Our potter / artist pal, The Alchemist, lives waaay up north. Though you didn’t hear too much about it, Nova Scotia got hit by Dorian. Hundreds of thousands of folks were without power for days. I’m not an expert on Nova Scotia but my assumption is this is not a frequent occurrence for Nova Scotians. The Alchemist reports that barbecued pierogies are quite good. [I’m not an expert on Nova Scotia dialect, either, but I *think* in this sense, BBQed is Nova Scotian for grilled.]
The Alchemists tells me he’s already putting together a list of what he needs to do to be better prepared. I’m writing up a post series on the subject for folks who just want to be able to make it comfortably through a few days without power. Meanwhile, I thought I’d post a few pro tips.
It is Daughter C who is the expert on lighting, and it’s she who taught me a thing or two about how to use flashlights, sometimes in conjunction with other things you have laying around, to mimic the three different kinds of lighting you have in your home when the lights go out.
Ambient lighting is that which illuminates a whole room. It’s not generally strong enough to read or do closeup work by, but it allows you to navigate the room. Flip the switch and turn on the ceiling lights. To create ambient lighting with flashlights, illuminate the ceiling by pointing the light(s) at it. There are web sites that will calculate how many lumens you need given the size of the room, but they’re assuming actual lights. In a lights out situation you can get away with far fewer. In a 15′ x 18′ x 8′ pitch black bedroom, an 80 lumen ordinary LED penlight propped up in a glass or vase– if you happen to have one laying around– near the center of the room works just fine. Add more for larger rooms. Experiment with the flashlights you have and see which work best in your rooms.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking, “Well, when the lights go out I just won’t use the guest bedroom.” Your mother-in-law may be visiting. A microburst may put out your bedroom window. Have a plan even if you don’t need to implement it.
Task lighting is just that. It focuses light on an area where you are doing something. It’s supplied by the under cupboard lights in the kitchen, the gooseneck lamp on your desk, the lights above the bathroom sink.
In the kitchen, suspend a series of flashlights from the top cupboard door knobs above the countertop. Experiment with adjustable tactical (>500 lumens) flashlights. If you have a window sill behind the sink, perch a flashlight that folds out on it. For even better lighting here, I situate a white plastic cutting board in front of the window, behind the flashlight, to reflect light back into the room.
Lanterns work well for activities such as playing cards or games. Even better are lanterns on top of mirrors such as you’d put candle holders on. The ultimate task light is a headlamp. Again, experiment with what you have to determine what you need. Keep in mind that task lighting needs more lumens and needs to be hands free.
Accent lighting highlights and draws attention to a particular space. During lights out, the spaces that need accent lighting are not home to the Alchemist’s lovely Raku Pottery but rather those of safety concern– stairs, that piece of furniture you wack your hip or stub your toe on every so often.
Tap lights are great for steps. But a word of caution is in order. Play around with the positioning, especially if you’ll be permanently mounting them. Wrongly placed, some can be glaring and more of a hindrance than a help.
Look for other locations that need highlighting based on how you live, and where things are. Most all of our emergency flashlights are in a tub on a shelf in the
laundry tornado room. On the shelf above, pointed down, is an old fashioned Eveready camping lantern. Compared to LED lights, it’s not all that great, but it does highlight the flashlight tub! Similarly, I have a neon yellow solar/AA suspended from the ceiling fan on the patio. It gets enough sun to stay charged and projects enough hands free light to see the generator’s choke and start buttons if we have to position and start it in the dark.
Next time you’re at your local big box hardware store or outdoor store, spend a few minutes looking at the flashlights. The assortment is astonishing! It’s a true testament to ingenuity and marketing.