Power Outage: DIY Candle Lantern

By Karyn: Our electricity can be moody where we live, sometimes requiring MacGyver-like solutions to everyday problems like lighting.

The property is off-the-grid, which means that all of our electricity is supplied by a couple solar panels attached to the roof of an old VW bus. All of our water also comes from a catchment system and is purified by an electric filter.

Click for more photos of the solar set-up.

Most days it is sunny enough throughout the day that we don’t lose power, which keeps the fridge and water system running.

Yesterday, it was cloudy and rainy so we ended up without any electricity by about 7pm.

For the most part, losing power without preparation was our fault. We hadn’t lost power in a long time so we weren’t paying attention and left our computer plugged in until it died. At some point between episodes of Seinfeld our solar system had gone into lock down mode, protecting itself from us and the storm’s threatening moisture.

Fortunately, we had previously paused a game of Star Wars Monopoly (usually we’d play Chess, but we felt like being classy). Unfortunately, we had no light source by which to see the board.

I put shame to Red Cross employees everywhere when I realized that even our headlamp batteries were dead (Don’t tell anyone, but I also forgot to store extra water in the fridge! Oops). I’m sorry and an emergency kit is now in order.

Anyhow, we had to turn to candles. We struggled with several options. When we put them directly on the table I got nervous about the combination of fire and our clumsiness. When we put them in a bowl on the table, the set-up was safer but the table was hard to look at (can’t see R2D2 with a flame in your eyes!). When we used a latern, it was too dim (only one candle allowed!).

Alas, I had to come up with a plan and thus was born the

Hanging Boenker (“Banker”) Lamp.


Isn’t she beautiful?

Candles in a bowl are much less likely to be tipped over, which can spill wax and may start a fire. Yet, candles burning in a bowl, on a plate, held up by strings is dangerous without something protecting the string from heat. So, I added some tin foil (it’s a heat resistant material, dontchaknow?).

The tin foil also added the extra benefit of reflecting additional light towards our seating area.

Displayed during the day you can see that the entire system was hanging above us and our board game playing area, thus shining light below. It worked really well for reading Monopoly’s standard property cards, as well as for seeing the board and each other.

Usually I use this set up to hold hanging plants, but it worked just as well for an emergency lighting system.

To the power of creativity!

Please share your thoughts, all are welcome and will receive a thoughtful response.

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