Ways to Light the House After an EMP

There has been much concern about the possibility of an EMP and how such an event would affect people if it happens. The understanding is that many electrical devices – and probably the entire electrical grid – would be at least temporarily non-working. Even those who think it would be temporary still believe it would be an extended outage, until repairs can be made. Because of this, it is necessary to have plans in place and supplies available to be prepared.

When the power is out due to an EMP, there are a variety of unknowns. These include how long the power will be out, how many items in the home will be still viable once the power does come back on (or with the use of a generator), and whether anyone had advance notice (for storing more items where they can be protected from the EMP).

Some people believe that an electromagnetic pulse would not affect devices that are not turned on at the moment of the pulse, but others posit that they certainly can be damaged, in the same way that a lightning strike can damage appliances and devices that are not turned on at the time of the strike. However, while with a lightning strike a device must be plugged in to be affected, an EMP is already just “in the air” so its effects are less linear or predictable. What happens to a CD in a microwave, for instance, shows that things can be affected in unexpected ways.

In the case of an EMP, one of the things people will need is a way to illuminate the dwelling in which they live while the power is out. There are a few possibilities to keep in mind and add to the survival kit in case of this sort of disaster.


Candles, since they are made of wax, are obvious choices for use when the power is out for any reason, but especially after an EMP. They are convenient to obtain and use and can be stored with relatively little space. While they do not individually offer much light, each additional candle adds to the illumination, so a variety of candles can provide enough light for most people to do general things. It might be better to use for bathrooms or other smaller areas rather than using in larger areas, to preserve them for longer.

It is important to be careful with the location of candles, as they can be a fire hazard. If a candle is too close to something flammable, or gets knocked over, it can cause a fire. While that would definitely light up the room, it is certainly not recommended or desired!

There are, however, alternatives to candles for light. Some of these are listed here.


Most flashlights that are not LED are shielded enough and have little enough circuitry to be safe from electromagnetic pulses. LEDs have the risk of being damaged if the blast is near enough. Older flashlights and the batteries to power them are a good thing to store. If there is concern about the flashlights being affected, a Faraday cage will protect them.

Glow sticks

Though they tend to be sold as party favors or fun camping novelties, they do give off a fair amount of light. There are also heavy-duty types that are sold to provide light in cases of a lack of power. Though they are unlikely to light an entire room, one can be enough to allow a person to read or to move around the house. A definite benefit of using glowsticks – especially if there are young children in the house – is that they do not present a fire hazard.

Kerosene Lamps

For decades, people used kerosene lamps for lighting their homes. Though they use flame, like candles, their flames are much brighter, allowing a whole room to be lit by one lamp. Because they use flame, they also present a fire risk. It can be a larger risk due to the larger flame and the fact that it is connected to a fuel container, but it can also be less risk because there are fewer needed and because they are generally enclosed to some degree. They are made to be more stable than the average candle, with a flat bottom to the lantern so it is more difficult to accidentally overturn.

Propane Lamps

These lamps, usually used when camping or outdoors, can be used inside as well, but only if the area is well-ventilated. These can cause a fire risk, so they must be kept away from anything that could ignite. The positive side is that they do shed a lot of light and propane is fairly easy to store long-term. These are best kept to a last resort, however.

Where to Buy
Stonebriar Tall 3x6 Inch Unscented Pillar Candles, 3x6, White
Stonebriar 6 to 7 Hour Long Burning Unscented Tea Light Candles, 300 Pack, White, 300 Count
Maglite Mini Incandescent 2-Cell AA Flashlight with Holster, Black
Rayovac Industrial Grade 10 Lumen 2D Yellow Flashlight (IN2C)
12 Ultra Bright Glow Sticks - Emergency Light Sticks for Camping Accessories, Parties, Hurricane Supplies, Earthquake, Survival Kit and More - Lasts Over 12 Hours (Green)
Lamplight Chamber Oil Lamp
Shop4Omni Red Hurricane Kerosene Oil Lantern Emergency Hanging Light/Lamp - 12 Inches
Hyoola 1-Gallon Liquid Paraffin Lamp Oil - Clear Smokeless, Odorless, Ultra Clean Burning Fuel for Indoor and Outdoor Use - Highest Purity Available Candles
Coleman Deluxe PerfectFlow Propane Lantern with Hard Carry Case
Coleman Insta-Clip Mantle



1. Unscented Pillar Candles

Six-inch-tall pillar candles burn for up to 65 hours. Lead-freecotton wicks burn clean and without smoke. These come in a cardboard box with cardboard dividers so they can be stored safely until needed.

2. Long Burning Tea Light Candles

These unscented tea lights sit in metal cups and are made with palm wax. Their lead-free cotton wicks will burn smokeless and the candles will last for up to 7 hours. 300 of these candles in a cardboard box can be used for quite some time in a power loss situation.

3. Mini Incandescent Flashlight

Incandescent bulbs are less likely to be damaged than LED in an EMP, so this handy AA-powered flashlight that comes with a holster to keep it readily available is a good choice. It is resistant to damage from water or impact and can light up things up to 325 feet away. It can also be set up as a candle to light an area.

4. Industrial Grade Flashlight

10 Lumens in a sturdy, durable plastic case that is tough and resistant to liquids and impact are powered by 2 D-size batteries. The light is increased by a prismatic reflector to provide bright white light.

5. Ultra-Bright Glow sticks

Made especially for emergency situations, these glow sticks are extra bright and last over 12 hours. These can be stored for years. Each is individually wrapped, so they can easily be used one at a time and taken wherever needed.

6. Kerosene/Oil Lamp

This lamp holds 12 ounces of fuel, which can be kerosene or other lamp fuel. When full, the lamp will burn up to 25 hours. The chimney is removable for ease in lighting the wick and to clean it. The wick can be adjusted with the wheel that raises and lowers it, as needed. This also increases or decreases the flame.

7. Four Red Hanging Oil Lanterns

This metal lantern has glass surrounding the flame area. Its adjustable wick provides long lasting light using the oil in the fuel container. The handle allows the lantern to be hung in a convenient location or it can be set on a table.

8. Liquid Paraffin Lamp Oil

This oil is excellent for any lamp or lantern that requires oil to provide light. It is smoke-free and odorless.

9. Propane Lamp

This propane-powered lantern comes in a sturdy carrying case to protect it when not in use. One 16.4-ounce propane cylinder (sold separately) will power this light for up to 9 hours on the low setting and 4 hours on high. A button provides matchless lighting. The ventilator is coated with porcelain to prevent rust, and the glass globe allows the light to shine while protecting the mantles.

10. Propane Lamp Mantles

Four mantles are easy to install due to the wire clips. They fit neatly over the burners and will last a while if care is taken; once they have been burned, they become fragile.