Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Non-Electric Lighting Options

Thank you for all the emails and comments to the posts. It seems that with today's high energy prices, the idea of going non-electric on as much as possible has become a hot topic. There has been so much interest in how we now light our home that I wanted to approach that aspect today.

Our home, being built in the 1890's & the addition in 1910, has the large windows. Some have been switched out to a more modern style, but the windows are still large enough to give a lot of natural lighting in the daylight hours. There are some rooms still with the original windows that will one day be replaced as finances allow for a double-pane, more energy efficient windows. Typical of homes of that time, our house has several windows in each room. The bathroom is the only room without good natural lighting. It's only window is located where the side porch roof shades it. Having all these windows helps a great deal in providing lighting most days. There are the overcast days however where the natural lighting is not always efficient.

Currently, we are using oil lamps in the rooms. The bathroom is the only room which still has electric lighting. We feel it will likely remain with electricity due to the lack of good natural lighting which we would need for things like my husband's shaving, checking for ticks, first aid treatment, etc. that we may find challenging in oil lamp light.

As we are fixing up our home, we are going to be painting all walls white. There is a good reason our ancestors did this! It was practical. White walls reflects the oil lamp light much better than walls with a colored paint or leaving the walls in their natural wood or plaster coloring. Our rooms will have color, but it will be done with the curtains and accents around the room. My husband is going to put up lamp shelves on the walls where the lamps will be kept. Behind each lamp chimney will be a reflective plate or mirror to reflect even more of the lamp light into the room. We have found that having 2 lamps per bedroom to be sufficient. Our little ones have 1 lamp which we take into their room when checking diapers and such during the night. The lamp, for now, is not kept in their room. The living room and kitchen, being larger rooms and more activity needing good lighting, each have 3 oil lamps placed about the rooms.

A product we are looking into and considering is a solar lantern. These lanterns are advertised mainly as outdoor use, but will provide good lighting for up to 6 -12 hours depending on the brand and the amount of light it produces. We are looking for a good brand that will provide the lighting we need. If these work well, we will gradually buy enough for each room. The oil lamps will remain, but we will use them only when the solar lamps are unable to get a good charging from the sun, such as overcast days. If we find one that works well, I will certainly be posting about it here.

One consideration we have had to make is how to walk about the house in the middle of the night safely. Having a 2 yr old and a 6 month old, there are times when the little one especially will awaken in the night for a feeding or diaper change. We don't keep any of the lamps burning at night as we feel it too much of a safety risk. Also, we don't want to be wasting a lot of lamp oil. We keep one of the smaller oil lamps with a box of matches handy so that we can find it easily in the dark. I light that lamp and set the wick on a low light setting, providing just enough light to allow me to walk safely through the rooms but not bright enough to wake the little one still sleeping. This has worked out very well. We are able to navigate about our home without any problem, yet the lighting is not harsh enough to fully awaken the baby as we change his diaper or give him a feeding. Once we have a solar lantern, the lantern will be used.

A good temporary solution for the lighting issue is the campsite type lanterns. You can find ones that are battery operated, use propane or kerosene. If you go to Coleman you can find a wide assortment. One problem that they have though is that you are still having to purchase fuel and store it until ready to use.

A wonderful online resource is Lehman's which is known as a non-electric supply store. They supply items that many Amish or other plain living people use on a regular basis. One Lehman's website they have a good selection of lighting options. One thing worth mentioning, Lehman's carries both the flat & round oil lamp wicks in addition to the parts for oil lamps. If you have lamps already, you may find your replacement parts on their website. They carry the Olive Oil lamps and parts. With the Olive Oil lamp kits, you can turn any jar or glass into an oil lamp. Though it is called an Olive Oil lamp, you can use these with any
green, renewable fuel like olive oil, vegetable oil, or liquid fat or grease. Olive Oil is best though as it burns without odor or smoke, if the lamp should be knocked over, the Olive Oil will not catch fire.

For young children, one suggestion I would have would be to consider the battery operated little Coleman style lanterns for a little bedside lamp. While it does require batteries, you can use it as a temporary solution until you find something that best suits your needs. If, like us, you still have some electricity in portions of the home, you can get rechargeable batteries and a charger for the battery operated lanterns. This will help to prevent the number of battery purchases that you would need to make. The lantern would also make a nice lamp to use when needing to walk about the home at night to check on little ones or in the bathroom.

We are still working out the details in how we will do our lighting. For now, the oil lamps are sufficient, but we realize that on overcast days and in the winter when natural lighting is more limited, we will need to have other options available. As we learn what works for us, I will continue to post what we learn.