My wife is a candle freak. We have spent a small fortune on candles over the years. They are decorative and are functional, providing light in a lightless room. When it comes to preparedness, candles are a huge resource often overlooked.
Incredibly inexpensive with an indefinite shelf life, candles have been around since 200 BC. Beyond providing valuable light candles are useful for other purposes such as fire starting, cooking, and to a minimal extent they can provide heat.
Candles come in all shapes and sizes, and made from a variety of materials. Some have one wick while others have multiple. They can be found in containers such as glass jars and metal tins.
Candles also can be standalone pillars of varying sizes. I am sure we are all familiar enough with candles to bypass a further analysis of soy versus beeswax versus paraffin, etc. You light a candle and it burns with a flame. Pretty simple.
Candles Provide Adaptable and Affordable Light
Simplicity counts for a lot, and when it comes to a reliable, low tech solution for providing light in any scenario where the electrical grid is down or simply not available for use candles still get it done. After all, they have been doing it and doing it well for thousands of years.
A candle can be placed conveniently just about anywhere, singly or in multiples, carried in a specialty container or lantern for the purpose and adapted to use in all kinds of fixtures. Candles can provide a surprising amount of light, and they’re soft, flickering glow is definitely a comfort during trying times.
Best of all, candles are an extremely affordable source of light so long as you purchase smart. now, compared to the ubiquitous and abundant electricity available to us today, your cost per hour of light is going to be significantly more expensive than just flipping a switch and running a light bulb, but considered in the context of emergency lighting, against batteries and many liquid fuels candles are still a good buy.
Candles Can also Provide Heat
Another significant edge that candles have over other emergency light sources is that they produce heat, or rather a significant amount of heat compared to electrical lighting systems. Anytime you’ve got an open flame you have heat, because heat is one of the necessities for producing fire.
A single candle in the middle of a large room will not warm you or anyone else up in a meaningful way, even if you huddle close to it, even dangerously close.
But in smaller spaces, especially when using multiple candles, you can notice a significant increase in the temperature of the air, and they also have a way of drying out the air somewhat, reducing the bite of a damp chill.
In colder climates, this definitely gives a major edge to candles. If you need a significant amount of light and are going to be lighting many candles anyway, you might as well enjoy and partake of their heat output.
Cooking with Candles
Unbelievably, candles can also be used for cooking and surprisingly well so long as you implement the correct material acquisitions ahead of time.
Candles, even large ones, even multiples group together, will not produce enough heat reliably enough to even boil a large quantity of water without modification, but this does not mean that candles cannot be used as a primary heat source in special ovens.
These are special candle ovens, and in particular tea light ovens, are compact, tightly sealed and have interior compartments made of highly polished metal for maximum reflection of heat energy.
They also often utilize removable inserts that allow you to easily add or subtract candles to reach a desired cooking temperature. These might sound like a contraption that is more akin to a child’s learner oven toy, but they are entirely effective.
These ovens are capable of heating smaller servings of food, baking bread and even roasting entire cuts of meat. I think that is awfully impressive for a small oven that relies on nothing more than common, dirt cheap tea light candles as its heat source!
Whatever food preparation alternatives you have as part of your survival stash, if you’re going to be relying heavily on candles as a light source, I would strongly urge you to add one of these ovens to your repertoire.
Understanding Wax Types
Candles are available with many different types of wax, and although not the most essential feature about them, they do make a difference in burn time, brightness and other factors. The most common types of candles in North America are made from soy and paraffin waxes, and beeswax.
Made from hydrogenated soybean oil, soy wax is often used in container candles since it has a lower melting point than other waxes and this means that soy candles can sag or even melt entirely in hot environments, such as the interior of a vehicle.
However, because of this lower melting point in the propensity of the wax to puddle, this means that they last longer than comparable candles made from other kinds of waxes and might be a good choice in temperate regions to maximize burn time.
Paraffin wax is a petroleum product, typically produced from coal or oil shale. Paraffin wax candles are among the most popular and most common because they are extremely affordable, burn brightly and hot and have a reputation for burning very cleanly so long as wicks are trimmed and maintained.
Among the very oldest type of candle wax, beeswax is the same wax produced by, obviously, bees! It has a modest melting temperature and burns brightly although it produces some smoke.
