensive kind of wax, but also has a shorter burn time and burns less clean than natural waxes.
- Liquid paraffin: not an actual candle, but clean-burning and most last for over 100 hours.
- Beeswax: dripless and also produces a brighter flame than other natural waxes.
- Soy wax: more manageable to work with than beeswax, with a very long burn time.
- Palm wax: environmentally friendly material with a long burn time and high melting point.
Many store-bought emergency candles combine several kinds of wax to increase benefits and mitigate downsides. You can try the same thing, cutting natural wax with paraffin wax to reduce cost without sacrificing burn time. We recommend using at least some natural wax because they burn clean and long, which is what you need in an emergency.
The second component of a candle, the wick, is just as important as the wax. The wrong material will cause a small, weak flame. You don’t want your emergency candle extinguishing in every gentle breeze. These are three common types of wicks:
- Flat wick: these are the knitted, slim profile cords you see in most candles. They curl in on themselves as they burn, so you don’t need to trim them. However, they burn faster than other wicks.
- Square wicks: these are knit in a square pattern, using more material. Because there’s more material to burn, they last a long time.
- Cored wicks: these are knit around a stiff flammable material, like cardboard. They burn with constant intense flames.
- Liquid paraffin wicks: if you use liquid paraffin wax, you need a special cord that draws the oil up from the container instead of burning down.
Again, you can balance costs with benefits when selecting emergency candle wicks. It’s worth it to try a few recipes for wax and wick and burn them in non-emergency situations to find the combination that works well for your household.
Emergency Candle Containers
Here’s is where the fun and thriftiness of making emergency candles comes together. Save your old recycling or use containers you find in the garage. For larger containers, you can always put in multiple wicks, increasing the light put out by the candle. Here are some of our favorite containers to use for DIY emergency candles:
- Glass jars: dig through your recycling for glass cars from jelly, pasta sauce, pickles. You can repurpose them all for candle containers.
- Aluminum cans: save the cans from food and coffee. It’s nice to have a variety of sizes to use throughout your home during a power outage.
- Housewares: check garage sales and thrift stores for old glasses, mugs, vases, and pottery. Just because it’s an emergency doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish.
You’ll want to know how long you can count on each of your homemade candles to burn. If you have a kitchen scale, you can weigh the amount of wax that goes into each container. Twelve ounces of soy wax will burn for around 60 hours, depending on the wick material.
12 ounces soy wax = 60 hours burn time.
It’s not an exact science, but you’ll have a reasonable estimate of how much burn time you will have during a power outage. You can also weigh a candle before burning, track how long it’s lit, and weigh it again after you extinguish it, and you’ll know how many long each ounce of wax burns.
Step-by-step Guide to Making Candles
Once you’ve collected all the materials, making the candles is fast and easy.
- Use a two-pot double boiler, or put a large can in a pot of water to melt the wax.
- Put a bend in the can to create a spout, so it’s easier to pour the melted wax.
- Heat your wax pellets or a blend of pellets.
- Pour melted wax into the container up to the halfway point.
- Insert the wick in the melted wax until it touches the bottom.
- Cover the top of the container with aluminum foil & poke a hole to thread the wick through.
- The foil will hold the cord in place while the candle solidifies.
- After the bottom half cools all the way, fill the container the rest of the way with melted wax.
It’s super easy to make emergency candles. It’s not advisable to add essential oils or other scents because 50+ hours of vanilla scent will get annoying and cause allergic reactions or headaches. But, you can add a melted crayon to add some color if you like, especially if you’re making candles with kids.
How to Make a Survival Candle
A survival candle is for those situations when you don’t have an emergency candle on hand. With no preparation and a little know-how, you can still create a source of light during a power outage, from the stuff around the house and in the kitchen. By now, you’ve either bought or made emergency candles for your own home. These tips are for survival situations such as a power outage when you’re on vacation in a rental home, or even a hotel. Keep reading to learn how to make an easy survival candle.
Make a survival candle with its own wick:
- Crayons: they come with a wick; the paper wrapper burns as the wax melts. Melt the bottom first to stick the crayon to a plate or inside a glass container. Bunch a group of crayons together for more light.
- Oranges: cut an orange in half and twist the fruit around to remove it without removing the center stalk. Fill the hollow peel with vegetable oil and light the center stalk.
How to make your own wick:
Tightly roll up flammable materials you can find around the house, like:
- Cotton fabricE
- Toilet paper
- Paper Towel
More survival candle ideas:
- Butter: insert a wick into the middle of the butter, put it on a plate, or inside a glass jar and light.
- Tinned fish in oil: if you don’t have vegetable oil or fat in the kitchen but have tinned fish in the pantry. Punch a hole in the tin’s top and squeeze some oil onto the top. Insert a wick into the hole and light.
- Vegetable oil or lard: any kind of fat will burn. Just fill a container with the oil or lard, insert a wick and light.
Remember, there are some survival situations where you shouldn’t light a candle, like earthquakes and gas main leaks. Listen to the radio or check cell phone alerts to determine the cause of the power outage before making any of these survival candles.
Which Candles Give Off the Most Light?
When shopping for or making emergency candles, the other notable feature besides burn time is the amount of light the candle produces. Emergency candles should burn bright and long. Survival candles, on the other hand, are to provide light in situations where you have no other source of illumination. Don’t expect them to last 12 hours, but just to help in the short term.
As we said before, natural waxes with a square or cored wick give off consistent bright flames. Keep the wick trimmed at a 1/4″ for the most consistent luminous flame. Check out these UCO beeswax candles that burn for as much as 12 hours, with minimal dripping and a bright glow.
The other trick for increasing the light is to surround the candles with mirrors. The flame’s reflection will help illuminate more of a room without needing to light a second candle. However, there’s a point of diminishing returns with this trick.
What You Need to Know Before Buying Emergency Candles
As you now know, not all emergency candles are equal. A little extra time or money goes a long way with emergency candles. During a power outage, the burn time and the quality of the flame matter more than ever. Research emergency candles before you buy to find the best products. Disreputable companies will market lesser quality candles with short burn time for emergencies.
- Check the material: while liquid paraffin burns for a long time, 100% paraffin wax candles don’t have the same quality as natural waxes. While a blend is okay, beeswax and soy have the longest burning time.
- Wick quality: square and cored wicks made from natural material like cotton will burn clean and increase the amount of burn time of the emergency candle.
- Number in the box: multiply the candle’s burn time by how many are in the package for the total hours of emergency lighting you’re purchasing.
- Unscented: scented candles burn faster than emergency candles, and any scent will contaminate the air quality during a power outage.
The safest bet is to get enough emergency candles for about 100 hours of lighting. You’ll have light and heat for 14 days of power outages, with 5 hours of light per day and some to spare. Emergency lighting isn’t the only thing you’ll need during a power outage.
What Else Should Go in Your Disaster Preparedness Kit?
You need more than just candles for survival. As we said before, to prepare for an emergency, FEMA recommends food and water for three days. While you know how to make survival candles, you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re relying on them for all of your light and warmth, especially in a blizzard. Some other essential items to place in your disaster preparedness kit are:
- Secondary light source: a hand crank or battery-powered lantern.
- Water: one gallon per day per person in your household.
- Food: 2000 calories per person per day of canned and dry food.
- First aid kit
- Spare batteries
- Face masks
- Hand crank radios for current information from your community
- Cellphone chargers and backup batteries.
These are just a few of the best items to get you started. None of us want to be in emergency survival situations or dealing with power outages. But proper preparation reduces the stress on your life. The more ready you are, the more confidence you’ll feel when dealing with an emergency or disaster situation.