Light is the most important need in an emergency. It provides the psychological assurance of normalcy and safety.
There are many ways to provide light. Here are a few:
Battery booster unit
Coleman propane lantern
Solar powered yard lights
Flashlight is the preferred method immediately during an emergency and short term lighting needs. Suggest you have them in the same place with extra batteries. A flashlight for each person is a good idea. At home I have the usual hand held flashlight ($5-$10). In the car I carry a headlamp that can be worn on the head to provide hands free use while changing a tire ($10).
Candles are to be avoided. They are the most common and inexpensive. But they have the potential to cause house fires and casualties. If you must, keep out of reach of children, on a surface that is not flammable (stove), and away from an arm or cloths that can accidentally brush it (cost is just a few dollars).
Light Sticks from Wal-Mart cost a couple of dollars. They don't really do a great job of making light, but they are wonderful to have when children have to go to bed scared at night without power and they each have their own night stick. Make sure they don't have the rope that hangs from the neck as they go to sleep.
Hurricane lamps are great because they produce a lot of light. Does require storage of lamp fuel which stores for years. They can cause a fire if left unattended, or knocked over. The flue is fragile and can break easily, but they will bring the peace you need when the batteries are dead. They are nostalgic and bring back memories of the “old days.”
We bought ours at Wal-Mart (Oil lamp $10, oil $8 Wal-Mart).
Battery booster unit is the best short term solution. This is the WOW in your preparedness kit. Buy a battery power unit (the one with the battery jumper cables attached). You can get them from a car parts store for $50-$100. If you get one with an outlet (three prongs “AC”), when it is fully charged it can provide light for around 6 hours depending upon usage (battery recharging unit $65, light bulb $1). You can plug it directly into a lamp in your home!
We bought a unit with the plugs designed for cigarette lighters in a car. We bought a power inverter (Wal-Mart or auto parts store $50-$100) which plugs into the unit, then, (here comes the good part) we plug in the lamp. Viola…..Light. Just like normal. What we did was to buy a florescent light bulb of 25 watts. This way it puts out normal light while using less energy than a normal light bulb and will extend the battery unit.
This means if you have as short term power outage (day or two which is what most outages are) you can have light at night for a couple of hours while you are getting ready for bed and then light in the morning and evening of the next day.
Coleman propane lantern is a great resource to have on hand. Great for camping and emergencies and its safe (propane lasts indefinitely) but it is so bright indoors that we use this as last resort. But you pick it up, attach the canister, flip the switch and instant light. ($25 for lamp and $12 for a six pack of fuel)
Solar powered yard lights are something to consider. The lights recharge outside then at night you can bring them in and provide minimal light (great for kid’s room – similar to a night light). Especially great for a bathroom where you don’t need a lot of light. ($25)
Generators are an option. Considerations are noise, price, maintenance, used once a year, take up a lot of room, heavy, and if not used correctly, lethal. We don’t own one. But those in the hot and humid South (hurricanes) love them for running the fridge, fan, TV and lights ($200 + not counting fuel).