However, beeswax contains nothing in the way of chemical additives or stabilizers unless specifically adulterated by the manufacturer and is also possessed of a pleasant, entirely natural smell.
For those with specific allergies or clean air concerns, beeswax candles are probably just the ticket.
Safety and Operation Concerns
Candles, compared to other forms of emergency lighting, do have fairly significant safety and operational concerns.
The first and most obvious is that every single candle is an open flame, and attended with that are all the risks of any open flame, especially inside your home.
Additionally candles require secondary preparation for ease of use and mess free operation, since wax that melts will drip and dribble everywhere.
First things first, it is imperative that you always safely place and supervise candles that are burning. We have all heard the horror stories and resulting house fires that occur when a candle is left too close to a combustible object which is slowly, or quickly, heated to the point of catching fire.
Worse, children and pets are frequent culprits when it comes to knocking over candles which, sometimes, can lead to surfaces or possessions catching Fire all the same.
For this reason, it is imperative that you stay on top of candle placement and never, ever leave them burning unattended or at worst when you are unable to respond to an accident.
Likewise fire extinguishers must be kept on hand, serviced and ready to use in case of a small accidental Fire if you want to have any hope of containing it before it turns into a fully involved blaze that will engulf your house.
Next, don’t just leave candles sitting around on convenient surfaces, as allowing them to burn down could result in a flammable surface catching fire, at worst, or damage to the surface at best.
Always set your candle in or on unapproved candle holder, or lacking such things, use a heavy ceramic plate with an ample lip or a heavy iron or steel pot or pan.
For taking your candles on the road, that is to say using them as you move around, use a specially designed candlestick with a handle or ring for grasping or a specially designed lantern designed to hold multiple candles.
The latter has the great advantage of containing the flame and usually mirrors to amplify the amount of useful light.
Lastly, candles must be lit by an existing flame, be it another candle, from a match, using a lighter or some other tool that can produce fire. Having all the candles in the world won’t help you if you cannot light them!
Accordingly, make sure you always have on hand several options for creating a fire on demand if you want to rely on candles.
Inside Air Quality Considerations
One thing to note about candles is that, no matter how cleanly burning they happen to be, they do emit a little smoke which can turn into soot. If you are in cramped quarters for some time, especially occupying the same room day after day, there might be a noticeable degradation in air quality, however slight.
Although not an issue for most people, those who suffer from asthma or other breathing ailments, or sensitivities to any ingredient or additive in the candle wax, might begin to experience a scratchy throat, coughing and other symptoms.
This is something that you should plan for and experiment with ahead of time for both yourself and your family if you are going to rely on candles as a primary emergency lighting source in a grid down situation.
Also, I would highly recommend that you think twice before using the efficiency of candles for this task as an excuse to stock up on dozens or hundreds of scented candles for any reason.
Scented candles are a love it or leave it proposition for most folks, and compared to plain and unscented candles are far more likely to aggravate those with breathing conditions.
One or two for special purpose use as part of your survival compliment might be welcome to provide a little comfort and perhaps mask unpleasant odors in the outside air, but a little bit will go a long way! Remember that pure beeswax candles have a pleasant, mildly sweet scent by themselves.
The solution for stuffy or stale inside air resulting from continuous, round the clock burning of candles is simply to let fresh air in if it is possible and safe under the circumstances.
Properly ventilating your house or other space is generally not difficult, and we’ll go a long way towards keeping everyone happy and healthy.
Candles are an ancient and time-honored method of lighting, and though today they are typically relegated to the role of luxury or atmospheric illumination they nonetheless remain an entirely viable and affordable source of emergency light for virtually any situation.
You’ll need to place and burn candles safely, and so common sense must always be employed, but barring just a couple of drawbacks you would be well served for keeping a large stock of candles among your survival supplies.
Wal-Mart and craft stores are both excellent places to find them at great prices. My favorite type of candle is a jar candle. Candles can certainly be a fire hazard and with jar candles the chance of the flame getting out of control is slim. Either way – they should not be left unattended.
With my recent acquisition of a Candlelit Oven, I am stocking up on tea lights by the bag full. I continue to put back candles of all types. Don’t forget the matches.
last update 01/05/2022